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Reader’s Den

Reader's Den: The Stranger, Part 2

Albert Camus
Albert Camus

Albert Camus was a French Algerian (1913-1960) who authored many classic titles beyond The Stranger, including The Plague, The Fall and the essay The Myth of Sisyphus, where he writes about the absurdity of life. He grew up in Algeria with his partially deaf mother’s family (his father died before he was a year old) and later moved to France. He suffered from tuberculosis which kept him from enlisting in the military and influenced his travels around Europe. His career included stints as a journalist, notably for Combat where he wrote for the resistance during World War II. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times.” He died in a car accident in 1960 at the age of 46.

Camus often uses seemingly simple sentence structure to bring forth complex ideas in his novels. The Stranger, his first novel, touches on ideas relating to the mother/son relationship, domestic violence, capital punishment, and colonialism.

The weather is also a major theme in the book, most notably, the sun. It often contributes to the action of the novel. The sun beats down on the funeral procession in Part One of the novel, and returns to blind Meursault on the beach when he murders the Arab man. It recurs over and over to set the scene in both parts of the book.

  • Are there other recurring themes that mirror scenes between the Part One and Part Two? For instance, how is the life of the residents of the old people’s home in Part One of the book similar to prison life in Part Two? “I remembered what the nurse at Maman’s funeral said. No, there was no way out, and no one can imagine what nights in prison are like.” p. 81

Myth of Sisyphus

Also, the the stranger himself is the central conflict of the novel. His point of view about life is characterized in the book as withdrawn, for example, he doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral.

  • Do you feel comfortable with Meursault in the role of anti-hero? Does he gain your sympathy in the novel?

  • Do you think Meursault’s character reflects the title of the novel?

  • There are many references to sleep and sleeping in the novel. What do you think this says about Meursault’s character? Is he fatiqued by grief or drinking? Is he depressed?

There is a Ted-Ed talk by educator Tim Adams, about the anti-hero conquering his own fears and coming to terms with himself to fight whatever threat faces him. He is often challenged to return to conformity with society, which is exactly what Meursault faces when he goes to trial.

The Albert Camus Society has a very helpful discussion with many interesting facts about the names and recurring habits of the characters of The Stranger by reading a chapter a day. Simon Lea notes in the one chapter per day blog that “Meursault's name is made up of sounds in French from the word for sea and the word for sun.”

Thanks for continuing the discussion of The Stranger  (Part 1) with the Reader’s Den!

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