Frank's Reviews > The Stranger

The Stranger by Albert Camus
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Nov 04, 2010

really liked it
Read from November 04 to 12, 2010

I actually found parts of this humorous, specifically the main character's innocent bluntness in response to everyday questions. And the trial reminded me of the Seinfeld finale.

Anyway, I enjoyed this as a prompt to make me think and its length and Camus's straightforward prose made it easy to digest. While it would be cool to be an Absurdist, I can't fully get behind the philosophy. Yes, the universe is indifferent to our plight, but I don't believe it's either rational or irrational. And yes, we are ultimately nothing but specks on a timeline, but that's besides the point, isn't it? Life can't be meaningless if it has meaning in the moment. Everything we do (or don't do), every choice we make (or don't) matters to us and the people around us. Unless Mersault IS a sociopath, he should be viewed as a vessel for Camus to convey his philosophy and not truly representative of humanity. I'm not sure anyone is genuinely indifferent to anything that affects their lives, even a question as benign as what to eat for dinner. What is perceived as indifference is fear. Minor and subtle in the dinner choice, but paralyzing and debilitating in more life-altering circumstances.

If you want to apply this to Mersault, here's a man who is scared to make substantial decisions. He's obviously in love with Marie but tries to hide it with some existential B.S. He's offered a good opportunity at work, but doesn't want to be responsible for making the decision to move away. He even represses the truth about the murder so as not to have to process his own actions. reading too deeply between the lines, I think a case could be made that the guilt from his decision to move his mother to a home has traumatized him. His mother's death at the start of the book is the overwhelming proof of his mistake and triggers his downfall. If a past mistake is big enough, or if there has been a established pattern of mistakes, it conditions all our future decisions. Sometimes we're simpering messes and sometimes that fear is nestled in a cocoon of indifference. It's a weakness, and potentially a tragedy, and to think we are going to magically emerge as a happy little butterfly is, well, absurd.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Stranger.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Frank Explaining something as a weakness is not the same as explaining it away. And there's never a real justification for weakness of any kind. Once it's acknowledged you lose your right to use it as a crutch. Fear is probably our most primal and most powerful emotion, but anyone who has ever accomplished anything has overcome it at some point and things have certainly been accomplished. That's what I meant by the last line of my review. There's no magical cure, no easy way out (contrast that to Mersault's claim that there's no way out at all--of course not if you're just waiting for it to happen). Meaningful change isn't easy, and it probably shouldn't be, but it's certainly not impossible. Each change is like a puzzle you have to figure out, some are trickier than others (but there's always an answer).

back to top