Theme of Existentialism in The Stranger by Albert Camus

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

In the novel, The Stranger by Albert Camus, Meursault is a French man who just had his mother pass away. However, Meursault while he may not realize it is an existentialist. As we see him progress through the novel we notice that he lacks the ability to process and developed his emotions. The novel follows is life Meursault as he perceives it, emotionless up until the end of the novel on the day of his execution he only realizes how his mother felt and why her attitude changed as she grew closer to death. The theme and main idea are quite evident in the book as I will explain down bellow.

However, his attitude towards the passing of his mother was quite peculiar, rather than being grief stricken by the telegram he received, he seemed to not feel much towards the subject. In just the first few sentences on the first pages the lines “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.” This seems to imply to the reader that he doesn’t care when his mother died. Another strange moment was on page sixteen, the dialogue that he was having with the man from the undertaker, “Was she old?” I answered, “Fairly,” because I didn’t know the exact number.” This shows that he didn’t know the age of his own mother which is rather odd.

Within these first few pages we start to pick up on the theme of existentialism, which is a philosophy concerned with finding self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. The narrator only concerns himself with what he needs to for himself and not for others. The strongest factor of existentialism is evident at the end of the book when he is sentenced to death.

When his final day came he had already accepted his death to come, he perceived it exactly how an existentialist would. “I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again.” As the text stated on page 173, he truly didnt care what happened after death and felt ready to live it all over again, which he said on page 122, “So close to death, Maman must have felt free then and ready to live it all again. Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over her. And I felt ready to live it all again too.” Simply put, the general theme of the book is that life is meaningless once you die so you have to make sense of what life gives you at the moment.

There are many symbols that come up in the book, these symbols represent the ideas and concepts the author believed in that they decided to not directly state but instead created situations that represented such. One example is the court case that Meursault was involved in. The court is made to symbolize society and humanity; one way is through having many of the characters from the beginning of the book appear at his court case. This is the author trying to represent society through having all the familiar characters reappear. The other court related symbol is the courts attempts to find the motive for Meursault’s crime but being unable to find a logical reason because there was none. This symbolizes the way that people try to find reason and logic in things that we do not understand but in the philosophy of absurdism that Albert Camus, the author these efforts are useless because there is no reason for why things happen they just do, again relating to the theme of the novel, The Stranger.


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