French Smoke

Reading part one of The Stranger, originally written in French by Albert Camus, I noticed the vast amount of smoking mentioned. It is well known that smoking is a culturally historic activity that many French residents and their youths partake in. As a result of Camus’ ability to incorporate a part of French culture in his novel, it has helped provide more insight into the characters’ background and nature. 

To make note of Albert Camus’ consistent mentions of the times Meursault, the narrator, smokes, he writes about a moment where he is hesitant to do so because “[he] didn”t know if [he] could do it with Maman right there” (8). In this moment Meursault is troubled with the decision of being imprudent knowing the conditions of the situation at hand. We can see here that the timely manner at which someone smokes in the story aids in providing a better understanding of a character’s frame of mind.

Typically smoking can be seen as a careless and unconscious activity that one may participate in but in another can be presented as a sign of disrespect. Near the end of the fourth chapter, Meursault’s neighbor, Raymond, is interrupted by a police officer amidst the beating of his mistress saying, “Take that cigarette out of your mouth when you’re talking to me…then the cop slapped him” (36).  Here, the presence of the cigarette dispensed an insulting impression of Raymond to the police officer. We can further infer that smoking has a noticeably large impact in the perception and mutual recognition of us towards others and vice versa. 

2 thoughts on “French Smoke

  1. Sylvia G.

    When I read part one of The Stranger, I did not notice the prevalence of smoking. It seemed to me like a natural part of their lives. That being said, I find the take on smoking as a signal of a character’s frame of mind very interesting. I agree that it can be interpreted in such a way because of its meanings in social interactions, although I do believe it is sometimes just an insignificant part of the story.


  2. NZUBE N.

    On first read, I didn’t realize how much smoking is referenced. I find the fact that Mersault smoke so much very fitting to his character. Usually, smoking is something that people try not to do very much for their own well-being. But it is explicit in the passage that Mersault doesn’t care about his well-being, or much at all. Mersault’s lack of care about things is consistent with the way he navigates his life in the story


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