Pedagogical File

Pedagogical File : The Outsider
The pedagogical file accompanies the ebook. It is intended for teachers, trainers, cultural workers and speech therapists. It aims to facilitate the design of workshops to discover the digital book The Outsider. Target group for the workshop: from B1/B2 written and spoken language.

Table of Contents


‘The Outsider’ is a 1942 novel by French author Albert Camus. The title character is Meursault, an indifferent French Algerian described as a citizen of France domiciled in North Africa, a man of the Mediterranean, one who hardly partakes of the traditional Mediterranean culture. He attends his mother’s funeral. Weeks later, he kills an Arab man in French Algiers, who was involved in a conflict with one of his neighbors. He is tried and sentenced to death. The story is divided into two parts, presenting Meursault’s first-person narrative view before and after the murder, respectively. The novel presents the dilemma of absurdity and also demonstrates the dark sides of human nature such as indifference and insensitivity toward relationships. The emptiness and meaninglessness in the novel basically tries to show how absurd our life really is. The final line of the book is meant to show that Meursault has now fully accepted his outsider status. Throughout the novel, Meursault has been at odds with society. He is indifferent towards just about everything. He does not cry at his mother’s funeral. He does not love his girlfriend.

The author: Albert Camus

Albert Camus was a French-Algerian philosopher, author, and journalist. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 44 in 1957, the second-youngest recipient in history. Camus was politically active; he was part of the left that opposed the Soviet Union because of its totalitarianism. Camus was a moralist and leaned towards anarcho-syndicalism. He was part of many organizations seeking European integration. During the Algerian War (1954–1962), he kept a neutral stance, advocating for a multicultural and pluralistic Algeria, a position that caused controversy and was rejected by most parties.

Philosophically, Camus’s views contributed to the rise of the philosophy known as absurdism, a movement reacting against the rise of nihilism. He is also considered to be an existentialist, even though he firmly rejected the term throughout his lifetime.

In 1933, Camus enrolled at the University of Algiers and completed his degree in philosophy in 1936 after presenting his thesis on Plotinus. Camus developed an interest in early Christian philosophers, but Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer had paved the way towards pessimism and atheism. Camus also studied novelist-philosophers such as Stendhal, Herman Melville, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Franz Kafka. 

Camus’s first publication was a play called ‘Révolte dans les Asturies’ (‘Revolt in the Asturias’) written with three friends in May 1936. The subject was the 1934 revolt by Spanish miners that was brutally suppressed by the Spanish government resulting in 1,500 to 2,000 deaths. In May 1937 he wrote his first book, ‘L’Envers et l’Endroit’ (‘Betwixt and Between’, also translated as ‘The Wrong Side and the Right Side’). Both were published by Edmond Charlot’s small publishing house. He separated his work into three cycles. Each cycle consisted of a novel, an essay, and a play. The first was the cycle of the absurd consisting of ‘L’Étranger’, ‘Le Mythe de Sysiphe’, and ‘Caligula’. The second was the cycle of the revolt which included ‘La Peste’ (‘The Plague’), ‘L’Homme révolté’ (‘The Rebel’), and ‘Les Justes’ (‘The Just Assassins’). The third, the cycle of the love, consisted of Nemesis. Each cycle was an examination of a theme with the use of a pagan myth and including biblical motifs.

After receiving the Nobel Prize, Camus gathered, clarified, and published his pacifist leaning views at ‘Actuelles III: Chronique algérienne1939–1958’ (‘Algerian Chronicles’). Two of Camus’s works were published posthumously. The first entitled ‘La mort heureuse’ (‘A Happy Death’) (1970), features a character named Patrice Mersault, comparable to ‘The Outsider’s Meursault. The second was an unfinished novel, ‘Le Premier homme’ (‘The First Man’) (1995), which Camus was writing before he died. 

The Literary work : The Outsider

The Literary Genre

‘The Outsider’ is philosophical literature at its baffling best. It uses a fictional story to promote or explore one specific philosophy. Camus utilized ‘The Outsider’ as a platform to explore absurdity, a concept central to his writings and at the core of his treatment of questions about the meaning of life. However, Camus did not identify himself as a philosopher. In fact, he abjured “armchair” philosophy and argued that sitting around and thinking was not enough. One needed to live life as well. He also did not identify himself as an existentialist. He agreed with some proponents of existentialist thought that life has no inherent meaning, but he criticized others for their pursuit of personal meaning. Camus’s concept of the absurd instead implored people to accept life’s lack of meaning and rebel by rejoicing in what life does offer. Elements of this philosophy can be seen in Meursault, as he refuses to behave as if there is meaning where there is none—or, as Camus himself put it in a preface to ‘The Outsider’, Meursault “does not play the game.” Society thus feels threatened and cuts off Meursault’s head.

