“The Stranger” Setting and Themes of Isolation and Mortality

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“The Stranger” Setting and Themes of Isolation and Mortality

Albert Camus’ “The Stranger” is set in Algeria, providing a backdrop for its themes of existentialism, isolation, and mortality. This essay explores how the setting enhances the novel’s exploration of these themes. It discusses the protagonist, Meursault, and his detachment from society, reflecting on how the Algerian landscape mirrors his emotional barrenness. The overview also examines existential and absurdist elements in the novel, particularly in relation to Meursault’s indifference towards life and death. The piece provides insights into Camus’ philosophical ideas and how the setting contributes to the novel’s exploration of human existence and alienation. PapersOwl offers a variety of free essay examples on the topic of Fiction.

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Albert Camus was a well-known French author and philosopher with aspects that would contribute to the idea of absurdism. Growing up, Camus spent his life without a father, who died from injuries in WWI. Living in poverty, he wanted to continue his education in college and complete with scholarships. In his career of journalism and writing plays, he developed the ideals of absurd and revolting. His novel, The Stranger, was written and published during the time of WWII. In the novel, The Stranger, Albert Camus analyzes the themes of isolation, non-social life, and mortality for readers to understand the philosophy of absurdism.

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Isolation as Reflected in Setting

Throughout the novel, Camus presents death, continuously showing his thoughts of mortality. Although people have a different view of the afterlife, there is still thought of mortality, causing the theme to be universal and relatable to all readers. Camus uses death as a plot for the novel. Camus illustrates different attitudes toward each death within the novel. The setting of the novel begins with the protagonist, Meursault, opening a letter to announce the death of his mother. Maman died today. Or yesterday, maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: ‘Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.” That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday” (1). The attitude of Meursault is nonchalant, almost as if he never had a mother to care for, and he also uses this same demeanor towards the killing of the Arab man. The murder of the Arab man, committed by Meursault, is the climax of the novel because it leaves a question of why Meursault did what he did and how it can be justified. Camus’ philosophy of absurdism doesn’t allow readers to understand why it happened; it is the thought of there not always having to be the reason behind the actions of people. There is a realization of being able to comprehend reasoning while Meursault is on trial, which would consist of the falling action of the plot. Ultimately, the novel ends with a resolution of Meursault being sentenced to execution. Camus analyzes that it is the one and only thing that connects humans together.

Camus uses the main character, Meursault, to show isolation throughout the novel. He doesn’t socialize with many other characters and mostly stays to himself. He often thinks things out on his and feels as if he isn’t obligated to have the presence of others. Emotionally detached is the trait of not psychologically processing the connotation of things, places, and events that society makes out to be. Meursault surrounds himself with no one and doesn’t intend to change it. He often distances himself from society, friends, his lover, and ordinary logic. Camus does not show characters abandoning Meursault but him abandoning others. At the beginning of the story, Meursault thinks it’s fate that he isn’t communitive with others but then realizes it is a desire to want others around you. “That’s when Maman’s friends came in, there were about ten in all, and they floated into the blinding light without a sound. They sat down without a single chair creaking; I saw them move…”(15). Meursault gives readers a glimpse of why the isolation only comes from Meursault himself and not others. This theme connects to the world and how humans tend to isolate themselves from others. There are many factors that lead a person to have self-prescribed isolation.


These factors consist of “loneliness and depression which are by the genetics and environment” (Matthews, Social Isolation). Studies find a lack of self-esteem and interest can tend people to cut off those who are in their lives or from society itself. Camus uses the philosophy of absurdism to show the reasoning of self-isolation. He never restricts himself to beliefs of religion or ideals. The decisions he makes aren’t being made based on what is moral or immoral.


  1. “Understanding Albert Camus” by Robert Royal 

  2. “The Philosophy of Albert Camus” by Tim Dare 

  3. “Albert Camus’s ‘The Stranger’: Critical Essays” edited by Peter Francev


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"The Stranger" Setting and Themes of Isolation and Mortality. (2023, Aug 13). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/the-stranger-setting-and-themes-of-isolation-and-mortality/