Summary of "The Stranger" by Albert Camus

by Robyn Lynne Schechter

"The Stranger" is frequently assigned reading for high-school students.

Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

"The Stranger" is a 1942 novel by French author Albert Camus. Regarded as a classic thriller, "The Stranger" tells the haunting tale of a emotionless and detached Algerian man who makes peace with the world in which he lives. "The Stranger" serves as a discourse on Camus' philosophy of absurdity -- that life is meaningless and irrational.


"The Stranger" is narrated by Meursault, the book's main character. When the reader is first introduced to Meursault, he is living in Algiers, but soon departs for Marengo after learning that his mother has passed away. Upon arriving at the assisted-living facility, Meursault declines an offer to open the coffin in which his mother has already been placed but does decide to watch over the coffin throughout the night. During the vigil, he is kept company by the caretaker and gets little sleep. As a result, the next morning Meursault is unable to fully participate in the funeral and, correspondingly, remembers little of the day he buried his mother.

Return Home

Upon his return to Algiers, Meursault immediately takes up with Marie Cardona, an ex-colleague, and begins a sexual relationship with her. He also visits with his neighbor, Raymond Sintes, who convinces Meursault to lure Raymond's unfaithful ex-girlfriend to Raymond's apartment, so that Raymond can have sex with her one last time and beat her up for her infidelity. Meursault not only goes along with the plan but testifies at Raymond's later trial on assault charges. Raymond is pronounced not guilty and he, Meursault and Marie leave for a trip to the beach.


While at the beach, Meursault and Raymond get into an altercation with two Arab men, one of which is Raymond's cheating ex's brother. Raymond is stabbed, and in retaliation, wants to shoot the two men with a gun. Meursault convinces Raymond not to do so but then inexplicably shoots one of the men himself. Meursault is put in jail, and everyone from his lawyer to the judge cannot understand his lack of remorse or feeling. Marie remains at his side, hoping to marry him, but Meursault eventually settles into prison life and does not miss contact with the outside world.

Trial & Acceptance

Meursault's trial for murder turns into a trial of his character. Much of the trial's focus is on Meursault's lack of grieving for his mother's death and his overall emotional detachment. He is found guilty,and his sentence is death. Meursault has trouble accepting his destiny and rails against a clergyman who encourages him to turn to God for emotional support. In a fit of rage, Meursault tells the chaplin that he is hopeless, and that he has accepted that the world is indifferent. Ironically, this acceptance gives him peace.

About the Author

Robyn Lynne Schechter is a freelance writer currently living in Los Angeles, Calif. She has been an online contributor since 2007 on, covering branding developments in the fashion, music, sports and entertainment industries. Schechter graduated from Hood College with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and is also a graduate of Albany Law School.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images