The Stranger


Albert Camus

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Themes and Colors
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Importance of Physical Experience Theme Icon
Relationships Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Stranger, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd

From Meursault's perspective the world is meaningless, and he repeatedly dismisses other characters' attempts to make sense of human. He rejects both religious and secular efforts to find meaning. From the director at the old people's home who arranges a religious funeral for Madame Meursault to the examining magistrate who tries to guide Meursault towards Christian faith to the chaplain who lectures Meursault about repentance and the afterlife, Meursault is often advised to embrace…

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Chance and Interchangeability

Meursault considers all experience interchangeable, arbitrary, and essentially meaningless. "One life was as good as another," he tells his boss, explaining his indifference towards the opportunity to move to Paris. To him, it's only a matter of chance that events turn out as they do. His thoughts on the beach steps as he decides whether to return to Masson's bungalow or to go back down to the beach could summarize his attitude towards every…

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Indifference and Passivity

The novel opens with Meursault's indifference at his mother's funeral and the consternation it provokes among the people around him. This dynamic recurs much more starkly at the trial, where the account of Meursault's "insensitivity" towards his mother's death proves to be what ultimately turns the jury against him. People's surprise and dismay at novel's start implied they were judging Meursault based on his indifferent attitude. The court scene in the second half…

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Importance of Physical Experience

As Meursault explains to his lawyer, "…my nature was such that my physical needs often got in the way of my feelings." Indeed, throughout the novel, Meursault experiences physical sensations and pains/pleasures much more acutely than he experiences emotional/psychological ones. As a narrator, he constantly supplies physical details without analyzing their emotional or psychological import. The most extreme example of this can be found in his account of killing the Arab. Meursault initially…

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Throughout the novel, Meursault remains unable to experience deep, complex relationships to the people in his life. All of his relationships – from the filial relationship he had with his mother to his friendship with Raymond to his romantic relationship with Marie – are passionless, determined much more by incidental, superficial impressions than by deep-felt emotional bonds. His casual attitude towards these relationships enables him to treat the people in his life according to his…

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