a) A free weekly newspaper published in Seattle, the home of featured syndicated columns Savage Love by Dan Savage and I Love Television by Wm. Stephen Humprey.

b) One translation of the book L'Etranger by Albert Camus - frequently his own quasi-inaccurate translation (from the french.) A looser english-language translation can usually be found under the title The Outsider.

It is written in what is variously termed the white style, or maybe even the pure style. Unfortunately, for all of us anglophones, even those of us who have aspired to being francophones, the feel of this, the understanding of this, is lost.

This was Albert Camus's attempt to portray "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd".

Translation isn't everything! Even in English, how can you portray facticity?!

L'étranger (The Stranger) is a pre-existentialist novel by Albert Camus. It is about a man named Meursault. Here's a quick and dirty analysis of themes from chapter 1.

Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas. J’ai reçu un télégramme de l’asile: «Mère décédée. Enterrement demain. Sentiments distingués.» Cela ne veut rien dire. C’était peut-etre hier.
Meursault is practically emotionless. His reaction to his mother's death in the very first paragraph of the book is to say, "Today, Mother died. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know. I received a telegram." His lack of emotions makes his reactions to everything ridiculous.
J’ai bu. J’ai eu alors envie de fumer. Mais j’ai hésité parce que je ne savais pas si je pouvais le faire devant maman. J’ai réfléchi, cela n’avait aucune importance. J’ai offert un cigarette au concierge et nous avons fumé. ... J’ai eu un moment l’impression ridicule qu’ils étaient là pour me juger.
Meursault is very rational. He knows that he should not smoke next to his mother's corpse, but he thinks "it doesn't matter." He knows that he is going against the hidden rules of society; he understands that he is different. We can see that this affects him negatively because he feels ashamed enough to think that he is being judged. He also apologizes for himself often, like when he wants to justify his need for two days off to his boss. He says, «Ce n'est pas de ma faute,» which means, "It's not my fault." Meursault is a very honest person, a characteristic that later causes him a lot of trouble. This is shown by how he describes exactly his reasoning, and acts on his intentions, even though he's ignoring how he thinks he is supposed to act.
L’éclat du ciel était insoutenable. A un moment donné, nous sommes passés sur une partie de la route qui avait été récemment refaite. Le soleil avait fait éclater le goudron. Les pieds y enfonçaient etet laissaient ouverte sa pulpe brillante. Au-dessus de la voiture, le chapeau du cocher, en cuir bouilli, semblait avoir été pétri dans cetter boue noire. J’étais un peu perdu entre le ciel bleu et blanc et la monotonie de ces couleurs, noir gluant du goudron ouvert, noir terne des habits, noir laqué de la voiture. Tout cela, le soliel, l’odeur de cuir et de crottin de la voiture, celle du vernis et celle de l’encens, la fatigue d’une nuit d’insomnie, me troublait le regard et les idées.
Meursault is very affected by nature. This entire passage, occuring on the march to the cemetery, shows how he is unable to stand the heat from the sun, the smell of the tar on the pavement, and the monotony of the colors in his surroundings. He often defines his emotions through how his surroundings affect him. The closest he comes to happiness is in the absence of pain, from his surroundings or from the people he knows. He feels a great relief when he goes back to Algers only because he is escaping an uncomfortable situation. We see later how his urgency to escape the discomfort caused by heat and light and how he is controlled by this causes him to shoot a man he did not intend to shoot.

Though Meursault could easily have been depicted, the sequence and nature of the story's events remaining entirely the same, as a sort of villain, Albert Camus forces the reader into a grudging sympathy with him. Meursault is, indeed, a tragic sort of hero, if only because the reader is made always aware of the reasons of his choices, and the nature of the depression plaguing him.

