When The Stranger was published in Albert Camus was. 29 years old. He was born a year before the outbreak of the First. World War and his father was. Albert Camus ™ THE STRANGER. THE. Stranger By ALBERT CAMUS Translated from the French by Stuart Gilbert. VINTAGE BOOKS A Division of Random. Albert Camus ♢ THE STRANGER THE Stranger By ALBERT CAMUS Translated from the French by Stuart Gilbert VINTAGE BOOKS A Division of Random.
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Albert Camus ❖ THE STRANGER. THE. Stranger. By ALBERT CAMUS. Translated from the French by Stuart Gilbert. VINTAGE BOOKS. A Division of Random. The Stranger demanded of Camus the creation of a style at once literary and profoundly popular, an artistic sleight of hand that would make the complexities of a. ALBERT CAMUS'STHE STRANGER Lewis WarshSERIES COORDINATOR Murray Bromberg Principal, Wang High School of Queens.
According to Camus, justice is one of the games society plays. As doorkeeper he had a certain standing, and some authority over the rest of them. I was quite done in. The previous evening, Meursault tells us, he went to the police station, where he told the police that Raymond had been justified in beating his girlfriend. Then he advises Raymond not to do anything unless the Arab threatens or insults him.
So I caught the streetcar that goes down to the harbor. It was quite like old times; a lot of young people were in the swimming pool, amongst them Marie Cardona, who used to be a typist at the office.
I was rather keen on her in those days, and I fancy she liked me, too. But she was with us so short a time that nothing came of it. While I was helping her to climb on to a raft, I let my hand stray over her breasts. Then she lay flat on the raft, while I trod water. After a moment she turned and looked at me.
Her hair was over her eyes and she was laughing. I clambered up on to the raft, beside her. The air was pleasantly warm, and, half jokingly, I let my head sink back upon her lap. She didn't seem to mind, so I let it stay there.
I had the sky full in my eyes, all blue and gold, and I could feel Marie's stomach rising and falling gently under my head.
We must have stayed a good half-hour on the raft, both of us half asleep. When the sun got too hot she dived off and I followed. I caught up with her, put my arm round her waist, and we swam side by side. She was still laughing. While we were drying ourselves on the edge of the swimming pool she said: She laughed again and said, "Yes," if I'd take her to the comedy everybody was talking about, the one with Fernandel in it.
When we had dressed, she stared at my black tie and asked if I was in mourning. I explained that my mother had died.
I was just going to explain to her that it wasn't my fault, but I checked myself, as I remembered having said the same thing to my employer, and realizing then it sounded rather foolish. Still, foolish or not, somehow one can't help feeling a bit guilty, I suppose. Anyhow, by evening Marie had forgotten all about it. The film was funny in parts, but some of it was downright stupid. She pressed her leg against mine while we were in the picture house, and I was fondling her breast.
Toward the end of the show I kissed her, but rather clumsily. Afterward she came back with me to my place. She'd told me her aunt expected her first thing in the morning. I remembered it was a Sunday, and that put me off; I've never cared for Sundays. So I turned my head and lazily sniffed the smell of brine that Marie's head had left on the pillow. I slept until ten. After that I stayed in bed until noon, smoking cigarettes.
I decided not to lunch at Celeste's restaurant as I usually did; they'd be sure to pester me with questions, and I dislike being questioned. So I fried some eggs and ate them off the pan. I did without bread as there wasn't any left, and I couldn't be bothered going down to buy it. After lunch I felt at loose ends and roamed about the little flat.
It suited us well enough when Mother was with me, but now that I was by myself it was too large and I'd moved the dining table into my bedroom. That was now the only room I used; it had all the furniture I needed: The rest of the flat was never used, so I didn't trouble to look after it.
A bit later, for want of anything better to do, I picked up an old newspaper that was lying on the floor and read it. There was an advertisement of Kruschen Salts and I cut it out and pasted in into an album where I keep things that amuse me in the papers. Then I washed my hands and, as a last resource, went out on to the balcony. My bedroom overlooks the main street of our district. Though it was a fine afternoon, the paving blocks were black and glistening.
