Three Themes in the Stranger by Albert Camus

1435 words 6 pages

In the novel, The Stranger, author Albert Camus confronts some important issues of the time, and uses the singular viewpoint of the narrator Meursault to develop his philosophy and effectively weave together themes of absurdity, colonialism, and free will. Through the progressive disruption of Meursault’s life and his characterization, Camus presents the absurdity of the human condition along with the understanding that a person can actually be happy in the face of the absurd. Camus also intentionally sets the story in the colonized country of Algeria, and hints at the racial tensions that exist between French-Algerians and Arabs.
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But Meursault is convinced that happiness comes not from searching for meaning in such an irrational world, but from living concretely in the here and now, without any false illusions. During his final day in court, he assesses his own happiness: “Pendant que mon avocet continuait a parler, la trompette d’un marchand de glace a resonne jusqu’a moi. J’ai ete assailli des souvenirs d’une vie qui ne m’appartenait plus, mais ou j’avais trouve les plus pauvres et les plus tenaces de mes joies: des odeurs d’ete, le quartier que j’aimais, un certain ciel du soir, le rire et les robes de Marie…” (pg. 51)

Camus intentionally sets the story around the city of Algiers, following France’s colonization of Algeria. While the theme of colonialism may appear to be a minor one, it is nevertheless significant in the events of Meursault’s life. This is clear in the novel’s predominance of French characters, despite their minority status there. Indeed, in his narrative Meursault only ever names and interacts with French-Algerians. Although Arabs are not depicted as socially inferior, Camus does not bestow names on them, nor does he grant them any appeal or dimension. We are introduced only briefly to the deformed Arab nurse, and given too little insight into the nameless group of Arabs that follows Raymond and