Well, I finished The Stranger. And I honestly don’t have a lot to say about it. When I finished I just thought, “meh.” I mean, there were portions I really liked, but I don’t feel like I got anything out of it.
The style is very simplistic. It is all in first person point of view and just kind of goes. It never really breaks and the events seem to move quickly from the opening pages. The result left me feeling like I wasn’t getting as much from it as I should have.
It starts with the character Meursault journeying to the Home where he had sent his mother. He was notified before the book even begins that she had died and so he is going to her funeral. Once there, he seems completely distant from the events and does not shed a tear at her funeral. He comes back home after the funeral, hooks up with his lady friend, Marie, and they go with a friend, Raymond, to the beach. At the beach there is an altercation between Raymond and a few men. Meursault then wanders out on the beach, stumbles upon one of the men, and kills him. All of these events take place over a course of a couple of weeks and the account of them seems very straightforward.
The second half of the novel describes Meursault’s time in jail and his trial. This half spans over 11 months. In this part, the reader finally sees some kind of emotion. All emotion is missing in the first half and even though he facing death, Meursault still doesn’t show any feeling or regret for his actions. This lack of feeling comes out in his trial and is the prosecution’s main argument against Meursault. People from his past, including Marie, Raymond, and workers from his mother’s Home speak about his personality and his lack of emotion at certain turning points in his life.
Meursault’s eminent death ends up being the climax of the novel as a chaplain comes and tries to get Meursault to admit to some kind of emotion. In the last pages of the novel, they argue about the existence of God and finally Meursault realizes that the universe does not care for humanity.
All I will say is that it is hard to connect to a character who doesn’t demonstrate any feeling, when I am a person perfectly fine with showing my emotions all the time. And while I enjoyed the writing style and the ease of the novel, I still don’t think I pulled any value from it. Now, it could be because I was unusually tired when I read the middle portion of the novel, but I think that even if I went back to reread it, I would feel the same.
With all that said, there were a few portions of writing that I found to be beautiful. Camus knows how to write and he writes well.
I leave you and Book 12 with one of my favorite quotes:
“As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself — so like a brother, really — I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hatred,” (154).