The Stranger demanded of Camus the creation of a style at once literary and profoundly popular, an artistic sleight of hand that would make the complexities of a. Published as the introduction to Albert Camus, Selected Fiction and Essays. London: Everyman's Press, Millennium Library. ISBN More than the others, therefore, it has need of the indulgence and understanding of its readers. —Albert Camus, Paris, March for PASCAL PIA. O my soul.
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Albert Camus () gives a quite different account of philosophy and politics of In The Myth of Sisyphus Camus elucidates this concept of the absurd . Up until that time Albert Camus's greatest pleasures were wandering the streets of the working-class district of Algiers (the capital of Algeria, then a French. PDF | Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher, proposes the Deconstruction Theory that deals with the relationship between text and meaning.
The natural forces do not have empathy for us or care. They are neither good nor evil; they are simply there, and they go on being there long after we are gone. To accept this philosophy is to live in a world without God. Meursault can accept this and lives with the sensations, both pleasurable and painful, of sun and wind, of caresses, of smells and sights.
Yet his incapacity to look beyond the sensation of the moment leads him into a pattern of action that changes his relationship to all these sensations, and in prison he is deprived of all that has made his life enjoyable.
Society has developed patterns of behavior for given moments in our lives, whether or not we have the requisite feelings. Meursault could have lied about his feelings at any time and made his ordeal easier.
This attitude leaves him open to the charge that he has no basis to deter him from wrong action; it also leaves him without conventional hope. He loved her the way people love their mothers.
He says to Marie that he does not really love her but will marry her if she wants. Love, Camus is saying, and its institutionalized symbol, marriage, have been created by society and have nothing to do with how people really feel. Some readers argue that Meursault is incapable of loving anyone, while others claim that Camus is attempting to define love as the physical pleasure one experiences with another person. There are several kinds of love in this book. Are these relationships involved with negative as well as positive feelings?
Some readers feel that Meursault refuses to accept the possibility of feeling love because he recognizes the pain involved in such a relationship.
Camus poses the question whether or not a relationship that involves pain as well as pleasure is worth the trouble. Do you feel that this is an accurate interpretation of love?
During the trial scene in Part Two, everyone participates in some sort of game, except Meursault. He is just a spectator at his trial. We first meet the idea of justice in Part One, as Raymond seeks revenge on his girlfriend for being unfaithful to him.
And again, when the Arabs attack Raymond, it is to punish him for beating her up. But during the trial, no one makes any real effort to discover why Meursault has acted the way he did. The fact is that Meursault has killed a man with apparent ease and without remorse.
Is the prosecutor right? Is Meursault a dangerous man and is justice served in this trial? He drifts without thought into minor activities- his affair with Marie, his friendship with Raymond, his comforting of Salamano. He finds it easier to say yes than no. Yet, when pushed, he will not lie about his motives, even though to say what is expected of him would clearly make people more sympathetic to his ordeal. As you read, keep in mind these questions: What is the purpose of acting when you know you will die?
How committed are you to your own ideals and to what extent would you defend your feelings and beliefs? In order to do this, he has created recognizable characters and placed them in realistic situations. The clarity of style is the perfect instrument to convey the thoughts of the narrator Meursault , who is attempting to find order and understanding in a confused and confusing world.
Others compare his vocabulary to that of a child.
Notice, also, the brevity of most of the sentences- which are also childlike- and the absence of complicated grammatical constructions. Camus describes objects and people but makes no attempt to analyze them.
His attention is always fixed on the concrete nature of things. He uses words cautiously as if he were somehow suspicious of abstract terms. Note the conversations between Meursault and Marie about marriage and the exchange between Meursault and the chaplain about God. Notice the scene where Meursault kills the Arab.
Natural images- the sun, sea, and wind- appear in different guises at different times. As you read, pick out other words and phrases that appear regularly and try to figure out their significance. The Stranger was originally written in French.
