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The Stranger


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The Stranger Critical Essays

Albert Camus

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Topic #1
Illustrate how Meursault’s indifferent attitude and moral ambiguity is fundamentally at odds with society’s expectations of how a person should think and behave.

I. Thesis Statement: In The Stranger, society views Meursault as a cold-hearted killer and a moral “blank.” It categorizes him as dangerous and evil because Meursault refuses to conform to society’s accepted standards of behavior.

II. Meursault’s attitude and behavior
A. At his mother’s vigil and the funeral
1. Meursault remains unemotional and detached
2. Doesn’t want to see his mother’s body
3. Drinks coffee and chats during the vigil
4. Offers no expression of comfort, or grief to his mother’s close friend, Thomas Perez
5. Doesn’t cry at the funeral
B. Relationship with Marie after the funeral
1. Marie’s reaction to Meursault when she learns about his mother
2. Meursault’s activities the day after his mother’s funeral
a. Swims with Marie
b. Goes out on a date and begins an affair with Marie
C. Friendship with Raymond and agreement to write the letter
1. Meursault never questions morality of writing such a letter
2. Society’s view of a man like Raymond and Meursault’s association with him
D. Murder of the Arab and reasons for pulling the trigger
1. Meursault shoots once, then fires four more times
2. Meursault’s bizarre explanation about “the sun”
E. No apparent remorse for crime
1. Inability to ever feel regret about anything
F. Meursault doesn’t believe in God

III. How society views Meursault
A. Behavior at the funeral is repugnant to many
B. Starts affair with Marie the day after the funeral
1. Meursault enjoys himself, even though his mother has just died
C. Why is Meursault Raymond’s friend?
1. Raymond has a bad reputation
2. Meursault must be involved with Raymond in some type of criminal activity
D. Why does Meursault murder the Arab?
1. No one understands Meursault’s explanation about the sun
2. Must be part of suspected criminal activity
3. Meursault “murdered” his mother by putting her in a nursing home. His crime is even worse than the parricide case
4. Therefore, Meursault is capable of anything
E. Refusal to believe in God proof of Meursault’s immorality
1. The magistrate’s appeal to Meursault with the crucifix

(The entire section is 1,031 words.)

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The Stranger Homework Help Questions

  • What are the major themes of The Stranger by Albert Camus?

    One of the themes of The Stranger is human alienation from oneself, each other, and from society as a whole. Meursault, the protagonist, is a symbol of this alienation because he is a Frenchman…

  • What is the symbolic meaning of Salamano’s dog in the novel?

    In The Stranger, the relationship between Salamano and his dog is analogous to both the relationships between Mersault and his mother and between Raymond and his Arab girlfriend.  The dog reminds…

  • In The Stranger, Meursault is never given a first name, an age, or any physically defining…

    Since Meursault is representative of an existentialist existance, his name, his age, his features make no difference. It is a hollow world in which he functions drowned out by the glaring sun and…

  • In The Stranger by Camus, how is Meursault a stranger to himself, to society, and to his…

    The French title of Camus’ work, called The Stranger in most English translations, is L’Étranger. This has been variously translated as The Estranged One, The Outsider, and The Foreigner. These…

  • How does Albert Camus show us his beliefs through Meursault in the Stranger

    Meursault, the narrator and main protagonist in Albert Camus’s existentialist novel The Stranger, shows many characteristics held to the philosophy of absurdism. As the novel begins, Meursault…

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