Skip over navigation

The Stranger

Albert Camus

Study Questions & Essay Topics

Key Facts

Quiz

Study Questions

1.

How do we know the world of The Stranger is irrational? How do different characters react to this irrationality?

Camus demonstrates that the world of The Stranger is irrational by excluding from the text any logical explanation for the events of the novel. Meursault’s murder of the Arab is the most obvious example of an event that occurs for no apparent reason. Meursault has no reason to kill the Arab, nor does he construct one. His action is completely random and purposeless. Another occurrence that holds no rational meaning is Thomas Perez’s exhaustion at the funeral. Perez, possibly the only person who really cares about Madame Meursault’s death, ironically cannot move quickly enough to stay with her coffin. His inability to keep up with the funeral procession—to act in accordance with his feelings—frustrates him to the point of tears. A third inexplicable occurrence is the scheduling of Meursault’s trial just before the trial of a son who killed his father. The prosecutor argues that Meursault’s crime opened the door for the crime of parricide, using the random circumstance of the trial schedule to help secure Meursault’s death sentence. Had the two cases not been scheduled back-to-back, Meursault might have received a lighter sentence. Camus seems to use the extent to which each character accepts or attempts to defy the irrationality of the universe as a signal of his or her personal worth.

2.

How do Meursault’s and Marie’s views of their relationship differ?

Meursault’s continual focus on Marie’s body and his lack of interest in her personality show that he sees his relationship with her as purely physical. Meursault repeatedly makes comments about Marie’s figure, usually noting how beautiful she looks. He describes little about their interaction other than their physical contact. The emotional aspects of their relationship are clearly secondary to Meursault. When she asks, he tells Marie that he probably does not love her, and he answers her questions about marriage with similar indifference. The fact that Marie asks these questions shows that she feels at least some emotional attachment to Meursault. At one point, she explicitly states that she loves Meursault for his peculiarities. After Meursault goes to jail, the differences between his and Marie’s attitudes about their relationship become even more obvious. Whereas Marie visits Meursault and genuinely misses his companionship, Meursault only misses Marie because he misses sex. Otherwise, he hardly thinks of her.

3.

Compare Meursault to Raymond Sintes. How are the two neighbors different? How are they similar?

At first, it seems that Raymond and Meursault could not be more different. Whereas Raymond is active and possesses a violent temper, Meursault is passive and always calm. Raymond treats his mistress cruelly, beating and abusing her, while Meursault does not seem capable of such behavior toward women. However, Raymond holds genuine feelings for his mistress and is truly hurt when he learns that she is cheating on him. Meursault, on the contrary, seems to have very little affection for Marie, whose appeal to him is predominantly physical.

Despite their differences, Meursault and Raymond hold similar positions in relation to society. Meursault’s detached attitudes make him an outsider, a stranger to “normal” society. Raymond’s work as a pimp brings him a similar societal stigma. Like Meursault, Raymond is on the outside of society looking in. Perhaps this similarity forms the foundation of their friendship.

Suggested Essay Topics

1. Trace the development of Meursault’s philosophy. How does he come to open himself to “the gentle indifference of the world”? What spurs his revelation? How do earlier events in the novel prepare us to expect it?

2. We see characters in the book solely through Meursault’s eyes, but Meursault typically tells us very little. Using the information that Meursault provides, analyze a character such as Marie and Raymond. What level of insight does Meursault provide into these characters’ personalities?

3. Compare and contrast the relationship between Salamano and his dog with the relationship between Meursault and his mother. What are the similarities? Which is more loving?

4. Discuss the style of The Stranger. How does Meursault’s language correspond to the subjects he describes? Does it evolve or change as the novel goes on? Does the stripped-down prose of the novel’s first half limit its expressive power?

5. Is Meursault really a threat to his society? Does he deserve the death penalty? Is he more or less dangerous than a criminal who commits a crime with clear motive?

6. In his jail cell, Meursault finds an old newspaper article about a Czechoslovakian man who is murdered by his mother and sister. How does this article relate to Meursault’s own trial for murder? How does this article expand the themes in The Stranger? How does it support Camus’s philosophy of the absurd?

7. Analyze the passages describing Meursault’s walk down the beach before he kills the Arab. How does Camus build tension in the passage? How is it different from the passages preceding it? Meursault says at his trial that he killed the Arab because of the sun. Is this explanation at all valid?

More Help

Previous Next
Meursault`s Morality

by I dont need a bluddy nick name, March 21, 2013

This Spark Note describes Meursault as being amoral. I completely disagree with this interpretation. It is not that Meursault does not understand right and wrong but rather that his ideas of right and wrong differ from those of society. This different moral code can be seen by the way he refuses to break his own morals. He may not value life but he does value honesty and his disbelief in a higher being. Throughout the book he never lies or pretends to have faith in God not even to save his life. His specific moral code is founded in Camus` ... Read more

3 Comments

210 out of 231 people found this helpful

Morality in 'The Stranger'

by dmborong, April 11, 2013

Albert Camus' idea of morality in 'The Stranger' is completely unconventional and this can be seen through the protagonist who is a total embarrassment to the society in which he finds himself. This disparity between what is expected of Meursault and what he displays forms the basis of Albert Camus' philosophy of morality. There is a big question mark on conventional morality which the author finds to be absurd. He seems to be questioning the fabric of societal morality on grounds of motivation; are some of those values upheld merely for con... Read more

0 Comments

37 out of 45 people found this helpful

Response to No-Bloody-Nickname

by OverseasTeacher, April 29, 2013

Morality is simply the way that an individual chooses between opposing values in a given situation.

So, lets say "Prolife" vs "Prochoice" as a moral issue. Regardless of your position, you are pushing values. The question isn't "is a fetus valuable?" or "is a woman's right to choose what happens to her body valuable?"

The vast majority of the world would answer yes to both. No, the question is... "which is more valuable if you can't have both?"

In this way, morality requires an active decision making.

This is wher

1 Comments

8 out of 8 people found this helpful

See all 7 readers' notes   →

Follow Us