Just like Mersault in Albert Camus’ novel “The Stranger,” one can find himself unable to feel and show the correct emotions if he is unable to understand the situation in the first place. When Mersault’s mother passed away, he did not even mourn. Instead, his first instinct was to think what day was the telegram sent. Mersault did not hate his mother, but he simply did not reflect what he had lost.
According to Albert Bandura, learning takes place when a person observes something and then imitates it. However, will observing work without understanding? When Mersault killed the Arab, did he understand that he was going to prison afterward? When he was sentenced to death, did he realize he was going to leave society and everything else in it?
By detaching himself from the world, Mersault was still unable to feel anything at all, even for a man who was described as intelligent. But what do we really mean by detachment? Alaric Hutchinson defined detachment as “being apathetic or aloof to other people, while un-attachment is acknowledging and honoring other people while choosing not to let them influence your emotional well-being.”
Mersault was capable of having emotions, but he was so stuck with living in the present that he failed to appreciate the lessons of the past and the future. He was always unsure of everything, just like when Maria asked him if he wants to marry her. He said they can get married if she wants to, not taking into consideration his own feelings or of Maria’s. Ed Cooke said that one could not learn much by observation unless one gives attention to it. Mersault was able to observe, but he failed to understand- leading him to his ultimate death.
Bandura, Albert. Self-Efficacy: Toward A Unifying Theory On Behavioral Change. W.H. Freeman, 1977, p. 191.
Hutchinson, Alaric. Living Peace. 2014.
Cooke, Ed. “The Importance Of Observation”. The Guardian, 2012, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/15/pay-attention-people-faces.
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