What few people were about seemed in an absurd hurry. First of all there came a family, going for their Sunday- afternoon walk; two small boys in sailor suits, with short trousers hardly down to their knees, and looking rather uneasy in their Sunday best; then a little girl with a big pink bow and black patent-leather shoes. Behind them was their mother, an enormously fat woman in a brown silk dress, and their father, a dapper little man, whom I knew by sight.
He had a straw hat, a walking stick, and a butterfly tie. Seeing him beside his wife, I understood why people said he came of a good family and had married beneath him. Next came a group of young fellows, the local "bloods," with sleek oiled hair, red ties, coats cut very tight at the waist, braided pockets, and square-toed shoes. I guessed they were going to one of the big theaters in the center of the town. That was why they had started out so early and were hurrying to the streetcar stop, laughing and talking at the top of their voices.
After they had passed, the street gradually emptied. By this time all the matinees must have begun. Only a few shopkeepers and cats remained about. Above the sycamores bordering the road the sky was cloudless, but the light was soft.
The tobacconist on the other side of the street brought a chair out on to the pavement in front of his door and sat astride it, resting his arms on the back. The streetcars which a few minutes before had been crowded were now almost empty. A typical Sunday afternoon. I turned my chair round and seated myself like the tobacconist, as it was more comfortable that way. After smoking a couple of cigarettes I went back to the room, got a tablet of chocolate, and returned to the window to eat it.
Soon after, the sky clouded over, and I thought a summer storm was coming. However, the clouds gradually lifted. All the same, they had left in the street a sort of threat of rain, which made it darker. I stayed watching the sky for quite a while. At five there was a loud clanging of streetcars. They were coming from the stadium in our suburb where there had been a football match. Even the back platforms were crowded and people were standing on the steps. Then another streetcar brought back the teams.
I knew they were the players by the little suitcase each man carried. They were bawling out their team song, "Keep the ball rolling, boys. The sky had changed again; a reddish glow was spreading up beyond the housetops. As dusk set in, the street grew more crowded. People were returning from their walks, and I noticed the dapper little man with the fat wife amongst the passers- by.
Children were whimpering and trailing wearily after their parents. After some minutes the local picture houses disgorged their audiences. I noticed that the young fellows coming from them were taking longer strides and gesturing more vigorously than at ordinary times; doubtless the picture they'd been seeing was of the wild- West variety. Those who had been to the picture houses in the middle of the town came a little later, and looked more sedate, though a few were still laughing.
On the whole, however, they seemed languid and exhausted. Some of them remained loitering in the street under my window. A group of girls came by, walking arm in arm. The young men under my window swerved so as to brush against them, and shouted humorous remarks, which made the girls turn their heads and giggle.
I recognized them as girls from my part of the town, and two or three of them, whom I knew, looked up and waved to me. Just then the street lamps came on, all together, and they made the stars that were beginning to glimmer in the night sky paler still.
I felt my eyes getting tired, what with the lights and all the movement I'd been watching in the street. There were little pools of brightness under the lamps, and now and then a streetcar passed, lighting up a girl's hair, or a smile, or a silver bangle.
Soon after this, as the streetcars became fewer and the sky showed velvety black above the trees and lamps, the street grew emptier, almost imperceptibly, until a time came when there was nobody to be seen and a cat, the first of the evening, crossed, unhurrying, the deserted street. I had been leaning so long on the back of my chair, looking down, that my neck hurt when I straightened myself up.
I went down, bought some bread and spaghetti, did my cooking, and ate my meal standing. I'd intended to smoke another cigarette at my window, but the night had turned rather chilly and I decided against it. As I was coming back, after shutting the window, I glanced at the mirror and saw reflected in it a corner of my table with my spirit lamp and some bits of bread beside it. It occurred to me that somehow I'd got through another Sunday, that Mother now was buried, and tomorrow I'd be going back to work as usual.
Really, nothing in my life had changed. My employer was in a good humor. He even inquired if I wasn't too tired, and followed it up by asking what Mother's age was. I thought a bit, then answered, "Round about sixty," as I didn't want to make a blunder. At which he looked relieved — why, I can't imagine — and seemed to think that closed the matter.
There was a pile of bills of lading waiting on my desk, and I had to go through them all. Before leaving for lunch I washed my hands.
I always enjoyed doing this at midday. In the evening it was less pleasant, as the roller towel, after being used by so many people, was sopping wet. I once brought this to my employer's notice. It was regrettable, he agreed — but, to his mind, a mere detail. I left the office building a little later than usual, at half-past twelve, with Emmanuel, who works in the Forwarding Department. Our building overlooks the sea, and we paused for a moment on the steps to look at the shipping in the.