If one were to have been told that Meursault murdered an Arab, then this would be enough for the reader to indict him as an evil character. But Meursault kills the man because he doesn't care, and because he cannot care. Why should this matter, at all? There is no consequence in his world. Meursault was punished always for his remoteness from the world by his inability to experience pleasure(his relationship with his girlfriend being entirely a feelingless relationship of utility, the offer of a promotion at work not appealing to him any more than his current, "lesser" position). Once the reader understands how far removed Meursault is from the usual human conditions of life, one sympathizes with Meursault for one's own knowledge of his consistency within the system in which he functions. And this is an aspect of mankind that a literary vehicle exploits well: every man's actions become justifiable when one wholly understands them, when one knows the whys and the hows of the actor, when one knows the pain or joylessness of the individual. If a person is placed in Meursault's world, in his moral and emotional system, then that person finds Meursault very much innocent of any crime.

Certainly, this was a very effective means of demonstrating Camus' existentialist agenda. Here is a man condemned to death, merely because he has ceased to feel! If only the rest of the world understood! Still, one is not entirely convinced of the validity of the argument. Meursault is, in effect, indifferent to his own death. Is there not a line to be drawn, cannot even the fact that he is faced with his own death move him to regain some will, some inkling of defiance? Perhaps the point Camus intended to make in Meursault not resisting his death was the point that Meursault, like everyone else, was already dead--he more so, for his more advanced knowledge of the conditions of life.

I, for one, cannot help but be tempted to believe that Camus' beautiful, touching story is, like the large part of existentialist thought, little more than educated, literary manifestation of a personal depression. To liken the fate of Sisyphus to the fate of man is to liken the fate of man to the fate of Sisyphus, and this is as much a sham as the sham of Ayn Rand's "happy" atheism, which it inverts (Camus once said that one of the preconditions of happiniess is ambitionlessness). No, healthy humankind does not strive toward nothing, for nothing, but rather toward something, for betterment. Satisfaction is not a myth, and though defiance is indeed a very necessary and central human ideal, it is not an end. A human being cannot and does not continue to live without hope--or perhaps he does, but not happily. Sisyphus was indeed punished for his crime, as he was forced to live the life of Albert Camus: sad, pointless, faithless, repetitive, cold from Randian skepticism.

Meursault, for all of the profound aspects of alienation his life neatly depicts, was a man who failed to connect with the world. He was not able to understand the significance of the death of his mother, nor was he receptive to the feelings of his girlfriend, nor even to his own needs, the things that might please him; and if there merely were no things (impossible in reality), then his death was not in vain, and we should all be as satisfied with it as he was.

But I am not satisfied with it. Meursault is only true and useful because he exaggerates some of the darker conditions of humankind: resignation to the will of the world, skepticism, meaninglessness. If he were an actual man, I might punch him in the face, and prove to him that, despite all his joylessness and painlessness, he is indeed, whether he wants to be or not, a thing that feels and reacts.

There is no book that I know of that better captures modernity's sense of spiritual dissolution than The Stranger. Meursault is quite weary, after so many centuries. He has had enough.

Literary Analysis: The Stranger

Title & Author

The title of the novel is The Stranger. The author's name is Albert Camus. The translation by Matthew Ward (Vintage International 1988 edition) is used for this analysis.

Historical and Cultural Context

The author Camus was born in Algeria in 1913; his poor upbringing would later affect his ideas and his writing. He formed a philosophy of absurdity that had neither hope nor despair; it was a hopeless optimism. It fit in well with, and influenced, the still-forming ideas of existentialism. Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre arguably influenced Camus, as evidenced by allusions to “The Wall” in Chapter 5 of the 2nd section. The main character of the novel, M. Meursault, is an example of absurdity. He goes through the 8 stages of absurd existentialism after he is sentenced to death (and thus thinks about life).

Camus witnessed things during his childhood and early years that would have led him to the conclusions that he made. His father died shortly after he was born, in a battle in World War I in 1914. He was impoverished for much of his youth, and was only able to pay for a college education through hard work. Unfortunately, he became ill and was never able to complete his education. The results of these years led him to believe in the meaninglessness and utter absurdity of life.

