The Stranger eNotes Lesson Plan
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Excerpt From this Document
Albert Camus (1913–1960) was born to working class parents in French colonial Algeria. A novelist, playwright, journalist, essayist, and Nobel laureate, Camus catapulted to worldwide fame with his novel The Stranger, first published in French in 1942 as L’Étranger and published in English two years later.
The novel is set in Algiers, the capital of French Algeria. Colonized in 1830 by the French, Algiers was the largest city in the Ottoman Empire before the French gained control. Europeans, mostly from France, Italy, and Spain, flocked to Algiers. They quickly established themselves as land and business owners and thrived, while marginalizing the local Arab-Berbers (Arabs and the nomadic or semi-nomadic Berbers). By the 1930s, Algiers was occupied by roughly 170,000 European residents and 55,000 Arabs. The locals were made strangers in their own land.
While the French were in control, the Arabs suffered. They were unable to find decent jobs, housing, or education. Colonialists tended to regard the inhabitants of the land they conquered as being less than human, and so it was with the French in their attitudes and beliefs toward the Arabs. Camus does not provide names for any of the Arabs portrayed in The Stranger. While some scholars believe that this omission is a testament to Camus’s own racist views toward Arabs as a result of having grown up in Algiers, others counter that it was his way of describing the socio-political climate as it truly was at that time. In fact, Camus’s working-class upbringing made him sympathetic to the plight of the working class and the marginalized citizens of Algiers.
The simple, accessible prose Camus employed in writing The Stranger belies the depth of philosophical thought explored in its pages. Camus was often identified as an existential writer, a label he rejected. However, he was interested in the human as an “uninvited [guest] to an indifferent universe.” The absurd more closely mirrors Camus’s philosophy, as he believed that the human desire for order, meaning, and purpose in life is at odds with an unfeeling universe. All human lives eventually end in death, and human actions, beliefs, and desires, he points out, do not affect this fact.
The title of the novel, The Stranger, is the translation of the French title of the book, L’Étranger. “Étranger” means “foreigner” or “outsider.” In the novel, as in many great works of fiction, the protagonist is an outsider. Meursault, Camus’s protagonist and the novel’s narrator, is an outsider in his own apartment house, his own city, and the society in which he lives. Unfettered by societal expectations, religious beliefs, political awareness, or personal, meaningful relationships with others, he does not belong in the world he inhabits, and his alienation is the novel’s central theme.
A note regarding translation: There are several English translations of The Stranger. This lesson plan uses the one by Matthew Ward from Vintage Books, a widely circulated version from an American publisher and intended for an American audience.
About this Document
eNotes lesson plans have been written, tested, and approved by working classroom teachers. The main components of each plan are the following:
- An in-depth introductory lecture
- Discussion questions
- Vocabulary lists
- Chapter-by-chapter study questions
- A multiple-choice test
- Essay questions
Each plan is divided into a teacher and a student edition. The teacher edition provides complete answer keys.