What is the setting of The Stranger by Albert Camus?

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Albert Camus' novel The Stranger, a masterwork of crime fiction first published in 1942, is set in Algiers, Algeria on the eve of World War II. This was a pivotal time for France, which had not only been invaded by the Nazis, but whose colonies in Islamic North...

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Albert Camus' novel The Stranger, a masterwork of crime fiction first published in 1942, is set in Algiers, Algeria on the eve of World War II. This was a pivotal time for France, which had not only been invaded by the Nazis, but whose colonies in Islamic North Africa had weathered crippling attacks from Hitler's army.

The story focuses on an indifferent French Algerian named Meursault who murders a man, called only the Arab, for no obvious reason and subsequently struggles with societal attempts to rationalize his behavior. As such, the setting of Nazi-ravaged French territory is critical in setting up a backdrop of both doom and lunacy.

A strident anti-bourgeois message, characterized by the setting, runs through the novel and is used to illustrate Meursault's emotions, attitudes, and motivations. In particular, there are numerous examples of the discriminatory attitude the French have toward their Arab neighbors, as embodied in the protagonist. Meursault's killing of the Arab in this society represents something of a paradox: a simultaneous indifference to and violent predilection toward Arabs.

The physical setting itself is used to great effect throughout to demonstrate paradox, which further heightens the themes of absurdity. For instance, death is often symbolized through light and white, from the whitewashed mortuary with the skylight to the nurse's white bandages and smock.

Examples of Camus' use of setting to convey mood and tone also abound. For instance, wide open beaches before the murder show Meursault's lifestyle and state of mind early on—that of solitude, freedom, and possibility. Afterward, descriptions of suffocating courtroom and cell walls show the antithesis: confinement, desperation, and fate.

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The setting of The Stranger is Algeria under French colonial rule in the 1940s. Though Camus is putting forward an existentialist theme that has universal and timeless implications, the specific setting nevertheless has a bearing upon the message of the novel.

French Algerians such as Camus tended to feel alienated from the place that was, in fact, their homeland, north Africa. For those with progressive views, there was the haunting sense of guilt, the fact that their country, France, had taken over someone else's land and that people such as themselves, of French extraction, didn't belong there. And yet, Algeria was their home. The situation was similar to that of British colonials during the same period, as George Orwell described in his famous works such as Burmese Days and "Shooting an Elephant."

The tension between those of European extraction in Algeria, who were referred to as les pieds noirs, and the indigenous North African population is an essential part of the background of Camus' story. When Meursault shoots the Arab man it is like nothing to him, almost as if he is not killing anyone at all. The disconnect between the French and the indigenous north Africans is emblematic of mankind's general sense of alienation, of being a stranger in a strange land. Meursault's dissociation from those around him would presumably occur in any setting, but in colonial Algeria, Camus has made the contrast between Meursault and his surrounding world as sharp as possible.

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The Stranger by Albert Camus was set in French North Africa. The novel was published in 1942, at which time Algeria was still under French rule and World War II was ravaging Europe. While certain members of the local elites benefited greatly from French rule, many people in the nation resented the French, leading to the Algerian War of Independence in the 1950s, and eventually to independence in 1962.

The protagonist of the novel, Mersault, is a Frenchman living in Algeria, of a sort that was often called "pieds-noir" (black feet), an ethnic European who was raised and lived in Algeria, and was neither fully part of French nor of African culture. Part of the alienation felt by the character has to do with this uncertain identity.

Geographically, the novel is set in Algiers, the largest city of Algeria, which is located on the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The main events take place in the city, by the seaside, and in the jail where Mersault ends up after killing an Arabic man. 

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The setting of The Stranger is Algiers, in French Algeria (North Africa), in the 1940s (it was published in 1942). The region had been a French colony for almost a century, and the discriminatory attitude of the French toward the Arabs in the book is manifest throughout. For example, Mersault is not sentenced to death over outrage for the murder of the Arab, but rather for his apparent callousness in response to his mother's death.  The setting and especially the time are also crucial to the tone of the novel. Part of France was occupied by the Nazis, with the other part under collaborationist Vichy rule. War raged between the Germans and the Allies in North Africa. In this atmosphere, Camus's meditations on the absurdity and indifference of the world to human suffering were particularly powerful.

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