The Stranger

Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  The Stranger or L’étranger

author  Albert Camus

type of work  Novel

genre  Existential novel; crime drama

language  French

time and place written  Early 1940s, France

date of first publication  1942

publisher  Librairie Gallimard, France

narrator  In Part One, Meursault narrates the events of the story almost as they happen. In Part Two, he narrates the events of his trial from jail, then moves into a more immediate narration in Chapter 5.

point of view  Meursault narrates in the first person and limits his account to his own thoughts and perceptions. His description of the other characters is entirely subjective—that is, he does not attempt to portray them in a neutral light or to understand their thoughts and feelings.

tone  Detached, sober, plain, at times subtly ironic

tense  Shifts between immediate past (or real-time narration) and more distant past, with occasional instances where Meursault speaks in the present tense.

setting (time)  Slightly before World War II

setting (place)  Algeria

protagonist  Meursault

major conflict  After committing murder, Meursault struggles against society’s attempts to manufacture and impose rational explanations for his attitudes and actions. This struggle is embodied by Meursault’s battle with the legal system that prosecutes him.

rising action  Meursault relationship with Marie, his involvement in Raymond’s affairs, his trip to Masson’s beach house, and his taking of Raymond’s gun are the choices Meursault makes that lead up to his killing of the Arab.

climax  Meursault shoots a man, known as “the Arab,” for no apparent reason.

falling action  Meursault is arrested for murder, jailed, tried in court, and sentenced to death. He then has an epiphany about “the gentle indifference of the world” after arguing with the chaplain about God’s existence.

themes  The irrationality of the universe; the meaninglessness of human life; the importance of the physical world

motifs  Decay and death; watching and observation

symbols  The courtroom; the crucifix

foreshadowing  Madame Meursault’s friends watching Meursault foreshadows the jury’s watching him in judgment.