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The Stranger

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.