Albert Camus' influential novel, The Stranger, a great work of existentialism, examines the absurdity of life and indifference of the world. This paper provides a summary of the novel, and outlines some of the novel's main themes.
The novel's protagoinist, Meursault, is a distanced and indifferent young man. He does not believe in God, and lives his life with seemingly sensuous abandon. After Meursault is caught up in the life of a local pimp, he rather inexplicably murders a young man on the beach, and is put on trial. In a ridiculous and seemingly arbitrary trial, he is essentially tried and found guilty for failing to adhere to society's beliefs and morals. It is during this trial that Meursault comes to terms with the absurdity of life.
The Stranger begins with the news that Meursault's mother has died. Writes Camus, "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know. I had a telegram from the home: 'Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.' That doesn't mean anything. It may have been yesterday" (p. 9). Here, the somewhat disturbing detachment of Meursault's recounting of his mother's death sets the distanced and cynical tone for his experiences throughout the novel.
Meursault takes two days off work to go to the home where his mother lived. At the home he meets the warden and caretaker, and views his mother's body. At the home, Meursault naps, talks to the caretaker, and drinks some white coffee. He encounters his mother's friends, and notes that he had " the ridiculous impression that they were there to judge me" (p. 15). The next day, Meursault struggles with the heat during his mother's funeral service, while his mother's fiancé, Thomas Pérez, is overcome with grief. Meursault looks forward to returning home, and having the chance to sleep for 12 hours straight.
The next day, Saturday, Meursault decides to go to the beach. There he meets Marie Cardona, who he frolics with in the water. Later, although Marie is somewhat disturbed at the death of Meursault's mother, she agrees to see a comedy with him that evening. The next morning, Meursault enjoys lunch on the balcony, and amuses himself by watching people pass by.
On Monday, Meursault goes to work. He joins his friend Emmanuel for lunch, takes a nap and returns to work. After work to runs into his neighbor Salamano and his dog. He also encounters Raymond, who is rumored to be a pimp, and they discuss Raymond's cheating girlfriend, and his conflict with an Arab. The rest of the week continues in the same manner, with Meursault attending the movies with Emmanuel, and a swimming with Marie. They play in the water again, and she asks him if he loves her, to which he replies " that it didn't mean anything but that I didn't think so" (p. 38). They are interrupted by the loud noises from a fight between Raymond and his girlfriend. Salamano notes that he has lost his dog, and cries with grief.