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Fatal FictionsCrime and Investigation in Law and Literature$
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Alison L. LaCroix, Richard H. McAdams, and Martha C. Nussbaum

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190610784

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190610784.001.0001

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Premeditation and Responsibility in The Stranger

Premeditation and Responsibility in The Stranger

(p.212) 11 Premeditation and Responsibility in The Stranger
Fatal Fictions

Jonathan Masur

Oxford University Press

Chapter 11 examines the novel The Stranger, in which Albert Camus uses the French Algerian prosecution, trial, and eventual execution of his protagonist, Meursault, as a demonstration of the injustice of French society. Many critics have focused on Meursault’s conviction for premeditated murder as the touchstone for this injustice, but Masur argues that Meursault’s conviction, and the disquiet Camus means to provoke, can be fully understood only in relation to what might have occurred at a “fairer” trial. Meursault’s lawyer suggests that the homicide might have been justified—which would result in Meursault being acquitted—or that he might face only a short prison sentence for a lesser crime. Yet a close reading of the French Penal Code in effect at the time reveals no such possibility. Whatever sympathy the reader might attach to Meursault, as opposed to his victim, is nurtured by Camus’s mischaracterization of French law.

Keywords:   Albert Camus, assassination, murder, Meursault, mental state, France

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