A Review of The Stranger, by Albert Camus

The Stranger

Orson Welles in the film adaptation of the book.
Orson Welles in the film adaptation of the book.


The Stranger, written by Frenchman Albert Camus, is required reading for most high school students throughout the US. It is commonly used as an example of the existentialist mindset.


Essentially this mindset says that there is no Universal Truth, there is no guiding light by which to compare or define one and one’s actions as right, wrong, good, or bad. It states that the universe is basically uncaring and mankind lives unnoticed by any supreme being, should one such being truly exist.


As a result of this belief, nothing proven by science or rational thought can be believed as it is inherently colored by our unguided and flawed perception.


The book follows the experiences of a young man referred to simply as Meursault who subconsciously lives by these principles. Rather than accepting a universal truth he patronizes personal truths. He does what seems like a good idea at the time without regard for social mores, morals, or taboos. He is perfectly honest to a degree which makes him see naïve. In actual fact he sees no point in hiding what he thinks, says, or does because he doesn’t think them wrong nor care if anyone else thinks them wrong.


The book starts out with Meursault going to the all-night vigil which is traditionally held prior to his mother’s funeral. He is alone at the funeral save for the funeral director. The funeral director is very disturbed at the fact that Meursault displays neither remorse nor grief at the fact that his mother has died. Meursault even went so far as to decline from viewing the body one last time before the coffin was permanently sealed, preferring instead to drink coffee and smoke his cigarettes all night.


In reality Meursault had not visited his mother for over five years, putting her in an elderly home because she could no longer care for herself and he did not wish to take up that responsibility.


The story continues onward, eventually resulting in Meursault shooting a man to death who had attacked and stabbed his best friend, Raymond. Again he did not kill the man out of revenge, but because it seemed like a good idea at the time.


His subsequent trial ends up having him sentenced to death by guillotine because of the testimony of the funeral director, who described Meursault as a cold, emotionless man. In the end he is executed not because he committed murder, but because he is dangerously “different” from the rest of society. In accordance with the tragic irony that Camus called ‘The Theory of the Absurd”, only once Meursault’s death is assured does he finally acknowledge the fact that he in indeed responsible for the outcome of his own life.


There are currently several translations of this work from the original French manuscript, each of which does an equally fine job in capturing the essence of what Camus is trying to convey to the reader. This book would be highly recommended toward those who enjoy anything of a surreal or philosophical nature.

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Comments 8 comments

Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 7 years ago from Hither and Yonder

I doubt I would overly enjoy the book, but it does sound like an interesting read. The concept of anarchy is an interesting one.

Jarn profile image

Jarn 7 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Well, it's not so much the concept of anarchy presented in the book as it is that we walk around trusting to our own imperfect perception of the world. Meursault wasn't exactly an anarchist in that this implies he does what he wishes because he can. He acts out because, to him, lacking a Universal Truth by which to determine whether an action is right or wrong, he doesn't know that uncaring if his mother died or hurting other people is wrong. This is, of course, taken to an extreme to show the point, but nonetheless, in smaller day-to-day matters we can see similar occurrences. The most common one I can think of is etiquette; how it varies from situation to situation and culture to culture, with no real governing body to determine what is and is not allowable.

evemurphy profile image

evemurphy 7 years ago from Ottawa

What Camus' philosophy, if embraced, can lead to, is suicide. His own life bore that out. But he was a great thinker nevertheless, even if his conclusions were not of value to living out our lives, and that is what philosophy should be, in my opinion.

tinarathore84 profile image

tinarathore84 7 years ago from India

I have always felt a strange fascination for all the existentialist texts..Camus is truly an existentialist writer unlike Beckett, Pinter,Kafka and many others who more or less have a glimmer of hope in their works which Camus philosophy of existentialism doesn't allow...Camus even accuses Heidegger, Kierkegaard and many others for committing 'philosophical suicide'...for Camus it is to find the third way out of our absurd existence, he neither allows Leap of faith nor Suicide as an option.

i think works of Camus should be read in the light of his essys in The Myth of Sisyphus..that done. Camus' work make so much sense.

your review does complete justice to the book. you have put complex things in an amazingly simple way. great job. everyone must read this.

Jarn profile image

Jarn 7 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Tinarathore84. Thanks for the praise. I know the Myth of Sisyphus, but not as it relates to Camus, so I'll have to look that up. Thanks for the suggestion.

I'm surprised by how concise your comment is in getting across Camus' message and showing your understanding of it. Ultimately, he was not condoning suicide. Likewise he was not proposing that God did not exist. He simply suggested that if God did exist, He will do so whether we believe in Him or not.

To that end I get the impression that he was suggesting, as you so eloquently put it, that people can embrace nothing and kill themselves, risking punishment should God exist, or one can put their faith in God and try to ride out the storm of existence that way. But, In either case, man is powerless to control his own destiny. That is why he pined as he did, wishing there was a third option.

Evemurphy. Philosophy is not something to be hindered by its usefulness, I agree. Your statement that existentialist belief leads to suicide might be a little heavy-handed, I feel. The reason being is that existentialism claims that every person is responsible for what happens to themselves in life; they make their own decisions and are hindered only by other people. Someone who commits suicide does so because they want nothing to do with life. Of the many possible behavioral traits and variables which a person can have, the only one that is positively correlated with suicide is quite simply a suicidal personality, in most cases present from birth. A person who believes that life is without meaning that inherently wants to live will not kill himself ever, he will simply work to give life meaning; survival instincts. Someone who never wanted to live in the first place may commit suicide at any time, and it is ultimately their own decision. I think that Camus was such a person, even had he never expounded the existentialist philosophy. No one pulls the trigger but themselves. If anything, existentialism, by denying the influence of God or the devil, outright says this.

liza ann profile image

liza ann 4 years ago from Richmond, VA

Existentialism is the reason I minored in Philosophy. Tinarathore84, I enjoyed your post and am putting The Myth of Sisyphus at the top of my reading list. And Jarn, I enjoyed reading what you've written in your comments as well as your Hub!

David 3 years ago

This book by far was the worst book as well as the most confusing book I've ever had to read . Sadly reading this book was my entire grade for a course in College

Jarn profile image

Jarn 3 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

I'm sorry you thought so. I thought it evoked some very deep thought about our place in the world. What sort of books do you normally like to read?

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