12 AP English Burnett The Stranger Discussion Questions 1. What are the major traits of Meursault? What characteristics stand out? What is “different” or strange about him? What are some of his strengths and weaknesses? 2. How would you define the social and emotional state of Meursault? 3. How does Camus reveal these major traits? 4. Does Meursault undergo any moments of self-revelation that produce change in him? 5. Consider the significance of the following minor incidents: Meursault reads about a murder in a scrap of newspaper; Meursault sucks on a wood chip; Raymond cooks blood sausages; Meursault’s father witnesses an execution; Salamano loses his dog on the parade ground; Marie helps Madame Masson wash dishes; and the nurse warns Meursault about sunstroke 6. Consider the conflict between Meursault and the magistrate or Meursault and the chaplain to explore their differences in opinion about goodness, culpability, religion, God, salvation, and afterlife. 7. Explore the role of women in the novel, particularly Madame Meursault, Marie, Madame Masson, the Moorish woman, and the mourners. Determine which women have the greatest influence on the action. 8. Discuss how the literary devices style, symbolism, structure, irony, and point of view contributes the success of the characterization of Meursault, a major theme, and the novel as a whole. 9. Argue for one of the following statements: a. Meursault’s execution is just punishment for murdering the Arab b. Meursault lives more in prison than while a free man. 10. Argue for or against the following statement: a. Meursault represents modern man’s search for self-identity in an absurd universe. In some way, his fate is the fate of all men in an indifferent universe. 11. Trace the psychological and emotional growth of Meursault. 12. Select a line or two or a passage that you believe illuminates some important idea(s) at the heart of the novel. 13. When asked by an interviewer what important aspect of his work had been neglected by critics, Camus replied “Humor.” What examples of irony and dry humor can you find? What impact and significance to they have on the novel? 14. How would you compare Camus’ description of the Arab to his description of Meursault? 15. How would you discuss the relationship between the two parts of the novel? 16. How could a psychoanalytic criticism be applied to the mother/son relationship? 17. Guilt, along with nausea, anxiety, and fear are the emotions most often expressed by the modernist “outsider” hero. How does Meursault experience guilt, and how would you account for it? 18. Argue for or against one of the following critical observations: a. “It is not an absurd universe that destroys Meursault, it is a moral legalism which has injected fixed values into a sphere which has no fixed moral values: human life.” b. “Meursault is a man of glass. His consciousness records facts objectively, like a blank paper, it reconstructs them unchanged, without having in any way adorned them.” c. “Meursault is the man who answers but never asks a question, and all his answers alarm a society which cannot bear to look at the truth.” 19. Meursault states after his death sentence has been pronounced that there "really was something ridiculously out of proportion between the verdict such certainty was based on and the imperturbable march of events from the moment the verdict was announced." How does this comment address the strong need manifested in social and legal institutions to attain certainty about people and events? 20. Why is the "jury trial" a good vehicle for Camus in showing the absurdity of the various attempts made to interpret why Meursault has committed his crime? That is, what things matter most during a trial -- the evidence, or other factors?