What social class is Meursault? What clues is the reader given as to how Meursault lives?

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Meursault, the protagonist of Albert Camus’s The Stranger, relies heavily on the author’s own life and, of course, his own working-class background. There are therefore many parallels between the way Camus lived and the life of his character Meursault: first and foremost, they were both Pied-Noirs, Frenchmen living in the French colonized territory of Algeria in Northern Africa. Although the French authorities at the time (early- to mid-twentieth century) payed lip service to equality between the French and Arabs, their treatment of Arabs was that of an imperialist power rather than a magnanimous authority maintaining equal citizenship between the two peoples. In this hierarchy, too, the Pied-Noirs were also treated as second-class citizens by the French. The working-class Pied-Noirs, however, needed the protection of the French authorities to secure employment, as their labor could always be undercut by the Arabs, and so they dared not revolt.

The second parallel between Camus and Meursault’s working-class lives is that both worked for a shipping company. It is here that Meursault’s working life is described in passing, from hating having to get up in the morning to go to work—“Then I thought of the other fellows in the office. At this hour they’d be getting up, preparing to go to work; for me this was always the worst hour of the day”—to enduring daily power struggles with his employer—“Just then my employer sent for me. For a moment I felt uneasy, as I expected he was going to tell me to stick to my work and not waste time chattering with friends over the phone.” His life outside of work consists of chasing after buses, avoiding powerful people (be they lawyers or the police), and enjoying simple pleasures, like a game of billiards or a swim at the beach. Meursault, being working-class, thus explores the illegitimacy of authority and hierarchy from a position of relatively less power.

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