Salamano and His Companion

Throughout the progression of part one of The Stranger, it becomes clear that the protagonist Meursault does not experience human in emotions in the same way they are typically presented.

This trend become particular clear when Meursault is repeatedly asked by his partner Marie whether or not he loves her. This question it met by a response of, “it [love] didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her.” This conversation that surfaces twice in the first part of the story illustrates Meursault’s indifference towards human emotion. While he doesn’t explicitly expression a distain from love, he clearly demonstrates that, for him, love is insignificant.

What I find most interesting about the book so far is how the relationships Meursault observes reflects his own view on intimacy. This dynamic is most prevalent in Salamano relationship with his dog. When the two are first introduced in the story, it is clear that they share a tumultuous relationship which most outsiders view as abusive. When Celeste voice that he finds the relationship, “pitiful,” Meursault internally disagrees and voices passive indifference. Later in the story, when Salamano is emotion distress after losing his dog, he reaches out to Meursault asking whether he believes his dog will be returned to him. Rather then comfort the old man, Meursault’s response is clear and calculate, expressing that ponds only, “kept the dogs for three days, then after that they did with them what they saw fit.” Both of the instances illustrate that Meursault view on emotional relationships is detached from any sort of empathy. He therefor places very little regard on his own relationships, resigning himself to little emotional intimacy.

Initial Thoughts

At this point in the story, I am having a hard time figuring out how old Meursault is. Although a man, living on his own, out of school with a steady job, there is one scene in particular that has me perplexed. At the beginning of Chapter 3 when Meursault is back at work, he decides to take a break one day with his coworker, Emmanuel. Out of nowhere, (to me, at least), Meursault is sprinting towards a moving truck, getting “engulfed by the noise and the dust” (25). Soon enough, he takes a “flying leap,” he helps Emmanuel on, and they arrive at Celeste’s “dripping with sweat” (26). Compared to his dull, unemotional, detached character that he portrays throughout the story with both his internal and external monologue, it was a shock to me when the author included this sporadic act… which is why when I thought I had an idea of how old he was, I soon retracted.

“Forget it, Meursault, it’s Algiers”

When reading the first 3 chapters of The Stranger, I had a nagging sensation of familiarity. I had never read this book before, nor any of Camus’s work, but there was something about the way it was written that seemed familiar to me. Well, I’ve finally figured it out: The Stranger reminds me of film noir. Mr. Heidkamp has said that this book heavily influenced a lot of Western pop culture, and since this book came out in the 1940s, which was around when film noir was rising to prominence, so I think this book may have influenced the popularity of the genre.

I think the main reason this story gave me the same feelings a noir story would is the futility of it all. So far, the entire story has just been descriptions of events and characters in the protagonist’s daily life, nothing that’s particularly exciting, and this feeling doesn’t ever change even if things that are out of the ordinary do start happening (like when Raymond plans to get revenge on his girlfriend). This is a very big staple of noir films–there is a large focus on how life always goes on, even if tragic or otherwise important events occur, and it can be seen in the way Meursault reflects on his mother’s death: “It occurred to me that anyway one more Sunday was over, that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed” (24).

The character of Meursault represents this theme well. He doesn’t seems to have any severe opinions about anything, and prefers to spend his free time idling away, sleeping or people-watching. He has fully embraced the unchanging, unforgiving nature of time, and it manifests in an almost overwhelming sense of apathy, like when he says, “He told me that I’d have to act as a witness for him. It didn’t matter to me, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to say” (37). While most noir protagonists have to learn this way of thinking by the end of the story, he in introduced with it.

Another characteristic of noir is having the protagonist come face to face with extreme and tragic violence (sometimes they are just a witness to it, other times they’re committing the violent act themselves–Meurault is in this second category). I’ve only just finished chapter 6, but Meursault’s murder of the Arab man is definitely extreme. The entire passage is very intense, it feels unhinged and senseless, and that raw feeling is also present in a lot of film noir murder scenes. It will be interesting to see how Meursault’s apathetic nature might be affected by the aftermath of the murder, so I’m looking forward to reading more.

Shadeless Foreshadowing: The Sun

The Stranger, a novel by Albert Camus, writes about the life of Meursault from his own perspective. The book is written in first person, giving readers a direct path into the eyes and thoughts of Meursault. It is very interesting to find what Meursault notes. Oftentimes, Meursault will disregard typically emotional events, like the loss of his mother or animal abuse. However, he always seems to note the weather and the sun. This is no coincidence in the writing.

It appears as though the warm colors of the sun indicate moments of suffering or a bad turn of events. When Meursault takes notice of the damped mood of people walking home and the crying of children, Camus makes note that “The sky changed again. Above the rooftops the sky had taken a reddish glow…” (23). Warm, normally calming colors seem to be negative in Meursault’s life. Even more blatantly obvious is the color of the sky during his encounter with the Arabs on the beach. Just prior to the release of the bullet from Meursault’s gun, the novel states that “There was the same dazzling red glare” that was overhead during their first encounter with the Arabs (57). The sun clearly demonstrates insight into the coming of events in the book. As we continue to read The Stranger, it is keen to make note of how the weather plays a role in Meursault’s life.