The sun was scorching hot. Just then a big truck came up, with a din of chains and backfires from the engine, and Emmanuel suggested we should try to jump it. I started to run. The truck was well away, and we had to chase it for quite a distance. What with the heat and the noise from the engine, I felt half dazed. All I was conscious of was our mad rush along the water front, amongst cranes and winches, with dark hulls of ships alongside and masts swaying in the offing.
I was the first to catch up with the truck. I took a flying jump, landed safely, and helped Emmanuel to scramble in beside me. We were both of us out of breath, and the bumps of the truck on the roughly laid cobbles made things worse. Emmanuel chuckled, and panted in my ear, "We've made it! Celeste was at his usual place beside the entrance, with his apron bulging on his paunch, his white mustache well to the fore. When he saw me he was sympathetic and "hoped I wasn't feeling too badly.
I ate very quickly and had some coffee to finish up. Then I went to my place and took a short nap, as I'd drunk a glass of wine too many. When I woke I smoked a cigarette before getting off my bed.
I was a bit late and had to run for the streetcar. The office was stifling, and I was kept hard at it all the afternoon. So it came as a relief when we closed down and I was strolling slowly along the wharves in the coolness. The sky was green, and it was pleasant to be out- of-doors after the stuffy office. However, I went straight home, as I had to put some potatoes on to boil. The hall was dark and, when I was starting up the stairs, I almost bumped into old Salamano, who lived on the same floor as I.
As usual, he had his dog with him. For eight years the two had been inseparable. Perhaps through living in one small room, cooped up with his dog, Salamano has come to resemble it.
His towy hair has gone very thin, and he has reddish blotches on his face. And the dog has developed something of its master's queer hunched-up gait; it always has its muzzle stretched far forward and its nose to the ground. But, oddly enough, though so much alike, they detest each other. Twice a day, at eleven and six, the old fellow takes his dog for a walk, and for eight years that walk has never varied.
You can see them in the rue de Lyon, the dog pulling his master along as hard as he can, till finally the old chap misses a step and nearly falls. Then he beats his dog and calls it names. The dog cowers and lags behind, and it's his master's turn to drag him along. Presently the dog forgets, starts tugging at the leash again, gets another hiding and more abuse.
Then they halt on the pavement, the pair of them, and glare at each other; the dog with terror and the man with hatred in his eyes. Every time they're out, this happens. When the dog wants to stop at a lamppost, the old boy won't let him, and drags him on, and the wretched spaniel leaves behind him a trail of little drops.
But, if he does it in the room, it means another hiding. It's been going on like this for eight years, and Celeste always says it's a "crying shame," and something should be done about it; but really one can't be sure.
When I met him in the hall, Salamano was bawling at his dog, calling him a bastard, a lousy mongrel, and so forth, and the dog was whining. I said, "Good evening," but the old fellow took no notice and went on cursing. So I thought I'd ask him what the dog had done.
Again, he didn't answer, but went on shouting, "You bloody cur! I couldn't see very clearly, but he seemed to be fixing something on the dog's collar. I raised my voice a little. Without looking round, he mumbled in a sort of suppressed fury: Just then another man who lives on my floor came in from the street.
The general idea hereabouts is that he's a pimp. But if you ask him what his job is, he says he's a warehouseman. One thing's sure: Still, he often has a word for me, and drops in sometimes for a short talk in my room, because I listen to him. As a matter of fact, I find what he says quite interesting. So, really I've no reason for freezing him off.
His name is Sintes; Raymond Sintes. He's short and thick-set, has a nose like a boxer's, and always dresses very sprucely. He, too, once said to me, referring to Salamano, that it was "a damned shame," and asked me if I wasn't disgusted by the way the old man served his dog. I answered: How about having some grub with me? I've a black pudding and some wine. I saw a pink- and-white plaster angel above his bed, and some photos of sporting champions and naked girls pinned to the opposite wall.
The bed hadn't been made and the room was dirty. He began by lighting a paraffin lamp; then fumbled in his pocket and produced a rather grimy bandage, which he wrapped round his right hand. I asked him what the trouble was. He told me he'd been having a roughhouse with a fellow who'd annoyed him. That fellow said to me, challenging-like, 'Come down off that streetcar, if you're a man.
