Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Stranger

I have been meaning to read this classic novel by Albert Camus for some time, but finally got around to it this weekend. At first glance it is a fairly simple first-hand story of an innocuous man committing an unplanned murder (or is it really self-defense?) The first part of the book follows the events leading up to the killing, while the second part encompasses the trial and imprisonment.

Looked at more carefully, though, you see a much more complex story. The main character, Meursault, could be a sociopath. He shows little emotion towards anyone: his mother, who passes away, his girlfriend, or his so-called friends. Meursault shows no sorrow when his mother dies and he tells his girlfriend he doesn't think he loves her, but will marry her, if she wants him to. He also expresses little emotion at killing the Arab on the beach. In fact, after killing the man with one shot, he hesitates for a moment and them pumps four more rounds into the corpse.

The idea of fate is addressed, and, incongruously, randomness. While is prison, Meursault thinks of the inevitability of death, but at the same time he seems to be unaware of small, somewhat random events that led him to where he is: other people's perceptions of his lack of emotion, his relationships with others and his rejection of God's forgiveness. Slight changes in any of these things, among others, may have had a profound impact on where he ends up. In the end, however, Meursault accepts his fate and is resigned to his eventual death penalty and actually hopes that the crowd will cheer his execution.

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