Essay Questions The Stranger
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.)
Part 1, Chapter 1
1. Discuss how Meursault responds to his natural surroundings, especially the sun and heat.
2. Discuss Meursault’s feelings towards his mother when she was alive and his response when he learns of her death.
3. How do Meursault’s reactions to death and the grief of others differ from what society generally considers appropriate behavior?
Part 1, Chapter 2
1. After telling Marie about his mother’s death, Meursault mentions feeling “a bit guilty” about it. Why does Meursault feel the need to explain himself to both his employer and Marie?
2. Describe the way Meursault spends his Sunday. Why does he seem so content doing almost nothing?
3. Meursault doesn’t like Sundays because they disrupt his normal routine. Why do you think Meursault would be bothered by this?
Part 1, Chapter 3
1. Meursault focuses a great deal of attention on the mundane details of his life. Why do you think these details, and his daily routine, are so important to him?
2. How does Meursault feel when he sees old Salamano beating his dog? How does he feel when Raymond tells him he beat up his girlfriend? Discuss Meursault’s attitude in relation to these two events.
3. Discuss Meursault’s relationship with Raymond. How does he feel about becoming Raymond’s “pal,” and why would he agree to write such a deceitful letter for him?
Part 1, Chapter 4
1. When Marie asks Meursault if he loves her, he displays an indifferent, almost apathetic attitude towards her. Why would she continue to have a romantic interest in him?
2. Compare Meursault’s reaction to Thomas Perez’s grief over the mother’s death, and his reaction to old Salamano’s despair over his lost dog.
3. Considering his indifferent attitude, why would Meursault agree to be Raymond’s witness?
4. Since he treats his dog so harshly, why do you think Old Salamano is so upset when the dog...
(The entire section is 835 words.)