Madeleine's Reviews > The Stranger

The Stranger by Albert Camus
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
1198255
I was so amped about this book when I tore through it a few weeks ago; alas, in that yawning chasm of time between then and when I first sat down to start this review (as opposed to this most recent effort -- I think at least my fourth?), I found that I’d forgotten a lot of the specific reasons why it had hit all the right spots for me.

Fortunately, since Goodreads has instilled in me the need to take notes on, emphatically underline passages from and analyze the pants off every book I read these days, a quick revisit to my thorough defacing of this novel got me right back in the mindset of being unexpectedly taken by a deceptively disinterested narrator. This is a work that got under my skin and burrowed deep into my brain in slightly disturbing but mostly welcome ways right from the first sentence.

I am not a terribly literal person. I love hyperboles and understatement and metaphors because they allow for elasticity of interpretation. It lets people impose their own inner landscapes on the seemingly uniform outside world, just as it leaves room for individual interpretations of message, intent, subtext, whatever. People do not perceive and interact with the world the same way, so why should they be expected to hear the same things, pick up on the same cues, follow the same logic of thought? To me, that’s how you get to the core of a person and their internal workings: Let them show you how they operate by giving them enough variables to put in comprehensible order as they see fit.

Of course, forcing the observer to do some creative thinking on the fly (or trusting them to observe at all, in some cases) has a tendency to backfire more often than simply saying what's on your mind to eliminate all doubt, but that's how you suss out the mental midgets. Or, you know, wind up with a death sentence. Like life, it's all a gamble and not always worth the risk.

As odd (though probably unsurprising, given the nature of my reviews) as it is to say, I found a certain kinship with Meursault. True, there’s not much to the fellow when you observe him as an outsider (that is, outside his head), but when I let myself roll around in the vast implications of what he says and the fathoms of unspoken depth in what impels him to behave as he does, I started to recognize so many of my own leaps of logic and nonsensical-without-an-explanation reactions.

To me, Meursault is just a guy who just doesn't process the world in the same rank-and-file way as others do. He's an open book, an adaptable entity and honest to a fault, a man who doesn't subscribe to societal norms -- not because it's cool to be That Guy but because he truly seems to process events and impulses with a sense of sincerely stoic reservation. How many people haven't cried at a loved one's funeral, only to crumble under the emotional weight days or weeks or months later after some mundane event hammers home the finality of loss? Or have taken up an unpleasant task to relieve a friend from its terrible burden? Or shrugged their shoulders in the face of an ugly truth because nothing can change the course of fate once the momentum reaches its unstoppable peak? What, really, is the point of getting emotional when it's not going to change a damn thing?

Meursault knows he is powerless to change things. He knows he has no business making assumptions about other people and their behaviors based solely on his own. What's so wrong with that? Fighting death is the most hopeless of causes so don't even bother wasting the effort; similarly, he knows that crying over his mother's death won't bring her back. Besides, what we know about their relationship is only what Meursault reveals, overtly or not, so who are we to judge him strange for not reacting as histrionically as we would? Isn't it awfully presumptuous to impose our sense of "normal" on a stranger? But by the time he shares his belief that no one has a right to cry over his Maman when being so close to death allowed her a peace that simply does not exist in the bloom of life, Meursault's own minimal relevancy to the world is nearing its close. We are not supposed to get to the heart of him but we sure can appreciate where he's coming from with just enough effort to realize that the example made of him misses the point by a shamefully vast distance.

This book touched on a lot of things that annoy me about society, mainly the need to cling to misconceptions when confronted with an individual or circumstance that can't be neatly cataloged as a "type" or doesn't fall into a inflexibly prefabricated black-or-white category. Why is it so difficult for the staggering masses to extend the courtesy and minimal exertion of critical thinking to appreciate and be educated by a deviation from the norm? I appreciated the opportunity to judge that which I cannot stand in a cathartic, safely isolated way. It allowed me to focus on feeling just awful for Meursault. I mean, c'mon -- someone had to, right? He's the victim of the dangers of monochromatic thinking in a world painted in every hue, common or not.



(Alternate read is that Meursault is an emotionally stunted Maman's boy who can't cope with life sans mommy, throws himself at this woman he barely knows and then gets himself legally killed so he doesn't have to do it himself, but that's so... so.... nope, not even gonna consider that one.)
106 likes · flag

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

Reading Progress

May 18, 2012 – Shelved
December 15, 2012 – Started Reading
December 20, 2012 –
page 47
38.21% "Every time I come back to the French writers, I'm sad that I haven't read more of them. WHAT'S UP, 2013?"
December 22, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

s.penkevich Ace review! Wasn't this awesome? Ha, goodreads really does make book note-taking become an essential. I think I highlight and take more margin notes in books I read for goodreads than I ever did for classes.


