Tag Archives: The Stranger


Book II chapter vii

Winston and Julia are talking about what will happen when they’re caught.

“If you mean confessing,” she said, “we shall do that, right enough.  Everybody always confesses.  You can’t help it.  They torture you.”

“I don’t mean confessing.  Confession is not betrayal.  What you say or do doesn’t matter; only feelings matter.  If they could make me stop loving you–that would be the real betrayal.”

I was struck by how different Winston and Julia’s relationship is from the one in our last book.  Can you imagine The Stranger’s Mersault telling Marie, “only feelings matter”?  Mersault?  When Marie brought up the topic of marriage, Mersault could take it or leave it

Ahhh, a character who emotes.  It’s nice to be back in the land of feelings.
Even if they are Ingsoc suppressed feelings.

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Posted by on November 6, 2013 in 1984


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See ya, Stranger

The Stranger

We finished the book.  Not that it matters.  This is The Stranger after all.  Nothing matters.

What should you do now?  Consult the list and make a choice.  Camus says that “one life is as good as another”; the same goes for your choice.

1. Complete your WEM wrap-up questions.  Did you retitle the book?  I did.  I’ll share.
A Callous Life: The events of Mersault’s life have no ultimate meaning: not the death of a loved one, not the proposal of marriage, not the murder of a stranger, and not receiving his own death sentence.
2 Don’t feel like retitling?  Instead write a minute summary and share it instead.
3. Take the Sparknotes Quiz.  Did you remember the slapping?
4. Listen to The Cure’s companion song one more time.
4. Search shelves and used book stores for our next title– 1984.

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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in The Stranger


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A Strange(r) Haiku

Back in the day this blog had poetry.
Poetry that we wrote ourselves.
Poetry that was inspired by the classic works we read: cinquain, acrostic, haiku, limerick, and even sonnets.

Why did we stop?
I suspect novel content.  Not novel as in new, but novel as in book.  The content of our books took a turn to the dark side, and it has felt wrong to craft poetic works about murder, greed, and infidelity.

Bleak subject matter or not, I am taking back poetry.


Mersault’s Haiku

Shooting on the beach
Why? The sun was in my eyes.
Guillotine for me.


Posted by on October 18, 2013 in The Stranger


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Which title?

I have a multiple choice question for you this morning.  Can you figure out from which novel the following quote comes?

He said the truth was that I didn’t have a soul and that nothing human, not one of the moral principles that govern men’s hearts, was within my reach.  “Of course,” he added, “we cannot blame him for this.  We cannot complain that he lacks what it was not in his power to acquire.”


Does the quote come from…

A. Native Son
B. The Stranger
C. The Stranger… but, boy, did it remind me of Native Son.


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Posted by on October 17, 2013 in The Stranger


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No way out

The Stranger 2At the end of Book 2 chapter 2 Camus links us back to the beginning of his tale.  At this point in the story Mersault’s been jailed for five months.

I distinctly heard the sound of my own voice.  I recognized it as the same one that had been ringing in my ears for many long days, and I realized that all that time I had been talking to myself.  Then I remembered what the nurse at Maman’s funeral said.  No, there was no way out, and no one can imagine what nights in prison are like.

What did that nurse say?  I quickly flipped back to the end of Book 1 chapter 1.

She said, “If you go slowly, you risk getting sunstroke.  But if you go too fast, you work up a sweat and then catch a chill inside the church.”  She was right.  There was no way out.

Such a sad theme for a story:  No way out.

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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in The Stranger


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Book 2
chapter 3

Witnesses answer the prosecutor’s questions.  The director of Maman’s home testifies, followed by the caretaker:

He said I hadn’t wanted to see Maman, that I had smoked and slept some, and that I had had some coffee.  It was then I felt a stirring go through the room and for the first time I realized that I was guilty.

Really, Mersault?
The first time you realized you were guilty?
Not when you shot a man once… and then fired the gun four more times?
Not when you were arrested?
Not when you sat in jail.
Not when the judge called you Monsieur Antichrist?

You realized you were guilty for the first time when the Caretaker tattled that you didn’t want to see your dead mother and the crowd reacted to your callousness.
That is when you realized you were guilty.

Notice the verb choice.  He realizes he was guilty.  He doesn’t say that he feels guilty.
Does Mersault ever feel remorse?


Posted by on October 15, 2013 in The Stranger


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It’s hot.

The Stranger check-in

The sun was in Mersault’s eyes for the murder on the beach.

Now the courtroom is “stifling” for his trial.

Perhaps we should have read this book in the heat of summer to get the full effect.

Whatever the temperatures are where you are reading, please share your place in the comments.

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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in The Stranger


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He doesn’t know… or does he?

The Stranger Vintage

In Chapter 1 of Book 2 the magistrate is questioning Mersault.

Again without any apparent logic, the magistrate then asked if I had fired all five shots at once.  I thought for a minute and explained that at first I had fired a single shot and then, a few seconds later, the other four.  Then he said, “Why did you pause between the first and second shot?”

In his mind Mersault flashes back to the heat of the moment.

Once again I could see the red sand and feel the burning of the sun on my forehead.  But this time I didn’t answer.

Does he not answer because he thinks his response is incriminating?  Is he following Native Son’s lead and going behind “the wall” to protect himself from his dismal future?

Why did Mersault pause between the first and following shots?

The prisoner’s silence doesn’t deter the magistrate from questioning him..

In the silence that followed, the magistrate seemed to be getting fidgety.  He sat down, ran his fingers through his hair, put his elbows on his desk, and leaned toward me slightly with a strange look on his face.  “Why why did you shoot at a body that was on the ground?”

This time there’s something slightly different in Mersault’s internal dialogue.

Once again I didn’t know how to answer.

Is not knowing how to answer different from not knowing the answer?

I think so.

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Posted by on October 12, 2013 in The Stranger


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What does Mersault want?

The StrangerI love it when an author tells us just exactly what his main character wants.  It happened in The Return of the Native, The Portrait of a Lady, and Native Son.

Let’s try to answer it for The Stranger.

What does Mersault want?

He doesn’t miss his mother

He’s not longing for true love.

He’s not wishing to be married.

He has no hankering for a successful career.

He’s not yearning for God.

Looks like Mersault wants nothing.

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Posted by on October 10, 2013 in The Stranger


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Book 1 ends with this sentence:

And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness.

Mersault killed the Arab.  We can’t say it was in cold blood.  There was an abundance of heat, sweat, and sunshine.  In the surreal moment, Mersault murders a man he doesn’t even know.  What has me confused is if “one life was as good as another” (Book 1, chpt. 5), why does Camus compare the slaying to “knocking… on the door of unhappiness“?

Mother’s death, girlfriend’s proposal, possible job promotion: Mersault just doesn’t care. Eh, whatever…
When his boss offers a position in Paris, Mersault declines.

“I said that people never change their lives, that in any case one life was as good as another and that I (Mersault) wasn’t dissatisfied with mine here at all.”

Back to the homicide…
gunshots = unhappiness=dissatisfaction?

Throughout the story Camus seems to say that man is destined to death so he must live in the moment and make choices without regret.

Unhappiness sounds like regret to me.

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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in The Stranger


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