Both Gregor and Meursault start to adapt to their confinement and the process of this adaptation is the first psychological change. The fact that both of them react in a similar way is attention-grabbing because it is possible that they react like this because both authors were trying to express the fact that there is no rational force governing the universe and so they tried to show how it is perfectly plausible for someone to simply adapt to living with the worst of punishments and if it happened, then these punishments and laws that allow us to bring order to our lives would simply cease to exist.
The second wave of psychological change is seen in Meursault from the moment he meets his lawyer and the examining magistrate. Meursault almost forgets that he is considered a murderer and both times, almost tries to be friendly with them until he remembers what they probably think of him. He then starts to notice, whilst he is confined in his cell, that he longs to go for a walk on the beach and swim in the sea. While all of this is normal and expected in incarcerated individuals, Meursault’s psyche then changes in a way that is completely unexpected.
Camus once said that The Stranger was his exploration of “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd”. What Mersault does highlights this statement. He accepts his situation. Despite being a man driven by these physical desires, he accepts that he can no longer have them, accepts his situation and accepts his confinement. He once again calmly drifts from moment to moment without analysing his life as a whole. The second wave of psychological change is brought about by Gregor’s father throwing the apple at him and locking him in his room.
The apple is the symbol of the rage of his old father. Although an apple would not generally be considered truly dangerous, in this situation it seriously injures Gregor. This is a reflection of how Gregor’s father is weak but his rage pierces Gregor’s already thinning self-image and pride and as the apple is lodged in his back, it stays with him even when he is confined to his prison as a constant reminder of the anger that exists for him in the family. This fact drives Gregor to be more of an outsider to the family and so he is even more psychologically isolated than before.
He deeply analyses the family and their situation and as he comes to realize that he has placed an incredible burden on their shoulders, his mother instructs Grete to shut the door and this action is a confirmation to him that his confinement is final and there is no way he can benefit the family anymore. He is no longer able to sleep because of his mental condition and no longer able to occupy himself by moving around and looking out the window because of his injury. He spends time dreaming that “the next time the door opened he would take charge of the family’s affairs again, just as he had done in the old days”.
As his sister and his family are absorbed into their work and forget about him, thus making his confinement even more lonely and unbearable, he alternates between “rage at his miserable treatment” and thoughts of helping his family. This shows his near demented state and hints that he is almost at his breaking point. After the hearing and Meursault’s sentencing, he, like Gregor, is almost at breaking point. Although he accepts his fate and awaits it calmly, inside he still longs to be able to satisfy his physical urges again.
The priest and his words finally push Meursault off the edge, leading into a rant which gives us the first true insight into Meursault’s almost non-existent emotions. The final change in Meursault is seen when he says “something exploded inside me”. He then for the first time speaks his mind whilst shouting at the priest. It is my opinion that Camus used this outburst to communicate the absurdist message he was trying to communicate through The Stranger, lines such as “one and the same destiny was to select me and thousands of millions of others” and “the others too would be condemned one day” convince me of this.
After this meeting, Meursault is finally enlightened, he finds the answer to why he didn’t feel he should cry at his mother’s funeral and he accepts that his death is inevitable and armed with the knowledge gained by this revelation, he is freed of his physical confinement and thus he proceeds to his execution hoping that people with greet him with “cries of hate” for he knows that they too will eventually face the same end. When Grete slams Gregor’s door shut and after he scares the boarders. Gregor is finally convinced that his part in the family’s lives is over.
His sisters cry of “finally” when his door is slammed shut is evidence to Gregor that the one person he gave up his life for, the person he saved up all his earnings for and that used to always be ready to take care of him was now unable to bear the sight of him. When Gregor realizes that his family, even Grete would be better off when he was gone, he finally succumbs to the inevitability of his removal from their lives and since all emotions connections to them have already been severed, he is easily able to let go of the physical connections.