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Slochower, H. (1969). Camus' The Stranger: The Silent Society and the Ecstasy of Rage. Am. Imago, 26(3):291-294.

(1969). American Imago, 26(3):291-294

Camus' The Stranger: The Silent Society and the Ecstasy of Rage

Harry Slochower, Ph.D.

Among the valuable contributions of Julian Stamm's analysis of Camus' The Stranger is his avoidance of the methodological fallacy (still common in many psychoanalytical studies) of treating a literary work as an account of a pathological process. What Stamm does is examine the imagery which pictorializes the emotional conflict by which the artist goes beyond sublimation and through which his work transcends the pathological. Thus, Stamm analyzes the role which the reed and the sea, the sun and the heat play in the story.

My comments are restricted to supplementing Stamm's discussion, noting additional imagery and stylistic features through which “the meaning” of the novel emerges. I will further touch on the nature of Meursault's crime and the societal critique implicit in it.

Stamm points to the blazing sunlight which permeates the story and the catalytic effect it has on Meursault's latent homosexual drive. One should observe that its absolute whiteness has a blinding effect. The theme is introduced by the whiteness of the nurse's face. It reaches a climax out in the open when Meursault, his eyes “blinded,” with the sun and the reflection of the Arab's knife “gouging” into his eyeballs, shoots the Arab.

Blinding whiteness is associated and intertwined with Silence which gives the pervasive tone to the novel, as it does in Kafka's works, especially The Castle. The silence of the events (shattered by Meursault towards the end) is at one with the silence or indifference of society—embodied in the mother—and makes all “strangers” and alone in their world.

Again, it is Camus' form of writing which “tells” us about the absence of human communication which results in fragmentation and discontinuity.

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