Camus wrote ‘The Outsider’ from a place of tragedy and suffering. His father had died in World War I, and the unfolding carnage of World War II forced a questioning of life and its meaning. Camus had also witnessed mistreatment of native Algerians during the French occupation of Algeria, which had begun in the first half of the 19th century and, after World War I, was opposed by a growing nationalist movement. This conflict can be seen specifically in Meursault’s killing of the Arab, the only name he uses to refer to Raymond’s mistress’s brother. He has no rational explanation, such as personal animosity or self-defence, for why he does so; the closest he can come to one is that the sun was in his eyes. The murder has been read by some as a metaphor for the treatment of Algerian Muslims by the colonizing French. Meursault’s absurdist perspective puts him in conflict with his larger society, which demands that people accept some sort of meaningful approach to life, whether through the moral order of religion or the law. However, Meursault does not do this. His disbelief makes him a threat to those who want life to have inherent meaning (such as the devout Christian magistrate who is appalled that Meursault does not believe in God). Ultimately, Meursault is condemned both for committing murder and for not conforming to society’s unspoken demand that life make sense. This is at heart a conflict of philosophies, making ‘The Outsider’ one of the most influential philosophical novels of the twentieth century.

Camus published ‘The Outsider’ at a time when Algerians were demanding political autonomy with increased forcefulness; although France did extend some rights during the 1940s, ongoing conflicts and failed French promises of more independence culminated in the outbreak of the Algerian War in 1954.

Major issues/problems of the time addressed

Camus addressed topics ranging from alienation to the inadequacy of traditional values. The main character, Meursault, is a French man living in French Algiers. In some senses, yes, this makes him a foreigner to the land, but the text establishes that in fact his family has lived there for several generations. They know Algeria. More likely, Meursault is a metaphorical foreigner. He is a foreigner to society, to common, human customs—he’s an “outsider” (yet another possible translation for the title, by the way). This is based on the word “foreigner,” but the same thing applies to the title ‘The Outsider’. Meursault is a stranger among other people because he is so isolated from them—mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and, by the end of the text, physically (he’s imprisoned). He’s strange. He’s the strangest. He’s The Outsider. It’s a philosophical novel that delves deepity into the big questions surrounding colonialism. And since this is French colonialism in the 20th Century you’d be hard pressed to find a better location that Algiers.

The gallery of characters


He is the protagonist and narrator of ‘The Outsider’, to whom the novel’s title refers. Meursault is a detached figure who views and describes much of what occurs around him from a removed position. He is emotionally indifferent to others, even to his mother and his lover, Marie. He also refuses to adhere to the accepted moral order of society. Meursault is neither moral nor immoral. Rather, he is amoral—he simply does not make the distinction between good and bad in his own mind. When Raymond asks him to write a letter that will help Raymond torment his mistress, Meursault indifferently agrees because he “didn’t have any reason not to.” He does not place any value judgment on his act and writes the letter mainly because he has the time and the ability to do so. After Meursault kills a man, “the Arab,” for no apparent reason, he is put on trial. However, the focus of Meursault’s murder trial quickly shifts away from the murder itself to Meursault’s attitudes and beliefs. Meursault’s atheism and his lack of outward grief at his mother’s funeral represent a serious challenge to the morals of the society in which he lives. Consequently, society brands him an outsider.

Marie Cardona

She is a former co-worker of Meursault who begins an affair with him the day after his mother’s funeral. Marie is young and high-spirited, and delights in swimming and the outdoors. Meursault’s interest in Marie seems primarily the result of her physical beauty. Marie does not seem to understand Meursault, but she feels drawn to Meursault’s peculiarities nevertheless. Even when Meursault expresses indifference toward marrying her, she still wants to be his wife, and she tries to support him during his arrest and trial. In the context of Camus’s absurdist philosophy, Marie’s loyalty represents a mixed blessing, because her feelings of faith and hope prevent her from reaching the understanding that Meursault attains at the end of the novel. Marie never grasps the indifference of the universe, and she never comes to understand the redemptive value of abandoning hope.

