If Life Doesn’t Matter, Then Why Try

In Camus’ The Stranger, the protagonist Meursault is portrayed as a carefree, apathetic person who seems to float through life without giving attention to anything, including himself. Meursault is a prime example of an existentialist who finds no meaning in anything.

The first incident of this is in the beginning of the novel when Meursault’s mother passes away, and Meursault shows a severe lack of emotion about his mother, and treats his life as if nothing happened. He continues by getting with one of his former co-workers, Marie, with whom he hooks up with multiple times and shows no care for. She even asks him if he loves her, and he straight up says no. Another example is when he notices Salamano abusing his dog, and he continues to stay friends with him, despite the socially unacceptable actions. Additionally, Meursault is friends with Raymond, who is believed to be a pimp and has beaten his mistress. Meursault even tries to bail Raymond out and eventually kills for him. Finally, when Meursault is in prison, he comes to the realization that it doesn’t really matter if he is executed, because his life will be no different than if he dies of old age. Meursault understands that his life is pointless no matter the outcome or his actions, so he might as well just try to be happy.

Life Is a Highway

With all these posts about what life is/is not (life is a prize, life is not a gift, life is different) I just wanted to remind everyone that life is a highway.

France, Algeria, and Salamano’s Dog

Throughout The Stranger, there is an obvious divide between the Europeans and the Arabs, and it is often hostile, as would be expected considering the context of the story, where Algeria is a colony of France. While reading the story, I felt like Salamano and his dog could be an allegory for this relationship between an imperious France and a subjugated Algeria. I gathered this idea through the various interactions between Salamano and his dog, one of which was where Salamano noted that before the dog got sick, “‘His coat was the best thing about him.’” Meursault goes on to narrate that “Every night and every morning after the dog had gotten that skin disease, Salamano rubbed him with ointment. But according to him, the dog’s real sickness was old age” (45). The fact that the dog was initially healthy with a nice coat, but through living with Salamano had its “hair fall out” and became “covered with brown sores and scabs” (26), which Salamano falsely attributes to old age, indicates that Salamano’s abuse is the true cause of the dog’s condition. It is mentioned that the dog has the skin disease mange, but the unhealthy, abusive environment it is subject to is what gave rise to its poor condition, which Salamano unsuccessfully attempts to alleviate with ointment. A comparison can be drawn between this situation and that of France and Algeria, where France brought Algeria under its control, causing great damage to the colony due to excessive violence and exploitation of its land. France then did not take responsibility for the scabs and sores it caused Algeria just as Salamano blamed his dog’s scabs and sores on old age, and France pretended to have a positive impact on its colony through introducing its culture, as did Salamano when administering his dog ointment. Another section where the dog and Salamano seemed to be symbols for Algeria and France was when Meursault was describing Salamano’s walks with his dog: “the dog pulling the man along until old Salamano stumbles. Then he beats the dog and swears at it. The dog cowers and trails behind. Then it’s the old man who pulls the dog. Once the dog has forgotten, it starts dragging its master along again” (27). Here, the dog has the natural inclination to break free from Salamano, however, whenever it attempts to do so, Salamano pulls it back under his domination, punishing it for trying to achieve liberty just as France did to Algeria when it showed resistance to being a colony. In these and other examples, the dynamic between Salamano and his dog seems as though it could be a symbol for that of France and Algeria in the time period of The Stranger.