Illustrate how Meursault’s indifferent attitude and moral ambiguity is fundamentally at odds with society’s expectations of how a person should think and behave.
I. Thesis Statement: In The Stranger, society views Meursault as a cold-hearted killer and a moral “blank.” It categorizes him as dangerous and evil because Meursault refuses to conform to society’s accepted standards of behavior.
II. Meursault’s attitude and behavior
A. At his mother’s vigil and the funeral
1. Meursault remains unemotional and detached
2. Doesn’t want to see his mother’s body
3. Drinks coffee and chats during the vigil
4. Offers no expression of comfort, or grief to his mother’s close friend, Thomas Perez
5. Doesn’t cry at the funeral
B. Relationship with Marie after the funeral
1. Marie’s reaction to Meursault when she learns about his mother
2. Meursault’s activities the day after his mother’s funeral
a. Swims with Marie
b. Goes out on a date and begins an affair with Marie
C. Friendship with Raymond and agreement to write the letter
1. Meursault never questions morality of writing such a letter
2. Society’s view of a man like Raymond and Meursault’s association with him
D. Murder of the Arab and reasons for pulling the trigger
1. Meursault shoots once, then fires four more times
2. Meursault’s bizarre explanation about “the sun”
E. No apparent remorse for crime
1. Inability to ever feel regret about anything
F. Meursault doesn’t believe in God
III. How society views Meursault
A. Behavior at the funeral is repugnant to many
B. Starts affair with Marie the day after the funeral
1. Meursault enjoys himself, even though his mother has just died
C. Why is Meursault Raymond’s friend?
1. Raymond has a bad reputation
2. Meursault must be involved with Raymond in some type of criminal activity
D. Why does Meursault murder the Arab?
1. No one understands Meursault’s explanation about the sun
2. Must be part of suspected criminal activity
3. Meursault “murdered” his mother by putting her in a nursing home. His crime is even worse than the parricide case
4. Therefore, Meursault is capable of anything
E. Refusal to believe in God proof of Meursault’s immorality
1. The magistrate’s appeal to Meursault with the crucifix
(The entire section is 1031 words.)
Below you will find three outstanding thesis statements / paper topics that can be used as essay starters for essays on The Stranger by Albert Camus. All three incorporate at least one of the themes found in The Stranger and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements for The Stranger by Albert Camus offer a summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper. Before you begin, however, please get some useful tips and hints abouthow to use PaperStarter.comin the brief User's Guide…you'll be glad you did.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1 : The Significance of the Title of The Stranger
The title of The Stranger by Albert Camus refers to several aspects of the text aside from simply the character of Mersault. While Mersault does indeed come across as a stranger (to himself, his girlfriend, and everyone else for that matter) it is also worth questioning how other characters also feel estranged from one another and their society. Friendships, with the exception of the one Mersault’s mother held with the older gentleman who attended her funeral, are not ever really pure or kind—there are always motivations behind them or they simply do not strike the reader as “real" relationships. Consider, for example, the case of Salamano and his dog—what might be a picturesque relationship or friendship is marred by the harsh treatment he gives the dog and the idea that Salamano is reliant on the dog for company and thus uses it to avoid being lonely. For this essay prompt, find a few examples of how the world depicted in The Stranger makes all of its inhabitants strangers in some way.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Symbols and Symbolism in The Stranger by Albert Camus
In many ways, The Stranger by Albert Camus is not a typical novel that contains a well-reasoned plot, a multitude of engaging developed characters, or a romantic love story. With that said, in order to relate its themes and meanings, the story of Mersault relies upon a number of literary devices aside from a simple narrative. The use of symbols throughout The Stranger is frequent and their meanings can vary, depending on interpretation. For this essay, you can either look at one of all of these suggested symbols; time, the sun, women (Marie in particular) and crucifixes. As an example, time becomes symbolic for order and sense and it is appropriate that Mersault has no understanding of it since he is a “stranger" in the world he lives in. The sun is a symbol for our natural responses to stimuli and the brute force of nature and our environments—whether or not they’re natural or man-made. Crucifixes are, of course, symbols of religion and belief. They stand as tangible reminders of a world we cannot see—one that we are all metaphorical strangers to. To conclude such an essay, consider the ways these objects stand in for the absurd nature of life and think how they are each both meaningless and loaded with meaning—much like the novel itself.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Mad World or Mad Central Character?
One of the driving themes behind The Stranger by Camus is to explore the theme of absurdity and how a person is supposed to react to it, especially when the whole world seems to have gone mad. The argument can be made that Mersault himself is the one that is an absurd character (there are many ways in which it would be easy to support such a claim) but also, it is worth noting how the world he lives in is equally strange and unreasonable. While this perception by the reader may be the result of our limited viewpoint throughout the novel, a good analytical and argumentative essay might suggest that it is not Mersault, it is his world. For this essay, find three examples of the world around Mersault being off kilter, absurd, or reflective of existentialism. Spend a paragraph on each example and offer a conclusion that suggests what this means in terms of how we should view our own world.
(For an alternate essay topic, it would be a good idea to compare The Stranger and The Trial by Franz Kafka as they share many similarities and are almost interchangeable in terms of common themes. Another great essay idea might be to do a character analysis of Mersault—there is so much you could say about him, one could say he is the simplest complex character in literature)
This list of important quotations from The Stranger by Albert Camus will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
“Maman died today or yesterday maybe, I don't know. I got a telegram from the home, 'Mother deceased funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.' That doesn't mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday” (1)
“It occurred to me that all I had to do was turn around and that would be the end of it. I took a few steps toward the spring” (54).
“Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness”(59)
” I was even going to shake his hand, but I remembered that I had killed a man”(64)
” I blurted out that it was because of the sun. People laughed”(103).
“He stated that I had no place in a society whose most fundamental rules I ignored and that I could not appeal to the same human heart whose elementary response I knew nothing of”(102).
“He wanted to talk to me about God again, but I went up to him and made one last attempt to explain to him that I had only a little time left and I didn't want to it on God” (114)
“had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of [his] execution and that they greet [him] with cries of hate” (123).