The Stranger by Albert Camus

“The Stranger” is one the novels written by French author Albert Camus in 1942. “The Stranger” is one of the books in the world of literature that portrays philosophical aspects of externalism as well as absurdity. The novel pursues the formal manner in character establishment, with Meursault as the protagonist. Meursault commits murder after the death of his mother and then sentenced to death after the court proved him guilty of the killing. Marie Cardona is Meursault’s co-worker who maintains a close tie with him with a plan of getting married to him notwithstanding the evil characters that Meursault has. One of Meursault’s neighbors, Raymond Sintes, represents the nature of violence, anger, and antagonism especially when he hears rumors that his wife is unfaithful to their marriage. However, he manifests a character of loyalty to his neighbor, Meursault, as he supports him in everything he does. In the novel, the author has explored his philosophical bent by giving his standpoint on issues of life and death in the book.

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Existentialism is a philosophical concept that emphasizes the individuality and isolation of individual’s experience in a hostile environment. The term often refers to the human existence as an unexplainable event that stresses their freedom of choice and taking responsibility for the decision made by an individual. The philosophy is the backbone of “The Stranger” however, it does not only serve as one of the themes but also may be one of the reasons Camus wrote the novel. The author presents the book in first person account through the eyes of the protagonist who has indifferent and passive character, the storybook aids to suggest the creed of existentialism through the incarnation of the philosophy in an individual. Camus establishes the theme of existentialism within the thoughts, feelings, speech and actions of Meursault. Through such thoughts and ideas of the author expressed through the protagonist, he creates an individual believed to possess tenets of existentialism. The author has established the concept of existentialism throughout the book to demonstrate the real and cold nature of human beings in regards to life and death. He exposes Meursault’s conception of a meaningless human life.

“Maman passed on today or yesterday may be, I do not know.” These are the first and opening quotes of the novel. These words do not serve only to open the storyline to the audience but also summarizes the complete record in a couple of sentences. Meursault leaves the audience in astonishment as he focuses on the time or day the mother died after getting news about the burial that was to take place the following day instead of focusing on the death. The author introduces the audience promptly after a few sentences to existentialism incarnate. Meursault displays entirely new and indifferent perception to life by showing no emotional feelings after the death of his mother. Meursault does not care when his mother passed on, in fact, the most troubling part of the whole death news is the fact he had to attend the funeral the following day. At the funeral, he cared less as he fails to view his mother’s body instead he feels consumed by the days heat. The author does an excellent job in the first part of the novel by setting to the audience not only existentialism philosophy but also a corporate representation of this philosophical stance.

The author’s ability to represent the philosophy of existentialism in a corporal manner is what makes the novel different. Contrary to the various fictional and non-fictional books approaching existentialism from academic perception, “The Stranger” pursues the philosophy by establishing a character with the belief innately in him, showing how an individual like this acts. Through analysis of the characteristics of the protagonist neither the internal nor external world possess any rational order. Meursault has no apparent reason for all behaviors, such as the verdict to marry Marie and to kill Arab. The author affirms that significance of life can be understood only in light of mortality. Additionally, Camus demonstrates how encountering the possibility of death does not affect someone’s perspective on life before death.

At the beach Meursault in a company of Raymond Sintes and Masson they confront two Arabs who have been a problem to Raymond over a long time, he seems to think differently regarding his actions on human existence. Before killing one of the Arabs, he considers two thoughts which will have almost the same outcome. Meursault believes the loss of life of the Arab will have an insignificant effect on his life and the universe as a whole. In this remarks, it is evident how much Meursault does not believe in the presence of a Supernatural being. Consequently, he refutes morality as well as the obvious connotation of life and death. Meursault happens to kill one of the Arabs during the encounter, however, as most people would expect him to feel sorry for his actions Meursault does not regret though he goes to prison. He has the defeatist feeling that what he has done cannot be undone. He further explains that he has never regretted his actions as he is always consumed by the events of the contemporaneous moment or by abrupt future to reside on the past. Meursault is conscious and sentient of the meaninglessness of everything including actions in the face of the universe. Besides, he has no feeling of regrets on his actions even if it means going to prison. Plus, he has no goals to progress socio-economically, he also has an indifferent attitude on their friendship with Raymond Sintes and the idea of marrying Marie. However, this consciousness within Meursault is never high to include self-awareness as witnessed on his judgment regarding the significance of life in the surface of death. For instance, he does not reflect on the meaning of death at all, till when he is imprisoned waiting for execution process. Of course, he believes on the meaning of another person’s death is somewhat dissimilar from the sense of somebody’s death.

While waiting for his trial, Meursault spends most his time in prison sleeping, repeatedly reading a story on the killing of a Czech and generating a mental picture of his entire house from scratches to furniture. At this time the author draws the sensitivity and self-awareness of Meursault, despite his lack of self-understanding and emotional reaction to some of the events that occur around him. After the trial, the court finds him guilty, and he is later escorted to spend the Sunday at home. At first, Meursault dwells on thoughts and ideas of escaping. He cannot accept the fact that the court found him guilty and sentenced him. He questions why he was sentenced by a French court and not a Chinese court, why the court read the verdict at eight pm and not at five pm. When he fails to find a loophole to escaping, he reflects on the fear the dawn will bring to his life. Additionally, he thinks of the possibility of an appeal before facing the death penalty. When he feels his appeal may be unsuccessful he decently admits that indeed death is inevitable, it is at this moment that he begins to feel the significance of life before demise, because of death Meursault agrees that life is indeed important. Therefore, Meursault believed the worth, meaning, and importance of life is only seeming in light of mortality; however, some folks miss it through death. The awareness of death makes a person aware of the significance of one’s life in the face of death. There is need to consider the responsibility of one’s actions that may end the possibility of the life of another human being. In line to this, all human activity is absurd, and a genuine freedom that one should have is to be aware of life in its totally and actuality, of its pain, significance and beauty in the face of the universe.

In a nutshell, Albert Camus is a novelist with a resilient philosophical bent. The novel gives a reflection of the philosophy of absurdity and existentialism that asserts that life is meaningless and senseless, therefore, explaining the irresponsibility and irrational decision-making process in the society. Meursault portrays an indifferent perception of life and also exhibits a lack of morals when he commits murder and lacks regret over his actions.


Works Cited

Camus, Albert. The Stranger. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1946.