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Last Updated on September 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 530

So you’re going to teach Albert Camus’s The Stranger. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, The Stranger has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it confronts challenging topics—domestic abuse, murder, cynicism—teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying The Stranger will give them unique insight into social conformity, colonialism, and important themes surrounding free will, moral judgement, and the philosophy of absurdism. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1942 
  • Recommended Grade Levels: 11-12 
  • Approximate Approximate Word Count: 36,800 
  • Author: Albert Camus 
  • Country of Origin: France 
  • Genre: Philosophical Fiction, Courtroom Drama 
  • Literary Period: Modernism, Existentialism 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Society, Person vs. Supernatural, Person vs. Self 
  • Narration: First-Person 
  • Setting: Algiers, Algeria, mid-1940s 
  • Structure and Dominant Literary Devices: Unreliable Narrator, Two-Part Structure 
  • Mood: Detached, Cynical

Texts that Go Well with The Stranger

Nausea (1938) by Jean-Paul Sartre. Similar in structure and style to The Stranger, Nausea is Sartre’s existentialist philosophical novel. Antoine, the novel’s protagonist, is an isolated, dejected historian living in Bouville, a fictionalization of Le Havre, the French city in which Sartre lived and taught during the 1930s. As Antoine struggles to control his physiological responses to objects and people in the world around him, Sartre has the opportunity to dramatize the tenets of his version of existentialism. 

Notebook of a Return to the Native Land and “Discourse on Colonialism” by Aimé Césaire. Born in French Martinique in 1913, Césaire was both a contemporary of Camus, a celebrated surrealist poet, and a political revolutionary who worked for self-determination throughout the Caribbean islands. Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (1939) is a book-length poem that explores his identity and experience within the French Empire. “Discourse on Colonialism” (1950) is an expository essay exploring similar terrain. 

“Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley. This 1819 poem also questions the value of human social orders. The poem’s speaker describes a fallen statue, the king of a bygone people, surrounded by nothingness, perhaps exploring the “gentle indifference” to human civilization that Meursault realizes in The Stranger

The Plague by Albert Camus. His 1946 follow-up novel to The Stranger, The Plague explores the moral and social issues that arise when a plague sweeps through Oran, a city in French Algeria. In the novel, Camus draws from his own experiences with chronic illness to expand his absurdist philosophy, further addressing questions of mortality, fate, and free will. Though the novel depicts tragedy, many contend that The Plague provides an optimistic counterpoint to The Stranger’s cynicism. 

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, one of the central figures of the French existentialist movement. The Second Sex, published in 1949, is de Beauvoir’s exploration of the treatment of women throughout history and within French society. Influenced by many of the same thinkers as Camus, de Beauvoir’s expository prose addresses Christian theology, Marxist philosophy, Freudian psychology, as well as the work of other French writers, such as Arthur Rimbaud and André Breton.

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