The Stranger, Albert Camus Essay

1380 words - 6 pages

“Between my straw mattress and the bed planks, I had actually found an old scrap of newspaper, yellow and transparent, half-stuck to the canvas. On it was a news story, the first part of which was missing, but which must have taken place in Czechoslovakia. A man had left a Czech village to seek his fortune. Twenty-five years later, and now rich, he had returned with a wife and a child. His mother was running a hotel with his sister in the village where he’d been born. In order to surprise them, he had left his wife and child at another hotel and gone to see his mother, who didn’t recognize him when he walked in. As a joke he’d had the idea of taking a room. He had shown off his money. During the night his mother and his sister had beaten him to death with a hammer in order to rob him and had thrown his body in the river. The next morning the wife had come to the hotel and, without knowing it, gave away the traveler’s identity. The mother hanged herself. The sister threw herself down the well. I must have read that story a thousand times. On the one hand it wasn’t very likely. On the other, it was perfectly natural. Anyway, I thought the traveler pretty much deserved what he got and that you should never play games.” (Camus 79-80.)
Within The Stranger, Albert Camus implements a passage concerning the story of the Czechoslovakian man. Camus employs this passage not only to foreshadow Meursault’s final fate, but also to emphasize Meursault’s antihero status by creating foils between Meursault and the Czechoslovakian man. The Czechoslovakian man’s appearance in the overall story is brief, but his story plays a large part in Meursault’s emergence as a dynamic character. Meursault’s emotionless demeanor throughout the story distinguishes him as a flat character, at face value, at least. Once he enters prison, he must find ways to pass time, and one of those ways becomes recalling how to remember. The story of the Czechoslovakian man turns into one of his means of remembering, as he reads and rereads this story, memorizing details and forming actual opinions. These shifts within Meursault represent his first real commitment to any single entity, even if that entity exists only to pass time.
First off, Camus juxtaposes the stories of Meursault and the Czechoslovakian man to create a presage of the denouement of Meursault. The Czechoslovakian man undergoes major life changes, and this ultimately leads to his demise. He goes to make a better life for himself, and he returns to his village with riches in wealth and in family. Upon returning to his mother and sister, the Czechoslovakian man is unrecognizable to them, and he decides to play a simple trick. This trick ends up getting him murdered. Up until Meursault commits his crime of murder, his life seems to be nearly painfully simple. His sole needs are physical, and with such simple needs come simple answers. However, once he commits this crime, his entire...

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