English Literature
The Stranger

The Stranger

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An Exploration of Absurdism and Truth in Camus' The Stranger

In Albert Camus' novel, The Stranger (1942), we are introduced to the peculiar character of Meursault - a man who displays a lack of emotion, even at his own mother's funeral. Disconnected from society and consumed by his own thoughts, Meursault navigates through life without any motivation from love, money, or societal norms. To those close to him, he is seen as strange, but to society at large, he is simply a stranger.

In this philosophical novel, Camus delves into the concept of absurdism and the morality of truth. Through the eyes of a man who rejects societal norms, he challenges the idea of what it means to be "normal".

The Stranger: A Synopsis

Let's summarize the novel.

Part I

The story begins with Meursault traveling to attend his mother's funeral. Despite the emotional nature of the event, Meursault displays no signs of grief or sadness. He spends most of his time drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. Even during the funeral, he is more preoccupied with making observations about the weather and other attendees, which shocks those around him.

After returning to Algiers, Meursault meets Marie Cardona, a typist from his workplace, and they spend the night together after watching a comedy movie. The next day, he encounters his elderly neighbor Salamano, who is shouting at his sickly dog. He also meets Raymond Siente, a pimp who informs Meursault about his unfaithful mistress and how he has beaten her brother. Raymond asks Meursault to help him write a letter to persuade her to come back so he can seek revenge. Meursault agrees to help.

The following morning, Meursault and Marie return from swimming to find Raymond in a physical altercation with his mistress. The police are called, and Meursault promises to testify in court on Raymond's behalf. Meanwhile, Salamano's dog has gone missing, leaving the old man heartbroken and alone.

At work the next day, Meursault's boss offers him a promotion that would require a move to Paris. Interestingly, Meursault is not swayed by the opportunity, which confuses his boss. Similarly, when Marie asks him if he wants to get married, he responds with indifference.

On Sunday, Meursault, Marie, and Raymond go to the beach, where they encounter two Arab men. One of them is Raymond's mistress's brother. A fight breaks out, and Raymond is stabbed in the arm. In a moment of intense emotions, Meursault takes a gun from Raymond to prevent further violence. Afterwards, he walks alone in the scorching sun until he comes across one of the Arab men and shoots him five times, ultimately killing him.

Part II

After being arrested, Meursault shows no signs of remorse for his actions, which greatly disappoints his defense lawyer. He slowly adjusts to life in prison, only lamenting the absence of cigarettes and women. During his trial, the prosecutor uses Meursault's lack of emotion at his mother's funeral as evidence of his callousness and urges the jury to sentence him to death. They agree, and Meursault is sentenced to public execution by guillotine.

In his prison cell, Meursault desperately hopes for an appeal and dreams of escaping. Struggling to come to terms with his impending death, he finds it difficult to sleep and dreads each morning as it reminds him of his looming execution.

The prison chaplain attempts to visit Meursault three times, but he refuses each time until the chaplain insists on speaking to the condemned man. The two engage in a heated debate about atheism and God, with Meursault refusing to acknowledge any wrongdoings or seek forgiveness from a deity he doesn't believe in. The chaplain becomes distraught, and Meursault explains that he understands death more than the chaplain ever will. He believes that both life and death are meaningless and any attempt to find purpose in life is absurd. In the end, the chaplain leaves, and Meursault finds comfort in the indifference of the stars outside his prison cell.

The Characters of The Stranger

The protagonist and narrator of the novel is Meursault - a French Algerian man who is emotionally detached from his surroundings. He sees no significance in the things that give structure to most people's lives, such as love, friendship, family, or work.

Marie Cardona, a typist at Meursault's workplace, becomes romantically involved with him and hopes to one day settle down together.

The Complex Neighbors of Meursault: An Analysis of Raymond Sintes and Salamano in "The Stranger" by Albert Camus

In "The Stranger", Albert Camus presents the story of Meursault, a detached and indifferent man who becomes embroiled in a murder trial. Alongside Meursault's journey, we encounter two of his neighbors, Raymond Sintes and Salamano, whose relationships with Meursault serve as a reflection of his own apathetic outlook on life.

