The Stranger (novel)

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The Stranger or The Outsider (L’Étranger) is a novel by Albert Camus, published in 1942, and is Camus's best-known work. Its theme and outlook are often cited as examples of existentialism, though Camus did not consider himself an existentialist; in fact, its content explores various philosophical schools of thought, including (most prominently and specifically) absurdism, as well as determinism, nihilism, naturalism, and stoicism.

The title character is Meursault, an Algerian ("a citizen of France domiciled in North Africa, a man of the Mediterranean, an homme du midi yet one who hardly partakes of the traditional Mediterranean culture"[1]) who seemingly irrationally kills an Arab man whom he recognises in French Algiers. The story is divided into Parts One and Two: Meursault's first-person narrative view before and after the murder, respectively.

Contents

Plot

Part One begins with Meursault being notified of his mother's death. He attends her funeral, yet expresses none of the emotions which are expected in such a circumstance. At her wake, when asked if he wishes to view the body, he declines, and, instead, smokes a cigarette and drinks coffee with milk before the naked body. Rather than expressing his feelings, he only comments to the reader about the others at the funeral. He later encounters, by chance, Marie, a former employee of his firm, and the two become re-acquainted and begin to have a sexual relationship, regardless of the fact that Meursault's mother died just a couple of days before. In the next few days, he helps his friend and neighbour, Raymond Sintès, take revenge on a Moorish girlfriend suspected of infidelity. For Raymond, Meursault agrees to write a letter to his girlfriend, with the sole purpose of inviting her over so that Raymond can have sex with her and beat her up one last time. Meursault sees no reason not to help him, and it pleases Raymond. He does not express concern that Raymond's girlfriend is going to be injured, as he believes Raymond's story that she has been unfaithful, and he himself is both somewhat drunk and characteristically unfazed by any feelings of empathy. In general he considers other people either interesting or annoying.

The letter works: the girlfriend returns and Raymond beats her. Raymond is taken to court where Meursault testifies that she had been unfaithful, and Raymond is let off with a warning. After this, the girlfriend's brother and several Arab friends begin tailing Raymond. Raymond invites Meursault and Marie to a friend's beach house for the weekend, and when there, they encounter the spurned girlfriend's brother and an Arab friend; these two confront Raymond and wound him with a knife during a fist fight. Later, walking back along the beach alone and now armed with a pistol he took from Raymond so that Raymond would not do anything rash, Meursault encounters the Arab. Meursault is now disoriented on the edge of heatstroke, and when the Arab flashes his knife at him, Meursault shoots. Despite killing the Arab man with the first gun shot, he shoots the cadaver four more times after a brief pause. He does not divulge to the reader any specific reason for his crime or emotions he experiences at the time, if any, aside from the fact that he was bothered by the heat and bright sunlight.

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