The Stranger, by Albert Camus

The Stranger, by Albert Camus

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The Stranger, by Albert Camus, begins with Meursault receiving a telegram informing him of his mother's death. He attends the funeral and shows no remorse during it, but he complains about how hot it is. After returning, he goes on a date with Marie Cardona, a former co-worker, and has a sexual relationship with her. The day after he encounters an alleged pimp, Raymond Sintes. Raymond asks Meursault to write a letter to lure his mistress back so he can torment her after he found out she was cheating on him. Meursault feels that there is no reason to not write the letter, so he agrees to do it. Marie visits Meursault and questions his love for her. He doesn't say that he does and when he is asked to marriage he responds indifferently, but says if she wants to they can. While at a beach house Meursault shoots Raymond's mistress's brother for no reason, killing him.
The second half of the book begins after Meursault is put in jail and is awaiting his trial. Rather than being on trial for the crime, he is on trial for his values, like the lack of grievance for his mother's death. Meursault is found guilty and he is convicted and sentenced to the guillotine because of his lack of moral feeling. While awaiting his execution, he thinks about how his life has no meaning besides just living and how death does not scare him. When asked to reform to Christianity, Meursault grabs the chaplain in rage and tells everything on his mind. He comes to the realization that life is meaningless and the world is irrational. This suddenly makes him happy and he accepts his death.
One meaning of the title of the novel, The Stranger, is that if you live a life different than what society accepts, then you are a stranger; an outcast, and will be punished by the rest of society. In other words, the title means that Meursault is a stranger to society. Nothing discussed in Meursault's trial had anything to do with the murder. It was all about the way he acted and how different he was. This was used to prove that people who are different are judged by their character over their actions. Also, most of the society was Christian in the book and held Christian values. They believed in an after life and a heaven while Meursault did not, since he was an atheist.

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Since society does not understand him, they cannot know him and therefore he's a stranger.
Another meaning of the title is that he is also a stranger to himself. He did not make any personal connections to the things he has done, only indifferent observations. He seemed unaffected by his mother's death, the killing of the Arab, and his trial. Being a stranger to himself leads to the final meaning, which is a stranger to life.
At the end of the novel Meursault is able to understand the meaning of life. He was able to do so because he was approaching death, which is an existentialist principle; death is the one certainty of life. Before, when his mother died or when he killed the Arab, he did not have any feelings. When he thought about his own life and that he was about to die, he accepted it. He realizes that one can truly enjoy their lives when they approach and accept death. The understanding of this allowed Meursault to be at peace with himself.
One of the main characters is Meursault, who has more vices than virtues in the novel. He shows no affection when he learns about his mother's death but he does attend her funeral, which can be considered a virtue. He kills a man and accepts what he has done. He helps out Raymond in his plan to torment his mistress by writing a letter to her which will lure her in. When Raymond had a gun, Meursault persuaded Raymond to give it to him for safekeeping but used it himself in the end. A main virtue of his is that he is honest. He is very direct, especially to Marie when he tells her it doesn't matter if they get married or when he doesn't say that he loves her. He could have lied in the courtroom but instead he was honest and society shut him down. A main vice in societies eyes was that he was an atheist and did not believe in an after life. In fact, he believed in the philosophy of existentialism where you control your activities and your future.
Marie Cardona, another important character, can be seen as the opposite of Meursault. She has a strong feeling of love and wants to be married to him. Her love is shown when, even after Meursault is in jail for murder, she visits and supports him. She can be viewed as a fool for being with him, but she is young and very much in love. Besides, she is very attracted to the characteristics and habits possessed by Meursault.
Finally, Raymond Sintes is violent and beats his mistress along with getting into a fight with the two Arabs. Even though these vices are all there is to Raymond, he does have a virtue to Meursault. When he was giving his testimony in court he tried to help Meursault out, which shows loyalty.
Albert Camus's philosophy in the novel can be related to the philosophy of existentialism, which stresses that the individual is solely responsible for the choices they make, there is no predetermination and there is no supreme being who decides morality. This philosophy is extended with the philosophy of the absurd, which states that human beings live an essential isolation in a meaningless and irrational world and people being able to accept that everything cannot
be controlled in your environment, which is how Meursault live his life.
Karl Marx, an influential German philosopher and political economist, believed capitalism should be replaced by socialism, or capitalism. He talks about the capitalists owning and selling workers in the labor force. The factories established by capitalist don't give workers any freedom. They come to work and make a part of a product on an assembly line and then go home. Karl Marx had some existentialist ideas. He believed that we have sold oursleves for work and are opressed. Doing a job where you get to see the end product, unlike an assembly line where you only see a certain part, can liberate us is Marx's solution to freedom. He said when you become a "machine" on the assembly line you become alienated from the self, the workers, and the product. Before, workers were free when they lived on their farms because they took part in the entire process of work and saw the end product. Workers in factories only have time to focus on their job, on a low wage, and no time to socialize. They are also alienated from the product since the workers don't care what the product is and only take a small part in its production. Marx's philosophy of freedom is related to existentialism because it stresses no boundaries and unlimited responcibilty, in other words, total freedom.
The main theme in The Stranger is that life is absurd. Reason is incapable of explaining human nature. Meursault's absurd beliefs are that life is meaningless and without purpose. This can be related to the people working in factories, meaninglessly. In existentialism, you believe that there are somethings that cannot be rationally explained and just happen out of your control. There is no rational reason given by Marx, as to why people should work in factories, besides money. More satisfaction can be achieved by working in the farms they originally had.
The Stranger was an unusually good book, which made me think. A majority of the book made me feel like the rest of society, which was not accepting Meursault's behavior. However, the ending changed all of that and further analyzing gave me the real reasons for his actions.
When I started reading the book for the first time I jumped in right away and didn't want to close it because I never read anything like it. I had to go back a few times to re-read passages to understand it better and every time I re-read it, I got a different message, which is good.
The protagonist, Meursault, was an interesting character to read about. His ideas and beliefs seem wrong but are very right. Being non-religious, I was able to understand what Albert Camus was trying to say with his philosophy. In fact, I have never heard of existentialism or absurd philosophy until I researched the author to see what he wanted to tell us. Meursault is able to accept the fact that everyone dies and realizing this allows you to live a better life. He lives a life that he controls and accepts all his actions that he does. I can't say that I understand everything about him, like how he uses Marie for sexual reasons even if she tells him her love and commitment to him. Nonetheless, this character had the most interesting conflicts that kept me reading.
I do feel, however, that the second part dragged on and got a bit dull. The first half of the book was filled with action and there were no direct reasons given for certain actions. In the second half, it is mainly of his self-realization about society and life, which I feel, could have been approached another way by the author, like being shortened.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys thinking after reading a book or even coming to his or her own realization like Meursault.
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