by Albert Camus
The Stranger Theme of Passivity
The Stranger (or at least Meursault) conveys the message that passivity is an acceptable way of experiencing life and treating others. For the most part, our main man is an observer—a spectator—of life and its events. He feels detached and alienated from his dead mother. He doesn’t love the woman who wishes to marry him. And, though he participates in life, he observes twice as much. The Stranger explores the thin line between indifference and acceptance; the novel features this character’s transformation from the former to the latter—a positive transition, in Camus’s world.
Questions About Passivity
- Meursault constantly reiterates that, after a while, one can get used to anything. Okay, sure—but what’s the point of such a harped-upon notion? How does this play into Meursault’s concluding revelation?
- What is the difference between indifference and acceptance in The Stranger?
- Meursault explains many things (such as his never having much to say, or his brutal honesty in response to Marie’s questions about love and marriage) by appealing to his detached passivity. Does this justify any of his objectionable actions? Is passivity an affliction or a desired state of mind, in Meursault’s view?
Chew on This
From passive contentment to a new absurdist understanding of the world, Meursault’s journey has been one of enlightenment and acceptance.
Meursault’s supposed enlightenment at the end of The Stranger is actually a false revelation; he does not commit to this new outlook, rather examines the possibility of doing so. He is still too passive to act.