Well, that settled it. I got down off the streetcar and I said to him, 'You better keep your mouth shut, or I'll shut it for you. Then I gave him one across the face, and laid him out good and proper. After a bit I started to help him get up, but all he did was to kick at me from where he lay. So I gave him one with my knee and a couple more swipes. He was bleeding like a pig when I'd done with him.
I asked him if he'd had enough, and he said, 'Yes. You've knocked about the world a bit, and I daresay you can help me. And then I'll be your pal for life; I never forget anyone who does me a good turn. I replied that I had no objection, and that appeared to satisfy him. He got out the black pudding, cooked it in a frying pan, then laid the table, putting out two bottles of wine. While he was doing this he didn't speak. We started dinner, and then he began telling me the whole story, hesitating a bit at first.
We slept together pretty regular. I was keeping her, as a matter of fact, and she cost me a tidy sum. That fellow I knocked down is her brother. He had his principles like everybody else, and a job in a warehouse. I found out one day that she was letting me down. Say, a thousand francs a month. But that wasn't enough for my fine lady; she was always grumbling that she couldn't make both ends meet with what I gave her.
So one day I says to her, 'Look here, why not get a job for a few hours a day? That'd make things easier for me, too. I bought you a new dress this month, I pay your rent and give you twenty francs a day. But you go and waste your money at the cafe with a pack of girls. You give them coffee and sugar. And, of course, the money comes out of my pocket. I treat you on the square, and that's how you pay me back. And then one day I found out she was doing me dirt.
Then, another time, he'd found a pawn ticket for two bracelets that he'd never set eyes on. But, first, I gave her a good hiding, and I told her some home truths. I said that there was only one thing interested her and that was getting into bed with men whenever she'd the chance.
And I warned her straight, 'You'll be sorry one day, my girl, and wish you'd got me back. All the girls in the street, they're jealous of your luck in having me to keep you.
Before that he'd never beaten her.
She'd howl a bit, and I had to shut the window. Then, of course, it ended as per usual. But this time I'm done with her. Only, to my mind, I ain't punished her enough.
See what I mean? The lamp was smoking, and he stopped pacing up and down the room, to lower the wick. I just listened, without speaking. I'd had a whole bottle of wine to myself and my head was buzzing. As I'd used up my cigarettes I was smoking Raymond's. Some late streetcars passed, and the last noises of the street died off with them. Raymond went on talking. What bored him was that he had "a sort of lech on her" as he called it.
But he was quite determined to teach her a lesson. His first idea, he said, had been to take her to a hotel, and then call in the special police. He'd persuade them to put her on the register as a "common prostitute," and that would make her wild. Then he'd looked up some friends of his in the underworld, fellows who kept tarts for what they could make out of them, but they had practically nothing to suggest. When he told them that, they suggested he should "brand" her.
But that wasn't what he wanted, either. It would need a lot of thinking out. But, first, he'd like to ask me something. Before he asked it, though, he'd like to have my opinion of the story he'd been telling, in a general way. I said I hadn't any, but I'd found it interesting. Did I think she really had done him dirt? I had to admit it looked like that. Then he asked me if I didn't think she should be punished and what I'd do if I were in his shoes.
I told him one could never be quite sure how to act in such cases, but I quite understood his wanting her to suffer for it. I drank some more wine, while Raymond lit another cigarette and began explaining what he proposed to do. He wanted to write her a letter, "a real stinker, that'll get her on the raw," and at the same time make her repent of what she'd done. Then, when she came back, he'd go to bed with her and, just when she was "properly primed up," he'd spit in her face and throw her out of the room.
I agreed it wasn't a bad plan; it would punish her, all right. But, Raymond told me, he didn't feel up to writing the kind of letter that was needed, and that was where I could help. When I didn't say anything, he asked me if I'd mind doing it right away, and I said, "No," I'd have a shot at it. He drank off a glass of wine and stood up. Then he pushed aside the plates and the bit of cold pudding that was left, to make room on the table. After carefully wiping the oilcloth, he got a sheet of squared paper from the drawer of his bedside table; after that, an envelope, a small red wooden penholder, and a square inkpot with purple ink in it.
