SUMMARY: After his mother’s funeral, Meursault, a young French-Algerian starts a relationship with a former office clerk and gets involved with a local pimp’s business which results in him committing a murder. The trial evolves around trivial events instead of focusing on the crime.
The Stranger was a part of my high school compulsory reading requirements. I read it then, found it dull, did not understand it and, consequently, hated it. Rereading it now, with some more perspective to life, I can finally see its value.
This book is about being different. Mersault is the stranger, because he is a stranger among the people around him. His life is aimless, so he becomes apathetic, not feeling anything, although he is good at observing other people’s feelings. He recognises when people feel happy, sad or angry, but he cannot feel anything but indifference to everything, despite being aware what he should feel according to propriety.
Society finds his behaviour morally unacceptable. Therefore, when he is tried for murder, he is really tried for his demeanour and for his lack of emotions. Meursault is not a likeable character, but he can be given credit for his integrity. Perhaps it is not something he can control, but he sticks to who he is. He knows what he is supposed to do, how he could help his case, but he refuses to employ false pretence to save himself.
Meursault’s strangeness seems absurd, and so does his clinging to his strangeness. However, what is the most absurd is that in a way people are all strangers to other people, and yet they are ready to judge each other for it. I think this is the true focus of The Stranger.
RECOMMENDATION: The Stranger is a book for everyone who wants to read something which makes one think about human emotions, morality, and being different.