The Stranger: Themes

AbsurdConcepts concerning the absurd highlight the absurdity of human existence. There is no God or a central meaning to explain why we are here according to these views, but it does not entail that our existence has no meaning. Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus is often regarded as one of the forerunners of this ‘school’ of thought and it is possible to see it run through the narrative of The Outsider.The insignificance of man (and woman) is elemental to this way of thinking as the indifference of the world is made manifest. With Meursault, Camus captures the ennui and indifference that is inherent in us all as we endure our lives. It is not until he is facing the death penalty, however, that he not only accepts the meaningless of the world, but also decides to experience the rest of his life more fully and authentically.

MoralityMeursault’s trial for murder is highlighted as absurd in that the judgements made against him depend on his reaction to his mother’s funeral rather than to the murder he has committed.The received morality of the court, which depends on a belief in God as well as love for others, condemns him to the same punishment for which he is being tried for. In this light, those judging Meursault are shown to be at hypocritical as without emotion he is given the death sentence.The heat and light of the sunThis theme is perhaps the strongest and Meursault relates again and again how the sun affects his mood and understanding of what is happening. As the outsider and foreigner (L’Etranger) in this country, it is as though the sun is used to exemplify how he does not belong here.It is also the means by which Meursault can be seen to be caught up in only his present experiences. He is only able to think about the present or the immediate future and his constantly observed reactions to the glaring light, buzzing flights and chugging fans serve to demonstrate this. This theme of heat and light also gives the novel and extra sensory element that highlights his discomfort at his surrounding.