The moment he mentioned the girl's name I knew she was a Moor. I wrote the letter. I didn't take much trouble over it, but I wanted to satisfy Raymond, as I'd no reason not to satisfy him.
Then I read out what I'd written. Puffing at his cigarette, he listened, nodding now and then. He seemed delighted. I didn't care one way or the other, but as he seemed so set on it, I nodded and said, "Yes.
Then both of us smoked for some minutes, without speaking. The street was quite quiet, except when now and again a car passed. Finally, I remarked that it was getting late, and Raymond agreed. I wanted to be in bed, only it was such an effort making a move.
I must have looked tired, for Raymond said to me, "You mustn't let things get you down. I appreciated that, and told him so. When I rose, Raymond shook hands very warmly, remarking that men always understood each other. After closing the door behind me I lingered for some moments on the landing. The whole building was as quiet as the grave, a dank, dark smell rising from the well hole of the stairs.
I could hear nothing but the blood throbbing in my ears, and for a while I stood still, listening to it. Then the dog began to moan in old Salamano's room, and through the sleep-bound house the little plaintive sound rose slowly, like a flower growing out of the silence and the darkness. Raymond dropped in once to tell me he'd sent off the letter. I went to the pictures twice with Emmanuel, who doesn't always understand what's happening on the screen and asks me to explain it.
Yesterday was Saturday, and Marie came as we'd arranged. She had a very pretty dress, with red and white stripes, and leather sandals, and I couldn't take my eyes off her.
One could see the outline of her firm little breasts, and her sun-tanned face was like a velvety brown flower. We took the bus and went to a beach I know, some miles out of Algiers.
It's just a strip of sand between two rocky spurs, with a line of rushes at the back, along the tide line. At four o'clock the sun wasn't too hot, but the water was pleasantly tepid, and small, languid ripples were creeping up the sand. Marie taught me a new game. The idea was, while one swam, to suck in the spray off the waves and, when one's mouth was full of foam, to lie on one's back and spout it out against the sky.
It made a sort of frothy haze that melted into the air or fell back in a warm shower on one's cheeks. But very soon my mouth was smarting with all the salt I'd drawn in; then Marie came up and hugged me in the water, and pressed her mouth to mine.
Her tongue cooled my lips, and we let the waves roll us about for a minute or two before swimming back to the beach. When we had finished dressing, Marie looked hard at me. Her eyes were sparkling. I kissed her; after that neither of us spoke for quite a while. I pressed her to my side as we scrambled up the foreshore.
Both of us were in a hurry to catch the bus, get back to my place, and tumble on to the bed. I'd left my window open, and it was pleasant to feel the cool night air flowing over our sunburned bodies. Marie said she was free next morning, so I proposed she should have luncheon with me. She agreed, and I went down to buy some meat. On my way back I heard a woman's voice in Raymond's room. A little later old Salamano started grumbling at his dog and presently there was a sound of boots and paws on the wooden stairs; then, "Filthy brute!
Get on, you cur! I told Marie about the old man's habits, and it made her laugh. She was wearing one of my pajama suits, and had the sleeves rolled up. When she laughed I wanted her again. A moment later she asked me if I loved her. I said that sort of question had no meaning, really; but I supposed I didn't. She looked sad for a bit, but when we were getting our lunch ready she brightened up and started laughing, and when she laughs I always want to kiss her. It was just then that the row started in Raymond's room.
First we heard a woman saying something in a high-pitched voice; then Raymond bawling at her, "You let me down, you bitch! I'll learn you to let me down! Marie and I went out to see.
Marie said, wasn't it horrible! I didn't answer anything. Then she asked me to go and fetch a policeman, but I told her I didn't like policemen. However, one turned up presently; the lodger on the second floor, a plumber, came up, with him. When he banged on the door the noise stopped inside the room.
He knocked again, and, after a moment, the woman started crying, and Raymond opened the door. He had a cigarette dangling from his underlip and a rather sickly smile. Raymond hesitated, glanced at me, and kept the cigarette in his mouth.
The policeman promptly swung his arm and gave him a good hard smack on the left cheek. The cigarette shot from his lips and dropped a yard away.
