Orientalism In The Stranger

Orientalism; the idea that Middle Eastern or Asian cultures are stagnant, savage, and only used to show the progress of a Western culture or person, can be seen in many works of literature. Novels such as Exit West, and The God of Small Things fight this system by depicting Eastern cultures as complex and independent cultures. On the other hand, many famous works like The Stranger, fail to break free from this trope.

The main instance of Orientalism in The Stranger comes when the main character Meursault (a western man) kills an Arabian man for no particular reason. The way Camus writes this ordeal is where Orientalism can really be seen. Camus refers to this Arabian man simply as “The Arab”. He is not given a name, a backstory, or a reason why he is killed. He is widdled down to the most one-dimensional version that a human being can become. As a metaphor “The Arab” possibly represents more, but as a character however, his only purpose is to die. Between this killing and the way he “objectified”, the Arabian Man and Meursault are as far away from mutual recognition as possible. The man is not depicted as a full human being and in the novel, his life only exists to be taken.

This is different from typical orientalism where an entire culture or nation is simplified because it is just one man. However, “The Arab” is the only “Eastern” character in the entire novel which means that the idea of Orientalism can still be applied. Throughout the novel, the only “Eastern” character is never given a life of his own, never shown progressing and is never even given a name. His only purpose is to interact with the western character (Meursault). Since he only exists to develop other characters, is never given an identity of his own, and is never recognized as truly human, “The Arab’s” treatment in the stranger is one of the most clear and concise examples of Orientalism in the literature we have studied this year.

One thought on “Orientalism In The Stranger

  1. Clark T.

    I love how you went way back to a book that we read at the start of the year. The stranger for me was a difficult book and I think that you made a really nice connection here. There are so many different meanings within the stranger and the one you picked worked really nice with the concept of orientalism.


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