The Arabs in the novel are treated with less respect than those of French descent, as was mostly true during that time period. The Arabs remain nameless throughout the novel in order to more accurately represent the attitude that French society had towards them.

Setting

The novel takes place in Algeria, mostly in the city Algiers. It is during a period of French colonialism in the early twentieth century, and most of the characters are of French descent. The racial and social tension between the French and the Arabs is evident in the novel through the conflict between Raymond, his girlfriend, and her Arab relatives.

Narrative Point-of-view

The point of view of the novel is first person. The main character Meursault narrates the entire novel from his jail cell while waiting to be executed; the first section of the novel is a retelling of the events that led up to his death sentence.

Protagonist

The protagonist is Meursault, a very dynamic character who finally thinks about life when faced with death. He is indifferent to the world until he realizes he may no longer be a part of it. By repressing his emotions, he was able to outwardly feel nothing at all. However, his real emotions were represented by his physical sensations, as in the case of his feeling uncomfortable in the sun. When he is sentenced to death, he begins to think, and reflects back on his actions. He reaches an emotional breaking point when the chaplain is yelling at him, and finally allows his emotions to be released at once; he has been through the stages of existentialist thought. He is now ready to accept his own fate, take responsibility for his actions, and invite the remaining absurdity of his life.

Other Characters

The antagonist in the novel is, coincidentally, Meursault. The primary conflict is internal to Meursault; the antagonism comes from his emotional repression. Because he is unable to express negative emotions like frustration, they are instead released through actions. Unfortunately for Meursault, one such action was the killing of the Arab. Also, he was seemingly indifferent towards his mother's death, because of his inability to express sadness or grief.

Marie is Meursault's girlfriend. She is fooling herself into thinking that Meursault loves her (or even cares at all) because she wants a relationship. However, she seems to be happy with a simple sexual affair prior to Meursault's imprisonment. It is evident by her lack of commitment post-imprisonment that she finally came to her senses. However, within the confines of the novel, she is a completely static character.

Raymond is a crude and immoral static character, and is a foil to Meursault. While Meursault is indifferent towards the world, Raymond is actually sinister. He beats his girlfriend, and then devises an evil plot to use her and degrade her to get revenge. He is targeted by her brother, and is the reason that Meursault is ever even in contact with the Arabs. Unlike Raymond, Meursault never wants to hurt anyone, and doesn't ever intend to cause any harm - he simply does not care.

Conflict/Resolution

  • Person vs. Person: Meursault vs. The Arab - Meursault is followed by the Arabs (while in the company of Raymond, who they are pursuing). The Arabs attack Raymond. Raymond takes a gun to protect himself, but Meursault takes it from him in case he is tempted to use it - never intending to use it himself. This conflict is a red herring - Meursault did not care about the Arab. The reason he shot him is very debatable - however, I believe that it was Meursault's way of expressing emotion through unrelated action. He unknowingly tried to express his frustration with life and sadness over his loss through killing another human.
  • Person vs. Society: Meursault vs. Society - Throughout the entire novel, Meursault is at odds with the functioning and machinery of society. Not only does he disobey the unwritten rules of society, but he is completely ignorant to them. Meursault is sentenced to death by a judge who claims that his crime was in fact “parricide”… on the grounds that he was indifferent at his mother's funeral. Unfortunately for Meursault, the judge does not understand that he was incapable of feeling emotion, and repressed the sadness that he felt. He is presumed to die by guillotine, although this event never actually takes place in the novel.
  • Person vs. Nature: Meursault vs. The Sun - Meursault feels tired at Maman's funeral, and frustrated on the beach with the Arab, supposedly because of the sun. He thus condemns himself by shooting the Arab “because of the sun,” and by not caring at his mother's funeral for the same reason. This conflict, like the one between Meursault and the Arab, is a red herring. Meursault is never in conflict with the sun, but rather his own emotions (of which the sun is symbolic). He is unable to feel these emotions because of his repression, and his only release is through his actions. These actions are what condemn him. This conflict only ends when Meursault is finally able to stop repressing his emotion on page 120.
  • Person vs. God/supernatural: Meursault vs. “God” (the chaplain and the magistrate) - when dealing with these two characters, Meursault has an extreme amount of frustration. All the frustration that he feels towards society is vented towards these religious members. Meursault feels frustrated by society's belief in God, and his clash with specific members of society due to his atheism. This conflict plays a role in his overall conflict with society by driving him away from it. Meursault feels attacked and threatened by the chaplain and the magistrate who believe that he is inhuman because he does not follow society's rule that one must believe in God. The resolution to this is Meursault's emotional outburst towards the chaplain when he is finally able to vent his frustration.
  • Person vs. Technology: Meursault vs. The Gun - Meursault is in conflict with the gun on page 59 when he shoots the Arab. There is a moment when Meursault loses control, and his emotional subconscious takes over and fires the gun. Unfortunately, the subconscious doesn't have a problem with killing another human. Meursault, on a surface level, blames the gun because it is what allowed him to kill the Arab. This conflict is resolved as Meursault slowly realizes, over the course of the second section, that he killed a man.
  • Person vs. Self: Meursault vs. Himself - throughout the novel, Meursault's conscious self is in conflict with his emotional subconscious. He represses his emotions; he releases those emotions subconsciously through his actions. Meursault reaches an emotional and psychological breaking point when arguing with the chaplain on page 120. He finally snaps, and is able to feel the emotions he has been repressing. This allows him to complete his existential journey and accept his own fate.

