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"The Stranger" by Albert Camus (1 Viewer)

mandax

Senior Member
Okay, after I read this book, I just thought it was decent. A lot of people I knew were telling me it would be really good, but I didn't see it that way. I can't figure out why I wasn't impressed. I was talking to my friend about the book. I told her that I was bothered by the short sentences and the way the narrator constantly talked about how hot it was. She said that this was symbolism ... that when he talked about emotional things, he used short descriptions, and when he talked about physical things, he was very descriptive. This made sense, and I figured maybe I just didn't pick up on that because I'm slow or because I read the book in a few hours. I still have the impression, though, the a lot of short sentences were used, and not just for symbolism. Also, I couldn't identify with the narrator. When I claimed that the N was indifferent, my friend just said was his nature. I just couldn't sympathize with someone that doesn't care about emotional things.

So, anyone have any thoughts? Maybe you all can help me figure out why my initial reaction to the book was sort of negative.
 

mwd

Senior Member
Well of course I can't really tell you why you don't like it, but I think it's a great book. It's one of my favourites.

The short sentences and flat narrative are expressions of Meursault's character, since he's the one narrating the book. That's just how he talks, presumably, and I actually did sympathize with him. I think it's best not to look at him as a character so much as an idea. The book talks about the idea of doing what you want vs. doing what society expects of you, and Meursault is an example of the first case, whereas most people are examples of the latter. He's supposed to feel alien, hence the title of the book ... most people are made to feel guilty at an early age if they don't act a certain way, but Meursault avoids guilt completely.

Actually, I'd say he does care about emotional things, just he has no attachment to them. He understands that things are impermanent, so he treats them accordingly. He cares about them without wanting to hold on to them, like he refrains from grieving for his mother because he knows that any grieving he does won't bring her back, and she lived a happy life anyway. He cares about the present (and to a lesser extent, the future) but the past can't be changed so he puts it out of his mind.

Personally, I think trying to find symbolism in a book about the fact that there's no deeper meaning to the universe is a little ironic. I preferred to think of the book in terms of its themes, rather than look at symbolism, but I'm assuming you're reading it for High School in which case you'll probably have to make up some cool stuff about how the sun that makes him shoot the Arab isn't actually a sun, or something, heh.

I'm guessing you didn't particularly like it because you have trouble relating to its themes. I think it's one of those books that either speaks to you or it doesn't, and if it doesn't then oh well. I really liked it myself, although I think "The Plague" is a little better.
 

mandax

Senior Member
Ah, see, your explanation makes more sense. The whole "doing what you want vs. doing what society expects of you" thing. I, myself, hate searching for symbolism, and I hate when you have to learn it that way. I'd much rather hear about the theme, like you've presented, and thank you for that. I'll probably read it again at a later time and see if maybe I get something out of it then.
 

Stewart

Senior Member
I didn't realise that it was also called The Stranger as the copy I have (Penguin Classics) the title is The Outsider.

I don't remember much of the book (and I only read it this year) but I recall being indifferent to much of its content.
 

LoneWolf

Senior Member
My teacher made our English class read this, and I thought that it was good. He tried to get us into the whole 'existentialism' thing, if I spelled that right, but I was kind of confused by it. And though the concept of the MC's mind being freed while he was in jail and trapped even though he was free is cool, it depressed me. Poor guy. I liked it, though. I even made up the next couple of chapters for a grade.
 

Kyle R

WF Veterans
A friend of mine mentioned this title, and I picked it up from a local bookstore.. I read a few pages and couldn't pick it up again.. The writing just didn't hold my attention.. Sentences that went something like.. "I wanted a cigarette, so I took one out and lit it. I thought for a moment on whether the man in the room would want one too. I decided he didn't, and lit my cigarette." made me roll my eyes. Maybe something was lost in translation. I found what I read to be a bit boring.
 
P

pensive32

Okay, I haven't read The Stranger, but a close friend of mine has read it. I don't really recall what she said, but I'm pretty good at this existentialism philosophy that supposed to be expressed by Albert Camus. You'll be happy to know that I have read one of the masterpieces of the existentialist movement (actually known as "Theatre of the Absurd" in drama) Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. From that play I remember a lot of repetitive lines and short, terse sentences. However, that related to the play's theme of an endless and dull cycle of life, which things became boring and repetitive after done the first time.

As bad as I feel, I can't offer any real input on The Stranger, but I do encourage you to learn a little more about existentialism and the time period (if you haven't already) before you judge to harshly. It's definitely one of the weirdest movements that ever existed, with a ton of far-fetched symbolism. So I can't blame you if you find literary pieces that stemmed from the philosophy to be boring.

Anyway check out this Wikipedia link about existentialism:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism
 
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