The Outsider A Modern Classic by Albert Camus

The Outsider: A Modern Classic by Albert Camus

Writer: Sadiqur Rahman

The novel ‘The Outsider’ by Albert Camus is a classic example of existentialist literature, which explores the themes of absurdity, freedom, and death. The protagonist, Meursault, is a man who lives in the present moment, without any concern for the past or the future, or for the moral and social norms of his society. He is indifferent to his mother’s death, he kills an Arab without any motive, and he refuses to lie or repent in his trial. He is condemned as an outsider, a stranger, and a monster by the people who judge him based on their own values and expectations. In this blog post, I will analyze the social context of the novel and the reasons for accusing Meursault of being a fallen hero.


Who is Albert Camus?

Albert Camus was a French author, philosopher, and journalist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. His most famous novel, The Outsider, also known as The Stranger, was published in 1942 and has been translated into many languages.

What is The Outsider about?

The Outsider is a novel that explores the themes of absurdity, nihilism, and alienation. It tells the story of Meursault, a detached and indifferent man who lives in Algeria during the French colonial rule. Meursault does not conform to the social norms and expectations of his society. He does not mourn his mother’s death, he does not express love for his girlfriend, and he does not show remorse for killing an Arab man. His actions and attitudes are seen as incomprehensible and immoral by others, who label him as an outsider and condemn him to death.

How does The Outsider reflect Camus’s philosophy?

Camus was a leading figure of the existentialist movement, which emphasized the individual’s freedom and responsibility to create meaning in a meaningless world. He also developed his own concept of the absurd, which is the conflict between the human desire for order and meaning and the chaotic and indifferent reality of the universe. Camus argued that one must face the absurdity of existence without resorting to illusions or false hopes. He suggested three possible ways to deal with the absurd: suicide, religion, or rebellion. He rejected suicide and religion as forms of escape, and advocated for rebellion as a way of affirming one’s dignity and values.

In The Outsider, Meursault is a character who embodies Camus’s idea of the absurd hero. He does not try to justify or rationalize his life or actions. He does not seek comfort or salvation in religion or morality. He accepts his fate without despair or regret. He rebels against the society that judges him by staying true to himself and his own honesty. He is an outsider who refuses to conform or compromise.


The Absurdity of Life

In the social system of that time, it was against the custom not to cry after the death of the mother and there was a provision to punish one for this. Camus said, ‘In our society anyone who does not cry at his mother’s funeral is condemned to death. I simply meant that the hero of the book is condemned because he doesn’t play the game. The answer is simple: He refuses to lie. Lying is not simply telling what is not true… Meursault does not want to make life easy.’

But the author Albert Camus did not limit the novel only to the indulgence of a man and its fruits. The depth and breadth of the story is wider. The author wants to show that this is the fate of people who do not know how to pretend in every aspect of society. Society sets up a tribunal of them, making the person on trial an outsider and presenting their own arguments, and it is on their opinion that the person is punished.

The Trial of Meursault

Ever since I started reading the book I was waiting for the outsider after whom the book is named but in the second part I realized that the outsider is the hero of the story. We can compare our lives with this outsider. When Meursault is arraigned, Meursault realizes that he has no role to play after hearing the testimony of the accused, the plaintiff and various witnesses.

Everyone is cornering Meursault’s life with their views but there is no place for him to speak. The author has shown another wonderful thing in the novel and that is that every event in human life is interrelated with each other. Nothing happens in life as an isolated incident. Although Meursault killed the Arab, he was tried by reviewing every action after his mother’s death. Meursault’s every step was like the death of his life.

The Acceptance of Death

However, by the end of the book, Meursault did not seem as carefree as he seemed at the beginning. The author describes each day spent in prison very poignantly. For example, Meursault wondered if there was any precedent in history for what would happen if the decapitating gelatin stopped working. Sitting in the jail cell, looking at the sky, he thought about Marie, about the details of life. Meursault wanted to be optimistic, thinking that if a death row inmate could ever escape before he was sentenced, he too could dream of it. Days count the news that the appeal is effective.

