Book Report: The Stranger

Michelle G.

The Stranger

Albert Camus

1942

Absurdist Fiction

 

After his mother’s death, Meursault emotionally alienates himself and becomes a bystander to his own demise while refusing to take any moral responsibility for his harsh actions.

Camus’s unemotional, unforgiving writing is more than a style.  There are characters and plot, but they are just inconsequential vessels because the writing tells the true story.  The words become the people.  In of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Steinbeck wrote as the characters would write and describe their own lives and the basic language builds characters who are more than what they say, making it clear they felt very deeply.  In a similar way, Camus’s writing style is defining the characters and emphasizes the themes and messages.  Both authors would seem elementary to the untrained eye, but both brilliantly use the power of word choice, tone and style to write a story deeper than the pages.  Overall, Camus used the writing style as the storyteller more clearly and efficiently then Steinbeck.

 

The social dynamic, or lack thereof, of alienation is always evident.  The simple, dull, almost elementary vocabulary used to create vivid imagery shows acknowledgement of the world, but not an interest or investment in it.  Still, the simple words make up the vivid imagery.  If the simple words are alienated people, and vivid imagery is the world, then Camus is telling the reader that everybody is alienated somehow.  Alienation is inevitable because humans are individuals and independent.  Though  people can never truly detach from the world because as the world changes humans change too, creating an unbreakable connection.  Humans might be alone in the world, but it still defines us.  Humans are then stuck in a dark, unknown abyss of their own solitude.  Few can find the light used to find each other because humans are wallowing in their own self-pity and sorrow.  Alienation ties hand in hand with not taking moral responsibility because once humans are alone they don’t think about the effects of their actions on others.

Taking moral responsibility is a struggle within itself.  Humans flee from confrontation, conflict or any form of responsibility because it’s easier.  Camus’s short, concise sentences give a dismissive, detached feeling to show boredom and portray detachment from the reader.  The way Camus’s writing is fleeing from reader, in a way, also reflects fleeing from responsibility.  The reader is responsibility.  Most books, like the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling, are meant to entertain the reader and have them delve into the fake worlds.  The Stranger does not draw the reader in. Camus wants the reader to be distant spectator to his masterpiece.  Both Rowling’s and Camus’s perception of the reader’s role is valid, but it is what separates, quality wise, the two books.

Camus’s writing is predictable and inevitable.  If The Stranger was a human life then that human would live knowing what lies ahead.  There are no surprises or sudden changes in his writing, and everything is certain.  Everything is definite, like the fact that humans grow old and die, so the question always is, why do humans all live differently if human life always ends with death?  The journey is the important part because it can be changed, and is what separates humans for one another.  Humans spend their lives worrying about the unknown, but it is the inevitable that defines us.  Inevitability leaves humans helpless.  Camus uses predictability to model human life and its inevitable aspects.

Great works of literature show certain restraint that only some authors can grasp.  Camus used restraint by not having the characters shoulder the story telling, instead his writing does it. Camus uses writing to tell the story because he wants to render the characters and plot, or humans and their lives, useless and meaningless.  Alienation and lack of human moral responsibility constructs a world of useless, sorrowful people detached from each other like he detaches from the reader.  Human existence is inevitable and alienated, therefore, pointless. Humans are The Stranger and The Stranger are humans.  Everything is meaningless and worthless in Camus’s eyes.

Camus’s restraint and clever use of writing tactic to portray his emotions and thought is not flawless, but ingenious and worthwhile.  In the The Stranger, Camus is not afraid to take large chances in a subtle way and use radical ideas. An A-list book is defined by the chances taken by the author, and how well the chances resonate with the reader and the literary world.  The Stranger reads well and is subtly wild, and thus deserves A-list book status.

 

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