Thursday, 2 February, 2023


Albert Camus’ Meursault: May Be an Atheist, Not a Hypocrite

Mohammad Mozammel Haque

In the whole world, thousands of people are there who do not practice their religions either in private or in public. Majority of them have faith in Allah or God whatever we call. But a good number of them do not believe in the existence of Allah. Nobody can judge or decide about the fate of these people here in this world or hereafter. Everybody has the right or freedom to believe or not to believe, to work, speak, or practice the way they like. All the religions including Islam have given this freedom to human beings. But no religion support that you will practice religion and simultaneously you will be a hypocrite. Hypocrisy is discouraged in every religion.

Now, let us come to the point. Meursault is the protagonist of the novella ‘The Outsider.’ He is regarded as an outsider as he is seen to defy the rituals of the religion he belonged to by birth. His mother died in an old home where she was left by him. After death, he received a telegram from the old home which he lets us know by saying:

“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know. I had a telegram from the home: ‘Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.’”

If this kind of statement is made by anybody in our society, he will be cast out of the society and people will start calling him an outsider. Nobody will talk to him and start propagating that he has been an atheist, he has lost all his faith and belief in Allah. So nobody should talk to him and nobody should interact with him regarding any personal, familial or social affairs.

Same thing happened with Meursault. And for this reason, he has been called an outsider. But that the title ‘The Outsider’ has been used ironically will be clear to us if we peruse the novel between the lines. Meursault did not want to be a hypocrite though he showed no concern about his mother’s death.

In our society, there are a lot of people who do not practice their religions; but when any of their relatives breathe his/her last, they start going to the mosque, church or mandir. After a few days or a few weeks, they again go back to their previous life i.e. they stop going to those religious places. These people are regarded as hypocrites. Their worships are hardly accepted by Allah or God.

Meursault, the main character of the novella ‘The Outsider’, did not show any sympathy, concern, importance, sorrows, pains, pangs or plights though his mother has just died. He drinks wine, smokes cigarettes, takes coffee sitting beside the dead body of his mother. But this is not the last. After the funeral session of his mother is over, Meursault enjoys swimming with his girlfriend and even spends the following night together. People cannot but chide and reprimand him when he says:

‘I hoisted myself onto the buoy beside her. It was good and as if for fun, I let my head sink back onto her stomach. She did not say anything and I left it there. I had the whole sky in my eye and it was all blue and gold. I could feel Marie’s stomach throbbing gently under the back of my neck. We lay on the buoy for a long time, half asleep. When the sun got too hot, she dived off, and I followed. I caught her up, put my arm round her waist and we swam together.’

Thus his only offence here is that he discards as well as defies all the religious rituals. But what is important here is that he did not want to be a hypocrite. He is actually a non-practicing Christian. Thus he thought that since he does not practice the rules and rituals of Christianity, and if he starts practicing them now because of his mother’s death, people will call him a hypocrite if he fails to carry on his practice. But that is not a matter at all. What people may think about him does hardly matters. What matters a lot is that his prayers will not be accepted to God as he is not a regular practicing Christian. Or he thought that God won’t accept his worships as he won’t be able to keep practicing these religious creeds after a few days.

To sum up the discussion, it can unquestionably be opined that though nobody knows what Meursault cherished in his mind about his philosophy of life, but that he did not want to be a hypocrite in the eyes of God needs no telling. Let God decide his place after his death; that is up to Him. But according to him it is better not to practice religious ceremonials at all than to follow them seasonally. 


The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of English, Northern University Bangladesh