This review is spoiler free.
“I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.”
Published: 2013, by Penguin Modern Classics.
Genre: Classics, Fiction, Philosophy, Cultural, France, Literature
Contains: Murder, Violence, Death
‘The Outsider’ tells the story of Meursault, a man who refuses to show his emotions to satisfy the expectations of others. After the passing of his Mother, he finds himself committing a random act of violence whilst on a beach, resorting to his imprisonment. The fact he refuses to conform to society with his lack of remorse only makes him seem guiltier in the eyes of the law.
This book was not one I read for my own pleasure, it being a recommend reading from a lecturer at university. Personally, it wasn’t one I’d do the same for others who have similar tastes as me.
Meursault himself was a very complex character. He was irritatingly passive throughout the entirety of the novel, following the character through extremely difficult situations while he simply hummed and accepted his fate. Although, this itself is the story’s purpose, exploring the philosophical beliefs of existentialism and the relationship between life and morality; it didn’t make for a fun read. The protagonist being so careless makes the reader feel indifferent towards him, meaning that as he didn’t care for the events of the novel… neither did I. I found myself routing against him, wanting him to face the punishments of his crimes as he didn’t seem to care what happened either way. However, towards the climax of the novel, Meursault finally expresses overwhelming fear for his future. Yet, considering it was in the last chapter, it made the rest of the story incredibly dull.
The writing style itself is cleverly crafted, composed completely of short, blunt sentences. This embodies Meursault’s character entirely, creating a passive character who has no interest in sugar-coating his words; he’ll state how he feels regardless of how much it may hurt someone. This writing style means the story is fairly fast paced, being only just over one hundred words, yet personally I feel as if it could have been shorter; part one had very little action in comparison to part two.
As mentioned, the novel’s purpose is to explore Camus’ philosophical beliefs on the meaning of life, creating a deeper meaning based on Meursault’s frustrating behaviour throughout the story. However, I personally had little knowledge of philosophy prior to reading, meaning I spent a lot of time afterwards reading up on exactly what the story was trying to tell me. I feel as if I couldn’t appreciate the story enough, as the final chapter (the most important) was completely lost on me. I highly recommend anyone wanting to read this book to read up on existentialism and Albert Camus’ beliefs before delving into the story – you might enjoy it more than I did.
Overall, I’m unsure of my feelings towards this novel. Although, I’m a fan of the writing style and loved the crafting of this complex protagonist, I read to enjoy. Reading is something I do to unwind and relax, and I felt as if I couldn’t do that with ‘The Outsider’ as I had no understanding of the novel’s purpose, leaving me frustrated.