The Stranger, like any novel, has many different aspects that contribute to it’s overall effect on the reader: character structure, existential influences and perspective have especially large roles. The Stranger was written in a time when the world looked at the aftermath of World War I and World War II and started to question humanity and its motivations. Many critics place this piece of literature under the general term of existentialism while other critics express a wide variety of opinions over the book. What exactly is existentialism? Does the amount of existential influence within the book warrant it being labeled as an existential piece?
So what exactly is existentialism? Many people, including critics and scholars that have studied existentialism thoroughly still have trouble giving a concise definition to the term. An article written by a staff member at Boston University uses a student, Andrew Irvine’s, comparison of romanticism and existentialism to define existentialism in his article.
Existentialism is typically focused on individual human lives and the poignant inevitability of suffering and choice for each individual whereas romanticism tended to be more oriented to the whole of nature and saw human beings as a part of that wider picture. (Wildman Par 1).
After reviewing several different definitions of existentialism I chose this one because I think it is simple enough for someone without any prior knowledge in the subject to grasp. This definition also is aided by the use of romanticism, a term fairly common in modern society.
To me there is one thing missing within this definition however. This definition never mentions the fact that to an existentialist there are no right or wrong moral actions. When Mr. Burns first introduced The Stranger to my AP Literature and Composition class with a similar phrase it had me perplexed. After reading The Stranger and discussing existentialism more in class I have come to realize that the definition is not that confusing when you are able to step away from the ‘social conspiracy’ as Mr. Burns puts it. All things within society are social constructs and thus the only true way to experience life and to be fully sure about something is to experience it through your own senses. This is what I believe is the most important part of existentialism is. The focus on the individual’s decisions to make their own significance out of their lives through their experiences because they can not rely on a construct that can not be proven. This is part of the philosophy presented in part within The Stranger.
The Stranger by Albert Camus is a novel about a detached protagonist named Meursault. In The Stranger Meursault goes through life by living for momentary pleasure. The book begins with his mother’s death and immediately the reader is struck by the strange degree of lack of sensitivity Meursault feels for his mother. “Then I felt like having a smoke. But I hesitated, because I didn’t know if I...