I need help writing an essay about The Stranger. My objective is to interpret the text by demonstrating how language, descriptions, characters, techniques, and so forth evoke ideas, and I need to...

I need help writing an essay about The Stranger. My objective is to interpret the text by demonstrating how language, descriptions, characters, techniques, and so forth evoke ideas, and I need to make an interesting and nuanced claim that encourages a closer understanding of the text. I am stuck at the beginning; I don't know what thesis I should use and I don't really know what to write about. (I have to write a full essay with an intro, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.)

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Myrtie Barton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2019

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Thanks for the question!

On the bright side, your essay prompt is so broad that you can write about practically anything from Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger. The downside is that it is entirely up to you to choose and refine your topic!

As you can select any aspect of Albert Camus’s novel, I would suggest selecting a narrow topic that you are interested in exploring. By narrow, I mean that your essay’s subject-matter should be manageable for you to analyze in just a few paragraphs.

For example, if you are discussing some of the minor characters from Camus’s novel, such as Maman, Marie, or Raymond, I would suggest selecting a single character and discussing their relationship with Meursault and what it reveals about the themes. If you are fascinated by the motif of the sun, you could highlight how the Sun is repeatedly mentioned throughout the first part of the novel leading up to the shooting of the Arab. If you are intrigued by the Czech newspaper article Meursault finds in his prison mattress, you could explain how Meursault’s reaction and fascination with the violent story reveal his life-philosophy. Ultimately, I can’t choose your topic for you, but be sure that it is narrow enough to adequately explore in a five-paragraph paper.

Once you have selected and narrowed your topic sufficiently, it is time to craft your thesis statement. A thesis statement is normally one or two sentences and has three purposes:

  • introducing the subject of the essay,
  • asserting the central argument, and
  • outlining how you will prove your point.

Here are two sample thesis statements that could work for your prompt:

  1. Meursault is condemned to death for his distant relationship from his Maman rather than the murder of the Arab. Throughout Meursault’s murder trial, the prosecution’s focus on his relationship with his mother and other social quirks reveals society’s harsh judgment of outsiders.
  2. Meursault’s murder of the Arab is clearly foreshadowed throughout Part I through repeated details of Meursault’s hatred of the sun at his mother’s funeral and on the beach.

Finally, as you write your paper, be sure to avoid too much summary. As a literary analysis, some summary might be necessary, but you always need to tie your content back to WHY it matters or HOW it is significant to your thesis.

I hope this helps! Happy paper-writing!

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