The Stranger Essay – Based on a Novel by Albert Camus
The Stranger (L’Étranger) is the first novel written by Albert Camus, French Algerian author, philosopher, journalist and football player who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. He was a key philosopher of the 20th-century. The novel portrays the story as well as the outlook, and the extentialism, of the main character Meursault. The Stranger is considered as a philosophical text too. Theme of The Stranger is the way the characters of the novel look at the world around them. Literature based essay writings such as the outsiders essay, A View from the bridge essay, blood brothers essay etc. are common for English Literature course modules. When an assignment is given to write The stranger essay, student should first decide whether he is/she will apply a critical analysis to the writing or a philosophical approach.
Themes and Appropriate Topics
- Absurdism: The book is presented as a first person narrative of the main character Meursault. The main theme of the novel is “Absurdism” the outlook of Meursault. Though often classed as an existential novel, The Stranger presents Camus’ theory of the absurd. He portrays Meursault as an unperceptive man, existing only via sensory experience. At many important occasions like his mother’s funeral or outings and nights with his girl friend Maria, Meursault doesn’t show any emotions or feelings, as expected from a rational man. The theme Camus implicitly presents is the futile attempts of man to find rationality in an irrational universe. Students can write their essays giving either a literary or a philosophical view point on this theme in their “The Stranger” essay.
- Death, meaninglessness of human Life: As everybody has to face death inevitably the individual life does not have any meaning. Though he is not aware of this at first, Meursault realizes that in his argument with the chaplain just before his death.
- The Importance of the Physical World: Meursault is far more interested and sensitive to the physical aspects of the world than the social and the emotional aspects. The heat during his mother’s funeral procession irritates him more than his mother’s death which does not generate any feeling. In the same way, at the beach the character gets angry with the heat and kills the Arab. This shows how insignificant aspect of physical world takes over more significant aspects as taking a person’s life.
Student can find many more topics that can examine any of these themes and more, through a close reading of the novel. These topics can be excellent for writing a literacy review essay, opinion essay or discussion essay.
Literature Elements Used by the Author
If you were to assess the literary devises used by the author to emphasize the theme, following are very prominent within Camus’s work.
- Death: Death and impermanence of nature is used throughout to emphasize the meaninglessness of the life. Death of Meursault’s Mother, Death of the Arab, and Meursault’s approaching death makes him to realize the absurdity of life.
- Watching and Observation: Watching and observing is a strong device used by Camus to develop the theme. Meursault with his absurdist outlook watches people passing by, passively and he does not pass any judgment. In contrast the people in the courtroom pass judgments on Meursault.
- Characters and Philosophy: The students can analyze the characters of the novel and how Camus uses them to develop his theme of absurdity. This is very important aspect for a philosophy essay.
- Background Factors: Another aspect to examine is how the background of Camus affected his philosophy that is espoused in The Stranger.
By reading the novel The Stranger with intent scrutiny, the students will be able to identify these elements at play. The Stranger essay can then be written on an interesting essay topic related to any one of these literacy motifs or on one of the main themes of the novel.