by Albert Camus
The Stranger Theme of Mortality
The Stranger opens with an announcement of death; Salamano’s old dog is in a state of (super-gross) decay; the protagonist murders a guy, and is then sentenced to execution.
Death is everywhere in this book—maybe this is Camus’s way of forcing us to confront the approximately one bajillion varying attitudes on this universal (yet distinctly absurdist) theme. In The Stranger death is inevitable and does not lead to an afterlife. The novel concludes with the revelation that death is what makes all men—scratch that: all living creatures—equal. Everyone has to die, therefore no one man is privileged over any other man (or even, say, scabby dog).
Questions About Mortality
- How does Meursault’s view regarding death changed over the course of the book? In what ways has it stayed the same?
- In what sense is murder and execution one and the same in The Stranger?
- At the very end of the book, Meursault’s epiphany is spurred on by reminiscing about his mother’s love affair near her own death. What are some possible conclusions he has drawn? Why does he ultimately accept and welcome his own demise?
Chew on This
From the beginning to end, Meursault’s view towards death has morphed and matured from indifference, to fear, to acceptance.
Rather than investigating the actual crime committed, the prosecutor basically puts Meursault on trial for being indifferent to his mother’s death. To the prosecutor, the trial was meant to convict a cold-hearted rebel, not to address the heinousness of either "crime."