Book Review: ‘The Stranger’

Romance, murder, and a death sentence … no, this isn’t the newest episode of “Law and Order,” it’s just a taste of what you will find in Albert Camus’s “The Stranger.” “The Stranger” is the story of a French Algerian man named Meursault who (spoiler alert) murders a man he hardly even knows. Meursault is a man who lets life happen to him. He doesn’t create meaningful connections with anyone and spends his days isolated in his small apartment. Even the death and funeral of his own mother is described as a bore for Meursault. However, his situation abruptly changes when he befriends his next door neighbor, Raymond, who is rumored to be a pimp. Meursault is pulled into Raymond’s personal biddings. This friendship is what presents Meursault with an opportunity for murder. The brother of one of the women Raymond abused is his unfortunate victim. Although Meursault’s desire for control is absent in the rest of the novel, his decision to pull the trigger is, ironically, the only moment Meursault seems feel like he is actually living.

Camus’s novel is a criticism of the absurd. Meursault is greatly troubled by the meaninglessness of life. He believes that the world has no logic and is happy to be sentenced to death as a way to leave it all behind. In its short 159 pages, the novel also presents important insight into the mind of a psychopath. Meursault isn’t capable of sympathy for others and is able to murder a man in cold blood. His detachment from other people and even from his own life show how Meursault really is a stranger to the world around him.
Since its publishing in 1941, “The Stranger” has received mixed reviews from critics. Some believe that Camus achieved great profoundness through the ideas in his novel. Others believe that his simple plot and shallow supporting characters did not do justice to the philosophical novel. After reading “The Stranger” myself, I can see how it appears to need revision. I had to read through a seemingly normal funeral, movie date, and day at the beach before the deeper meaning of the novel started coming into place. However, this doesn’t mean Camus’s writing was flawed. On the contrary, this depiction of everyday life was what drove home the criticism of the absurd within the novel, presenting life as boring and repetitive. Unfortunately, this also means that much of the novel is equally as boring and repetitive. Despite this, I would encourage everyone to read “The Stranger” at least once. It is one of those books that will stick in your head weeks after you read it, and that is the kind of book you don’t want to miss out on.

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