Consider The Stranger by Albert Camus and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. How did each of the authors’ backgrounds influence the writing of these particular novels?
Both Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and Albert Camus' The Stranger reflect the political and racial tensions as well as the personal growing-up experiences of their authors.
Harper Lee, like Scout (the narrator of Mockingbird), grew up in southern Alabama during the 1930s. Also like Scout, Lee's father was a lawyer, and the tomboy Lee and her brother would spend their summers having adventures with a visiting neighbor boy. Lee would have known first-hand the segregation and prejudice which reigned in the South, and that is exactly the issue she explored and exposed in her novel. Lee explores the issue of racial injustice without letting the stark realities overwhelm her characters to the point of crisis.
Albert Camus also grew up in a place with serious ethnic tensions. After his father died in World War I, his family moved from France to Algiers, which is the setting of The Stranger. The strain between Europeans and Muslims was significant, and the protagonist of the novel, Meursault, suffers from the strain. Meursault's mother is dead and it is something which impacts him throughout his life, just as Camus' father's death haunted him. Camus spent his life searching for meaning in the midst of inequality and unfairness cased by war as well as cultural strife and personal soul-searching. Camus' protagonist reflects the author's conflicts amid "the gentle indifference of the world" as well as his consistent inner turmoil. His life is hard, just as Camus' life was.
Both authors wrote what they knew in a form which suited their temperaments and experiences. Scout, in her innocence, speaks the truth as Lee saw and experienced it; Meursault speaks Camus' questioning and despair as he lives and felt it.
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