The work The Stranger, written by Albert Camus is one of the most analyzed novels of all times. The protagonist’s name is Meursault, a man who lives his life without questioning himself or others around him before murdering an Arab on the beach. The death that follows and its consequences forces him to question if he can change or not his fate. The analysis of The Stranger has been often approached from a moral perspective, particularly the question on whether it is justifiable or not for Meursault to have killed an Arab without being aware of the consequences of his actions.
The present essay will approach The Stranger from a different point of view. The purpose of this essay is to understand The Stranger as a novel based on existentialism and freedom rather than judging its protagonist’s action as immoral or not. Existential philosophy is based around two doctrines: that reality is all we can know; and that every person chooses their own meaning and essence (Stanford Encyclopedia).
According to Camus, there are three possible reactions when faced with absurdity: suicide: avoiding it by ending life; escape: avoiding it by taking refuge in distractions such as religion, intoxication, or fanaticism; and The Outsider’s reaction: choosing to be aware of absurdity while revolting against it. In The Stranger the main character Meursault represented The Outsider’s reaction which can be seen when he says “The sun was beating down on us without pity. The idea occurred to me of putting an end to everything, simply not lifting my hand.
It would have been easy” (Camus 9). This statement shows that Meursault is aware of his existence and the fact that any gesture could be a way out of life but at the same time he also knows that death may cause someone else’s suffering. The fact that he does not quit shows that The Outsider’s reaction is the one that Meursault chooses to have in front of absurdity. The theme of freedom is present throughout The Stranger since Meursault has no ties with anyone until his mother dies at the very beginning of the novel.
This lack of relationship also makes him aware that nothing can stop him from doing anything even though it may lead to his death sentence at the end. The novel The Stranger develops around the concept of The Outsider’s philosophy which defends human freedom and links it to existentialism because there are only two ways to face life: either suicide or revolt against it. When Camus wrote The Stranger, France was occupied by Nazis who imposed their culture and values to other nations which Camus opposed since he says “my country, right or wrong” (Camus64).
The novel The Stranger was written under The Outsider’s philosophy which defends human freedom as a way of rebelling against injustice. The plot of The Stranger is based on the main character Meursault who lives his life without questioning himself or others around him until death comes to him due to murder. In The Stranger, existentialism and freedom are present through The Outsider’s philosophy because it was chosen by its author Albert Camus as a way of reacting against fascism during World War II.
The story focuses on the main character, Meursault, an indifferent French Algerian. The story begins with the arrest of his mother dying of cancer and his girlfriend’s rejection of him for another man after having failed to ask her out one Sunday morning. The novel explores existential themes such as absurdism, life’s meaninglessness, human existence through lack of stability or order, commitment to God and humanity’s position between the two. The Stranger was Camus’ first successful piece; he later wrote The Plague and The Fall .
The title character appears only four times in its 210 pages since it is told from an omniscient point of view. The book has no real ending, as the final two sentences were added by the publisher. The Stranger met with little success upon publication and was initially poorly received. The Stranger (Camus novel) As an Algerian born French man, Camus said that The Stranger cannot be viewed as a philosophical work because of its main character’s absence of thought; he felt that The Stranger is more about the lack of sense in the world than any actual events taking place within it (the absurd).
The motivation for writing The Stranger and other works like The Myth of Sisyphus and The Plague was soon after the Allied victory over France and Germany during World War II when Camus experienced both and hate from his fellow countrymen and love from the rest of the world. The Stranger is a response to these feelings and questions about the meaning of life and if there is any at all. The novel has been received well with several translations having been made during the same time period in which it was originally published and has since become one of Camus’ more readable works with common use in high school classes.
The Stranger Chapters 1-2 Summary Camus begins The Stranger with an introduction to Meursault, the protagonist of his story, beginning with his mother’s illness and death. The narrator describes how close he was to his mother even though they only spoke when necessary: “We lived together for forty years without uttering a single word that mattered” (Camus The Stranger, 3). The mother dies and Meursault goes to the funeral home where he is disgusted by the service. The family leaves for a walk in which they encounter an Arab man who works at a nearby business.
The Arab offers to take them on a ride into town, but Mr. Meursault declines because it will be crowded with so many people from the funeral. The brother of Mrs. Meursault explains that the Arab meant “a small private room” and so they decide to accept his offer after all as long as he does not speak French during this trip. They drive off and stop somewhere near an old fort so everyone can have a cigarette. The young son of Mrs. Meursault has a hard time grasping the concept of death and asks if Camus The Stranger his mother is inside her coffin.
The brother suggests that they not tell the boy and Mr. Meursault agrees to also keep this from him as he climbs back into the car, “I had my reasons” (Camus The Stranger, 8). The group makes it to town and is surprised by how happy everyone seems as they talk about their vacation plans for the summer. The family gets out of the car and joins the rest of the townspeople before returning home. The brother rides with Meursault so he can discuss with him his future prospects now that both parents are deceased: college or military school? They decide on enlisting in a few years’ time once the young boy is old enough and they offer their condolences to the father, who accepts them.
The brother decides that he needs to spend some time at a friend’s house before leaving so Meursault proceeds home by himself. The protagonist’s name follows directly from The Myth of Sisyphus where Camus discusses the concept of The Absurd: someone whose life has no meaning because they recognize that there is none (Camus The Stranger). The narrator states, “I’m probably not the only man in the world who feels a little strange” (Camus The Stranger, 5). The story told does not connect with people or events outside of Meursault as much as it speaks about feelings and reactions through a chain of specific circumstances.