Climax

The climax of the novel is the point on page 59 when Meursault shoots the Arab. “(His) whole being tensed and (he) squeezed (his) hand around the revolver. The trigger gave…” This becomes the turning point of the novel, as it is the end of his recollection while in prison. It starts him on his journey of thought through the eight steps of existentialism, and leads to his eventual emotional release immediately preceding his death.

Theme

One theme of the novel is that mortality is the most important thing in life. It is our own mortality, our sense of the inevitability of death, which causes us to think about life. Without this cosmic consequence, the world would be full of people who think and act like Meursault - completely indifferent towards the world. Essentially, the world would lose its meaning if not for mortality.

Another theme of the novel is that absurdity pervades all human life, and that hope is completely and utterly wasted. All one can be sure of is death, which ties this theme into the first one mentioned. It is useless for one to hope to live, because one is going to die anyway; the time of death doesn't particularly matter.

Memorable Moments

One memorable moment was when Meursault shot the Arab, on page 59. It is memorable because it completely changed the action of the novel. This one event changed Meursault as a character more than any other; his emotional and psychological state began a journey at this point that ended with his emotional outburst towards the chaplain at the end of the novel.

Another memorable moment was that particular emotional outburst, on page 120. It was the conclusion of the carnival ride that Meursault's brain had been on - his cerebrum finally spewed forth emotion like a child vomiting on The Inverter.

Notable Quotes

One notable quote is the end of the first section, on page 59, when Meursault states, (in reference to shooting the Arab) “…it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness.” This is interesting, as it is almost an emotional response coming from Meursault. Upon shooting the Arab (the first shot), he has just begun his emotional and existential journey. Also, this is foreshadowing - the “door of unhappiness” in this case leads to the “room of the guillotine” as Meursault is to be executed for his crime.

Another notable quote is the last sentence of the novel, at the end of the second section on page 123 - “For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.” This shows that Meursault has finally accepted the absurdity of life, and thus completed his existential journey. He realizes that he can die without feeling any negative emotion; for the first time, something actually does not matter.

Literary Elements

The novel is structured into two parts. The first part is a retelling of Meursault's experiences leading up to his murder of the Arab. The second part is his experience on trial and awaiting death. This two-part structure illustrates the two possible ways one can go through life without caring - indifferent to all around them, or enlightened as to the absurdity of life. Meursault becomes a true existentialist as he moves from the first to the second category in the second section of the novel.

