The Stranger

Symbolism and Characterization in The Stranger and First Confession

In Albert Camus’s The Stranger and Montserrat Fontes’s First Confession, symbols and characterization play a major role in outlining each novel’s primary message. Both authors’ use of these literary elements contribute to the reader’s understanding of their respective themes, from the meaninglessness of human life to alienation and loss of innocence.

Much of Camus’s novel revolves around a single symbol – the courtroom, where the second half of the book takes place. Embodying society as a whole, in that it includes the reappearance of nearly every minor character in the first half, the court functions as the will of the people in determining Meursault’s place in civilized culture. No matter what his own thoughts are regarding his homicide, Meursault is judged by others who attempt to impose meaning and order upon his actions. He is watched by the court, with reporters “examining [him] closely without betraying any definable emotion” (85). To them, Meursault is a strange creature to be read and deciphered; whether or not he has a say in this process is irrelevant. Unable to accept the irrationality and absurdity of his murder, the members of the court attempt to connect the pieces that they can see, linking Meursault’s lack of...

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