The Stranger by Albert Camus is proving to be a captivating and thought provoking book. It centers around the events leading up to and after Mersault’s murder of an unnamed Arab. I am really enjoying this book and I find it the most accessible novel we have read so far this semester.
The one thing I don’t understand about this book is the title. Why is it called The Stranger? Who is the stranger? As of page 99 out of 123 (80% of the book) I have no idea why this book is titled The Stranger. In The Mezzanine, Mrs. Dalloway, and The Metamorphosis the title had a clear connection to the novel.
Am I’m missing something? Perhaps I don’t yet understand the title because its reasoning is revealed later in the book. As I continue to read The Stranger, my curiosity only grows about the meaning behind the title. I have resisted the urge to visit Wikipedia and have come up with a few hypotheses about the significance of the title.
1. It could refer to the Arabs in the novel. They are never personally named and appear in the novel to be one indistinguishable friend group that just shows up. We never learn anything about them except for the fact that the sister of one of them was Raymond’s mistress. In that sense, to the reader, the Arabs are almost complete strangers.
2. This hypothesis is a spin off of the previous one, but instead of the Arabs being strangers to us, the Arab who Mersault murders was a stranger to him.
3. Could the term “stranger” refer not to an unknown person, but to one who is strange? Mersault and Raymond and Salamano all have major issues and are very strange. Mersault is especially strange in the way he goes along with Raymond even when it is not ethical, has no sense of self preservation and in the way he reacts to his mother’s death.
4. The title could be a reflection of Albert Camus’s intrigue with the absurd. The absurd is the idea that everything in the meaning only has meaning because we give it meaning. That said, maybe Camus is trying to say we are all strangers until we meet and give meaning to our interactions. I think this one is a little far fetched, but it could be a possibility.
These are just a few ideas that have been floating around in my mind as to why The Stranger is titled The Stranger. Hopefully as we finish up the book, we’ll get a clear answer and the title will make perfect sense.