Raymond Sintes, a pimp, resides next door to Meursault. He invites Meursault and his girlfriend, Marie, for a day at the beach, where an unexpected altercation with his mistress's brother leads to Raymond's stabbing and Meursault's subsequent murder of the attacker. On the other hand, Salamano is an elderly neighbor whose constant swearing at his dog demonstrates the stark contrast between his emotional attachment and Meursault's indifference.

The Relationship Between Meursault and His Mother

Meursault's mother passes away before the events of the novel take place. She spends the last three years of her life in a nursing home, a decision that reflects Meursault's own detachment and lack of emotional connection with his mother.

The Prison Chaplain's Attempt to Save Meursault

In prison, Meursault is visited by the Prison Chaplain, who tries to offer him salvation and forgiveness. However, Meursault's firm belief in atheism and apathy clashes with the Chaplain's efforts to change his mind.

The Symbolism in "The Stranger"

Camus employs symbolism as a prominent literary device in "The Stranger". The sun is a recurring symbol, representing Meursault's inability to control his emotions. During his mother's funeral, he is more affected by the sun's heat than the grief of losing his mother. The beach also serves as a symbol, described by Meursault as "unbearable" and "oppressive and inhuman" due to the intense heat. In the courtroom, the sun's heat is used as Meursault's defense, emphasizing his lack of control over his own emotions.

The crucifix is another symbol in the novel, representing religion and social norms. Characters often appeal to Meursault's sense of decency by questioning his beliefs in God. The examining magistrate even waves a crucifix at Meursault, urging him to repent and seek forgiveness. However, Meursault's rejection of religion earns him the nickname "Mr. Antichrist", further highlighting his outsider status.

The Courtroom as a Symbol of Social Order

The courtroom represents the societal norms that Meursault rejects. His indifference towards the trial and his own fate demonstrates his defiance towards societal expectations. The court embodies the justice and morality that Meursault denies, and his conviction and death sentence reveal society's fear of individuals who reject the status quo.

Rhetorical Devices in "The Stranger"

Camus employs a first-person narrative as the primary rhetorical device in "The Stranger". This allows the reader to gain insight into Meursault's mindset and his sense of isolation from others. Through Meursault's reactions (or lack thereof) to events and people, we can understand his absurdist beliefs. The language used is direct and simple, mirroring Meursault's unemotional approach to life.

The Significance of "The Stranger" in 20th-century Literature

"The Stranger" is classified as a philosophical novel, a genre that explores deep questions of morality and how to approach life. Through Meursault's experiences, Camus delves into the concept of absurdism and society's response to this viewpoint.

The Impact and Themes of Albert Camus' Novel "The Stranger"

"The Stranger" holds great significance due to its exploration of moral dilemmas that plagued society in the aftermath of World War II. As numerous authors and artists questioned the societal institutions and beliefs that led to the war, Camus' works, including "The Stranger", became crucial pieces in this discussion. In fact, Camus wrote and published "The Stranger" during the Nazi occupation of France in WWII.

Despite the turmoil of the times, one man remained an active member of the French resistance, using his platform as a writer to defy the oppressive government banned magazine Combat.

In addition to its portrayal of rebellion and resistance, the novel also sheds light on the effects of French colonial rule in Algeria. It depicts the tensions between French and Arab Algerians, while also highlighting the dehumanization and marginalization of Algeria's Arab population under the French colonial system. Most Arab characters in the story remain unnamed, emphasizing their lack of agency and humanity in the eyes of the French colonizers. The novel's main character, Meursault, embodies the brutal indifference of the French towards the suffering of the Algerian people, exhibiting apathy and a lack of remorse.

Exploring Colonial Tensions in French Algeria

French Algeria, also known as Colonial Algeria, refers to the French colonization of Algeria from 1830 to 1962. This invasion resulted in the establishment of French settlements and an influx of French immigrants known as Pieds noirs, who held the majority of power and control in the country. While the French community only made up one-tenth of the population, the Arab and indigenous populations became disenfranchised and powerless under the discriminatory and oppressive rule of the settler minority. Camus, who was born to French parents in Algeria in 1913, grappled with the role of France in his home country. While he initially aligned with the colonial mindset of France's civilizing mission in Algeria, he later became a supporter of Algerian independence.

