The Stranger and the “Arabs”

Although it is debatable whether Albert Camus intended for his narrator to seem righteous in his murder of the Arab man (addressed only as thus), the way Camus writes the non-European characters is evidence enough of his support of the dominant narrative surrounding people of color. Though the portrayal of Algerians as violent is incredibly harmful to immigrants who already face bias, the stereotyping of the only POC in the novel as exotic, word-less, and identity-less is equally toxic yet talked about in different ways.

When referring to Arab persons, Meursault never fails to attach them to their race. The word “Arab” accompanies every Arab character, all nameless. This phenomenon reflects a larger truth about white society during the time Camus wrote “The Stranger”. It was written in 1942 and at that time large portions of Africa were under the control (and open to exploitation) from the French. It is not a stretch to say that a similar stripping of POC of their personage beyond their race continues to happen across the world in a continuation of attitudes like Meursault’s.

In the novel we see that the Algerian male citizens are described as a “group of Arabs”(40). There is no individuality attached with the Arab population in the novel. Their namelessness leads to their de-humanization. Only in few cases the Arab is called a “man” (96) or a human in most of the instances in the novel they are either “ an Arab” (88) or “ a body” (68). This shows not only the lack of empathy of Meursault or Camus, but also of European society as a whole.

One thought on “The Stranger and the “Arabs”

  1. HARRISON DEAR

    Meursault appears to dislike social hierarchies in his own life, however, I would say he doesnt seem to care abt them in others’ lives tho. Calling people “the arabs”, not being great towards women are not great.

    Like

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