By Philip Thody (auth.)
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He notices the blood-red earth thrown on to his mother's coffin and the white roots mixed in with it. But the only effect which these sights have on him is to tire his eyes and make him want to lose consciousness as soon as possible. While it is happening, experience is totally absorbing, and leaves no room for reflection and analysis. But once it is over, it is best forgotten. This same apparent indifference to normal human emotions continues almost to the very end of the novel. Meursault is quite intelligent, and proves himself a very competent clerk at the shipping house where he works.
This letter would inevitably have included a fair number oflies, since Raymond's intention, which he explains to Meursault, is to persuade the girl that he is still fond of her so that she will be tempted back to see him. He will then make love to her, spit in her face at the moment of climax, and throw her out. When this happens, and Raymond also beats the girl up, Meursault behaves with his customary indifference. When Marie, who is there with him, is so upset by what happens that she cannot eat her lunch, Meursault eats most of the meal himself and shows no more sympathy for her than he had done for the Arab girl.
At the end of the novel, he gives the impression of a man who discovers the immense importance and value of life on the very evening before he is about to lose it. When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, observed Dr Johnson, it concentrates his mind wonderfully. It is a great pity, and it seems very much Meursault's own fault, that this concentration comes too late. In French, the image immediately brought to mind by the title of Camus's first book of essays, L'Envers et l'endroit, is that of a piece of cloth, which can be looked at from the right side or the wrong side.