In The Stranger, what attitude does Meursault realize the people at the trial have toward him?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Just like Maman's funeral, the day of the shooting at the beach, and the magistrate and chaplain's questioning of him, Meursault focuses on how others determine and judge him silently.  He realizes the trial process is absurd.  During the reading of the verdict, the members of the court (the judges, jurors, court reporter, lawyers, and witness) all avert their eyes toward Meursault:

It seemed to me then that I could interpret the look on the faces of those present; it was one of almost respectful sympathy. The policemen, too, handled me very gently. The lawyer placed his hand on my wrist. I had stopped thinking altogether. I heard the Judge’s voice asking if I had anything more to say. After thinking for a moment, I answered, “No.”

Whereas Meursault had been previously judged by unofficial juries earlier in the novel (the old people during the vigil), who would not remove their eyes from watching him (as he slept) and the corpse, here, no one wants to look at a living dead man.  This shows their shame and guilt:

When the bell rang again and I stepped back into the dock, the silence of the courtroom closed in round me, and with the silence came a queer sensation when I noticed that, for the first time, the young journalist kept his eyes averted. I didn’t look in Marie’s direction. In fact, I had no time to look, as the presiding judge had already started pronouncing a rigmarole to the effect that “in the name of the French people” I was to be decapitated in some public place.

The entire trial process is an absurd joke.  Meursault is not allowed to say a word in his defense.  The only word he says is "No."  In contrast, the prosecuting attorney says Meursault shows no guilt in his mother's and the arab's death and that he has no "soul."  Meursault's lawyer is a rambling idiot who is more concerned about the appeal process than the trial at hand.

All in all, the members of the court judge Meursault as an object, not as a person.  How can they sentence him to death for being apathetic when they, during the trial process, are just as apathetic?  It's absurd.

The members of the court determine Meursault externally, not from within.  They determine his death for him, instead of granting him any freedom or choice of self-determinism.  They judge Meursault based on how different he is from them, focusing on how he refused to cry or stay awake at his mother's funeral.  Instead of treating him like an individual with freedoms, they treat him like a rogue outcast of their guilt-ridden and self-loathing herd.  They want guilt and tears instead of silent dignity and quiet rebellion.  And so, they avert their eyes and sentence him to death.