By Bergen Grant, student work study assistant
The Stranger, by Albert Camus, follows the life of a young Frenchman, Meursault, starting the day of, or the day after, his mother’s death. Opening with, “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.” Camus frames Meursault’s detachment from reality, from time, and from normal human expression, as a very evident and weighing aspect of his life, and his perception of the world. As he struggles to meet the expectations of others as to how he should react to an event such as the death of your own mother, Meursault continues to coast through his life, and allows the world to come to him as he sits in the passenger seat of his own existence. With this inability to acknowledge meaning in life when there is none, Meursault is outcasted by most. The few that like him see this lack of emotion and reluctance to strive for more as something admirable. Although it seems to be more for their gain than any true connection to him. This lack of ambition and desire allows him to be malleable, and to fit into their lives how they need him to. Meursault’s behavior and character lead him to show an honest side of himself, which turns on him in the end, forcing him to search for the meaning of his life.
Although never claiming to be an existentialist himself, many of Camus’ views of the world align with such beliefs, specifically in life having no inherent meaning. In The Stranger, following what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd”, Camus uses Meursault as a vehicle to navigate the realm of meaning within human existence, and how non-traditional views of the world can be so terrifying to the general public, with some being punishable under law (or under a guillotine). With this, Camus offers a perspective on what life means to most, how this has shaped global communal views, and how dangerous it is to be a stranger.
This book can be found in the Greenfield Open Stacks at call # PQ2605 .A3734 E813 1989.