Stranger Critical Essay

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Is Life Meaningful?
The Stranger, written by Albert Camus, is a novel full of existentialism. This nonfiction story begins with the main character, Meursault, attending his mother’s funeral. As the story proceeds, Meursault befriends a man and becomes involved in something that will cost him his life. Camus portrays the meaninglessness of human life through the attitudes and lifestyle of Meursault. Camus uses a number of different elements of style to convey his message. Three elements of style that show Meursault’s plain indifference to life are contrast, point of view, and characterization. As the elements of the novel are discussed, the theme of Camus will become clear.

Camus uses contrast to make evident Meursault’s prospective on life. Camus cleverly contrasts Meursault to other major characters in The Stranger. These characters include Perez, Raymond, and Marie. Thomas Perez is an old man who is teased for being Madam Meursault’s “fiancé.” Perez took Madam Meursault’s death very hard. He struggled in his old age to walk to the burial site and is described to be shedding tears of frustration and exhaustion. The normal response to death is shown in Perez’ reaction, which is heartache and mourning. Meursault did not cry at his mother’s funeral. He did not even know the age of his own mother. Meursault’s main concern was the heat and sleeping. There is a sharp contrast in the emotional responses of Perez and Meursault in regards to this death. Raymond Sintés is Meursault’s neighbor. Raymond considers Meursault his pal, and they develop a somewhat involved friendship. Raymond’s aggression is a character trait that contrasts Meursault’s indifference. Raymond is angry that his mistress cheated on him, and in one chapter he is confronted by the police for beating her. This one example of Raymond’s aggression is enough to show how different Meursault was from him. Meursault does not seem to show any kind of emotional reaction to most things that happen to him,...
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