Viren Agarwal UD II

The explanation of the language and writing style used in the book ?The Stranger? by Albert Camus, along with an analysis of the main character

Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don?t know. I got a telegram from the home: ?Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.? That doesn?t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.? This line is rather important and the book starts off with it. The line is short, clear and to the point. Camus? choice to start off the book, with a death of someone?s mother; because the reader does not know who Meursault is yet, could put the reader on edge, and instantly grasps his or her attention. The line also tells the reader a lot of other things about the book. Like the time period of the book, there are some technological give-aways, along with the first impression the reader gets about the main character Meursault; and an idea about various other key information, like the motif of the book, which is his indifference.?So close to death, Maman must have felt free then and ready to live it all again. Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over her. And I felt ready to live it all again too. As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.

The Stranger or The Outsider, (?L??tranger?) is a novel by Albert Camus, published in 1946, which was originally written in French and translated to English, one of the translators being Matthew Ward. Camus won a Nobel Prize in literature, which is regarded as one of the greatest literary awards.

The main character of the book is Meursault, a Frenchmen who kills an Arab man in Algiers, apparently irrationally. Meursault appears emotionally detached, quite passive or inactive, the quote above gives an idea of his character; he so casually says that his mother died that day or before that, and, then, after reading the telegram, he actually goes on to say that the telegram did not make sense and that maybe it was the day before that that she died. He was more concerned about the time of death rather than the news that his mother had passed away; usually, if a person learns that his or her mother has passed away, they will instantly have an emotional reaction of sorrow or depression, experience some grief. Instead, he thinks about the fact that the telegram was unclear, with regard to the day.

His reaction, or lack of a reaction, when he learnt of his mother?s death, and throughout the book, gives the impression that he might actually be stoical in nature, which would actually account for a lot of things. Also, to further support this claim, he is neither happy nor sad when he reads the telegram, firstly; then, secondly, if he was happy, then he could be considered as a monster, but he is indifferent; thus, the assumption that he is stoical in nature is sound. Something that I have noticed in the other works of literature that I have read that also have people in them with the same stoical nature is that towards the end, even if they have such a nature, they always cease to be stoical in the end, they always tend to finally express their emotions and feelings, as they are unable to keep them bottled up inside themselves any longer but this primarily happens because they are about to die.

When his lady friend asks him if he loves her, he says, ?Probably not,? being incredibly frank and, according to me, harsh. Also, with regard to his mother, who had recently passed away, he did not cry or shed a tear the day of her funeral or even see her in the coffin and pay his last dues, which is sad, but what is worst is that he later on goes on a date.

Meursault starts to express his feelings a lot towards the end of the book; he starts to actually tell people, primarily the chaplain, how he was feeling to them. ?Then, I don?t know why, but something inside me snapped. I started yelling at the top of my lungs, and I insulted him and told him not to waste his prayers on me. I grabbed him by the collar of his cassock. I was pouring out on him everything that was in my heart, cries of anger and cries of joy.? This is a quote from the book which is quite important, as he is going to die soon, and he gets enraged and yells at the chaplain, thus expressing how he was truly feeling both physically and verbally, without holding anything in, which shows that he, in fact, was scared.

The book is divided into two parts, his (Meursault's) first-person narrative view before the murder and after the murder.

A good story or book is one where the writer, through his words and use of language, makes his or her readers envision (imagine) the story in their minds, and Camus has done exactly this in his book The Stranger. He writes in a clear, calculated and unique manner. Frivolous and unnecessary language is not used, and the descriptions in the book are scrupulous, to say the least. Through his meticulous attention to detail, one knows everything from the smell in the air to the type of green in the evening sky, and, to add to all of this, his sentences are clear and precise, with simple vocabulary. All of these factors together are what make The Stranger the exceptional and unparalleled book that it is, and, due to them, while one is reading the book, almost the whole time, they know exactly what is going on in the story, they have a crystal clear picture; getting lost or distracted isn?t a problem, even if one is not an avid reader. The vocabulary may seem child-like at times, but there are also instances of profound clarity and expressiveness. Most books are so cramped with excessive details and descriptions that they make the reader lose interest and make them want to put it aside.

Even while something uninteresting is taking place in the book, the reader feels addicted, as though he or she is taking a drug and they just cannot stop taking it, they cannot help but want to keep reading on; the writer?s words and use of language are so mesmerizing. An example of this occurrence is that in a complete chapter, the central character, Meursault is described on his balcony, while watching other people walk by on the street below him. The scene should be extremely boring, but by the way Camus narrates it, by his written words, one cannot help but be mesmerized and remain interested.

He has written in a method which is common in American novels. This method of writing is present mainly in the first half of the book, with the short sentences, precise and straightforward, and the depiction of the characters? appearances are revealed in parts, not completely at once. At certain points in the story, he uses a strong (tough) tone, the ?tough guy? tone. Also, as the reader, you can notice that Albert Camus has used a lot of irony in the book. An example of irony in the book is that the one person who actually cared greatly for Meursault?s mother and wanted to attend her funeral, Thomas Perez, could not keep up with the funeral procession because of his age and deteriorating physical condition.

The tone of the narrator is very aloof, which creates a somewhat pessimistic mood or aura for the reader around the book. Meursault experiences no emotion; he is emotionally detached. This is prominent from the start, when he has no emotional reaction (grief) when he comes to know of his mother's death. Meursault maintains an extremely detached tone throughout the entire story, even when he describes the murder he commits. The most remarkable part about Meursault?s tone is his use of language, his diction and his register, which is never theatrical or complex. The straightforward sentence structure helps generate his indifferent tone. Due to his emotional detachment, the mood or feeling of the story, and the narrator?s view on life as a whole, appears as pessimistic. This is only my understanding as a reader, but the narrator would not view the mood and feel of his story as pessimistic, I think.


  1. Camus, Albert. THE STRANGER. Trans. Matthew Ward. New York:Alfred A.Knopf, Inc, 1988.

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