Who keeps who colonized?

One power dynamic that is present in The Stranger is the relationship between Europeans (colonizers) and Arabs (the colonized). Throughout the novel, Meursault depicts the Arab characters as distant, skulking people by calling them simply “the Arabs.” Furthermore, not one character calls an Arab character by name, not even that of the Arab who is murdered by Meursault. This decision by Camus could reveal how a colonizing relationship between two countries can strip the colonized people of their identity and group them in a single description such as “Arabs.”

One scene in the novel that is hard to overlook when examining the book’s commentary on colonialism is Meursault’s initial jail scene. As Meursault enters the jail, “they (the Arabs) ask me what I was in for. I said I’d killed an Arab and they were all silent.” Again, Meursault does not refer to any of the Arabs by name, and he continues to group the individual Arabs into just a single group. But more importantly, the Arabs do not retaliate against Meursault, even though they have the physical power in the situation. This phenomenon hints that although the Arabs are being oppressed by their colonizers, they are also supporting the very power dynamic that oppresses them, whether it be intentional or not.

3 thoughts on “Who keeps who colonized?

  1. NZUBE N.

    Prior to reading this post, I didn’t completely realize the complexity of this power dynamic. This opened my eyes to the meaning of the Meursault’s interaction with the Arab people in jail and how it relates to the circumstances of Algeria at the time, which is the setting of the story. I agree that throughout the text, Camus distances the Arab people from the story, portraying them as outsiders.

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  2. lucas

    I did not realize this while reading, yet totally agree. He talks about “The Arabs” as some sort of distant, alien-like people. If he were to of killed a white person he would not of been saying in jail, “yea I had killed a white person.” I think this is a very intersting and powerful finding.

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  3. HAYDN M

    Very interesting point, Calvin! I wonder if Camus did this specifically to comment on the idea that colonized, or less powerful demographics are treated as alien by the more powerful demographic in a society. One thing that I think is important to note is that even Meursault, who defies most societal norms, also falls victim to this power dynamic of “COLONIZER/colonized.”

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