The Stranger by Albert Camus was published in 1946. The novel begins with Meursault receiving a telegram informing him of his mother’s death. Over the next two weeks after the funeral, Meursault carries on like nothing tragic happened. He gets a girlfriend, befriends a pimp, and goes on a beach vacation with both. During the vacation, he and Raymond, the pimp, get into a fight with the Arabs and Meursault kills one without an explanation for the crime. At the murder trial, the court said he was cold-hearted and hated humankind because he killed his mother, although he did not physically kill his mother. They gave him the death penalty for not caring about his mother but nothing for murdering the Arab. While he was waiting for his turn to die in prison, Meursault thought that it would not be so bad to die because he was leaving society and all that goes with it behind.
The Stranger takes place in 20th century French-occupied Algeria. The narrative tells the dark humor and pessimism of the younger generation that resents the French presence in Algeria. Since the novel was written after World War I and before World War II, there in a sense of hopelessness throughout the book. Also, another setting is in a small beach town outside of Algiers. The setting was before they could talk efficiently and had to use telegrams. “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home. ‘Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.’ That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.” This quote was important because it proved that this story took place a long time ago. When he talks about maybe the funeral was yesterday, the telegram did not specify the date so if the telegram got delayed, he would not have been informed in time and he would not have attended the funeral.
The point of view of The Stranger is first person through Meursault. Meursault is the narrator and he tells what he sees, feels, and thinks. The story is solely Meursaults’ view. It has no hint of the third person point of view. Although observant, Meursault makes no attempt to sympathize with or understand the other characters. Meursault is an unreliable narrator, mostly because he does not know what other characters are thinking. “I said people never change their lives, that in any case one life was as good as another and that I was not dissatisfied with mine here at all.” In this quote, Meursault uses the words “I” and “mine” to prove that this is first person. Also, it seems like he is talking about the other characters but not in detail. Then he ends the quote by coming back and focusing on himself.
The conflict of The Stranger is character vs. character. The way this is all laid out is Meursault befriends Raymond, which in turn leads him into a fight with the Arabs. “The trigger gave; I felt the smooth underside of the butt; and there, in that noise, sharp and deafening at the same time, is where it all started.” In the first paragraph, Meursault is starting to explain what he felt while he was killing the Arab. Quote two is another important part of his thoughts on the new conflict he had just created. “I knew that I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I’d been happy. Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times at the door of unhappiness.”
The major theme of the novel was the absurdity of life. He works as a shipping clerk performing boring and routine tasks, which he does not like. He tries to fill his weekends with activity but often finds himself walking around his apartment, smoking, and staring out into his neighborhood. When he does form a relationship with Marie, it has no meaning to him. He tells her that he can never love her, for love is too vague of an emotion. He will, however, marry her if she insists. His relationship with Raymond is equally absurd. Even though he knows his neighbor is a violent pimp, he allows himself to become involved in his problems, for he feels it makes no difference. In the end, he ends up killings the brother of Raymond’s’ Arab girlfriend, even though he did not really intend to murder him. Since he shows no remorse over the murder of the Arab, the death of his mother, or anything else in life, the jury decides that Meursault is unfit to live and convicts him to death by the guillotine, His absurd existence comes to an absurd end.
I think that the book had a good set up and was very detailed. From my point of view, I did not like the book itself. I did not like the story because I do not feel like it had a purpose. The story kept taking unexpected turns and while some people enjoy reading books like that, I do not. I learned that you should appreciate what you have while you have them. Family and freedom are examples of what Meursault loses. I would recommend this book to people who like short books and books with plots that jump around everywhere.