The Stranger: “The Rather Odd Proceedings of the Mersault Trial”
The trial of Mr. Mersault indeed began as a murder trial. However, the focus of the trial is allowed to drift considerably from the original charge. After a short time, it is no longer the murder case on trial. It becomes Mersault’s very nature as an extremely passive, nonchalant person being put on trial. He has an incredibly, almost unrealistically incompetent lawyer that he lets speak for him. It is a case that Mersault lets very quickly get out of his hands.
Mersault becomes so distanced from the entire ordeal, and he finds the whole situation annoyingly absurd. It seems quite odd to many of us how he can just allow the deliberations proceed off into such ridiculous directions. But it seems fairly obvious that he knows that anything he says will not convince them to think otherwise of him. What does make quite a bit of sense is that he just wants to end the whole thing. Mersault is fairly convinced that the people around him overwhelmingly hate him, and if this is the way he is to go out, he figures, so be it.
The idea of an appeal does not do anything for him because he knows twenty more years of this would be pointless. They would still ask the same questions, under the same circumstances, with the same answers being said. The only fresh things would be more ridiculous accusations. Mersault is ready for death; he has come to grips with its eventuality. With the absurd proceedings around him, he welcomes it.
It is not fair to put a man’s lifestyle on trial unless it is found that he is in some way significantly harmful to society. However, many human beings have the awful tendency to mock what they do not understand. In a way, each of us at one time or another has put a fellow human being on trial for being what they are, though certainly not in a court setting. Those there in the courtroom are amazed with Mersault’s blatant truthfulness. Most of all, they are rather shocked by his total lack of emotional display. As much as the prosecutor tries to break Mersault down, there is no significant sign of weakness on Mersault’s part.
Some may wonder why Mersault does not attempt to defend himself. Mersault more than likely felt that anything he said would not be overly useful in the long run. It is also possible that his words could have been used against him. That would then further lengthen the proceedings to a more ridiculous degree. He was also dealing with a rather irrational prosecutor, as well. Though, as Mersault admits, he is quite a bit more talented than his own lawyer.
Mersault’s case is one in which he is quite powerless. He is supposed to be assumed innocent until proven guilty. However, he is already assumed guilty going into the trial. But it's not specifically for the crime itself, but of being Mersault, the man himself. Mersault’s very indifference to all that is going on frightens people.
He knows what he did, the crime and all surrounding it, and knows the impending penalty. Mersault does not dwell on his guilt. He openly admits to the crime. To some in the courtroom, including the prosecutor, that is apparently considered a prerequisite for a cold-hearted killer. The prosecutor brings in multiple unrelated issues. He tries his best to drag on the trial by accusing Mersault of far more than he is actually guilty of doing.
The prosecutor goes as far as accusing him for a second murder case currently on trial. He views Mersault as an inhuman being. At least, that is the show he puts on so that he may get more out of this case, namely money, than he would if he remained rational and to the facts. It is often characteristic of a lawyer to make more out of a case than is really in it. Mersault’s inadequate lawyer is not good enough to make clear the prosecutor’s irrationality, either. Then again, even the court-appointed lawyer was making his money as well, and he may have felt Mersault almost equally as irrational.
Mersault already knew he was guilty of the crime and knew how pointless it was to continue deliberations. Now they had become almost completely unrelated to the murder case. Then, why did the judge not stop it? Just because a man goes out to a movie on the night after he had buried his mother, and acted so nonchalantly at the funeral does not make him a cold, unfeeling man. It is irrational evidence. But the judge allows it, as if there is nothing better to do than debate over whether this man has a heart or not. This entire legal process is completely irrational to Mersault, and most certainly a waste of everyone’s time.
Lawyers are all pretty much the same to Mersault. Court-appointed or not, he does not care. The whole trial seemed pointless, as it would seem the guilty sentence had been pretty much silently decided on quite some time ago. He knew that anything in this court now would do nothing for him but keep him in prison even longer. While Mersault had come to be pretty much content in his cell, it was useless for this absurd trial to continue. It was doing no one any eventual good, other than making the lawyers a little more cash.
The trial was no longer about the murder, anyway. It became some sort of soul hunt. It was a trial to find out if he was actually a living, breathing human being and not some heartless, trigger-happy demon. Mersault just wants it all over with, as soon as possible. Only the lawyers stand in his way from ending it. Their constant habit of dragging on what should already be ended quite aggravates him.
It would seem that Mersault had no sort of emotional connection to life, but at the same time a special attraction to simply living. Mersault has no room for any of Society’s expectations or conventions. In fact, he finds them quite restrictive. He is sick and tired of Society judging the way he lives his life. It is Society that has put him on trial for his very mannerisms most of his life.
Mersault is sick and tired of their harsh criticisms over how he chooses his friends. Even though being “pals” with a man who is apparently a woman-beater can throw up a red flag; it was also that “pal” who is a fair amount responsible for getting him into all this mess. Most of all, Society attacks him on how he chooses to mourn the death of his mother, or rather how he does not, and his supposed lack of ambition. Then, Society expects him to stave off death; but, he is not in fear of it. The life he had so lived, one in which he was free to go about as he did, with a decent job, a beautiful girlfriend, and his handful of friends, was now long gone.
Society’s expectations are ridiculous to him now. His not defending himself may appear to some as a weakness, but it truly is strength. There is nothing he can do to make his situation any better, and he knows his old life is far behind him; he has let go of it. In his mind, there is no purpose for him to continue this way. Far as he is concerned, they can be rid of him soon as they are ready. He has already prepared himself for the eventuality of death, and he is more than ready to welcome it with open arms.