The Stranger

An Exploration of "The Stranger" by Albert Camus The Stranger is a book of many facets and meanings most of which are not immediately apparent. In fact without in depth analysis the entire point of the book is easily missed. The manner of story telling in The Stranger is unique and at first hard to come to grips with. It is not the story which is especially complex but the manner in which it is told. It is done by a narrator. In his telling of his tale he neglects to mention several important aspects of his internal state, (which after a great deal of speculation seems to be what the book is really about). One soon learns that it is exactly that which is most important for complete understanding of the book, which is so carefully omitted. But, these features are not completely forgotten about, they are implied and inferred creating the need for careful analysis. For example, Camus himself, on the back cover of the book says the book is an exploration of "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd"; at first glance this book seems to have an almost unhealthy lack of the absurd and Camus? statement seems meaningless. That is until the book as a whole is explored and one realizes that the lack of such is exactly what is absurd. This simple leap of thought, if the conclusion is correct is precisely the key to understanding The Stranger. It forces one to read between and even through the lines in a search for understanding, one comes to see that that which remains unwritten is the most important thing to read in this particular novel. The story begins with the death of the central character, Mersault?s, mother. That is in fact the first line of the book, the statement of this fact. It is the deadpan and uncaring manner of this statement that alerts the reader to the fact that this will be a different kind of book. The narrator never says that he is not overly distraught over his mother?s death, but it is implied through the language he uses when talking of this event. "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don?t know...Maybe it was yesterday". One can almost feel the nonchalant manner in the way it is written, yet it is not immediately obvious. That is what I mean by reading in between and through the lines. Maman had been living at an old people?s home in Marengo for the last few years of her life and Mersault must catch a bus there to go to her funeral. He catches the bus for the eighty kilometer ride at two o?clock in the afternoon. While on the bus he falls asleep for most of the ride. This slumber is another indication of the empty emotionless state the character constantly finds himself in. Once at the home he meets the director immediately prior to sitting his deathwatch. While talking to the director Mersault feels he is criticizing him for not taking proper care of his mother. His immediate response is to defend himself, the fact that he has enough of his faculties together to even be worried about such things is another disturbing indicator of his lack of grief and general lack of caring for his mother?s death. The director then asks Mersault if he?d like to see his mother, his only response is to get up and follow the director to where her coffin is. It is made clear in the book that there is no verbal response; this is important because throughout the book Mersault almost never lies to another human being. The lack of an answer actually means no. Mersault does not want to see his mother. He is only present for form?s sake. Mersault, when he comes to his mother?s coffin, chooses to have the lid left on. This surprises the caretaker and becomes very important later on in the book. It is also another indicator of Mersault?s persistent lack of "normal" human emotion. Most people when faced with such a significant event as the death of a loved one would have to confirm the event with their own eyes, the better to deal with it emotionally. Mersault and the caretaker then proceed to have a fairly amiable conversation, smoke