Symbolism In The Stranger, By Albert Camus

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In Albert Camus’ novel, “The Stranger”, the absurdist themes of the meaninglessness of human life, living in the moment, irrationality, and lack of conformity to the values of society are best exemplified through the relationships that the protagonist, Meursault, has with those around him. Camus’ characterisation of his anti-hero makes us question the way we must fit into other people’s expectations of our own behaviour, thus forcing us to lie in order to find a secure place within society. These relationships in the novel include those with Meursault’s mother, his girlfriend Marie, his friend Raymond and finally the priest. Through a detailed exploration of these relationships and Camus’ use of imagery and symbolism, it will be shown how the …show more content…
Although the public judges Raymond as “he lives off women” (Camus, 1988, p.28), Meursault talks to him because he finds him interesting and doesn't “have any reason not to talk to him.” (Camus, 1988, p.28) This again reveals that Meursault is not influenced by society’s view but he is open and truthful according to his own internal logic. By using his protagonist in this way, Camus forces the reader to evaluate the novel philosophically, therefore making it an experimental novel in the tradition of other existential thinkers at the time such as Jean Paul Satre. In this style of fiction, we are left unbalanced by the thought processes of the protagonist, thus making us challenge our own position in society. Often Meursault challenges what society would see as normal. At other times his position seems rational, such as when Raymond asks him to join his dinner and he accepts because it would save “the trouble of having to cook for himself” (Camus, 1988, p.28). However, just like the situation with Marie, being truthful leads to complications and unforeseen circumstances; Camus shows how a naive openness can easily cause trouble in a society based on complex rules and regulations. For example, Meursault only got into conflict with the Arabs on the beach because he had associated himself with Raymond, which placed him in a position where violence and irrationality took over. Camus, therefore, shows how truth can lead to the irrational act of killing. This is best exemplified through the symbolism of the sun and the knife, which are used by Camus to emphasise Meursault’s descent into an absurd position he wasn’t supposed to be in. For example, the sun’s rays reflect on the knife and it causes Meursault to become temporarily separated from reality as he enters his own world of thought and then

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