Critical Essays On The Stranger By Albert Camus

The Outsider (1942) (previously translated from the French, L’Étranger, as The Stranger) is Albert Camus’s most widely known work, and expounds his early understanding of Absurdism, as well as a variety of other philosophical concepts.I discussed the novel on a superficial level in my recent review, and this will provide an overview of the work and its significance to those who are unfamiliar with it.Indeed, this indifference is Meursault’s second defining characteristic; he feels no grief for his dead mother, has no romantic or career aspirations, and makes no moral judgement of others. In maintaining the highest levels of honesty, Meursault embodies many of the ideals that society is so keen to promote but, just as Kierkegaard exploded the aesthetic sphere of existence from within, Camus demonstrates the impossibility of living a life of principled sincerity, of honesty without compromise.

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I will also discuss the writing and symbolism, and how they relate to the higher concepts discussed.

Meursault Meursault lives a quiet life of routine, content with his simple office job and uncomplicated way of living.

Meursault’s behaviour and ethos are entirely in line with the ideals of Kant’s Categorical Imperative, and yet the result is a mechanical, sub-human existence.

As the novel progresses Meursault begins to see the hypocrisy of those moral arbiters of society, who are charged with upholding the ideals of such an ethos, and balks at the hollowness of their rhetoric.

When faced with the realisation of their idealised morality they cannot abide it, and persecute Meursault for the sake of their hypocritical, delusional society as much as for his crimes.

Meursault is “a menace to society” only in so much as he undermines society, and it is for this reason that he must be put to death.

Indeed, Meursault allows others to define his reactions and shape an identity for him, which proves increasingly tragic as the novel progresses.

The reader has a more objective viewpoint and is struck by Meursault’s lack of emotion, and his distance from Marie and Raymond, as well as from themselves.

Meursault’s unusual approach to human interaction has led some commentators to suggest he is of low-intelligence or mentally deficient in some manner.

However, one need only look at the comparisons between Camus’s own life and that of his narrator’s to dispel this idea.


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