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By Philip Thody (auth.)

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Those critics who interpreted L'Etranger as an example of rather ironic realism, the twentieth-century equivalent of the Maupassant short story La Parure, were in a sense looking at the events from the wrong side of the cloth. For Meursault is not really Technique, Codes and Ambiguity 23 a brother-in-law to the unfortunate Loiselier couple, who spend their whole lives scraping together enough money to pay back the price of a valuable necklace only to discover that the jewels in the one that they lost were mere paste.

I t is only occasionally that he illustrates the other meaning which the title L 'Etranger has in French and is a stranger to himself. He gets on well with the other people in his immediate circle, who value his company and appreciate the fact that he doesn't talk very much. He has none of the nostalgia for the higher, spiritual values which makes Christians so unhappy with things as they are. Being able to sleep a lot, with what Meursault specifically describes as 'un sommeil leger et sans reves' (a light, dreamless sleep), is not necessarily a symptom of a desire to escape from reality.

As he lies in his prison cell, wondering what has happened to his appeal to have the death sentence commuted to one of life imprisonment, Meursault occasionally allows himself the luxury of imagining that it has been granted. The problem then, he writes, is to control that burning rush of blood which would make my eyes smart and my whole body delirious with joy, and his reaction can be read in one of two ways. As Robert Champigny argues, it is an example of the application of Stoic, pagan wisdom.

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