The Stranger is about a man who doesn’t care. Morals have no meaning. Emotions don’t affect him. Consequences aren’t given any consideration. It’s a story about a man who doesn’t care what happens to his life.
It’s a fascinating character study that sort of breaks the traditional storytelling formula of a character wanting something, and something stands in their way. But in this case, the Protagonist wants nothing, he values nothing, and as a result, nothing affects him.
Existential Nihilism In The Stranger
The Protagonist of the story, Meursault, believes that life has no meaning. Instead of searching for meaning, Meursault lives detached from the people around him and does not care about his life, family, or friends. He places no value on his life or the lives of others.
The story begins with Meursault receiving news about his mother’s death. Instead of grieving at the news of his mother’s death like a normal person, he was concerned with figuring out on which day his mother died. When he receives news of his mother’s death, he does not show any outward signs of grief or emotion. He had no emotional reactions at all to this news.
The book’s opening lines are, “My mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.”
From the very beginning of the novel, Meursault displays a sense of detachment from the world around him. This lack of emotional response is a key characteristic of nihilism. Nihilists say that since life has no inherent meaning, there is no reason to feel any particular way about any event.
This doesn’t mean he is a bad person. If he were happy that his mother died, he could be cast simply as immoral or a monster. But Meursault is neither happy nor unhappy—he is indifferent.
Meursault’s worldview is also reflected in his relationship with religion. He does not believe in God or any higher power, and when a priest visits him, Meursault rejects his attempts to offer him comfort and salvation.
This rejection of religion is another hallmark of nihilism. Nihilists argue that since life has no ultimate purpose or objective, there is no reason to believe in any higher power or spiritual force. For a nihilist, death is just another event in the meaningless cycle of life.
While some readers may find Meursault’s nihilism disturbing or unsettling including myself, it is a key element of the novel’s philosophical exploration of the absurdity of human existence.
I found it a bit disturbing because it destroys our comfort in our illusions, showing us the mirror of chaos and lack of purpose in life.
The book is so depressing that it is actually inspiring. Even in the end, Camus refuses to give us, the reader, any closure. There is no a-ha moment in the end. There is no sudden revelation. There is no brilliant ending that ties it all together. There is just nothing.
According to Camus, our quest for meaning in life is just like our search for meaning in his book. To him, there are no a-ha moments in our lives. No sudden revelations about ourselves. No brilliant endings that tie it all together. Instead, there is just our never-ending quest to find meaning where there is none.
Overall, “The Stranger” is a thought-provoking novel that challenges readers to confront the meaninglessness of existence and the human condition.
If you like to read more about Nihilism : Nihilism – The Philosophy in a Meaningless Life