Significant Allusions

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Allusion to Popular Culture: Camus refers to popular culture of the era in order to underscore the distinction between Meursault’s response to his mother’s death (indifference) and the cultural norm (grief). 

  • The day after his mother’s funeral, Meursault and Marie go and see a “Fernandel movie.” Fernandel was a comedic French actor and sometimes director famous during the 1940s. During the trial scene, the onlookers are shocked that Meursault would see such a comedy so soon after his mother’s death. 

Allusions to Religious Thought: Throughout the text, Meursault’s actions and opinions exist in conflict with the Christian morality that governs the culture around him. 

  • As the lawyers prepare for trial, Meursault has frequent meetings with the magistrate. The magistrate says goodbye by saying, “That’s all for today, Monsieur Antichrist.” Antichrist is a biblical term referring to any individual who denies the teachings of God or Jesus Christ. Though the controversial character appears in both monstrous and human form, there is general consensus that the figure is paramount in bringing about the apocalypse. 
  • The Antichrist is an 1888 philosophical text by Friedrich Nietzsche. In it, he criticizes Christian individuals and asserts that Christianity is a religion for the weak and unhealthy. He also claims that Christian culture replaced nobler cultures from the past. In his private letters, Nietzsche referred to himself as the antichrist.

Allusions to Greek Mythology: At emotional high points, the novella makes reference to Greek mythology in order to reinforce themes in the text. 

  • Blindness/Sight: The Stranger contains frequent descriptions of light, darkness, and Meursault’s vision. Before commiting murder, he describes the light reflecting off a knife he holds as “a scorching blade” that “stabbed at my stinging eyes.” Importantly, this murder leads Meursault to his philosophical epiphany. As in Sophocles’s classic play Oedipus Rex, sight is paradoxically associated with understanding. When Meursault had sight previously, he didn’t understand himself or those around him. Once metaphorically blind and subsequently imprisoned, Meursault exhibits growing philosophical understanding of the world around him. 
  • Sirens: After Meursault’s exchange with the chaplain, he awaits his execution, describing that “in the dark hour before dawn, sirens blasted.” In classical mythology, sirens were mythological monsters that lived on seaside cliffs. Often depicted with the head of a woman and the body of a bird, sirens used their lovely voices to lure sailors to their deaths. Here, the sirens remind Meursault of his impending death. 

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