The widely read American edition, translated by Stuart Gilbert, is faithful for the most part to the tone of the first-person narrator. Be aware, however, that the translator makes many changes in the original text. For example, in the nursing home scene in the opening chap- ter, Meursault asks the doorkeeper if he would turn off one of the lamps in the mortuary.
His mind wanders in the middle of conversations. Only rarely does he make value judgments or express opinions about what he or the other characters are doing.
At the trial, in Part Two, you learn what the other characters think of Meursault. Some readers think the book would have been more successful if it had been told in the third person by an omniscient narrator. He begins an affair with Marie and drifts into a relationship with his neighbor, Raymond Sintes. Then he commits the murder that will result in a sentence of death.
Part Two picks up directly following the murder and ends eleven months later. We see Meursault in his prison cell and during his trial, and are introduced to the various functionaries of the state: the lawyer, the magistrate, the prosecutor, and the chaplain.
Meursault compares his life in prison with his former life, and we watch how his attitudes evolve. Does he change? Or does he simply become crystalized in his old pattern? Are there other possibilities? The two parts of The Stranger can be seen as forming a kind of duality. In Part One, Meursault walks through the world largely unaware of the effect of his actions on others; in Part Two he is conscious of every aspect of his experience, both past and present.
Camus was, however, very concerned with some of the same questions as philosophers. Since he did not state his ideas systematically and unambiguously, it is difficult to summarize them, and there have been conflicting interpretations of his outlook. People want, and need, a basis for their lives and values, but the world offers them none, Camus believed.
Nonreligious in a traditional sense, Camus, like many others, was cast adrift, feeling that life had no significance as well as no meaning.
Life for him has little meaning on a deeper level, and he is not concerned about making value judgments or assessing right and wrong. Yet at the end of The Stranger, Meursault draws some order out of life. Through this feeling of solidarity, Meursault seems to gain strength, and seems to come to terms, at least partially, with the absurdity of life. All the events in the story are seen or experienced from the point of view of one person, Meursault, What we know about the events in the novel and about the other characters is based on his interpretation.
In the opening scenes, notice how Meursault emphasizes the external aspects of his environment, and how little you learn about his inner feelings and thoughts. Eventually, he dozes off. Meursault has the feeling, in the course of their conversation, that the warden blames him for sending his mother to the home. The doorkeeper appears and begins to unscrew the lid of the coffin so that Meursault can view his mother one last time.
Meursault stops him. At first Meursault feels uneasy in the presence of the doorkeeper. To ease the tension, he strikes up a conversation. His conversation with the doorkeeper could be taking place anywhere- they might be two strangers meeting in an elevator or on a train.
As night falls, the doorkeeper offers to bring Meursault a mug of cafe au lait- coffee with milk. Meursault accepts the offer, and the two men continue their vigil beside the coffin. What reasons could you attribute to such an attitude?
In preparation for the customary all-night vigil, the doorkeeper arranges a number of chairs around the coffin. You will find many more references to light throughout the story. Do you have the impression they are trying to make him feel guilty? They nod their heads and suck their toothless gums. One of the old women at the vigil weeps, and the doorkeeper tells Meursault that his mother had been her closest friend.
As the night progresses, Meursault grows tired and becomes aware of a pain in his legs. At dawn, all the old people shake hands with Meursault and leave. Yet he has a hard time staying interested in anything for very long. His mind seems to work like an instant camera; after he takes the picture, however, he throws it away. To him, no one picture is much more important or carries much more weight than any other.
Meursault experiences the funeral as a series of physical sensations. He smells the hot leather and the horse dung from the hearse and feels exhausted as a result of staying awake most of the night. He has a bad headache and can barely drag himself along to the cemetery. As you read the novel, see how Camus conveys his philosophy in terms of human testimony, experience, and description- not analysis.
But he was true to his own feelings. Why do you think he did? At the pool near the harbor he meets Marie Cardona, a former typist in his office. Meursault and Marie swim together, frolicking happily in the water like children. Meursault and Marie doze off on a raft, his head upon her lap. As you read, note all the ways in which Camus uses the image of water.