The imagery used in the novel mostly consists of light/dark imagery and of physical responses to emotion. There is a relationship between light and heat, and Meursault's emotional state - his responses to physical conditions actually represent his emotional state. He supposedly shoots the Arab “because of the sun,” when actually his emotional state is being expressed through his reactions to the physical. This imagery of the harsh sun helps to make the connection between physical and emotional.

There is symbolism used to create the connection between Meursault's feelings and his actions is evident throughout the novel. When Meursault feels sad at Maman's funeral, he doesn't realize it - he instead thinks he is hot and tired, and blames it on the sun. When he kills the Arab in a blast of frustration, he doesn't realize that it is an emotional outburst - again, he blames the sun. In both of these cases, the sun is symbolic of Meursault's real feelings and emotions that he refuses to feel.

The syntax and diction throughout the novel suggest that Meursault is not thinking very much, and is acting on very basic instinct. His actions are those of someone attempting to be immediately happy or satisfied. The syntax and diction reflect this - Meursault speaks in short, concise sentences, and uses simple words.

Significance of Title

The title, The Stranger, is significant because it describes the main character Meursault. He is a stranger to society because he does not follow its rules. The usage of the word “stranger” means something closer to “one who is strange” than the usual “one who is unknown” in this case.

Parallels to Other Works

The Stranger can be paralleled to William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury in that both novels illustrate the absurdity of life. However, the conclusions drawn by them differ immensely. The Stranger concludes that, although life is absurd, it is not meaningless - on the contrary, simply the fact that it exists gives it an intrinsic meaning. This is therefore an essentially existentialist novel. On the other hand, The Sound and the Fury uses nihilist philosophy to conclude that life is inherently meaningless. Although both novels illustrate life's absurdity, they lead to opposite viewpoints about life.

The Stranger can also be paralleled to Forster's A Passage to India in that both novels show an existentialist philosophy. At the end of The Stranger, Meursault realizes that he must accept his death, but can do so willingly (and without negative emotion), thus bringing his life meaning. The same phenomenon occurs in the characters of Fielding and Aziz in A Passage to India when they realize and accept that their friendship cannot last. Both novels reveal existentialism through characters' acceptance of circumstances.


Sidenote: this novel inspired the song "Killing an Arab" by The Cure, on the album "Boys Don't Cry".

This is one of those rock albums of the twentieth century where, if you consider yourself a dedicated fan to the genre of rock n roll music, you really should have heard. Whether you personally like it or not is irrelevant. Only if you've listened to this album can you honestly say you're an afficionado of the music genre. In my opinion, it's as important to understanding the history of rock music, as David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, or The Beatles' Abbey Road. Released in 1977, The Stranger was the album which skyrocketed Billy Joel into superstardom. After the complete failure of his debut Cold Spring Harbor, the surprising success of Piano Man, followed by the lackluster performance of his third album Turnstiles, Joel's fourth solo venture onto vinyl would make or break his career. Would the youngster be destined to join the ranks of greatness or wallow in obscurity? Joel didn't really care either way. He always wanted to be a songwriter and not a pop star.
"I don't trust rock-'n'-roll money. I've heard too many horror stories. I still eat pizza, walk around in jeans and T-shirts. I always thought millionaires looked like Richie Rich and Scrooge McDuck." - Playboy interview, 05/82
It's amusing to me when I hear people insult Billy Joel's pop icon status and question whether he deserves his popularity since he seems to vocally mimic greats like Ray Charles and Paul McCartney. Joel would probably buy them a beer while agreeing with them. He never meant to be a performer. However, it's equally possible he'd punch the bozo in the teeth, since he's often swore by the epitath, "Don't take no shit from nobody."

