The novel opens with the infamous quote, " Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know." His obvious lack of sadness and concern sets up not only the basic theme of the novel, but also the plot and fundamentals of existentialism. By not showing any interest into his own mother's death, the reader begins to understand that Mersault has an unusual life philosophy.
maman is right there... but i guess i don't care.
The funeral scene is important because it introduces his emotional indifference. His actions clearly show his lack of opposition to social expectations. Mersault ultimately reveals his personality as a dichotomy between taking action to blend in and an apparent lack or disregard of social customs. This beginning scene establishes his character and the events that follow. The scene remains relevant throught the entirety of the novel.
Z Z Z
The caretaker offers to open up the coffin of Mersault's mother, however he declines the offer. This is one of many examples of absurdism in the novel. This is the last opportunity to see his mother and he is not inclined in the slightest. However he made the effort to go to the funeral. Mersault is content with not caring yet if he truly believed everything was meaningless, he would not have put up appearances by going to the funeral.
Will she ever stop crying ? Ugh.
Meursault expresses some hesitation because he does not know if he should smoke at his mother's funeral, but ultimately decides he will. This hesitation is the closest to resembling sadness. This also shows that he knows what is socially acceptable or unacceptable, but doesn't why it is that way.
Meursault falls asleep in front of his mother's coffin. Not only does Meursault not know the actual date of his mothers death, but he’s too passive to find out. His passivity goes as far as smoking, drinking coffee, and sleeping at his mother's vigil. The absurd refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek meaning in life and the human inability to find any. To this absurd paradox, Meursault responds by doing one thing -- nothing.
"Soon one of the women started crying. […] I thought she’d never stop. […] The woman kept on crying. […] I wished I didn’t have to listen to her anymore. But I didn’t dare say anything." Meursault is so unattached that the sadness of others annoys him.