You might compare the water imagery to the images of sunlight which also occur frequently throughout the book. Ask yourself how you would have reacted if you were Marie. Many people in Western cultures observe a period of mourning after a close relative has passed away or wear black as a sign that someone close to them has died.
Perhaps that is why Marie is not deeply affected by the news of the death. That evening, Marie and Meursault go to the movies to see a comedy starring the French actor Fernandel. On Sunday morning, Meursault awakens to find Marie gone.
Is it because he prefers the regimented life of the work week to the freedom of the weekend, when he must make his own choices about what to do? After lunch, he wanders restlessly around his apartment. You get the feeling that Meursault is just killing time, waiting for Monday and the routine of going to work.
His meeting with Marie at the pool was purely accidental. Whatever encounters he has with people take place by chance.
As you read, ask yourself what makes Meursault different or stand out from other people. He spends most of the day on the balcony of his apartment. From that vantage point, he observes a family going for their Sunday walk, the local teenagers on their way to the movies, the tobacconist across the street sitting outside his shop. Most people would probably be bored with this routine, but Meursault seems content just to exist. Sunday or Monday, life or death- it seems to be all the same.
He believed that the weariness that resulted from the acts of a mechanical life- a life that continued, unchanging, from week to week- was the condition necessary to give birth to the feeling of absurdity in an individual. But you are told that the simple physical act of washing his hands during the day gives him pleasure. Then he returns to his apartment for a nap and later goes back to the office. This is his daily routine. Why do you think Camus spends so little time describing what Meursault does at work?
Others feel that the ritual of going to work is more important to Camus than the work itself. After work Meursault walks home along the harbor, feeling the coolness of the evening air on his face. On the steps of his apartment he meets an elderly man, Salamano, who lives with his dog on the same floor as Meursault.
The man and the dog have lived together for eight years. But Salamano regularly beats the dog, and the dog, in turn, irritates his master, by pulling on the leash when they walk down the street. Before reaching his apartment, Meursault greets another neighbor, Raymond Sintes, who invites him into his room for dinner. Though he tells people he works in a warehouse, he is reputed to be a pimp. Some readers think that the similarities in the names seem to indicate that Camus wanted to call attention to the autobiographical elements in the novel and to indicate that much of the book was inspired by his childhood experiences.
But why Salamano beats his dog or Raymond beats his girlfriend is a mystery to him. Does this interpretation contradict his antisocial behavior at the nursing home?
Others feel that Meursault is just drifting, as always, from one chance encounter to another. As you read, ask yourself why Meursault feels and acts the way he does.
Do you think of him as an honest person? Or is he just acting selfishly? He has done this, disregarding the possible consequences, especially to the girl. Meursault and his coworker, Emmanuel, have seen two movies, but we are not told the names of the movies. Why do you think Meursault tells you about the roller towel at work, yet neglects to give details about other aspects of his life? This was another result of his history of tuberculosis. Prospects for earning a living seemed dim.
He had formed a theater group and worked in all areas, including directing and acting.
It included recollections of his childhood in Belcourt. The main character is named Patrice Meursault. His job was to make an inventory of data recorded at some weather stations over a period of 25 years. In his journal during this time there are frequent references to the weather. This increasing attention to the natural world had an important influence on his later writing. Camus longed to be free of the necessity of working at a dull job. He eventually found a position on a new paper, Alger-Republicain, which believed in Arab equality with Europeans and was against French rule in Algeria.
Camus began writing articles about the economic condition of the Arabs. The articles were controversial, and Camus became known as someone who refused to go along with the general anti-Arab sentiment of the majority of Europeans in the country. Algeria had been ruled by France since In the early part of the twentieth century, the population of Algeria had grown considerably, and the world-wide economic depression of the s had resulted in increased Arab poverty. At the time that Camus was beginning work on The Stranger, the Arabs of Algeria were seeking to establish their own political and social identity in a country where they were treated like second-class citizens.