The title cut of The Stranger starts and ends with a pale, lonely whistle in the darkness accompanied by a wistful tickling of piano. It is in many ways the trademark Billy Joel soundbyte, while at the same time it's rather anonymous. There are many even today, who would probably recognize the song but not know Billy Joel sang it. In the first five years, over twenty six million copies of the album were sold, insuring Billy Joel a place in rock music history. However, it was five other songs on that album which would become mainstays in his repertoire to sold out audiences for decades. Just The Way You Are, Movin' Out, She's Always A Woman To Me, Vienna and Only The Good Die Young:
"I didn't have a problem with the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church had a problem with me. What happened was {Only The Good Die Young} came out on The Stranger album and it was no big deal, and then Columbia decided to put it out as a single. That's when there were some problems. There was a radio station in New Jersey - they banned it. Then it was banned by the archdiocese of St. Louis. And then it got banned in Boston. All these archdiocese areas started putting pressure on radio stations to ban it. And the record as a single had been out a short amount of time and it wasn't doing that well. The minute they banned it, the album starting shooting up the charts because there's nothing that sells a record like a ban or a boycott!" - Performing Songwriter interview, 01/96
However, although that song is controversial, and although Scenes From An Italian Restaurant is an incredible roller coaster ride and a feast for the mind's eye in imagery and color, for me the title track has always been the tour de force of this album, simply due to the power of the words. The sentiments are timeless and could apply to everyone. In fact, in his words Billy Joel is speaking about everyone: roles people play in public and private. The individual you present yourself as before a board meeting or in a classroom differs from the person you are when with friends or family members. A football player behaves one way when on the football field and quite another when being chastized by his own mother. However, which face is the real person and which is a performance of the ego? Are they both lies, or are they both the real person?
We all have a face that we hide away forever. We take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone. Some are satin. Some are steel. Some are silk and some are leather. They're the faces of the stranger, but we love to try them on.

We all fall in love but we disregard the danger. Though we share so many secrets, there are some we'll never tell. Why were you so surprised that you never saw the Stranger? Did you ever let your lover see the Stranger in yourself? Don't be afraid to try again. Everyone goes south every now and then. You've done it. Why can't someone else? You should know by now. You've been there yourself.

Once, I used to believe I was such a great romancer. Then I came home to a woman that I could not recognize. When I pressed her for a reason, she refused to even answer. It was then I felt the stranger kick me right between the eyes. Well. We all fall in love, but we disregard the danger. We share so many secrets. There are some we never tell. Why were you so surprised that you never saw the stranger? Did you ever let your lover see the stranger in yourself?

You may never understand how the stranger is inspired. He isn't always evil, and he isn't always wrong. Though you drown in good intentions, you will never quench the fire. You'll give in to your desire when the stranger comes along.
Once, I used to believe I was more than satisfactory in the romance department. I'd married a great gal and thought things were doing swell. Then one day she told me she wanted a divorce which kinda came out of left field for me. I thought everything was fine. To my surprise, she'd been looking elsewhere for quite awhile. So Billy Joel's words helped me through some tough times a few years ago. I learned I wasn't the first person to feel a stranger's kick between the eyes.

My point, and I do have one, is that the song The Stranger has advice for all human beings. There's the public facade that we use to placate the people in our lives. There's the masks we use to placate ourselves. Ultimately they're all just different facets of the same jewel. Sometimes those alter egos tend to surprise others and even ourselves, but it's not anything new. There's nothing new under the sun, so get over it and go drink another beer.

    Track List
  1. Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)
  2. The Stranger
  3. Just The Way You Are
  4. Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
  5. Vienna
  6. Only The Good Die Young
  7. She's Always A Woman
  8. Get It Right The First Time
  9. Everybody Has A Dream
  10. The Stranger, reprise

The Stranger: condemned by misunderstanding

Throughout Camus’ novel, The Stranger, it is evident that Meursault, in fact, embraces life and savours every moment of existence. However, it is Meursault’s firm existentialist beliefs that leave him misunderstood and branded, “Mr. Antichrist”. In addition to this, the events that take place at his mothers funeral, his inability to comply with social standards, and act in a normal and expected fashion gives the French society of Algiers the impression that Meursault does in fact have a ‘hardened soul’.

