Jr Bacdayan's Reviews > The Stranger

The Stranger by Albert Camus
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did not like it

The Stranger by Albert Camus, though quite regarded by many as a great philosophical/existentialist novel (I'm gonna be a non-conformist here.) is not quite right for me. I'm really quite at odds here. Before anything else, I would like to state that I was rather pleased with the first half of the novel, but sadly not by the second. Sure, this novella exposes certain absurdities in our society. I'd agree to that. But for me, the truths that this book expounds upon is not enough to make up for the negativeness that it entails upon its readers.

In the way that I understand it, one of the point of his message in the end states that: What we do is not important, because we will all perish anyway. Why invest in morality, in relations, in feelings, when all that awaits us is certain death? Sure, life can be absurd at times. Sure, we'll all die. But just because of these known realities, should we throw away things that make sense? Throw away our life? Should the negative destroy the positive? It comes to me like this. Because we urinate what we drink, then it doesn't matter whether we drink muddy water or urine or orange juice. We'll all urinate them later just the same. Sick. Why do we live? Do we live because there might be a slight chance of immortality? Do we live because everything makes sense? We live in-spite of everything. We live because we do. Our consciousness is being insulted, our intelligence trampled, and our life spit-upon by this very grim way of thinking. His insistence that one can just about get used to anything shows man's innate capability to adjust. That we plow on through obstacles and hardships. That we fight even if we encounter difficulties and absurdities. He suggests we shouldn't. That we lay useless and wait for death. Not for me. Go do that yourself. His very pessimistic and rather narrow way of looking at life and death rather pissed me off.

Secondly, the very glaring message of indifference rather fires back against Camus's message of non-conformity. You see, indifference, transforms a person in a passive state. And this passive state will easier conform to the norms of society than resist. Personally for me, it is the worst kind of attitude that a person can attain. Intellectually, Camus makes a point. But in the real world, indifference is what destroys this planet. Indifference causes global warming, causes pollution, causes mass extinction. People who don't care are more dangerous than crazy people. Why? Because there are few really crazy people, but there are billions of people who simply don't give a shit. Hitler was mad as hell, all the German soldiers were just indifferent. Indifference is tricky because you're stranded in a solid state of passivity and it's very hard to sway you from one view to another. A person who thinks that littering is good is better than a person who doesn't care if he litters. At least, the former can be persuaded to change his views, but the latter won't under any circumstances. Indifference is a problem without a solution. And this particular message is the worst for me.

Now, we've come to a part where I partly agree with Camus but still not quite. That no matter what truths are, all that matters is what each individual's personal choice is. That we shouldn't impose upon others. He equips Meursault with a sort of a Moral Relativism belief (that truths are essentially based on each person's paradigms/cultures/construct) while the Priest that of Moral Realism (that truths are based on a certain definite, universal set). He uses this clash of beliefs to set a stage for his final act and I expected/wanted a rather different outcome. I was rather disappointed. I agree that Meursault found some sort of solitude in losing hope, in his final indifference. But I expected Meursault to find some sort of closure in the acceptance of death as a necessary and meaningful event. That death allows us to appreciate life. I expected that in the end even though I knew it had no chance of happening. The surrealist/existentialist Camus would never do that. But I never expected that it would be as grim and bleak as it was.

“Nothing, nothing mattered, and I knew why. So did he. Throughout the whole absurd life I'd lived, a dark wind had been rising toward me from somewhere deep in my future, across years that were still to come, and as it passed, this wind leveled whatever was offered to me at the time, in years no more real than the ones I was living. What did other people's deaths or a mother's love matter to me; what did his God or the lives people choose or the fate they think they elect matter to me when we're all elected by the same fate, me and billions of privileged people like him who also called themselves my brothers? Couldn't he see, couldn't he see that? Everybody was privileged. There were only privileged people. The others would all be condemned one day. And he would be condemned, too.”

I ate, but I wasn't nourished. I was poisoned.
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Reading Progress

April 12, 2013 – Shelved
April 14, 2013 – Started Reading
April 17, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)

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Dolors As I haven't read Camu's I can't give you my own opinion, but I congratulate you on how nicely you have stated yours.

I ate, but I wasn't nourished. I was poisoned. And very fitting conclusion!


message 2: by Jr (new) - rated it 1 star

Jr Bacdayan Dolors wrote: "As I haven't read Camu's I can't give you my own opinion, but I congratulate you on how nicely you have stated yours.

I ate, but I wasn't nourished. I was poisoned. And very fitting conclusion!"


Thanks, Dolors! I do feel very strongly about my unhappiness with regards to the book's message. Glad you appreciate it!


message 3: by Cathy (new)

Cathy DuPont Jr: Great review, so thoughtful. His very pessimistic and rather narrow way of looking at life and death rather pissed me off. Yes, me, too, and I would have probably put the book down. You're a trooper for continuing in order to write this great review.