The presence of so many Arabs and Europeans, living side by side, created an air of tension throughout the country. Camus was intrigued by this tough-looking, silent character there were rumors that Galindo once had a violent encounter with some Arabs on a beach and used him as a model for two characters in The Stranger, Raymond and Meursault. It is that of a man sentenced to die The title essay- one of his most influential works- describes a Greek mythological figure, Sisyphus, who was condemned by the gods to spend eternity pushing a rock to the top of a hill, watching it roll down, and then pushing it up again.
How can people condemned to such a meaningless existence find meaning in life? Camus did not believe that religion offered an answer. Nor did he think of suicide as the inevitable solution. Part of the challenge of understanding this book is understanding what this response means. After the war, he took a job as a reader of manuscripts for the Gallimard publishing company and began work on a second novel, The Plague , based on his experience in the fight against Fascism. In his diaries, though, he shows that during this time he was continually haunted by thoughts of dying.
Despite his fame, he often thought of himself as a failure. His sudden death, in an automobile accident in , was a startling confirmation of his earlier thoughts on death. He was always aware that death could strike at any time. It also gave, and continues to give, his readers an important and controversial legacy.
The story concerns Meursault, a man who is rather passive, who does not make judgments about the quality of actions. He does not see patterns in the past or foresee consequences in the future. To act or not to act are one. He seems to care deeply only about the sensations of the fleeting present moment.
He drifts into relationships and into actions, and one of these changes his life. It puts him into conflict with the moral ideas of the society around him.
He attends her funeral without showing the sorrow his society expects of a son or daughter. After the funeral he returns to Algiers. The next day, Saturday, he goes swimming and meets Marie Cardona, a young woman who formerly worked at his office.
They see a comic film together and Marie goes home with Meursault. They make love. On Sunday, Meursault stays by himself in his apartment, watching people on the street below. The following evening, Meursault meets one of his neighbors, Raymond Sintes, who invites him to dinner. Raymond tells Meursault that his Arab girlfriend has been unfaithful and that he wants revenge.
Meursault agrees to write the letter. The next weekend, Meursault and Marie go swimming. Meursault refuses to call the police, but another neighbor does and when the policeman arrives, he finds that Raymond has beaten the girl. Before they leave on the bus, Raymond points out two Arab men near the bus stop; he says that one of them is the brother of the girl he had beaten.
Raymond seems worried they will try to harm him for beating the girl. At the beach, the three have lunch. Then Meursault, Raymond, and Masson go for a walk and meet the Arabs, who apparently have followed them from Algiers. After a brief fight, one of the Arabs pulls a knife and slashes Raymond.
The Arabs flee. Raymond is not seriously hurt, and after being treated by a doctor, he insists on returning to the beach. He wants to go alone, but Meursault follows him.
They encounter the Arabs again, and Raymond searches for an excuse to shoot the man who had stabbed him. Meursault talks him out of shooting and takes the gun. As they discuss how to handle the Arabs, the Arabs vanish. It is hot and muggy, and, sensitive to the weather, he feels strange and dizzy.
He goes down to the beach alone, trying to cool off, and meets one of the Arabs. The two men confront each other once more, and when Meursault advances on him, the Arab pulls a knife.
The sun blazes, blinding Meursault. He fires the gun once, killing the Arab.
Then he fires four more times into the body. Meursault recognizes that his action will have consequences. During the next eleven months he is interviewed repeatedly by the magistrate and by his court-appointed lawyer. The prosecutor paints a picture of a man incapable of the most basic human feeling, one who is a danger to society.
Back in his cell, Meursault thinks about death and about escape. He does not want to see the prison chaplain, but the chaplain visits him anyway and attempts to have him acknowledge his guilt and also the possibility of an afterlife. Meursault flies into a rage and attacks the chaplain in the only outburst of feeling he displays in the book. His last wish is that a large, hostile crowd attend his execution. Physical sensations of sun and wind and physical activities such as swimming or running mean a great deal to him.
