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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
Although The Stranger is the first novel of Albert Camus, a well-known twentieth century French author, it is usually considered his best work. The book is written in an autobiographical mode with Camus incorporating a part of his early personal life into its pages. In spite of its autobiographical nature, Camus maintains a critical distance with the reader through his use of the narrator/protagonist, Mersault. Through Mersault, Camus portrays the social conditions and injustices existing in the Arab community in Algiers. As he describes the inadequacies of the legal system, Camus also describes the degradation of mankind. Although The Stranger was started much earlier, it was not published until 1942. Written between the two world wars, it reflects the negative attitude of the times.
The novel is set primarily in Algiers, after it has been invaded and colonized by the French. The narrative proclaims the dark humor and the pessimism of the younger generation that resents the French presence in Algeria. Since the novel was written after World War I and before the outbreak of World War II, a sense of absurdity and hopelessness is visible throughout the book. The book is also set in a small beach town outside of Algiers. It is on the beach that Mersault kills the Arab.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
The protagonist and narrator of the novel. He is a young man caught in a situation that is essentially futile and absurd. He is drawn into a conflict with a group of Arabs because of his neighbor, Raymond, and winds up killing one of them. After the murder, he is taken into custody, put on trial, and sentenced to execution on the guillotine.
The public prosecutor who deals with the murder case involving Mersault. In a way, he serves as the spokesperson of the society.
A religious leader who unsuccessfully attempts to make Mersault admit his guilt and ask forgiveness. He stands for the religious institution that fails to offer solace to a troubled soul.
A neighbor of Mersault. He is instrumental in bringing about the disaster of the protagonist.
A charming young girl who loves and intends to marry Mersault.
An old man in the Home for the Aged who befriended Mersaultís mother; he is called as a witness at Mersaultís trial.
The man in charge of the Home for the Aged; he is called as a witness at Mersaultís trial.
The doorkeeper of the mortuary that handles the funeral of Mersaultís mother.
The owner of a restaurant, where Mersault often eats.
A lonely old man who owns a spaniel. He is a neighbor of Mersault.