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Themes

At funerals, we expect sadness. At a murderer’s trial, we desire to witness remorse. Have you ever asked why our expectation and desire converge? Should the son be sad at his mother’s funeral? Should the murderer be remorseful? And what if the rebels do not wish to abide by these rules society has imposed on its constituents? Should they die for their lack of sadness or remorse? This main character sure does. And Camus explores why that is in The Stranger.

Questions About Sadness

  1. We expect sadness at a funeral and remorse at a murder trial. Why do you suppose this is, and why does Meursault fail at both?
  2. At the end of the book, Meursault has claimed that "Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over [his mother]." What understanding has Meursault reached?
  3. Meursault states that shooting the Arab was "like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness." In Meursault’s mind, what is the cause of this unhappiness? Is it that he will now be condemned? That he has just killed a man? That he feels guilty himself? If he knows it’s going to lead to unhappiness, why does he do it?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The remorseless Meursault is no less guilty than the criminal who, in order to save himself, becomes remorseful for his crime after the fact.

Meursault feels no sadness over death because he believes to grieve over someone’s departure from a world that has no meaning would be nonsensical.

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