Stranger Critical Essay
This nonfiction story begins with the main character, Meursault, attending his mother’s funeral. As the story proceeds, Meursault befriends a man and becomes involved in something that will cost him his life. Camus portrays the meaninglessness of human life through the attitudes and lifestyle of Meursault. Camus uses a number of different elements of style to convey his message. Three elements of style that show Meursault’s plain indifference to life are contrast, point of view, and characterization.
As the elements of the novel are discussed, the theme of Camus will become clear. Camus uses contrast to make evident Meursault’s prospective on life. Camus cleverly contrasts Meursault to other major characters in The Stranger. These characters include Perez, Raymond, and Marie. Thomas Perez is an old man who is teased for being Madam Meursault’s “fiance. ” Perez took Madam Meursault’s death very hard. He struggled in his old age to walk to the burial site and is described to be shedding tears of frustration and exhaustion.
The normal response to death is shown in Perez’ reaction, which is heartache and mourning. Meursault did not cry at his mother’s funeral. He did not even know the age of his own mother. Meursault’s main concern was the heat and sleeping. There is a sharp contrast in the emotional responses of Perez and Meursault in regards to this death. Raymond Sintes is Meursault’s neighbor. Raymond considers Meursault his pal, and they develop a somewhat involved friendship. Raymond’s aggression is a character trait that contrasts Meursault’s indifference.
Raymond is angry that his mistress cheated on him, and in one chapter he is confronted by the police for beating her. This one example of Raymond’s aggression is enough to show how different Meursault was from him. Meursault does not seem to show any kind of emotional reaction to most things that happen to him, including anger. Marie Cardona is the women that Meursault is in a “relationship” with. Marie had plans for their future, while Meursault did not. In one of their conversations, Meursault says, “… she pointed out that marriage was a serious thing.
I said, “No. ” She stopped talking for a minute and looked at me without saying anything. ” (42). Marie wants to marry Meursault, but from this quote it is obvious that Meursault does not care about marriage. Marie’s feelings for Meursault distinctly contrast his feelings for her. All of these examples of contrast portray Camus’ overall theme that life is meaningless to Meursault. Point of view is another element of style that Camus utilizes to express the meaningless of life. This novel is written in limited first person point of view.
Meursault speaks mostly of his own thoughts and prospectives on things. For example, during Meursault’s trial, he lets the reader know that he gets bored very quickly with the prosecutor’s speech. We know Meursault’s thoughts on all the things he encounters in the book. However, Meursault does not try to understand the thoughts or prospective of other characters. In other words, his point of view is subjective. Take for instance, Salamano. At one point in the novel, Salamano loses his dog. He is found waiting outside Meursault’s door, wanting to speak with him.
Through their dialogue, Meursault lets the reader know that he does not care how Salamano feels as a result of losing his companion. While sitting in his apartment room with Salamano, Meursault says, “He was getting on my nerves a little, but I didn’t have anything to do and I didn’t feel sleepy. Just for something to say, I asked him about his dog. ” (44). Meursault never shows genuine concern for other characters facing problems in the story. Although he was willing to talk to Salamano, he only offered him shallow empathy, if any. Meursault’s point of view can also be described as detached rather than involved.
Meursault does not really care about anything he is involved in, and it is therefore made known through his prospective. We know that Meursault is detached in the relationships he has with other characters, like Marie for example. Marie goes to visit Meursault when he is in prison. Through his narration of what is going on all around him, it is obvious that he is detached from Marie. Therefore, Camus uses point of view to convey a central message of the novel. Camus takes advantage of characterization to portray the theme of the meaninglessness of life.
Meursault remains a static character whose actions, personality and motivation all reflect this theme. Meursault’s actions on the day after the funeral come back to condemn him in the days of his trial. The prosecutor uses the facts of his ignorance towards his own mother’s age, the comedy he saw with Marie, swimming and taking Marie home afterwards to depict Meursault as being careless in his actions. His carelessness ties directly in with his emotionless personality. Meursault never shows sadness for the passing of his mother, or remorse for murdering the Arab.
His stolid personality is only natural considering his sheer lack of motivation. This is seen in Meursault’s disinterest in the job offer of moving to Paris and in potentially strengthening his relationship with Marie. Meursault never changes throughout the novel. He remains a static character. When he is faced with the realities of death, he does not change his stance on the important of life. At the end of the novel, while still in his cell, Meursault says to himself, “Well, so I’m going to die. Sooner than other people will obviously. But everyone knows life isn’t worth living. (114). These examples of Meursault’s characterization plainly convey the Camus’ message to the reader.
Through the use of various elements of style, such as contrast, point of view, and characterization, Camus strongly communicates his message of the meaningless of life. His purpose in conveying this message is not very worthwhile. Generally, not many people can connect with Meursault and his ways of life. Saying that life is meaningless is not meaningful to anyone. In conclusion, the general truth of this novel is that it does not apply to the majority of people who read it.