Raymond made a wry face, but said nothing for a moment. Then in a humble tone he asked if he mightn't pick up his cigarette. The officer said, "Yes," and added: He's a pimp. Raymond then turned to the girl. We'll meet again. Raymond was to stay in his room till summoned to the police station. Why, you're shaking all over!
That's only natural. Marie and I finished getting our lunch ready. But she hadn't any appetite, and I ate nearly all. She left at one, and then I had a nap. Toward three there was a knock at my door and Raymond came in. He sat down on the edge of my bed and for a minute or two said nothing.
I asked him how it had gone off. He said it had all gone quite smoothly at first, as per program; only then she'd slapped his face and he'd seen red, and started thrashing her. As for what happened after that, he needn't tell me, as I was there. But he'd like to know if I'd expected him to return the blow when the policeman hit him. I told him I hadn't expected anything whatsoever and, anyhow, I had no use for the police. Raymond seemed pleased and asked if I'd like to come out for a stroll with him.
I got up from the bed and started brushing my hair. Then Raymond said that what he really wanted was for me to act as his witness. I told him I had no objection; only I didn't know what he expected me to say. We went out together, and Raymond stood me a brandy in a cafe. Then we had a game of billiards; it was a close game and I lost by only a few points. After that he proposed going to a brothel, but I refused; I didn't feel like it. As we were walking slowly back he told me how pleased he was at having paid out his mistress so satisfactorily.
He made himself extremely amiable to me, and I quite enjoyed our walk. When we were nearly home I saw old Salamano on the doorstep; he seemed very excited. I noticed that his dog wasn't with him. He was turning like a teetotum, looking in all directions, and sometimes peering into the darkness of the hall with his little bloodshot eyes.
Then he'd mutter something to himself and start gazing up and down the street again. Raymond asked him what was wrong, but he didn't answer at once. Then I heard him grunt, "The bastard! The filthy cur! There was a fair on, and you could hardly move for the crowd. I stopped at one of the booths to look at the Handcuff King. When I turned to go, the dog was gone. I'd been meaning to get a smaller collar, but I never thought the brute could slip it and get away like that.
But this seemed to make the old fellow even more worried than before. It's not likely anyone will take him in and look after him; with all those scabs he puts everybody off.
His dog was certain to be there and he could get it back on payment of a small charge. He asked me how much the charge was, but there I couldn't help him. Then he flew into a rage again.
No damned fear! They can kill him, for all I care. Raymond gave a laugh and turned into the hall. I followed him upstairs, and we parted on the landing.
A minute or two later I heard Salamano's footsteps and a knock on my door. When I opened it, he halted for a moment in the doorway.
I hope I'm not disturbing you. He was staring at his toe caps, and the gnarled old hands were trembling. Without meeting my eyes, he started talking. Surely they wouldn't do a thing like that. If they do — I don't know what will become of me. After that they disposed of the dogs as they thought fit. He stared at me in silence for a moment, then said, "Good evening. Then his bed creaked. Through the wall there came to me a little wheezing sound, and I guessed that he was weeping.
For some reason, I don't know what, I began thinking of Mother. But I had to get up early next day; so, as I wasn't feeling hungry, I did without supper, and went straight to bed. He said that a friend of his — to whom he'd spoken about me — invited me to spend next Sunday at his little seaside bungalow just outside Algiers.
I told him I'd have been delighted; only I had promised to spend Sunday with a girl. Raymond promptly replied that she could come, too. In fact, his friend's wife would be very pleased not to be the only woman in a party of men. I'd have liked to hang up at once, as my employer doesn't approve of my using the office phone for private calls.
But Raymond asked me to hold on; he had something else to tell me, and that was why he'd rung me up, though he could have waited till the evening to pass on the invitation.
One of them's the brother of that girl I had the row with. If you see him hanging round the house when you come back, pass me the word. Just then my employer sent for me. For a moment I felt uneasy, as I expected he was going to tell me to stick to my work and not waste time chattering with friends over the phone.
However, it was nothing of the kind. He wanted to discuss a project he had in view, though so far he'd come to no decision. It was to open a branch at Paris, so as to be able to deal with the big companies on the spot, without postal delays, and he wanted to know if I'd like a post there. And, of course, you could travel about France for some months in the year. He then asked if a "change of life," as he called it, didn't appeal to me, and I answered that one never changed his way of life; one life was as good as another, and my present one suited me quite well.
