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Use of Stylistic Devices in The Stranger
In his novel The Stranger, Albert Camus uses the stylistic devices of imagery and diction to develop the intensity of the physical action and to illustrate the lack of emotion in the last paragraph of Part I.
Imagery of all kinds is abundant in this passage as Meursault, the main character, pays great attention to and describes in detail the beach environment that surrounds him. Visual imagery is present as he conveys the intense heat by telling how it seemed as though the sky had cracked open and was raining flame, and by personifying the ocean, recounting how it breathed blistering hot air onto the beach.
Auditory imagery is employed when Meursault speaks of the cymbals of the sun clashing and describes the four shots fired as “four quick knocks on the door of unhappiness.” Imagery of a tactile nature is used in Meursault’s depicting the effects of the light reflecting off of the Arab’s knife on him, its “searing” his eyelashes and “gouging” his eyeballs.
All of this imagery works together to create the feeling of intense pressure in the actions being carried out by both Meursault and the Arab on the beach. All of it describes what is happening in the physical world, yet none of it deals with how Meursault feels in that situation (whether apprehensive, frightened, or angry) or what he is thinking. Since the imagery of the passage deals only with action and not the emotion, Camus creates the impression that there is no emotion.
The diction used by Camus in the paragraph further develops the intensity of the action and the lack of emotion. Words such as “pulsing,” “scorch,” “bursting,” “clashing,” “searing,” and “gouging” are used in context with the heat on the beach, the veins in Meursault’s forehead, the sun, and the light reflecting off the Arab’s knife. All of these words carry a violent and rather drastic connotation which augments the tension in the activity of the passage.
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In his usage of imagery and diction in the last paragraph of Part I, Camus crystallizes the pressure laid on the actions of the passage and stresses its deficit of emotions, all of which, in turn, aids in the development of Meursault as a sensual character and an existentialist hero.