In The Stranger, what does Meusault mean when he says that normal people somtimes wish their loved ones dead?This was in Part II of the novel.

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Part II of The Stranger, Meursault is being very candid with his lawyer.  Meursault up until his trial and execution had lived in denial of death.  He narrates:

He went on to ask if I had felt grief on that “sad occasion.” The question struck me as an odd one; I’d have been much embarrassed if I’d had to ask anyone a thing like that.

I answered that, of recent years, I’d rather lost the habit of noting my feelings, and hardly knew what to answer. I could truthfully say I’d been quite fond of Mother—but really that didn’t mean much. All normal people, I added as on afterthought, had more or less desired the death of those they loved, at some time or another.

Here the lawyer interrupted me, looking greatly perturbed.

“You must promise me not to say anything of that sort at the trial, or to the examining magistrate.”

I promised, to satisfy him, but I explained that my physical condition at any given moment often influenced my feelings. For instance, on the day I attended Mother’s funeral, I was fagged out and only half awake. So, really, I hardly took stock of what was happening. Anyhow, I could assure him of one thing: that I’d rather Mother hadn’t died.

So, Meursault is explaining his stoicism and general apathy toward death and a society that glorifies it.  He has lost touch with his own feelings, I believe, because of society's denial of freedom for the individual.

Throughout the novel, Meursault has been determined by a culture that limits his freedom.  Because of a boss that says he must love work, a funeral director that says he should view his mother's body, a group of old people who believe he should stay awake during a vigil, a chaplain and magistrate who assert that he must believe in God and an afterlife, and a lawyer here who believes he must not wish death upon a family member, Meursault has been rendered an outsider, an alien, and a stranger to his culture, his people, and the institutions therein.

Meursault is unaware of and in denial of the way the culture takes away the individual's freedom to choose life instead of conformity and death.  Certainly, he is in denial of his mother's death because he, in fact, loved her so much.  He would rather imagine her alive than see her dead.  Instead of feeling guilt , Meursault wishes death for his loved ones as a means of last resort to escape an illegitimate and hypocritical society.  Later, Meursault will say that no one had the right to cry over his mother because she was ready to live her life all over again.

He wishes his loved ones (mother) dead because we all see death as absurd: it is beyond the control of the living.  Death is an abstraction, not a reality, so why not try to imagine our loved ones dead?  How would we react?  It is inevitable that we try to imagine the unimaginable.  We have, although no one but Meursault would admit, wished death upon ourselves.  Why?  It is because the death is often chosen for us by society.  The culture sentences us to lives of meaninglessness.

The truth is, Meursault wants his mother to enjoy the life she had again.  In fact, he wants her to cheat death and live a second life on earth.  This is the dream of the absurd hero, one who--like Sisyphus--hates death, loves life, and scorns the gods.  Just as Sisyphus escaped Hades and enjoyed a second life on earth with his wife, so too does Meursault wish that he and his mother could live life without regret and in denial of death.