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

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"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.