Those of us who love and study literature know its power to touch our hearts and minds. But I love reading about encounters with great works that are free of any preconceived theoretical baggage. A friend of mine (who happens to be a law student) recently posted her reaction to The Stranger, having never read Camus before:
The second part of the novel is the trial, Meursault's long prison stay, and the conviction. This was the part of the book that just shook me to the core. I work in a prosecutor's office, and even today I helped garner a conviction for the State in a case. I know all about how trials work, the flaws of the criminal court system, and the mechanical, sometimes seemingly unfeeling way it can churn people through the gears of justice. (Though I must say Minnesota's better than most states.) Meursault's almost third-person perception of the trial, beginning with his increasing apathy about his own fate as he feels himself shunted to the side by even his own lawyer, confirm the worst of what one hopes does NOT exist in a courtroom. Meursault is not involved, respected, believed, heard, or trusted. Meursault's powerlessness, his feelings that he has done nothing wrong--they were devastating for me to read; I felt that I had crawled inside of the minds of many of the defendants my office prosecutes, and I hoped and prayed Meursault was the exception and not the rule.
Like it or not, sometimes literature forces us to reexamine the circumstances of our current context.