By Patrick McCarthy

For someone else who may buy this erroneously: this is often a persons research of Camus' paintings, no longer the paintings itself.

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Extra resources for Camus: The Stranger (Landmarks of World Literature (New))

Example text

Another reason is that – so we shall argue – he grows progressively less able to face death as the chapter goes on. The cigarette is interesting because Meursault asks himself the question: ‘I wanted to smoke then. But I hesitated because I didn’t know whether I could in front of mother. I thought about it: it had no importance’ (17). Meursault’s agnosticism comes into play: in the face of a coffin, the decision whether or not to smoke has no significance. This is a more troubling view of death than the warden’s.

It informs the reader of the event of his mother’s death while concealing the significance of that death. It is also a command which the narratorcharacter obeys by departing to attend the funeral. The narrator-reader does not, however, accept the telegram’s authority without criticism. It ‘doesn’t mean anything’, he notes; its language is unsatisfactory. By depicting the narrator as a reader, The Stranger is indicating to us, its own readers, how we should tackle it: we should be wary of the traps and commands it contains.

Similarly, the note of dissidence in the narrator’s language comes from its wariness. ‘My case was taking its course, to borrow the judge’s expression’ (‘selon l’expression mˆeme du juge’) (110), notes Meursault. He will use the language of officialdom, but only while designating it as such; thus he is reminding us that C´eleste would have put things differently, and that he himself is not presenting the statement as true. Indeed there is a minor character called Masson who adds ‘I shall say more’ to his utterances, so that the reader can never forget he is dealing with unreliable words rather than with stable objects.

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