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The Stranger written by Albert Camus is an absurdist novel revolving around the protagonist, Meursault. A major motif in the novel is violence. There are various places where violence takes place and they lead to the major violent act, which relates directly to the theme of the book. The major violent act of killing an Arab committed by Meursault leads to the complete metamorphosis of his character and he realizes the absurdity of life.
Meursault, an unemotional, a moral, sensory-orientated character at the beginning of the book, turns into an emotional, happy man who understands the "meaninglessness" and absurdity of life by the end of the book. Meursault realizes that the universe is indifferent to man's life and this realization makes him happy. He realizes that there is no God and that the old codes of religious authoritarianism are not enough to suffice man's spiritual needs. One has to create one's won meaning in an absurd, meaningless world.
Every character that revolves around Meursault seems to be in direct contrast to him. Meursault is an amoral person who does not seem to care passionately about anything. He acts in accordance with physical desires. In other words, Meursault is a sensualist person. At this particular time in his life, his path crosses with his neighbor, Raymond, who feels as though his girlfriend is cheating on him. He decides to take revenge with minor aid form Meursault. Meursault helps him only because he thinks he has nothing to lose if he does. As things lead into one another, the first major violent act of the book is committed.
As part of his revenge Raymond beats up his girlfriend, only to be followed by her Arab brother. At this time Raymond thinks Meursault to be his good friend and takes him to his friend Masson's beach house, where the two major violent acts that lead to Meursault's ultimate metamorphosis takes place.
The second act of violence takes place at the beach between two Arabs on one side and Raymond and Masson on the other. This leads to Raymond's getting hurt. Before this Camus foreshadows violence when Raymond gives Meursault a gun in case things get worse. After taking care of Raymond, Meursault goes back to the beach. He says to himself, "To go or to stay, amount to the same thing.
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Thus comes the third and the most important violent act of the novel. Meursault wandering by himself finds himself around one of the Arabs. He being a sensualist person, who acted in accordance with his physical desire, shot dead the Arab. He did so because of the extreme heat and horrible weather conditions that pushed him to the ultimate limit. The imagery provided by Camus of the extreme condition of the weather makes the situation believable and understandable.
Meursault after killing the Arab is being examined in a trial. At this trial he is found guilty and is sentenced to be executed by getting decapitated. Camus made this novel a satire of the legal system, which sentences Meursault not because he is a non-religious, non-conformist, amoral person but because he did not cry at his mother's funeral.
It is this prospect of death that metamorphosizes Meursault as he realizes that the universe is indifferent to ever single dweller of the universe. And the famous sentence of his realization goes something like: "I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world." He is a happy person even though he is to be executed because he knows the truth of life.
Camus writes The Stranger in first person, narrative voice. This makes the character of Meursault believable to the reader as we get insight into his reasoning. He thing therefore he is.
Thus we see how a series of violent acts lead to the violent act that completely changes Meursault's life. "It was like I knocked at the door of unhappiness four times," he thought to himself after he shot the Arab four times. It is after this violent murder that his life is changed and he understands the truth of life, which is also the theme of the book.