Although Meursault’s mother passed away at the beginning of the novel, he still learned something from her. If there is anything that Meursault learned in the novel, and if there is anyone he relates to the most, it is his mother. Meursault learned that his mother embodied absurdism: there is no way out of things, and the only way out is death. When his mother dies, he is asked a question by a fellow processioner, and Meursault recalls, “What she said was: ‘If you go too slowly there’s the risk of a heatstroke. But, if you go too fast, you perspire, and the cold air in the church gives you a chill.’ I saw her point; either way one was in for it” (12).
Meursault is so depressed that he believes that he cannot win either way. He knows that he will either get overheated or sweat and there is no in between, which is why he says “one was in for it.” This embodies the idea of absurdism that people in the world are purposeless and are alive for no reason because he has no hope. Meursault also does not feel anything for his mother’s funeral, which even further exemplifies that he does not see a purpose in even mourning.
Meursault remarks at the vigil, “I pictured myself going straight to bed and sleeping twelve hours at a stretch” (13). Going to bed is Meursault’s way of escaping, and for a while at that. Upon waking up, one of the first things Meursault says is: “Getting up was an effort, as I’d been really exhausted by the previous day’s experiences” (14).
Clearly, his method of escaping did not work and his absurd method and hope that he could get away from his feelings had failed. All of this ties into his mother at the end of the novel when Meursault is in the prison cell and is pondering life and all of his memories. Even though Meursault did not have a realization moment throughout the novel, he comes closest to having one when he says, “And something I’d been told came back; a remark made by the nurse at Mother’s funeral. No, there was no way out, and no one can imagine what the evenings are like in prison” (51).
This is Meursault realizing that there was no way to escape the overheating, no way to escape the sweating, no way to escape the sun, no way to escape the vigil, and no way sleep it all away and wake up the next morning without an “effort.” His mother is who he learned this from. His mother taught him that the only way to escape what he was feeling was exactly what she showed him: to die. His mother taught him that there was no purpose in life, and his mother taught him and made him realize in the prison that she escaped her feelings when she died; that was her way out. Once one is in prison, they are staying in prison. His mother embodied absurdism by dying because it showed him that there is no way out of a meaningless life that will just end in death, other than death itself. That is why he says, “No, there was no way out, and no one can imagine what the evenings are like in prison” (51). Nobody can imagine because that would be like death that nobody knows.
That is the only way out of something that does not have a way out. Meursault’s mother taught him that the only way out of his absurd life was when one dies. It took him the entire novel and going to prison to realize this, but his reflection on his past events, conversations, and memories of his mother’s funeral helped him achieve this. He tried to find a way out by embracing that the sun was not going away, trying to sleep the day off, and expecting the next morning to be better, but it did not work. The only way Meursault realized this was through reflecting on his mother’s funeral and using her death as a lesson learned about the only way out of his absurd life.