Explain why the following selection from The Stranger is important:     "I had been looking at the stones in these walls for months. There wasn’t anything or anyone in the world I knew...

Explain why the following selection from The Stranger is important:  
 
"I had been looking at the stones in these walls for months. There wasn’t anything or anyone in the world I knew better. Maybe at one time, way back, I had searched for a face in them. But the face I was looking for was as bright as the sun and the flame of desire—and it belonged to Marie".  (part 2, chapter 5) 
 
What ideas, conflicts or themes are represented and how are they framed or resolved elsewhere in the text? How does the specific wording of the passage convey meaning?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is much in way of meaning within the excerpt from Camus's The Stranger. Its meaning can be set against some of the thoughts that the Priest offers earlier to him:

Every stone here sweats with suffering, I know that. I have never looked at them without a feeling of anguish. But deep in my heart I know that the most wretched among have seen a divine face emerge from their darkness. That is the face you are asked to see.

In Mersault's response, his rejection of conventional totality is evident.  The claims of the divine are posited to Mersault, something that he simply repudiates with his notion that there was nothing within the stones that he could find.  When Mersault suggests that he had "not seen anything from sweating stones," it was clear that Mersault's existential notion of reality is evident.  In the face of the priest who was committed to seeing that Mersault embrace a notion of totality, the result was that Mersault is unable to find a universal condition in the midst of his imprisonment.  

Camus once described The Stranger as an "exercise in objectivity, the impersonal working out of the logical results of the philosophy of the absurd." This "impersonal" condition is illuminated in Mersault's response.  There is no overarching transcendence.  There is a carnal and human desire for Marie, and even that is fleeting as it is bound by its temporality.  In the excerpt, Camus is able to demonstrate the philosophy that binds the work and what envelops Mersault. The fundamental conflict between a world of individuals who seek transcendence and those like Mersault who reject it is illuminated in the quote. Mersault's approach is the response to the attempts of those such as the Priest that believe that there is a "darkness" and a path out of it.  The wording of the passage is one where there is little absolutism in terms of meaning, reflective of the absurd condition of life that Mersault lives and Camus wishes to convey in The Stranger.

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