The sun is a powerful and all too-often overlooked symbol in many novels. It is
usually seen as a guiding light in the dark or as hope in times of despair. In the Albert
Camus story, The Stranger, the sun represents a new element. Camus, a very
unconventional thinker, twisted the common meaning of the sun into a painful image. The
sun is on constant vigil of Meursault?s every action. Ironically, the bright light of the sun
clouds his thoughts and judgment. The sun is personified to represent society, which
throughout the story frustrates, angers and eventually takes control over Meursault?s life.
With the opening of the book, Meursault is faced with the death of his mother. He
must attend the overnight vigil of her body the day before her burial. The next day,
Meursault is to walk her body to her gravesite, accompanied by the priest and others
assisting in the burial. Along his long walk to the church, Meursault takes notice to the
overbearing heat of the sun. The heat is so incredible that his mind is diluted with nothing
but thoughts over how unbearable the sun is. He forgets all about the reason why he is
walking in the heat in the first place. While walking, the nurse says to Meursault, ?If you
go slowly, you risk getting sunstroke. But if you go too fast, you work up a sweat and
then catch a chill inside the church?(p. 17). He reflects upon this and says, ?She was right.
There was no way out?(p. 17). The observation of his is not over the sun but over what it
represents. The sun is society to Meursault, and if you stick with society by walking slow,
you are going to get overwhelmed by it. This contrasts with walking fast, which gets you
out of the sun sooner, but you will be tired and will feel cold from the sudden lack of sun.
When you step out of society, you would feel completely alone and isolated. Either way
you lose out, yet you cannot avoid both of the outcomes. To stick with the physical...
Cited: Camus, Albert. The Stranger.
Ward, Selena. SparkNotes on The Stranger. 3 March 2003.
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