Characters make up the backbone of a story. They convey the authors’ ideas, beliefs, and relationships with the world as well as of the human beings around them. Major characters in The Stranger by Albert Camus are not only interesting but also deeply disturbing for the readers due to the depth of meanings they convey through their conversation and actions. Some of the major characters of The Stranger are analyzed below.
Characters in The Stranger
The protagonist and narrator of The Stranger, Meursault, is a major character who links all other characters together. He is also the mouthpiece of Camus’s philosophy on the absurdity of life and existentialism. Camus uses him to show the meaninglessness of life. Like his creator, Meursault does not believe in the existence of God and realizes that a person has to make an effort to make his life meaningful or rot in the condition of meaninglessness. His indifference toward the death of his mother and absence of his near and dear ones show his plight of passing though this meaninglessness.
Despite his beliefs, Meursault creates a façade of meaningfulness by engaging with his friends and neighbors and participating in physical games of pleasure. However, during the second part, he is arrested and tried for the assassination of an Arab who had attacked him for being friends with Raymond. Here the reader enters his mind when Meursault narrates his sense of indifference to his own condition and ridiculousness of the ethical framework of the society that has made a monster out of a man for his indifference to the world.
Marie is another major character in the novel, and her significance is on account of her relationship with Meursault. She is engaged in satiating his physical pangs of hunger to make him realize that he has some connection with the people around him. She even kisses him in public to make him realize that somebody loves him and enjoys it when he is engaged in sexual acts with her. Despite his indifference, she tries to be physically and emotionally involved with him. She eventually becomes frustrated by his prolonged indifference, yet she continues loving him.
On the other hand, it could be her pragmatic approach toward life that she loves Meursault. He, too, sees something tangible in her as she stays loyal to him even when he is in prison. In fact, her loyalty to him proves to be a blessing for him when he sees how indifferent the world around him is while languishing in jail.
Raymond is friends with the protagonist, Meursault. Meursault finds him a worthy man for whom he is ready to lie to the police. Meursault tells the police that he threw his mistress out of his apartment for being unfaithful, which led to a brawl with her brother in which he kills the Arab on the beach. In fact, Raymond killed the Arab—who is related to Raymond’s beloved—for brandishing a knife at him. It seems that Raymond functions as a foil to the protagonist and causes his imprisonment, which becomes a source of enlightenment for Meursault as he reflects on his own existence, his choices, and the indifference of the world.
Despite this, both of them are ambiguous about this relationship, for Raymond exploits Meursault. When he is in the grip of the law, Meursault convinces Raymond to help him, but Raymond’ insincere efforts reinforce Meursault’s notions about the indifference of the world.
Maman hardly appears in the pages of the novel but is significant because she is Meursault’s mother. The first lines of the story announcing that she has left his world for good. The reader later learns that she lived in the care center because Meursault couldn’t afford for her expenses. When she dies, her son shows complete indifference toward her death despite taking part in some external rituals. She later appears in Meursault’s reflections when he is in jail.
He is another major character of the novel, who comes to teach religion to Meursault, for it is his obligation to visit the condemned prisoners and fulfill their religious needs. Meursault rejects his presence as well as his teachings. Despite the Chaplain’s efforts to teach him about God and religious rituals, Meursault persists in his apathy and atheism.
Thomas Perez is Maman’s friend. He is indifferent and detached from family and surroundings. He doesn’t have a moral code. He kills an Arabian man without any reason. He portrayed as a cold-hearted person who doesn’t express grief at his mother’s funeral.
Celeste, though a minor character, becomes significant as he fulfills Meursault’s one desire – to have a regular dinner at his restaurant. They have done things together, such as races. He also shows genuine emotions for Meursault when he is on trial.
Another important yet minor character is Meursault’s lawyer, who is an anonymous figure in the story. He is surprised as well as disturbed at the indifference of his client during the trial and wants Meursault to speak out during his trial. He stays positive until the Meursault is condemned to death but disappears when it is time to appeal the conviction.
He is the caretaker of the old home where Maman has breathed her last. He narrates some incidents of her life to Meursault and stays with him during the final rituals perform over the death of his mother.
He is Raymond’s mistress’ brother. Raymond, Meursault, and Marie are at Masson’s beach house. Without any particular reason, Meursault kills the Arab with Raymond’s gun. The Arab’s character is mysterious. Also, it makes the readers wonder why Meursault had committed that crime.