Self

L’Étranger (The Stranger)

Albert Camus has given us in his story, L’Étranger (The Stranger), the paradigm of a man without values, a man completely devoid of the faculty of valuation. He describes a small employee who without suffering and without joy, without imagination or expectation, drifts along, or lets himself be driven along by the currents of daily life.

To all the sensations or challenges he encounters he reacts with a naïve, almost innocent candor which is the result of extreme indifference. Again, it is a case of alienation—hence the title of the book. But in Camus’ book this alienation is not brought about by a stirring experience consciously pursued to a metaphysiological end as in Sartre’s Nausea; it is a constitutional alienation stemming from a person’s complete lack of relatedness to other human beings, to anything at all. . . .

Owing to his total lack of relatedness, Camus’ Stranger has no trouble in resisting. He puts his mother in a home for aged people because they both feel bored with each other and because there she finds more contact with people of her age. Her death is just a natural happening to him and does not strike him in any particular way. At the wake and the funeral he does not feel anything but heat, fatigue, boredom, a desire to smoke, and he does not take much trouble to conceal his feelings. . . .

Out of sheer impassivity he lets things happen the way they do. . . . To him everything is just what it is: arid, meaningless, inarticulate happening. . . .

He is a monster because he represents the extreme exponent, the caricature of the absurd normality of our world, of a meaningless, valueless, value-free world in which everything has become pure happening, pure phenomena again, as of nature, but of a nature that has lost its innocence.

Kahler, Erich. The Tower and the Abyss : an inquiry into the transformation of the individual. New York: George Braziller Inc., 1957. 20305. Print.

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