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What is the symbolic meaning of Salamano's dog in the novel?

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pokmikefever | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted November 2, 2010 at 2:23 AM via web

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What is the symbolic meaning of Salamano's dog in the novel?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 2, 2010 at 10:03 AM (Answer #1)

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In The Stranger, the relationship between Salamano and his dog is analogous to both the relationships between Mersault and his mother and between Raymond and his Arab girlfriend.  The dog reminds Meursault of his mother; therefore, the dog is a symbol for that which is lost, dead, or abused.

First, Salamano is more heat-broken about losing his mangy dog than Meursault is about his mother dying.  This is not to say that Meursault does not love his mother; on the contrary, it shows that he appreciates his mother's life and refuses to excessively mourn her death (the way that Salamano weeps over his dog).

If The Stranger is an existential indictment of people who choose death over life, then Salamano is guilty as charged.  He seems to care more about the dog now that it is gone than he did when it was alive.  Camus is morbidly poking fun at the fact that most people, like Salamano, are addicted to the culture of death and guilt.  As a result, they refuse to live meaningful lives.

Secondly, the relationship shows how violence can damage relationships.  Salamano would beat his dog simply because it is old, just as Raymond would beat his girlfriend simply because she is a woman.  Both men harbor violent tendencies toward weaker creatures, most likely because they are addicted to the culture of death, guilt, and suffering.

On the other hand, the absurd hero Meursault chooses the simple pleasures of life: he enjoys the sun, the beach, smoking, and sex; as a result, he does not need to engage in a power struggle with those who are defenseless.

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edris1 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 27, 2011 at 4:40 AM (Answer #2)

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In my view Salamano's dog presents some of the most important themes of the book.

As discussed above, the element of relationships is explored between the man and his dog. The dog represents man's dependancy. Salamano, after losing his wife gets the dog, however when he loses the dog he weeps in realisation of his lonliness. Meursault is marked out as the outsider as he is the only character who seems to not depend on anyone.

Another major theme presented through the dog is the philosophical question of the absurd. When analysing Camu's use of the dog, it is necessary to refer to Meursault's final revelation specifically regarding the value of things in life. In his revelation he reveals that salamano's dog is as worthy as his late wife. It can be seen that Camus is showing us that we are able to be happy and mournful towards a dog or a wife. This fits in with the issue of exestencialism.

Like Meursault aswell, Salamano and his dog represent man's desire for habit. Although the life they lead is not a wholly happy one, it is , according to Meursault equally worthy with any other life. Is man's desire for habit thus an attempt to make sense of a senseless world as described by Camus?

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