What is the effect of the change of setting in Part 2?

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Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As far as Meursault is concerned, he is a stranger wherever he goes.

The irony is that the change of setting (from the beach and physical freedom to prison) has no lasting effect on Meursault's mental state. He is still free mentally speaking. In other words, he still has his free will and the ability to make sense (or not) of his situation. It would be better to say, he has the Absurdist disposition which allows him to accept his physical surroundings of prison with the same indifference he would with the surroundings of the beach. He even mentions that a man could spend 100 years in prison if he'd had one day of freedom out in the world (this does imply, however, that one must experience at least some physical freedom in order to remember and mentally practice it). Freedom, for Meursaultis mental.

He does miss things that his physical freedom provided: women, cigarettes, etc. His indifference is based on the idea that he accepts the absurdity of searching for meaning in the meaningless universe. Neither religion or any real sense of community/humanity evoke him or offer any solace. However, despite his mental agility at remaining so stoic, a sense of brotherhood with humanity does get to him occasionally. It seems like common sense that it is normal for him to feel emotional at times when he's confronting his own death, loneliness and so on. But this is an Absurdist novel. So, iironically, it is these moments when he feels absurd and the moments when he's indifferent (when the setting is arbitrary): that's when he feels at peace.

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mstultz72 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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