Raymond Sintes

He is a local pimp and Meursault’s neighbor. Raymond becomes angry when he suspects his mistress is cheating on him, and in his plan to punish her, he enlists Meursault’s help. In contrast to Meursault’s calm detachment, Raymond behaves with emotion and initiative. He is also violent and beats his mistress as well as the two Arabs on the beach, one of whom is his mistress’s brother. Raymond seems to be using Meursault, whom he can easily convince to help him in his schemes. However, that Raymond tries to help Meursault with his testimony during the trial shows that Raymond does possess some capacity for loyalty.

Meursault’s Mother

Madame Meursault’s death begins the action of the novel. Three years prior, Meursault sent her to an old persons’ home. Meursault identifies with his mother and believes that she shared many of his attitudes about life, including a love of nature and the capacity to become accustomed to virtually any situation or occurrence. Most important, Meursault decides that, toward the end of her life, his mother must have embraced a meaningless universe and lived for the moment, just as he does.

The Chaplain

A priest who attends to the religious needs of condemned men, the chaplain acts as a catalyst for Meursault’s psychological and philosophical development. After Meursault is found guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced to death, he repeatedly refuses to see the chaplain. The chaplain visits Meursault anyway, and nearly demands that he take comfort in God. The chaplain seems threatened by Meursault’s stubborn atheism. Eventually, Meursault becomes enraged and angrily asserts that life is meaningless and that all men are condemned to die. This argument triggers Meursault’s final acceptance of the meaninglessness of the universe.

Thomas Perez

He is one of the elderly residents at the old persons’s home where Meursault’s mother lived. Before Madame Meursault’s death, she and Perez had become so inseparable that the other residents joked that he was her fiancé. Perez’s relationship with Madame Meursault is one of the few genuine emotional attachments the novel depicts. Perez, as someone who expresses his love for Madame Meursault, serves as a foil the indifferent narrator.

The Examining Magistrate

The magistrate questions Meursault several times after his arrest. Deeply disturbed by Meursault’s apparent lack of grief over his mother’s death, the magistrate brandishes a crucifix at Meursault and demands to know whether he believes in God. When Meursault reasserts his atheism, the magistrate states that the meaning of his own life is threatened by Meursault’s lack of belief. The magistrate represents society at large in that he is threatened by Meursault’s unusual, amoral beliefs.

The Caretaker

He is a worker at the old persons’ home where Meursault’s mother spent the three years prior to her death. During the vigil Meursault holds before his mother’s funeral, the caretaker chats with Meursault in the mortuary. They drink coffee and smoke cigarettes next to the coffin, gestures that later weigh heavily against Meursault as evidence of his monstrous indifference to his mother’s death. It is peculiar that the court does not consider the caretaker’s smoking and coffee drinking in the presence of the coffin to be similarly monstrous acts.

The Director

He is the manager of the old persons’ home where Meursault’s mother spent her final three years. When Meursault arrives to keep vigil before his mother’s funeral, the director assures him that he should not feel guilty for having sent her to the home. However, by raising the issue, the director implies that perhaps Meursault has done something wrong. When Meursault goes on trial, the director becomes suddenly judgmental. During his testimony, he casts Meursault’s actions in a negative light.


He is the proprietor of a café where Meursault frequently eats lunch. Celeste remains loyal to Meursault during his murder trial. He testifies that Meursault is an honest, decent man, and he states that bad luck led Meursault to kill the Arab. Celeste’s assertion that the murder had no rational cause and was simply a case of bad luck reveals a worldview similar to Meursault’s.


He is one of Raymond’s friends, who invite Raymond, Meursault, and Marie to spend a Sunday at his beach house with him and his wife. It is during this ill-fated trip to Masson’s beach house that Meursault kills the Arab. Masson is a vigorous, seemingly contented figure, and he testifies to Meursault’s good character during Meursault’s trial.

The Prosecutor

He is the lawyer who argues against Meursault at the trial. During his closing arguments, the prosecutor characterizes Meursault as a cool, calculating monster, using Meursault’s lack of an emotional attachment to his mother as his primary evidence. He demands the death penalty for Meursault, arguing that Meursault’s moral indifference threatens all of society and therefore must be stamped out.


He is one of Meursault’s neighbors. Salamano owns an old dog that suffers from mange and he frequently curses at and beats his pet. However, after Salamano loses his dog, he weeps and longs for its return. His strong grief over losing his dog contrasts with Meursault’s indifference at losing his mother.

