The Stranger by Albert Camus is a novel that explores the themes of meaninglessness of life and death, the absurd and irrational universe, religion and god, and the physical world. The story follows Meursault, an indifferent settler in French Algeria, who, weeks after his mother’s funeral, kills an unnamed Arab man in Algiers. The story is divided into two parts, presenting Meursault’s first-person narrative before and after the killing.
The novel explores the oppressive responsibility of “fitting in,” and how a person’s inability to conform can lead to his death. It also examines the idea that human life has no redeeming meaning or purpose, and that the only certain thing in life is the inevitability of death. Meursault gradually moves toward this realization throughout the novel, but he does not fully grasp it until after his argument with the chaplain in the final chapter.
The Stranger also explores the idea of existentialism, which attempts to direct our attention to ourselves as individuals. It forces us to think about our relation to such topics as the existence and nature of God, what it is to be religious (or ethical), the nature of values, and the fact of one’s own death.
The main takeaway from The Stranger is that we are almost never authentic, or our true selves because society and social pressures beckon conformity. There’s always social media, your parents’ expectations, even your own friend circle, that is influencing the way you think, speak, and act.
What I Liked
I liked the punchy plot and the way Camus builds the character of Mersault in such detail…without being descriptive. It’s his actions and how he takes them that show what kind of person he is.
The whole novel is fascinating.
What I Did Not Like
I liked the whole novel – now, it has a reputation that I think is ill-deserved as being a bit weird, heavy, and earnest. I didn’t find that to be true at all.