The Stranger by: Albert Camus



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The Stranger

  • by: Albert Camus

Albert Camus

  • First, it’s pronounced camoo, like Shamoo, but with a “C.”
  • He was born in Algeria when it was under French control, so he was a Frenchman, but born and raised in Africa—this put him in the middle of a hierarchy which had Africans at the bottom and French people born in France at the top.

Albert Camus

  • He experienced extreme poverty as a child, but still managed to go to university by working lots of odd jobs.
  • He had to drop out due to illness and entered the world of political journalism
  • He was a member of the French Resistance during WWII.
  • He moved to Paris during that time.

Albert Camus

  • Camus developed his theory of the absurd while in Paris. One of the main parts of absurdism is the idea that life has no rational or redeeming meaning.
  • Remember, during this time the Nazis were wreaking their particular brand of havoc on the world, and Camus just came to the decision that life had no particular purpose.

Albert Camus

  • So, since life has no point, this leads to the conclusion that our moral systems have no basis.
  • BUT Camus didn’t think this should lead humans to a carelessness about morals, or despair about the purpose of life. He was all about human dignity and justice.

Albert Camus

  • The Stranger is Camus’ first novel, published in 1942.
  • He wrote several other novels and essays.
  • He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, and died in a car wreck in 1960, at the age of 47.

The Stranger

  • The main character is a guy named Mersault, who also acts as the narrator. He’s extremely indifferent to the people around him, including his mother and his lover, Marie. He kills a man for no apparent reason, which leads to his thought process on the meaning of life and whatnot.
  • The Stranger is Camus’ philosophy of absurdism told through the story of this guy Mersault, so it’s part novel, part philosophical text.

The Stranger

  • Now, here is where things get sticky:
  • A lot of people would classify this book as existentialism. The definition for existentialism is: “the idea that there is no “higher” meaning to the universe or to man’s existence, and no rational order to the events of the world.”
  • Translation: there is no redeeming purpose to life, there is nothing beyond life. We exist, and that’s it, and then it’s over.

The Stranger

  • BUT Camus classified the book as absurdism. Absurdism says that the efforts of man to find meaning in the universe will ultimately fail because no such meaning exists.
  • Translation: we can try and try and try to find the meaning of life and our purpose in life, but we will fail, because there is no purpose.

Existentialism v. Absurdism

  • Both Existentialism and Absurdism are really really depressing, but the main difference comes in how they apply to people.
  • Existentialism just says that the world is indifferent to us and that’s it. What we do with that indifference is up to us.
  • Absurdism says that whatever we try to do with that indifference will not work, no matter what. So it kind of takes existentialism one step further. We can’t find meaning, and we’ll go crazy if we try.


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