Society & Culture & Entertainment Education

Teaching Ideas for "The Stranger" by Camus

    Preparation

    • Assign students in-class presentations on the life of Camus. Distribute a sheet containing a list of factors in the author's life that later appear in the novel and tell students to take notes on these as they read the text. An example would be "the sun" and how it affected the author and subsequently the main character. Another possible item to be listed is the fact that Camus was born in Algeria which was populated by Arabs. This may have contributed to the main character's feelings toward Arabs. Also, the author's attitude toward the absurdity of life and how it appears throughout the story should be on the list. Alternatively, you could assign in-class presentations on the philosophy of existentialism, which is significant for understanding the story. This philosophy places importance on the individual and his actions as opposed to the influence of religion or God.

    Study Guide

    • Distribute a work sheet with thought-provoking questions. Recommend that students answer these in their notebooks as they read the novel. Discuss these with the class periodically. Examples of questions could be: After Meursault placed his mother in a nursing home, why did he not visit her often? How did he react at the church during her funeral? What was his relationship with Marie? How did he become involved with the Arab?

    Themes

    • Mention the themes of the novel so students will know what to look for while reading the story. Write these on the chalkboard. Include the idea of life being absurd since many ridiculous situations will be incorporated later in the trial. The main character's ideas about mortality are important to understand the story. Meursault feels that we are here now and death ends it all. Religion is also significant. He does not believe in God or religion, but rather that he himself rules his life. This will be important when the priest subsequently questions him in his cell. Another theme might be Meursault's relationship with women, including his mother. Instruct students to select any three themes and describe in an essay how the author uses one of these themes in the story. Another theme is the title "The Stranger" itself. Students can write how Meursault was a stranger to himself and to society. Additionally, you can ask students to address whether or not the title is an appropriate one for the concepts discussed in the novel.

    Role Playing

    • Select two students to act out Meursault's interview with the magistrate prior to the trial. Have the students examine Meursault's reactions to the questions the magistrate asks him and have them react to these questions themselves. Explain to the students what this shows about the character, his attitudes and honesty. Alternatively, you can select students to represent the defense attorney, prosecuting attorney, judge, jury and the visiting press. Have students reread the text on the trial before performing their recreation in front of the class.

    Debate

    • Divide the class into two opposing groups to evaluate the trial. Have the students take either side of the issue and debate whether or not the punishment was appropriate in this case. Bring out Meursault's lack of feeling for his mother. Mention how he went swimming and attended a comic movie immediately after his mother's death. Examine his claim of the sun causing him to be mentally disturbed.

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