Agree with Dolors, too, last sentence was the best ending for your review. Five stars to you.


message 4: by Jr (new) - rated it 1 star

Jr Bacdayan Cathy wrote: "Jr: Great review, so thoughtful. His very pessimistic and rather narrow way of looking at life and death rather pissed me off. Yes, me, too, and I would have probably put the book down. You're ..."

You're very generous, Cathy! Thanks! Well, it was relatively short so I decided to just push through with it. I'm happy that you liked it.


Cecily Ouch! What a brilliant final line of your review.


Madeleine I loved this book but I also loved your review. Well done, sir.


message 7: by Sue (new)

Sue Smith Great review - well thought out and argued. I agree with you that life is contrast and both have to exist for the other to be appreciated. Light-dark, positive-negative, happy-sad. When the pendulum doesn't swing between the two, the clock is broken.


Samadrita This is a fascinating review, Jr. More so because my feelings for this book were almost the same as yours in the beginning. But I rated this 3 stars because, theories like Camus's should be explored and studied as alternatives to conventional ways of thinking if not for application in real life.


Candace Clark It doesnt matter what we drink because we will piss it out anyway...great one!!! Read my review and tell me what you think :)


message 10: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Julian I was surprised by your one star, but actually this is a very thoughtful review.


Foxy! Very interesting review Jr Bacdayan. I disagreed with you (I especially liked Part 2), but your review still captures the essence of some of the debate about the book. I actually took a slightly different view of the book (and gave it a few more stars) and felt it was more of a character study of indifference and sociopathology.


Julie I, too, read your review with interest. Perhaps the book deserves more "stars" (although I agree that that rating system is absurd, no pun intended) just for provoking your good insights. It is interesting that the "older" Camus (as you probably know, he died quite young) struggled more meaningfully with many of the issues you raised, even (it is rumored, but never confirmed) contemplating a "conversion" to more traditional "conventional" religious views.
But that aside, I think this book's power comes from a view he expressed in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus--where he writes that one day we are walking down the street like actors on a stage when suddenly the supporting scenery all around us collapses like the illusory scenery it really is.
That's the absurd. And that's what happens to Meursault (especially in the "action" first half of the book that you preferred). How he makes peace with that is another story . . .


Frances Jeffries I think you may be confusing an observation with an opinion.


message 14: by Cat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cat The Stranger is an awesome book. The end pages of the book is where its power lies and it is about life. It is simply gripping.

But i like your heartfelt review too.


message 15: by Annie (new) - rated it 1 star

Annie (iliveandbreathewords) I completely agree with this review. It explains exactly why I hated this book.


Paper Most humans usually dismiss what their euclidean minds couldn't grasp.

"But in the real world, indifference is what destroys this planet. Indifference causes global warming, causes pollution, causes mass extinction. People who don't care are more dangerous than crazy people."

You, my friend, may have confused indifference with apathy.


message 17: by Jenni (new)

Jenni Love I was thinking about reading this book. Thank you for your review, I do not need to waste my time on negative poison. Really thank you so much! I believe in values and optimism.


Gautam Awesome review , jr. Your admirable judiciousness is evident in the dissection of this novel. You stated your opinions beautifully with a confident air. Great !


Alyssa Much more eloquent than I about my issues with this book.


Klaas Great review! But as stated above, maybe the novel deserves more stars because it provoked you to realy think about its content. That is the real power of this work. You don't have to agree with the protagonists view of life to appreciate the way Camus forces you to think. Possibly Camus himself didn't agree. As Frances Jeffries above stated: don't confuse observation with opinion. How can you hate a book that forces you to form your own opinion?


message 21: by Jonalyn (new) - added it

Jonalyn Bautista I just finished reading the book today. Your review had helped me in getting out this heavy feeling that's been weighing down my heart after reading this book. Thanks!


message 22: by Gregory (new)

Gregory This review is how to spot someone who didn't understand the text 101.
Reread the last few pages of the novel, the character comes to terms with his death and realizes in his last moment's that life is absolutely worth living. He has an undisclosed amount of time left before his execution and he decides to live it up, every moment until it's over.


message 23: by Ty (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ty Vuong I read your first paragraph of your praised tirade and instantly realized that you were clinging to the nihilism of the last few pages and completely missed the parts that mattered. Sure, the absurd and the darkness are there, it's how you handle them that matter.

"For the first time in a long time I thought about Maman. I felt as if I understood why at the end of her life she had taken a "fiancé", why she had played at beginning again. Even there, in that home where lives were fading out, evening was a kind of wistful respite. So close to death, Maman must have felt free and ready to live it all again."

It's at the face of this absurd nihilistic view can we truly decide whether or not we want to choose to continue... Each must make their own choice.


Alyssa Johnson I feel the exact same way about this book!


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