What is the significance of the setting in The Outsider, a.k.a. The Stranger?

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In The Stranger by Albert Camus, the story is set in Algeria, a French colony where the author was born. We know that it is in Algeria because in the first chapter, Mersault, the protagonist , says that the home for aged where his mother had lived was in...

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In The Stranger by Albert Camus, the story is set in Algeria, a French colony where the author was born. We know that it is in Algeria because in the first chapter, Mersault, the protagonist, says that the home for aged where his mother had lived was in “Marengo, some fifty miles from Algiers.” The significance of this setting is that it extends the theme of the overall story, as Meursault does not have intimate connections to the people or places around him.

Although he lives in Algeria, he is Frenc—or, as stated at his trial, a member of “the French people.” Yet, he is a stranger to the French people, just as he is a stranger to the Algerian French with whom he works and socializes. He essentially feels no need to belong. He is essentially stranger to everyone and perhaps even to himself. This also makes him a stranger without a home where he belongs.

He is indifferent to the places and people around him. In fact, when he is asked if would like to take a job in Paris, he says:

I told him I was quite prepared to go; but really I didn’t care much one way or the other. He then asked if a “change of life,” as he called it, didn’t appeal to me, and I answered that one never changed his way of life; one life was as good as another, and my present one suited me quite well.

Mersault does not care if he goes to Paris and travels around France of if he stays in French Algeria. Although most people would find this a big decision to make, Mersault is indifferent because nothing really means anything to him. He is also indifferent to most of his actions in the story, including killing the Arab.

Even during his trial as he listens to the prosecutor describe his crime and discuss the details of his case, he is also indifferent. He attends the trial almost as if he were a spectator. He is removed from the scene, just as he is removed from his life.

Then after the verdict is read,

I heard the Judge’s voice asking if I had anything more to say. After thinking for a moment, I answered, “No.” Then the policemen led me out.

He is so indifferent, so without emotion that he cannot even think of something to say to profess his innocence or to plead for a lighter sentence.

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The setting of Albert Camus's celebrated story The Stranger is significant to the plot and underscores the predominant theme of alienation in the novel. The story is set in Algeria under French colonial rule during the 1940s. The protagonist of the story, Meursault, is a young French shipping clerk, who is indifferent towards those are around him and does not subscribe to society's conventional belief system, which makes him an outsider and is the primary reason he is sentenced to death. Since Meursault is a Frenchman living in a predominantly Muslim country, he is considered a member of the ruling class. Under French colonial rule, Arabs were viewed and treated as second-class citizens, which is why Meursault's crime of murdering an Arab is only a minor offense.

As a French Algerian, Meursault also experiences a sense of alienation because he is European but North Africa is his homeland. He is essentially an outsider in a foreign land. The desert landscape of Algeria also parallels Meursault's soul and the unconscious world around him, where morality is obscure and absurd. Given Meursault's status as a Frenchman, he should be excused of murdering an Arab. However, it is his indifferent reaction to his mother's death that disturbs the examining magistrate and results in his death sentence. Meursault's lack of compassion, remorse, and grief challenges French and Christian social conventions, which is the real reason he is sentenced to death.

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The setting in "The Stranger" or "The Outsider" is the desert country of Algeria in northern Africa. The main character is a foreign Frenchman. First and foremost, the setting takes place in Meursault's (the Frenchman) non-native country. He is, obviously, from France, and is quite literally a stranger. Beyond that, however, Algeria stands as not just a foreign country, but a predominantly Muslim country that does not fit the standard type of western countries. This makes the cultural divide even greater and makes it more difficult for Meursault to fit in.

The fact that it takes place in a desert is also important, as many of Camus's works take place in areas of desolation and isolation to show the deserted nature of the characters' souls. As a philosopher, Camus likes to emphasize the deserted landscape to show how empty people's souls can be—as they are vain and focused on self-motivation instead of the greater good.

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"The Outsider" or "The Stranger" as it is more popularly known, is set in Algeria, primarily in the capitol of Algiers. The main character is Meursault, a Frenchman, who is accused of killing a native Arab. The setting is significant because it reinforces the idea that Meursault is truly an outsider. The French ruled Algeria as a colony at the time the novel was written and Meursalt is a Frenchman, a member of the "ruling class" who is accused of murdering an native Arab. He is also separated by cultural barriers, because his low-key reactions clash with the Arabs expections of how a person should react at the death of one's mother. Even though he is sad at her death, he looks unemotional, as is appropriate in many European countries. The native Arabs, on the other hand, cry and cough and even faint--as is traditional in their culture. So Meursalt is convicted more on his reactions--or lack of reactions-- at his mother's funeral-than he is on the real evidence of the crime. Had the novel been set in France, Meursalt would probably been treated much differently.

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