Larger experiences in his life- the death of his mother, a chance for marriage, and a change in job- mean relatively little. We learn almost nothing about his past, though he is a curiously candid person, speaking of experiences in the present that most of us, if we felt them, might keep silent about. He has a detached attitude toward other people. This annoys most people, but some are attracted to him because of his silence and his habit of not offering judgments.
The central event in his life, at least as far as it influences others, is killing an Arab. His most intense experience, however, is his attack on a chaplain while in prison. Many readers see Meursault as a hero and as a martyr for the truth.
He refuses to disguise his feelings and by doing so threatens society. For instance, when Raymond is beating an Arab girl, Meursault refuses to send for the police because he dislikes them. His feelings take precedence over the immediate danger to the girl. Meursault is a complex- in some ways contradictory- character, and one of the most rewarding challenges of reading The Stranger is trying to figure out his personality.
At the trial, he tries to defend Meursault. He is more sympathetic toward Meursault than the warden and sits with Meursault during the all-night vigil by the coffin. He offers Meursault coffee in what seems a kind act. He generally expresses ordinary sentiments and tries to make Meursault feel guilty for leaving his mother in a home.
She, like Meursault, is devoted to sensual pleasures. But her values are rooted in traditional standards, and she wants what most people are said to want: love, marriage, a conventional life. Salamano loses the dog during the course of the story and turns to Meursault for advice and comfort. But his code of honor is as important to him as religion is to the chaplain or the magistrate.
Conversely, if someone does him a favor- as Meursault does, by writing a letter to his girlfriend- that person will be his pal. He takes part in the first scuffle with the Arabs but essentially has a minor role in the story. At the trial, he attempts to create a favorable picture of Meursault. The magistrate is an authority figure who believes in God and wants criminals to believe and to repent their crimes.
During their first interview, Meursault views the magistrate as an amiable and kindly person. At a later interview, however, the magistrate becomes perturbed and excited when Meursault refuses to answer his questions about the murder. Meursault is fascinated by the skill with which the prosecutor twists information to create his case.
For Meursault, the chaplain is just the last in a long line of people who have tried to foist their ideas on him. His insistence that Meursault express some belief in God leads to an attack by Meursault. The city is described as bathed in sunlight so intense at times that it makes Meursault feel dizzy; it is surrounded by white-hot beaches and endless expanses of sky and water.
The street where Meursault lived was modeled after the Rue de Lyon- the main artery of Belcourt, the Algerian suburb where Camus grew up. Algiers is a city of crowded apartment buildings, where the neighbors and shopkeepers all know one another.
The streets are lined with bars and restaurants. Arabs, Europeans, and pieds-noirs- people of European descent born, as Camus himself was, in Algeria- live side by side, but not without tensions and conflicts. The story should be seen against this background of racial mix and unrest. More than the city, even, the natural climate of North Africa forms a powerful backdrop to events and shifts of mood- the sun, the heat, the vastness of space and sky have much influence.
Most people, Camus is saying, accept the day-today events that make up existence without asking themselves: Why am I doing this? The only answer, he says, is that nothing we do has any long-lasting meaning. We die, the universe goes on.
Nothing fundamental has changed. Later in his life Camus changed his thinking to add that within this framework, our actions can still be important because we can affect the lives of other persons. We must behave as if life has meaning. Images of sun, water, earth, and sky give pleasure to fleeting moments of our lives. But they can turn dangerous and destructive. The natural forces do not have empathy for us or care. They are neither good nor evil; they are simply there, and they go on being there long after we are gone.
To accept this philosophy is to live in a world without God. Meursault can accept this and lives with the sensations, both pleasurable and painful, of sun and wind, of caresses, of smells and sights. Yet his incapacity to look beyond the sensation of the moment leads him into a pattern of action that changes his relationship to all these sensations, and in prison he is deprived of all that has made his life enjoyable.
Society has developed patterns of behavior for given moments in our lives, whether or not we have the requisite feelings. Meursault could have lied about his feelings at any time and made his ordeal easier. This attitude leaves him open to the charge that he has no basis to deter him from wrong action; it also leaves him without conventional hope.
