What is symbolic of Thomas Perez in The Stranger? Why include him in the novel?

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Lenny Wiza eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Though his appearance in The Stranger is confined to just two chapters, the timing of the appearances of Thomas Pérez are vital to understanding how the society that judges Meursault perceives him.

Thomas Pérez had been "inseparable" with Madame Meursault and he takes her death "very hard." In fact, the doctor refuses to allow him to attend the vigil, presumably because he is overwrought. Pérez's emotional attachment to Madame Meursault stands in stark contrast to the indifference and even annoyance of Meursault at the death of his mother and the cultural and societal expectations that he attend her vigil and funeral and demonstrate his grief for those in attendance. His inability to produce those emotions attracts attention in a way that will come back to haunt him when he is on trial for the murder of the Arab.

Pérez is limping and unwell, yet he insists on following the funeral procession in the extreme heat because of his devotion to Madame Meursault.

Later, at Meursault's trial, Pérez does not implicate Meursault, but his testimony is manipulated by the prosecutor. He says he was so caught up in his own grief that he did not see whether Meursault was crying. He also did not see whether Meursault was not crying. In any case, the message is that Pérez demonstrated the appropriate societal response at Madame Meursault's funeral while her son did not.

Thomas Pérez is a foil for Meursault. He symbolizes a societal norm regarding the observance of death, while Monsieur Meursault is judged as outside the norm.

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Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Thomas Perez is a foil character. A foil character is used to highlight another character by contrast. Perez is deeply moved by Meursault's mother's death, but Meursault is indifferent and even annoyed at times. Perez's compassion makes Meursault's lack of emotion seem more dramatic by comparison. Perez is symbolic of the socially acceptable way to grieve. By contrast, Meursault's behavior seems unacceptable. Even though he implies that he and his mother were not close, his lack of caring is odd, and in comparison with Perez, it seems absurdly indifferent.

This is a good example of Absurdity in literature. Readers might find Meursault's behavior and thoughts to be...

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kirstens eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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