The Outsider (1942) (previously translated from the French, L’Étranger, as The Stranger) is Albert Camus’s most widely known work, and expounds his early understanding of Absurdism, as well as a variety of other philosophical concepts.
I discussed the novel on a superficial level in my recent review, and this will provide an overview of the work and its significance to those who are unfamiliar with it.
Indeed, Meursault does not endear himself to the reader as one might expect a protagonist to in a first-person narrative, and instead the reader feels as disengaged from Meursault as he does from the world.
Where Marie and Raymond fail to see it, the reader recognises the void in Meursault’s life, and identifies him as ‘the stranger’.
Meursault’s unusual approach to human interaction has led some commentators to suggest he is of low-intelligence or mentally deficient in some manner.
However, one need only look at the comparisons between Camus’s own life and that of his narrator’s to dispel this idea.
The Outsider is best read in the context of its companion piece, The Myth of Sisyphus, an essay which was released months after The Outsider’s publication, and which set out, in a less abstract form, Camus’s comprehension of the absurd.
Camus wrote the two works at the same time, as well as his play, Caligula. There are a number of elements that are of interest in The Outsider, but most significant is the issue of the protagonist, Meursault, and how he, and his story, represent the underlying philosophies that are expounded in the novel.
Indeed, Meursault allows others to define his reactions and shape an identity for him, which proves increasingly tragic as the novel progresses.
The reader has a more objective viewpoint and is struck by Meursault’s lack of emotion, and his distance from Marie and Raymond, as well as from themselves.