The events that take place at his mother’s funeral contribute largely to Meursault’s perceived ‘hardened soul’. While Meursault watches over his mother’s body, the caretaker offers him some white coffee. Meursault was fond of white coffee and didn’t think of rejecting his offer. Later, Meursault feels like a cigarette. He hesitates because he “didn’t know if he could smoke in front of mother”. He thinks it over and decides that, “it didn’t really matter”. Also during the vigil, Meursault didn’t feel the need to cry at the loss of his mother. While Meursault felt that he was only doing what came naturally, society condemned him as horrible son. Meursault was seen to be a son indulging in white coffee at his mothers funeral (society makes something out of nothing), and a son who lacked the will power to hold off smoking a cigarette as a sign of respect for his dead mother. Society also contrasts Meursault with Mr. Perez, who was able to love his mother after knowing her only for a short time in comparison to Meursault who “probably loved” his mother after knowing her his whole life.

Meursault’s failure to respect institutions, to a lesser extent, also added towards his ‘hardened soul’. Unlike most young men, Meursault was not ambitious. He believed that “one job is as good as another” and that he was not unhappy with his. This startled his boss who could not understand why Meursault was rejecting a job opportunity in Paris, which would give him the opportunity to travel. Also, Meursault didn’t believe in love. When Marie asked him if he loved her, he told her, “it didn’t mean anything, but that (he) didn’t think so.” Meursault also had no respect for marriage. One evening, Marie came around and asked Meursault if he wanted to marry her, to which he replied that he “didn’t mind”, and that they, “could do if she wanted to”. Meursault felt that marriage and love, “didn’t matter”, and “didn’t mean anything”. Because of Meursault failure to respect such institutions, his soul’s ‘hardened’ status becomes more concrete.

In the face of death, Meursault’s mother turns towards religion. She decides to live her life and find a partner. Meursault on the other hand, chooses to reject religion in order to get the most out of life. “I too will live again”, is evidence of Meursault embracing what he has left of his life. In prison, Meursault truly realises the joy of life as he paints a clear image in his own mind of his fondness for living. He remembers the sensations, the perceptions, the sights and sounds and touch of existence, the value of human contact (sex, friendship). We see this when Meursault enjoys his senses, touching crisp towels, savouring the smell of bacon at Celestes’, enjoying wine with Masson, and watching Marie gracefully breast stroking through the water. If Meursault truly had a ‘hardened soul’, would he care about such aspects of existence?

Meursault’s rejection in God causes the examining magistrate to conclude that Meursault has a ‘hardened soul’. However it is Meursault’s soulful passion for his own beliefs that turn him away from religion. He believes that life is absurd, ruled by chance; planning for the future is pointless; death is inevitable and is the absolute end; and there is no God. So, naturally when the examining magistrate pushed his religious propaganda to Meursault, he refused to accept it and “play the game”. “I have never seen a soul as hardened as yours. The criminals who have come to me before have always wept at the sight of this symbol of suffering.” Unlike the other criminals, Meursault stayed true to his beliefs to the point where he was labelled, “Mr. Antichrist”, and his fate was determined.

Meursault’s honesty, which comes from his integrity and belief in himself, also contribute to his ‘hardened soul’. He refuses to lie about anything regardless of how detrimental it is to his case. Rather than lie, he would reply, “that’s not true”. He admitted to feeling “annoyance” rather than regret when being interrogated about his feelings towards the murdered Arab. Meursault felt that remorse and sorrow were wasted emotions that served no purpose as neither of them would bring things back to the way they were when he had “been happy”. This is why he never regrets destroying “the balance of the day”, by “giving four sharp knocks at the door of unhappiness”. In conjunction with this, Meursault’s failure to believe in religion also means that he doesn’t believe in the forgiveness of sins and therefore has no reason to repent. However, this ideology is not seen as socially acceptable, especially when he is facing the death sentence. Therefore societies inability to tolerate Meursault leads to the perception that he has a ‘hardened soul’.