The Arab

He is the brother of Raymond’s mistress. On the Sunday that Raymond, Meursault, and Marie spend at Masson’s beach house, Meursault kills the Arab with Raymond’s gun. The crime is apparently motiveless—the Arab has done nothing to Meursault. The Arab’s mysteriousness as a character makes Meursault’s crime all the stranger and more difficult to understand.

The location

‘The Outsider’ traces a year in the life of a young clerk working for a shipping company in 1940s Algiers. The setting—both time and place—are important to understand one vital piece of background information about ‘The Outsider’: Meursault may “officially” be on trial for killing a man, but he’s actually on trial for his character, and it is for this character that he is convicted. Notice that Raymond got off for beating his (Arab) girlfriend since she cheated on him. “Character” is an important part of the law system of this time and place. Because the woman was a cheater—and an Arab—she deserved to get beaten in the eyes of the law. Because Meursault has poor character (he is remorseless and cold), he deserves to be sent to the guillotine. But this doesn’t begin to address why Meursault’s murder of an Arab seems to not matter to these people. The answer here is racism. Brief history lesson: The French started invading Algeria in 1830. By the time we get to the 1940’s, Algiers, the city in which ‘The Outsider’ takes place, is French territory.  The point is, in Meursault’s world, the French are considered superior to the Arabs. Killing an Arab was a minor offense, but not obeying French and Christian customs was apparently punishable by death. That’s why Meursault’s trial is so important—and so interesting to watch. When Meursault himself says he’s been convinced of his own guilt, he’s probably not talking about murder at all.

Workshop design


Activity: Time and space

Entry activity in ebook

The trainees in this action will have to put in the correct order 10 out of a total of 20 images that will be in front of them, which will capture ten different points where the story of ‘The Outsider’, Albert Camus, takes place.

The correct images that should be in order according to the chronology of the story will capture the time and the real places, while the other ten images will capture the same places in modern or even older times. Trainees should not select images that do not fit the environment, the season and the places and then place them in the correct order.

This action will give the trainees the right dimension of the era in which the story takes place and will introduce them in an ideal way to the workshops that will follow in order to better understand the meanings of the novel.

  • 10 photos or painted images representing the 10 basic locations that ‘The Outsider’ is taking part (Algiers, cemetery, cinema, Apartment, beach, neighbourhood with a man walking the dog, prison, isolation cell, courthouse). The photos from the e-book can be used, or others form the libraries provided form the project.
  • 10 photos or painted images of the above places as they are today.

Before the session:

Before the workshop, the instructor will proceed to a short and comprehensive summary of the history, the time period and the main events that occur in the story of ‘The Outsider’, without going into details. 

In the workshop: 

During the workshop all the pictures will be shared with the trainees and they will be given 10 – 15 minutes time to be able to put the pictures in the correct order. Then the instructor, after the time is over, will ask all the trainees in turn and ask them to explain which images they rejected and why.

Through this action it will be done in an interactive way, clearer to the learners the environment and the chronology of the story, which plays an important role in understanding its meanings.


A variation of this action would be to include in the photos the 5 main characters of the novel, which the trainees will have to place in the places where the events take place each time.


Activity 1: Words and emotions

Preparation activity for global understanding

In this activity to better understand the story of Albert Camus ‘The Outsider’, we will play with words and emotions. The trainer will ask the trainees to write three words to express their feelings for each of the events that take place in the drama. The loss of a close relative, a marriage proposal, a man’s relationship with his dog, murder and condemnation.

The trainer will focus on the differences that will arise between the words and then ask the learners to compare the emotions they recorded with those of Meursault.

Through this process, the trainer will introduce the trainees to the deeper meanings contained in the story of ‘The Outsider’ but also to the philosophy that Camus wants to transmit through it.

  • A worksheet that will be used by trainees groups to write down the emotions and match them with the events that take place in the drama.
  • Copies of ‘The Outsider’
  • Writing supplies.

As a variation of this action the instructor could ask the trainees to prioritize the emotions that each individual event would evoke based on the intensity they would feel in the respective cases.

Before the session: 

-A small introduction by the trainer to the different emotional approach that Camus tries to convey with the story of ‘The Outsider’.

In the workshop: 

The trainer will remind the trainees of the different events for which they will be asked to record in words their feelings. He will then give them some time to complete the process and once they have completed he will ask each trainee individually for his answers and a short discussion will follow on this occasion and compared to the emotional approach of the protagonist of the book.

