In 1955, Camus prefaced The Stranger and remarked that Meursault is “the only Christ we deserve”. The Stranger by Albert Camus is a philosophical novel concerning the Absurd: the conflict between human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any. The novel opens with: “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.” The plot reaches its climax when the main character, Meursault shoots an Arab simply because of the heat, and is found guilty by the jury because he did not weep at his mother’s funeral. The author wants the reader to embrace the Absurd. This aim is illustrated through his style and Meursault’s transformation in the final chapter.
Camus encourages the reader to acknowledge the absurdity of seeking any inherent meaning. For example, while Meursault understands that the murder was unpremeditated, everyone in the courtroom found one or another reason to explain his action. This is because when a shocking event happens, human beings intuitively seek answers to normalize this incident. By describing the ironic actions of the jurors, the author demonstrates that individuals frequently act illogically. Camus’ narration style acts like a glass wall that separates the reader from Meursault. Although the author describes the character’s actions, he does not explain the meaning or reasoning behind them. Just as the readers interpret this novel without understanding Meursault’s behaviours, we must learn to accept life’s “delicious ambiguity” (Radner). Another unique aspect of Camus’ style is his deliberate choice when employing transition words such as and, but, then. The way in which Camus connects his sentences suggests addition, contradiction, disjunction; not coherence. The links between the sentences draw a parallel to Meursault’s acquaintance with Raymond. These two characters have nothing in common; however, Raymond causes Meursault’s downfall by asking him to craft the letter, inviting him to the beach house, and giving him the gun for safekeeping. Clearly, the reader cannot justify the absurd events in the main character’s life that leads to his execution; comparably, human beings cannot always find deeper meaning in a meaningless world.
In the final chapter, the main character undergoes significant transformation. For instance, Meursault starts with an outburst, “What difference could … the death of others, or a mother’s love, or his God [make] since one and the same fate was bound to ‘choose’ not only me but thousands of millions of privileged people” (75). Meursault fervently denies the existence of any God and renounces all religion, demonstrating a conviction and passion that the reader has never witnessed before. In this vehement speech, the main character struggles with life’s inexplicability. In contrast, at the end of the book, Monsieur Meursault remarked, “It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe.” Meursault finally comes to terms with the absurdist idea that the universe is indifferent to human affairs and that life lacks rational order. Thus, he accepts the inevitability of his death, and faces his execution with grace and serenity. By examining the shift in attitude in the main character, Camus sheds light on the wondrous effects of accepting the Absurd.
Through Camus’ dramatic and skillful writing and the evolution of the main character, the author urges the reader to accept life’s essential meaninglessness. Instead of desperately trying to interpret all the signs of the universe, we should remember that “Every man alive [is] privileged; there [is] only one class of man, the privileged class” (75).