At first inspection, nobody seemed to care about Meursault’s case, as it was merely the murder of a nameless Arab. However, after analysing Meursault’s life, and exaggerating every aspect of it (the importance of not rejecting a white coffee), the murder of the lowly Arab is used as an excuse to see that Meursault is publicly executed. And the fact that Meursault was unable to cry; smoked in front of his mother; rejected religion; and failed to show any remorse, intimidated society and forced them upon the idea that any being that can so verily bask in malevolence and ignorance doesn’t deserve to live. However, Meursault is only deemed to have a ‘hardened soul’ because society as a whole is unable to comprehend his actions and his brutal honesty. Meursault’s soul is evidently enlightened compared to the narrow-minded, society he is condemned by.

Book #7 in the series Animorphs by K.A. Applegate.

Disclaimer: If you've heard of Animorphs and you're thinking "Aww, how cute," maybe you should read my introduction to the first book to see how wrong you are.

THE STRANGER

Animorphs #7
by K.A. Applegate

Summarized Plot:

The Animorphs come up with a plan to infiltrate the Yeerk pool and find and destroy the Kandrona to weaken the Yeerks. But during their plan, they almost get eaten by a Taxxon while in roach bodies. The only thing that stops it from happening is that a very powerful creature called an Ellimist stops time and appears to them, asking if they wish to continue fighting this war or come with him to another planet to be preserved since the human race is doomed to lose to the Yeerks. They choose not to take the Ellimist's offer, but when time begins again they use an observation they made during the pause to make escape possible. Later, when they have the chance to choose again, they're shown a vision of a grim future in which Tobias is dead and the other Animorphs are Controllers, but that experience also gives them a clue as to how to destroy the Kandrona. Ultimately they choose to stay and fight--and Rachel has to make a similar decision in her personal life as well.

About this book:

Narrator: Rachel

New known controllers:

  • A guard and various employees at the EGS Tower

New morphs acquired:

  • Jake: None
  • Cassie: None
  • Marco: None
  • Rachel: Grizzly bear
  • Ax: None

Notable:

  • Rachel goes up to her room and locks the door behind her, only to have her dad knock and ask to come in right after she does so. When she says "Come in," he does so, with no mention of how he managed if the door was locked.

  • Cassie is said to have "a look" she can give other people so they'll be shamed into listening to her. In this book we see it work on Rachel as it's worked on Jake in previous books.

  • Now that the war has escalated somewhat and Rachel has become more reckless and violent, it's interesting to see how she feels about her attitude, from her narrative. She believes that she is not doing this for the thrill of battle; she gets off on being part of something that will help save the world. But she'd rather DO something than just talk about it.

  • Cassie points out that she got a scar from helping a raccoon a long time ago. But morphing is supposed to reconstitute your body from DNA, and she's morphed since that happened. It's possible that things like tattoos, piercings and yes, scars, are supposed to be reformed with your body, but that wouldn't explain why in a much later book Tobias's mother was healed of old injuries (including scars) and had her vision restored, or why in another later book a teenager with damaged legs from an accident at age four would be repaired by morphing.

  • Rachel's family life--with her divorced parents and two younger sisters--is highlighted in this volume. Seems everyone except Cassie has something dysfunctional happening at home, and Rachel's having to deal with her father either leaving her or taking her away from her home is part of her family drama.

  • Ax says that humans smell like an animal from the Andalite home world called a flaar.

Best lines:

Marco: "I'm telling you, Ax and Rachel belong together. The two of you are sick. Someday you could get married while bungee-jumping into an active volcano."

Ellimist: "This is a very beautiful planet. A priceless work of art."
Marco: "You've obviously never seen our school."

Jake: "Don't give me your sarcasm, Rachel. You are acting really weird. That's everyone's business, because if you do something stupid, we could all end up paying the price."

Rachel: "I'm not some stupid TV character. I'm not some comic book, Marco. I'm scared of what almost happened to me last night. I'm scared just knowing that place exists down there. I'm scared about what happens to me."

Rachel: But how is the butterfly supposed to know when to beat her wings?



Next book: The Andalite's Gift, Megamorphs #1

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