Like the movie [The Shawshank Redemption], I also wanted Meursault to escape from jail. But the author did not have such a wish, so at the very end of the novel, Meursault accepted death to get rid of his chest. His last wish was that at the time of his death there would be a large crowd of people, listening to their loud cheers so that he could let himself die. This is like Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, ‘Whatever good or bad comes, take the truth easily.’


Social context of the novel

The novel is set in Algeria in the 1930s, when it was a French colony. The society depicted in the novel is characterized by colonialism, racism, religion, and hypocrisy. Meursault belongs to the French minority, who enjoy privileges and power over the native Arabs, who are oppressed and marginalized. However, Meursault does not identify with either group, nor does he care about the political and cultural conflicts that divide them. He is alienated from both the colonizers and the colonized, as well as from his own family and friends.

The society also expects Meursault to conform to its religious beliefs and practices, which are based on Christianity. Meursault is an atheist, who does not believe in God or in an afterlife. He rejects the idea of a higher purpose or meaning for his existence, and he lives according to his own desires and sensations. He does not follow any moral code or principle, nor does he feel any guilt or remorse for his actions. He is indifferent to the rituals and ceremonies that mark his mother’s funeral, his relationship with Marie, and his trial. He refuses to listen to the priest who tries to convert him or to the lawyer who tries to defend him.

The society also expects Meursault to show emotions and feelings that are appropriate for different situations. Meursault is a man who does not express any emotions or feelings, except for physical ones such as hunger, thirst, heat, or cold. He does not mourn his mother’s death, he does not love Marie, he does not hate the Arab he kills, and he does not fear death. He is detached from his own self and from others, and he does not seek any connection or communication with them. He is honest about his lack of emotions and feelings, and he does not pretend to have them.

Reasons for accusing Meursault of being a fallen hero

The reason for accusing Meursault of being a fallen hero is that he does not fit into the society’s standards and expectations of what a hero should be. A hero is someone who has a noble cause, a clear motive, a strong character, and a sense of responsibility. A hero is someone who fights for justice, freedom, and dignity. A hero is someone who inspires others with his courage, wisdom, and compassion.

Meursault is none of these things. He has no cause, no motive, no character, and no responsibility. He does not fight for anything, he does not care about anything, he does not inspire anyone. He is just an outsider to the society, he thinks of himself as a stranger to the world. He lives in a state of absurdity, where nothing matters and nothing makes sense.

However, to understand Meursault better, we need to look beyond the society’s judgment and see him from his own perspective. Meursault is not a fallen hero; he is an existentialist hero. He is someone who accepts the absurdity of life and embraces his freedom to choose his own way of being. He is someone who lives authentically and sincerely according to his own nature and values. He is someone who loves life in its simplicity and intensity.

Meursault loves the sun that illuminates everything without casting any shadows; he loves the sea that reflects everything without distorting anything; he loves the earth that supports everything without demanding anything. He loves life as it is; he loves life as it comes; he loves life as it goes. He does not lie; he does not exaggerate; he does not hide; he does not pretend. He says what he thinks; he does what he feels; he shows what he is; he faces what comes.

He rejects the society’s hypocrisy; he rejects the religion’s dogma; he rejects the law’s injustice; he rejects the death’s finality. He asserts his individuality; he asserts his liberty; he asserts his dignity; he asserts his humanity. He is driven by an abiding and profound love for life and for truth; a love that transcends all conventions and limitations; a love that makes him free and happy; a love that makes him alive.


As we have seen, the novel ‘The Outsider’ by Albert Camus challenges the society’s perception of what a hero is and presents a different kind of heroism that is based on existentialism. Meursault is a hero who does not conform to the society’s norms and values, but who follows his own path and his own logic. He is a hero who does not seek any meaning or purpose for his life, but who creates his own meaning and purpose through his choices and actions. He is a hero who does not fear death, but who embraces it as the inevitable outcome of his life.

Meursault is an outsider, a stranger, and a monster in the eyes of the society, but he is a hero in his own right. He is a hero who lives in the present, who loves life, and who dies with dignity. He is a hero who represents the human condition in its most radical and most authentic form. He is a hero who shows us the possibility of living differently and freely in an absurd and indifferent world.

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