He loved her the way people love their mothers. He says to Marie that he does not really love her but will marry her if she wants. Love, Camus is saying, and its institutionalized symbol, marriage, have been created by society and have nothing to do with how people really feel. Some readers argue that Meursault is incapable of loving anyone, while others claim that Camus is attempting to define love as the physical pleasure one experiences with another person. There are several kinds of love in this book.
Are these relationships involved with negative as well as positive feelings? Some readers feel that Meursault refuses to accept the possibility of feeling love because he recognizes the pain involved in such a relationship. Camus poses the question whether or not a relationship that involves pain as well as pleasure is worth the trouble. Do you feel that this is an accurate interpretation of love? During the trial scene in Part Two, everyone participates in some sort of game, except Meursault.
He is just a spectator at his trial. We first meet the idea of justice in Part One, as Raymond seeks revenge on his girlfriend for being unfaithful to him. And again, when the Arabs attack Raymond, it is to punish him for beating her up. But during the trial, no one makes any real effort to discover why Meursault has acted the way he did.
But in all circumstances of life, in obscurity or temporary fame, cast in the irons of tyranny or for a time free to express himself, the writer can win the heart of a living community that will justify him, on the one condition that he will accept to the limit of his abilities the two tasks that constitute the greatness of his craft: the service of truth and the service of liberty.
Because his task is to unite the greatest possible number of people, his art must not compromise with lies and servitude which, wherever they rule, breed solitude. Whatever our personal weaknesses may be, the nobility of our craft will always be rooted in two commitments, difficult to maintain: the refusal to lie about what one knows and the resistance to oppression. For more than twenty years of an insane history, hopelessly lost like all the men of my generation in the convulsions of time, I have been supported by one thing: by the hidden feeling that to write today was an honour because this activity was a commitment — and a commitment not only to write.
Specifically, in view of my powers and my state of being, it was a commitment to bear, together with all those who were living through the same history, the misery and the hope we shared. These men, who were born at the beginning of the First World War, who were twenty when Hitler came to power and the first revolutionary trials were beginning, who were then confronted as a completion of their education with the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, the world of concentration camps, a Europe of torture and prisons — these men must today rear their sons and create their works in a world threatened by nuclear destruction.
Nobody, I think, can ask them to be optimists. And I even think that we should understand — without ceasing to fight it — the error of those who in an excess of despair have asserted their right to dishonour and have rushed into the nihilism of the era.
But the fact remains that most of us, in my country and in Europe, have refused this nihilism and have engaged upon a quest for legitimacy. They have had to forge for themselves an art of living in times of catastrophe in order to be born a second time and to fight openly against the instinct of death at work in our history. Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater.
It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself. Heir to a corrupt history, in which are mingled fallen revolutions, technology gone mad, dead gods, and worn-out ideologies, where mediocre powers can destroy all yet no longer know how to convince, where intelligence has debased itself to become the servant of hatred and oppression, this generation starting from its own negations has had to re-establish, both within and without, a little of that which constitutes the dignity of life and death.
In a world threatened by disintegration, in which our grand inquisitors run the risk of establishing forever the kingdom of death, it knows that it should, in an insane race against the clock, restore among the nations a peace that is not servitude, reconcile anew labour and culture, and remake with all men the Ark of the Covenant. It is not certain that this generation will ever be able to accomplish this immense task, but already it is rising everywhere in the world to the double challenge of truth and liberty and, if necessary, knows how to die for it without hate.
Wherever it is found, it deserves to be saluted and encouraged, particularly where it is sacrificing itself. In any event, certain of your complete approval, it is to this generation that I should like to pass on the honour that you have just given me. He has no other claims but those which he shares with his comrades in arms: vulnerable but obstinate, unjust but impassioned for justice, doing his work without shame or pride in view of everybody, not ceasing to be divided between sorrow and beauty, and devoted finally to drawing from his double existence the creations that he obstinately tries to erect in the destructive movement of history.