The Stranger

by: Albert Camus

Part One: Chapter 6

Inevitably, the first question that the killing provokes is, “Why?” But nothing in Meursault’s narrative answers this question. Camus’s philosophy of absurdism emphasizes the futility of man’s inevitable attempts to find order and meaning in life. The “absurd” refers to the feeling man experiences when he tries to find or fabricate order in an irrational universe. Cleverly, Camus coaxes us into just such an attempt—he lures us into trying to determine the reason for Meursault’s killing of the Arab, when in fact Meursault has no reason. Camus forces us to confront the fact that any rational explanation we try to offer would be based on a consciousness that we create for Meursault, an order that we impose onto his mind.

In this chapter, we once again see the profound effect nature has on Meursault. Early in the chapter, Meursault notes nature’s benefits. The sun soothes his headache, and the cool water provides an opportunity for him and Marie to swim and play happily together. Later in the chapter, however, nature becomes a negative force on Meursault. As at his mother’s funeral, the heat oppresses him. Camus’s language intensifies to describe the sun’s harshness, particularly in the passages just before Meursault commits the murder. His prose becomes increasingly ornate, featuring such rhetorical devices as personification and metaphor, and contrasting strongly with the spare, simple descriptions that Meursault usually offers.