Sunday, 13 March 2011


I have just finished reading Albert Camus' 'L'Étranger,' not, alas, in the original French though. Therefore technically I have just finished reading Albert Camus' 'The Outsider' but that sounds far less intellectual. I was lent the novel by a friend, who wanted my opinion so she could pass it off as her own when asked about it. I complied and I thought I would share my thoughts with all of you.

The Outsider is a novel split into two parts. The first part introduces us to the protagonist, Meursault at a time when he has just been informed that his mother has died. We follow him as he visits the old people's home he placed her in, there is an underlying feeling of guilt with Meursault about having his mother put in a home. However, he comes across to everyone he meets at the home as very detached and emotionless. When we hear him justifying it, claiming that he could not afford to look after both of them, we understand. But, we later learn that his mother was about 60. I don't know about you, but I'm 17 and even I know 60 is not all that old. Part one concludes with the dramatic scene when Meursault shoots an "Arab" for seemingly no other reason than the heat bothering him. Yes, you read that correctly, the heat was bothering him, so he shot someone. In fairness to Meursault he was being threatened with a knife at the time, but this was not the reasoning presented to us by Camus, we are told only of the heat and bright sunlight.

Part two opens with Meursault being incarcerated, but the detached emotions I mentioned earlier make his time in jail very bearable. Once he gets used to his loss of liberty he whiles away the hours making mental lists of every object in his apartment; he quietly gets on with this new chapter of his life quietly and without fuss. You would think that prison wardens would appreciate this attitude given some peoples reaction to finding themselves in prison, but no. His complacency is taken as a lack of remorse for what he has done in his trial, his lack of tears at his mothers funeral are taken as further evidence of this. The prosecutor paints a malicious and soulless image of Meursault. Of course as a reader I appreciate what he did was wrong, but we have come to have compassion for him, and would never describe him as soulless. Lost? Misunderstood? Absolutely. But soulless? No. Meursault is sentenced to public decapitation for his crime.

Rather than accepting the ruling as fair, or even deserved, we question why he receives such a harsh punishment. Is he being tried for his crime, or because he does not react the way the public want him to? Would he have got off with a lighter sentence if he had broken down in tears at the trial for what he had done? 'The Outsider' raised a lot of questions for me, and it was an incredibly intriguing read. But I can't lie to you, I'm not entirely sure if I enjoyed it. 'The Outsider' has been described as 'the Bible for the dissatisfied, the alienated and the misunderstood,' and I don't think I fit into any of those categories.

By Talia

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh I really want to read this now!! Sounds amazing! Well done :)