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Last Updated on January 14, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 997

Topic #1

Illustrate how Meursault’s indifferent attitude and moral ambiguity is fundamentally at odds with society’s expectations of how a person should think and behave.


I. Thesis Statement: In The Stranger, society views Meursault as a cold-hearted killer and a moral “blank.” It categorizes him as dangerous and evil because Meursault refuses to conform to society’s accepted standards of behavior.

II. Meursault’s attitude and behavior
A. At his mother’s vigil and the funeral
1. Meursault remains unemotional and detached
2. Doesn’t want to see his mother’s body
3. Drinks coffee and chats during the vigil
4. Offers no expression of comfort, or grief to his mother’s close friend, Thomas Perez
5. Doesn’t cry at the funeral
B. Relationship with Marie after the funeral
1. Marie’s reaction to Meursault when she learns about his mother
2. Meursault’s activities the day after his mother’s funeral
a. Swims with Marie
b. Goes out on a date and begins an affair with Marie
C. Friendship with Raymond and agreement to write the letter
1. Meursault never questions morality of writing such a letter
2. Society’s view of a man like Raymond and Meursault’s association with him
D. Murder of the Arab and reasons for pulling the trigger
1. Meursault shoots once, then fires four more times
2. Meursault’s bizarre explanation about “the sun”
E. No apparent remorse for crime
1. Inability to ever feel regret about anything
F. Meursault doesn’t believe in God

III. How society views Meursault
A. Behavior at the funeral is repugnant to many
B. Starts affair with Marie the day after the funeral
1. Meursault enjoys himself, even though his mother has just died
C. Why is Meursault Raymond’s friend?
1. Raymond has a bad reputation
2. Meursault must be involved with Raymond in some type of criminal activity
D. Why does Meursault murder the Arab?
1. No one understands Meursault’s explanation about the sun
2. Must be part of suspected criminal activity
3. Meursault “murdered” his mother by putting her in a nursing home. His crime is even worse than the parricide case
4. Therefore, Meursault is capable of anything
E. Refusal to believe in God proof of Meursault’s immorality
1. The magistrate’s appeal to Meursault with the crucifix
2. Meursault’s honesty interpreted as immorality
3. Meursault’s rejection of the chaplain and everything he represents

IV. Meursault’s understanding of himself and his actions
A. Alone in his cell, awaiting his execution, Meursault understands the significance of his behavior and crime
1. Final rejection of society and its attitude towards him

Topic #2

Discuss Meursault’s reaction to the sun and its effect on his mood and behavior.


I. Thesis Statement: Meursault behaves as if he were an element of nature, influenced by the sun, and not responsible for his actions.

II. Meursault and the sun
A. Meursault reacts to the sun and heat at his mother’s funeral
1. Reaction to sun supersedes other emotional reactions
2. This reaction misinterpreted by society which expects Meursault to behave in a conventional manner
B. Enjoying the sun with Marie while swimming
1. The sun as source of pleasure
2. Contrast to the heat and discomfort Meursault experienced on the bus and at the funeral
C. Running in the sun with Emmanuel to catch the truck
1. The sun blinding Meursault to everything but his most immediate desires, in this case, to catch the truck
D. Meursault, Marie, and the sun on the beach
1. The sun again supplying warmth and comfort
E. Meursault on the beach with the Arab
1. The heat and piercing sunlight conspire against Meursault

III. Destructive power of the sun
A. Meursault, estranged in the world, finds it impossible to relate to others in many situations when affected by the sunlight
1. Meursault on the bus to the nursing home
2. Sun influences his unusual behavior at the funeral
B. Blinding sunlight leads to his shooting the Arab
1. Moments leading up to the shooting
2. Meursault’s decision not to go into the bungalow
3. The sun drives Meursault towards the cool stream and the fateful meeting with the Arab
4. The piercing sunlight in Meursault’s eyes
5. The Arab’s shiny knife
C. Heat and sunlight in the courtroom
1. Meursault unable to express himself to the judge and lawyers
D. Meursault’s excuse about the sun is incomprehensible to everyone in the courtroom

IV. Meursault as an element of nature
A. Meursault living from moment to moment, influenced by the changes of nature
B. Meursault experiences no feelings of guilt or remorse
C. The sun as an indifferent force in nature, responsible for either pleasure or pain
D. Meursault’s understanding of man’s place in the universe
E. Contrast between Meursault’s life and the existence of the sun

Topic #3

The Stranger has been called an example of Camus’ belief that “a novel is a philosophy put into images.” Discuss how Camus’ understanding of the absurd is depicted in The Stranger.


I. Thesis Statement: Meursault’s actions and beliefs reflect the absurdist philosophy as understood by Camus.

II. Camus’ definition of the absurd
A. Common personal experience of the absurd
1. Mechanical nature of individual lives
2. The inevitable passage of time
3. Human sense of alienation and isolation
4. Human beings’ place in the universe
B. In literature and the arts
1. Other works by Camus including The Myth of Sisyphus and Caligula
2. Camus and the Theater of the Absurd

III. Sense of the absurd as reflected in The Stranger
A. Meursault’s routine life
1. His work and leisure time
2. How Meursault spends his Sunday
3. Encounter with the robot woman
B. Meursault’s relationships
1. His feelings for his mother, when she was alive and after her death
2. Response to Marie’s asking if he loves her
3. Acceptance of Raymond as his friend
4. Attitude towards, and treatment of, old Salamano
C. Life and death
1. Meursault’s reaction to the news of his mother’s death
2. Killing the Arab
3. Contemplating his execution
4. Meaning of life in the face of death
D. Benign indifference of the universe
1. Nature as a representative of neither good nor evil
2. The permanence of the universe and the images of nature
E. Meursault’s acceptance of his own death and his understanding that all people are “condemned to die”

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