What does Meursault realize at the end of The Stranger?

At the end of The Stranger, Meursault realizes that death is inevitable and the universe is indifferent to humanity.

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In the final scenes of The Stranger , Meursault has a great epiphany regarding the nature of reality. After his fight with the priest, who has come to Meursault in a last-ditch attempt to bring him to a belief in a loving, just God—and by extension a rational, ordered universe—Meursault...

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In the final scenes of The Stranger, Meursault has a great epiphany regarding the nature of reality. After his fight with the priest, who has come to Meursault in a last-ditch attempt to bring him to a belief in a loving, just God—and by extension a rational, ordered universe—Meursault finally accepts what he has deep down believed all along: the universe is absurd and unconcerned with the actions of human beings. He abandons all hope and therefore regains a sense of inner peace right before he dies.

While the priest pities Meursault and regards such a viewpoint as mired in despair, Meursault is comforted by this perspective:

It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I'd been happy, and that I was happy still. For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.

That Meursault views this indifference as benign says much about him. He takes comfort in this indifference the way others might take comfort in the concept of a benevolent God, a belief in karmic justice, or the promise of bliss in the afterlife. For him, this means that he and the universe are not so different from one another, and this makes Meursault feel less alone in the face of a society which views him as monstrous for not sharing its perception of reality. Now that he feels he has a companion in the indifferent universe, he is content to be hated, bringing his character arc to its conclusion.

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