The Main Theme of "The Stranger": Absurdism

In "The Stranger", Camus delves into the concept of Absurdism, a philosophical viewpoint that gained prominence after World War II. According to Absurdism, life is inherently meaningless, and any search for purpose or meaning is futile. Meursault, the novel's protagonist, embodies this perspective by rejecting emotional connections and societal norms. He feels nothing at his mother's funeral, fails to form a bond with his girlfriend Marie, and sees others as either bothersome or intriguing. Throughout the story, Meursault breaks social conventions and shows no remorse for his actions, including murder, rejecting the idea of seeking salvation from the prison chaplain. Camus uses Meursault's character to explore the lack of meaning in human existence and the futility of seeking purpose in a world that is indifferent to human suffering. To Meursault, societal norms and religious beliefs are irrational, while his detachment and lack of emotions are natural responses to the absurdity of life.

The Philosophical Ideas of Existentialism and Absurdism in "The Stranger"

Camus also delves into the philosophical concepts of Existentialism and Absurdism in "The Stranger". Like Meursault, Existentialists reject the meaning imposed by traditional institutions and instead believe that individuals must create their own purpose through free will, choice, and taking responsibility for their actions. Camus' friend Jean-Paul Sartre was a key proponent of Existentialism and argued that "Existence precedes essence", emphasizing the uniqueness of each individual's life experience. While Absurdism stemmed from Existentialism, it rejects the idea that individuals can create any meaning in life. As a writer and philosopher, Camus was fascinated by the concept of existence being meaningless. However, unlike Existentialists, he did not believe that personal development and self-discovery could provide meaning. Instead, he saw three options for dealing with the absurdity of life: suicide, denial through religion, or embracing the absurdity.

The Message of "The Stranger" by Camus

Through "The Stranger", Camus conveys a strong moral message to readers. The novel challenges traditional beliefs and institutions, exploring the futility and meaninglessness of human existence. Camus presents a thought-provoking perspective on the meaning of life and the indifference of the universe towards human suffering. "The Stranger" continues to be a relevant and thought-provoking piece of literature, inviting readers to question their beliefs and societal norms.

The Meaning of Absurdism in Albert Camus' Novel The Stranger

Many have questioned Albert Camus' decision to create an unsympathetic protagonist in his novel The Stranger. What can be gained from a character who despises everything and everyone? However, in his Afterword, Camus reveals that the character of Meursault is not simply an outcast, but a man who refuses to conform to societal norms and stays true to his own beliefs, even if they go against societal expectations. This theme of living in truth, even if it is not a popular truth, is at the core of The Stranger.

Exploring Key Quotes from The Stranger

"Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know." (Part I, ch. 1)

In the opening lines of the novel, Meursault's emotional detachment is already evident. He sees his mother's death as a mundane event, showcasing his lack of emotional connection. This detachment is a recurring trait in Meursault's character throughout the novel.

"I fired four times at a lifeless body, and the bullets sank in without leaving a mark. And it was like giving four sharp knocks at the door of unhappiness." (Part I, ch. 6)

The description of the murder Meursault commits is chillingly detached and unemotional. It reflects his philosophy of absurdism, where life has no inherent meaning. Just as he reacted to his mother's funeral, the life-altering event of murder does not evoke any strong emotions from Meursault.

"...we encounter a man whose heart is so empty that it forms a chasm which threatens to engulf society." (Part II, ch. 4)

In his closing statement, the prosecutor paints Meursault as a man without a moral conscience, a threat to society's moral values. He is seen as a potential danger to the fabric of society.

"...my last wish was that there should be a crowd of spectators at my execution and that they should greet me with cries of hatred." (Part II, ch. 5)

The final sentence of the novel encapsulates Meursault's feelings towards society and his fellow beings. He has accepted his inevitable execution and is aware of the world's hatred towards him. In fact, he even desires for the crowd to mock him, as it would be the expected response from society.

Key Takeaways from The Stranger

Published in 1942, The Stranger is a philosophical novel written by Albert Camus. The story follows Meursault, a young French Algerian man, who embodies the concept of absurdism - the questioning of an absolute meaning or purpose in life.

  • The novel delves into themes of absurdism, morality, truth, and societal norms.
  • Camus' Afterword offers valuable insight into the moral of the story - the importance of living in truth, even if it may not always be pleasant.


Camus, Albert. The Stranger. Createspace Independent Publishing, 1942.

Sartre, Jean-Paul, and Kulka, John. Existentialism Is a Humanism: (L'Existentialisme Est Un Humanisme). Yale University Press, 1946.

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