Madeleine s.penkevich wrote: "Ace review! Wasn't this awesome? Ha, goodreads really does make book note-taking become an essential. I think I highlight and take more margin notes in books I read for goodreads than I ever did fo..."

Thank you yet again!

DUDE. YES. This is one of those books that I'm simultaneously irked I didn't read sooner and love longer but also pretty sure I wouldn't've appreciated all its beautiful little nuances before now.

Ha, goodreads really does make book note-taking become an essential. I think I highlight and take more margin notes in books I read for goodreads than I ever did for classes.
Agreed most vehemently! Though college brought out my lit nerd hardcore after years of slackertastic academic apathy, so all my English-major textbooks are littered with my chickenscratched observations because I could.

Although GR did teach me that I can actually deconstruct books without a professor acting as training wheels. And it made taking notes fun because, man, the lit conversations I've had on this site come from a sincere passion, rather than a course requirement.


Brian Beautiful review of a masterpiece work of art.


Madeleine Brian wrote: "Beautiful review of a masterpiece work of art."

Oh wow, thank you so much!


Janice UGH!!! I almost bought this today in a used bookstore, but didn't because I wasn't sure whether or not I had it, and now it turns out I don't, and now I need to read it! Great review, Madeleine!


Madeleine You are too kind already, Janice. :) Thank you so much!

Janice wrote: "I almost bought this today in a used bookstore, but didn't because I wasn't sure whether or not I had it"
I can relate to that! It is such bad news when I go into used bookstores now because the GR app is way too handy of a resource in terms of figuring out what I don't already have. Of course, if I casually decide that something I've never heard of is worth checking out and any of my trusted pals here have given it high marks, it's pretty much game over for whatever cash I've got on me. :)

I agree that you need to read this! I grabbed it because it's short and I was desperately trying to make my 2012 reading goal. One of my best reading choices of the year, for sure!


s.penkevich Madeleine wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "Ace review! Wasn't this awesome? Ha, goodreads really does make book note-taking become an essential. I think I highlight and take more margin notes in books I read for goodread..."

Although GR did teach me that I can actually deconstruct books without a professor acting as training wheels.
Well said! I've discovered I've self taught myself more about lit and theory (and recently deconstructionism through Derrida), than I ever learned with a professor guiding me. We should tell people we are Rogue Scholars instead of Rhodes Scholars. Most of my lit notes have these weird caricatures of Hemingway I used to draw. H fishing, H hunting zombies, H shooting a swarm of cigarette-monsters (yeah, I don't know why I used to draw cigarette monsters either).... So notes are definitely better.


Madeleine I still love the idea of Rogue Scholars. It's perfect for what GR does to us!

If you have ANY of these Hemingway-in-battle doodles, I really want to see them. They sound hilariously awesome! The cigarette monsters are especially intriguing.


Rayroy I start and take notes but as I find myself deeper in book I tend not to, plus I read most of my books from the library so I can't underline.


Miriam Con McVeety wrote: "I start and take notes but as I find myself deeper in book I tend not to, plus I read most of my books from the library so I can't underline."

I just re-borrowed and reread a book with the intention of taking notes the second time through, but still ended up immersed and reading straight through.


message 11: by Roger (last edited Nov 09, 2013 06:31PM) (new) - added it

Roger Lay Exquisite… My interpretation exactly, just much more eloquently than I could have ever written it.


Miguel An amazing review of one of my favorite books. I resonate with the implications of Mersault's actions... but I could never express that as lucidly as you did.


Pascale Hi! I just read your review, and the part where you tell us your opinion on metaphors and hyperboles et caetera really did hit me, because, even it is a kind of simple thing to express, I'm so bad with words that I'd never acheived to say it in my own words before. This is why I posted this part on my tumblr, as a quote post, so that your name would feature on the post. I hope you're okay with this, I just wanted to let you know. Thank you to have written this review.


message 14: by Olivia (new) - added it

Olivia I like this book because it is really quick but has a good story. I thought it was kinda confusing and hard to keep reading at first but as I got further in I really enjoyed it.


message 15: by Kate (new) - added it

Kate Fisher After reading different types of literature, and still being a student, I find it so fascinating that each individual thinks of the Meursault as a totally different character. To me, he appeared as a useless man, who did not have a single feeling or care in the world. You analyzed him as the same carefree person, who cannot control things that happen in the world. This is a very important thing to realize, while reading the novel, as it answers some of the unanswered question in my mind. I will defiantly read the novel again once I get older, and keep this review in the back of my head and apply it it Meursault while analyzing the character yet again.


back to top