There is no feeling that compares to that of addictive reading. Recently in the AP Literature and Expos classroom, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World was introduced to many MC seniors; some lapped it up with glee and others simply chose to depend on Sparknotes over the actual text. For those who relished its unconventional subject matter and its scarily-applicable social themes, perhaps in search for another novel of similar tone and text to satisfy their hunger. I myself have just devoured Albert Camus’s The Stranger. It could be compared to Brave New World, as both novels have those titular moments of existential dread, or perhaps embrace.
The Stranger, originally written in Camus’s native french tongue, follows the protagonist, Meursault, through a first-person perspective of his relatively simple life in the French Algiers. The novel addresses the fragility of life right from the start, with Meursault’s mother’s death. Upon returning to his life of normalcy, Meursault picks up his normal routine of sex, smoking, and easily floating through a life of mundane mediocrity. The novel increases in complexity when he comes into trouble with the law, but Camus’s tone surprisingly remains unchanged. The unemotional narrator he created stays true to character, almost in an unhuman way. The conflict would in a traditional novel be capitalized and emotionalized to no extent. Camus’s style of writing in The Stranger however, is anything but conventional. None of the turning points of the novel are accentuated as Meursault remains stoic throughout. The decision to make Meursault a reserved narrator was quite a clever choice, as his perceptions of his surrounding world are simple and clarified. The reader is transported into the setting, but through simple language rather than descriptive imagery. Easily readable prose is best suited for a novel that does regard existentialist thought, so that readers of all intellectual level can at least grasp at the concepts and Camus’s opinion. Camus’s commentary regarding the situation of man in this world does not become apparent until the near end of the novel. However, the theme hits hard. The feeling of helplessness, of drowning, of falling and grasping at pure nothing immerses the reader, although Meursault still remains his unfeeling self. Like John of Brave New World, Meursault comes to terms with the emotions we classify as being human. But his reaction is fresh and unexpected, making the ending of The Stranger that much more impactful.
The Stranger was published in 1942, but still remains at the forefront of existentialist literature today. Tackling common emotions regarding human purpose and subjecting everyday life to scrutiny is something Camus makes into an art. The language of The Stranger resonates with the common reader, and will remain so even with the progression of time.