William Boyd said, ‘The Outsider’ by Albert Camus is one of those books that marks a reader’s life indelibly. This book was originally published in French as L’Etranger and later translated into an English paperback version by Joseph Laredo. Despite being a classic from the 1940s, Camus has dealt with some strong and important themes which hold relevance even today.
By the looks of it, with the simple English and a countable number of pages, it might seem to be a breezy read. But it addresses a plethora of underlined meanings within the lines of the characters or the imagery of the situations. Before moving onto the details of the plot, it is important for you to note that as an individual, the idea presented in this book might or might not please you, but as a reader, you can choose to be appreciative of the way Camus has presented those thoughts.
Now moving to the content of the novel, it is safe to say that the pace is slow, and the tone and setting are completely somber. Even in the parts where Camus talks about a bright day, you will get an icky feeling as if something is bothering yourself, just by the way it is described. This also indicates that you will be capable of feeling the novel as if it were a lived experience, and as a writer, that is extremely hard to achieve.
The central theme of the novel is about the notions surrounding social appropriation. Meursault, the protagonist of the story is a regular man with a regular job, friends, and a loving girlfriend. Now you would wonder what could have possibly been extraordinary about it. His life took a devious turn after his mother’s death. His lack of emotion over the incident and his moving forward with life thereafter wasn’t received well by society. Everything was still decent until he committed a public crime and the investigations began. The chief question was, ‘was he punished because he killed a man who tried to attack him, or because he did not cry at his mother’s funeral and smoked a cigarette on the same day?’ He found himself becoming a victim of his choices rather than his actions. The idea of divine power was forced into his system, and because he didn’t acknowledge his apparent ‘sins’, society decided to punish him.
The highlighted questions revolved around how the idea of normality shifts individually, but at the same time is practiced collectively based on the culture one belongs to. At the same time, it also emphasized how one man decided what a suitable punishment is for another man. The thoughts described are therefore very complex in nature, but it definitely provides a lot to think about. If you want to understand yourself and society a little better, then this book is just the right pick for you. Have a great read!
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