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What is the importance/symbolism of the sun and the heat in The Stranger?

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rjia | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 1, 2013 at 5:08 PM via web

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What is the importance/symbolism of the sun and the heat in The Stranger?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted June 1, 2013 at 8:12 PM (Answer #1)

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With a novelized philosophical statement of this sort, it is best to neglect or abandon the shallow Jungian symbolism of the sun as energy, heat, light source (although an argument could be made concerning the glare and mirage-making environment that might have contributed to Mersault’s mental condition).  More fruitful is the contrast between the Algerian social environment and the European social presumptions.  This is much more complex a contrast, and one that works vitally with the purely existential notion of denying a pre-designed plan in favor of an “invention” by Man’s choices.  Mersault “chose” to kill, however obscure those motives (including mindlessness), and then lives the “consequences” of that choice, no-one’s “plan.  The whole novel hinges on the first line:  “Mother died today.  Or maybe yesterday.”  This small admission of the vagueness and unimportance of so-called “knowledge” begins Camus’ exploration of “guilt,” consequence, legality, etc.  The sun and heat simply serve to define this “foreign” mise-en-scene, and alienate Mersault from “normalcy"; he is a “stranger” in this sun-soaked world and therefore unsure of the “moral” rules.

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