Stranger

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Discussion Questions for
The Stranger (1946); translated by Matthew Ward, 1988.

Part One
Chapter 1.
1. How does Camus set up Meursault's personality -- how does Meursault respond to others' conversation, to ordinary social situations, and to the death of his mother? 2. On page 10, Meursault says that at the viewing of his mother, he felt as if the elderly people there were judging him. Offer a conjecture about why he might have had that feeling. (It is worth paying attention to such references to "judgment" because they occur several times throughout the work.) 3. From 14-18, how does Meursault describe the funeral procession -- why was it a difficult experience for him? How does he say he felt after the burial was concluded? Do his reactions strike you as odd? Explain. Chapter 2.

1. Meursault meets his old flame Marie Cardona. What happens between them, and why might it be considered inappropriate? Does Meursault seem to consider his behavior with Marie wrong? Explain. 2. How does this chapter deal with Meursault's experience of time's passage after the death of his mother? How does the chapter also convey a sense of emptiness? 3. What reflections does Meursault offer at the end of the chapter? Chapter 3.

1. What is the point of Camus' including a chapter of this sort -- one in which we are introduced to several of Meursault's friends and acquaintances? 2. From 26-28 top, Meursault describes his meeting with Salamano and his old dog. What is Salamano's relationship with his dog? How does that relationship contrast with the way Meursault lives his life? 3. From 28-33, Meursault describes his friendship with Raymond Sintes. What explanation does Sintes give for the fight he has had with an Arab man -- what isn't quite honest about the order in which he tells his story? How does Meursault react to the story and to Sintes' offer of friendship? Chapter 4.

1. How do you connect the main episodes in this chapter -- Sintes' trouble with his girlfriend and Salamano's lamentation over his lost dog -- with Meursault's way of experiencing or perceiving the things that happen in his life? What contrasts between Meursault and these other characters does this chapter make? Chapter 5.

1. What changes are offered Meursault in this chapter? How does he react to them? 2. On page 40, how does Meursault introduce the trip that will prove fatal to him? Explain how this reference is characteristic of Camus' handling of events, of "experience," in The Stranger. 3. On page 43, what is the purpose of the episode in which a rather perky woman joins Meursault for dinner and then promptly leaves? Chapter 6.

1. What role does the sun play in the unfolding of this chapter's events, especially Meursault's shooting of the Arab man on the beach? How do references to the sun obscure our understanding of the shooting? What other possible explanations does the sun's constant presence undercut? 2. How does Meursault refer to his Algerian Arab opponents throughout this chapter? How much can one understand about them -- their motives, their character, whether or not they started the fight, et cetera? Part Two

Chapter 1.
1. What does the magistrate want to hear from Meursault? Why is he upset with Meursault's responses? 2. What difficulties does Meursault have in responding to the magistrate the way he is expected to? Why do the expectations annoy him? Chapter 2.

1. What strategies does Meursault employ to habituate himself to life in prison while he awaits trial? Does he change as a result of prison confinement? Explain. Chapter 3.
1. Why is the "jury trial" a good vehicle for Camus in showing the absurdity of the various attempts made to interpret why Meursault has committed his crime? That is, what things matter most during a trial -- the evidence, or other factors? Explain. 2. How do Meursault's friends and acquaintances explain his actions? What "spin" is the prosecutor able to give to their explanations, and why is it difficult to undo the...
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