Activity 2: Listen up

Global understanding activity

There are several well-known songs that have taken inspiration from the novel by Albert Camus, ‘The Outsider’. In this particular wokrshop we chose two of them and specifically, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen and ‘The Outsider’ by Tuxedomoon.

Trainees are going to look at these songs to analyze the themes of ‘The Outsider’ resonate across decades and in other artistic genres.

They have to listen closely and mark any lyrics that seem related to ‘The Outsider’. When the songs ends, ask students to share any lyrics that jumped out at them as being possibly related to the novel. Ask students to explain how these lyrics remind them of the main character in The Outsider.

  • Lyrics of the songs
  • Videos of the songs
  • Pen and paper

There are more than these two songs that are inspired by the story of “The Outsider” and more lyrics to analyze. If the trainer want to put more songs to the workshop he/she should divide the class into groups and assign one song per group.

Before the session:

The instructor before the workshop should start with a brief history of the two songs without, however, “testifying” their relationship to Camus’ novel. Since both are well-known sounds on an international spectrum, the relationship of each trainee with each of the songs, if he has heard it again, what emotions he has caused, may be interesting.

In the workshop: 

The instructor distributes the lyrics of the songs to the trainees and then gives them 5 minutes to study them. Then they will listen to the songs and then they will note the lyrics related to Albert Camus’ The Outsider. The workshop will close with a discussion on the options of the trainees.

Activity 3: Any questions?

Fine tuning activity

In this workshop the trainees will write down questions to lead to a class discussion. 

In their groups, students are going to think about the themes, events, people, and literary elements of their section. 

They will then create 10 questions about this part of the novel that could be used to lead a class discussion. These should not be yes or no questions and should also strive to move imaginary enquiries. 

Students should try to come up with questions that will require their classmates to think, engage with the novel, and express their thoughts/feelings about it. When all the students are ready, let each group take turns leading the class in discussion.

  • Copies of The Outsider
  • Writing supplies.

Before the session:

  • Divide the class into small groups (roughly 3-4 students per group) and assign each a scene, chapter, or section of the novel. 
  • Explain the difference between open and closed questions.

In the workshop: 

After the instructor divides the trainees into smaller groups and divides them into one scene, he gives them 10-15 minutes to record their questions. He then addresses each group individually and tries through each question to start a detailed discussion with the whole class based on the answers and questions.

Activity 4: Meursault’s Execution – The last scene

Fine tuning activity

‘The Outsider’ ends with the main character Meursault learning that he will be executed for his crimes and coming to terms with it. Trainees will build on this by writing a final scene for the novel that takes place on the day of the execution. 

They will follow Meursault through the day and up to the point of the execution but will try to do so while maintaining the tone and themes of the novel. 

Will Meursault repent and be executed anyway? Will he refuse to repent, and end up being pardoned? How should this day unfold in according to the philosophy of the absurd? Try to steer students towards the idea that whatever happens should be defined by the idea that Meursault’s fate is determined by forces entirely outside of his control.

  • Copies of The Outsider
  • Writing supplies.

The trainer may ask the trainees to describe two different endings and discuss on that furthermore.

Before the session:

  • Before the workshop begins, the instructor will briefly recount the events that led to the decision on Meursault’s death sentence.
  • Also a reminder to Meursault’s major life events

In the workshop: 

Trainees will have 20 minutes to imagine and write down in bullets the scenario of their last scene of Meursault’s execution. After the 20 minutes, the trainer will perform mini-interviews with every trainee and it will be followed with a wider discussion based on their answers.


Activity: Draw a Cover

For this activity, trainees are going to create a new book cover for ‘The Outsider’. The trainees will have enough minutes to revisit the events of the book, the protagonists, the emotions, and the general feeling that the novel leaves you with. When they are ready, provide students with paper, and ask them to draw their cover for the book. This cover must contain the book’s title and author, but the rest of the design is up to the students. They could depict a scene from the book or choose a more metaphorical or abstract design. In any case, they should strive to represent the tone and themes of the novel in their design. Please remind students that they are being evaluated on ideas, not artistic skill.

  • Copies of ‘The Outsider’
  • Journals
  • art and craft supplies

Give a specific color scheme and explain why

Before the session:

Trainees have to take several minutes to free journal, reflecting on the events, characters, tone, and themes of the novel.

In the workshop:

  • Provide every trainee with the journals and the art and craft supplies
  • Give them 30 minutes to design the book cover 
  • 5 minutes presentation and discussion.