At this he looked rather hurt, and told me that I always shilly-shallied, and that I lacked ambition — a grave defect, to his mind, when one was in business. I returned to my work. I'd have preferred not to vex him, but I saw no reason for "changing my life.
As a student I'd had plenty of ambition of the kind he meant. But, when I had to drop my studies, I very soon realized all that was pretty futile. Marie came that evening and asked me if I'd marry her. I said I didn't mind; if she was keen on it, we'd get married. Then she asked me again if I loved her. I replied, much as before, that her question meant nothing or next to nothing — but I supposed I didn't.
I pointed out that, anyhow, the suggestion came from her; as for me, I'd merely said, "Yes. To which I answered: Then she asked: I, of course, couldn't enlighten her as to that. And, after another silence, she murmured something about my being "a queer fellow.
She thought for a bit, then started smiling and, taking my arm, repeated that she was in earnest; she really wanted to marry me. When I told her I'd lived in Paris for a while, she asked me what it was like. Masses of pigeons and dark courtyards. And the people have washed-out, white faces. The women were good-lookers, and I asked Marie if she, too, noticed this.
She said, "Yes," and that she saw what I meant. After that we said nothing for some minutes. However, as I didn't want her to leave me, I suggested we should dine together at Celeste's. She'd have loved to dine with me, she said, only she was booked up for the evening. We were near my place, and I said, "Au revoir, then. I must have looked embarrassed, for suddenly she started laughing and bent toward me, pouting her lips for a kiss.
I went by myself to Celeste's. When I had just started my dinner an odd-looking little woman came in and asked if she might sit at my table. Of course she might. She had a chubby face like a ripe apple, bright eyes, and moved in a curiously jerky way, as if she were on wires. After taking off her closefitting jacket she sat down and started studying the bill of fare with a sort of rapt attention. Then she called Celeste and gave her order, very fast but quite distinctly; one didn't lose a word.
While waiting for the hors d'oeuvre she opened her bag, took out a slip of paper and a pencil, and added up the bill in advance. Just then the waiter brought the hors d'oeuvre, which she proceeded to wolf down voraciously. While waiting for the next course, she produced another pencil, this time a blue one, from her bag, and the radio magazine for the coming week, and started making ticks against almost all the items of the daily programs.
There were a dozen pages in the magazine, and she continued studying them closely throughout the meal. When I'd finished mine she was still ticking off items with the same meticulous attention. Then she rose, put on her jacket again with the same abrupt, robot-like gestures, and walked briskly out of the restaurant.
Having nothing better to do, I followed her for a short distance. Keeping on the curb of the pavement, she walked straight ahead, never swerving or looking back, and it was extraordinary how fast she covered the ground, considering her smallness. In fact, the pace was too much for me, and I soon lost sight of her and turned back homeward. For a moment the "little robot" as I thought of her had much impressed me, but I soon forgot about her. As I was turning in at my door I ran into old Salamano.
I asked him into my room, and he informed me that his dog was definitely lost. He'd been to the pound to inquire, but it wasn't there, and the staff told him it had probably been run over. When he asked them whether it was any use inquiring about it at the police station, they said the police had more important things to attend to than keeping records of stray dogs run over in the streets.
I suggested he should get another dog, but, reasonably enough, he pointed out that he'd become used to this one, and it wouldn't be the same thing. I was seated on my bed, with my legs up, and Salamano on a chair beside the table, facing me, his hands spread on his knees. He had kept on his battered felt hat and was mumbling away behind his draggled yellowish mustache.
I found him rather boring, but I had nothing to do and didn't feel sleepy. So, to keep the conversation going, I asked some questions about his dog — how long he had had it and so forth. He told me he had got it soon after his wife's death. He'd married rather late in life. When a young man, he wanted to go on the stage; during his military service he'd often played in the regimental theatricals and acted rather well, so everybody said.
However, finally, he had taken a job in the railway, and he didn't regret it, as now he had a small pension. He and his wife had never hit it off very well, but they'd got used to each other, and when she died he felt lonely. One of his mates on the railway whose bitch had just had pups had offered him one, and he had taken it, as a companion. He'd had to feed it from the bottle at first. But, as a dog's life is shorter than a man's, they'd grown old together, so to speak.
But he was a good mutt all the same. I tried hard to cure him; every mortal night after he got that skin disease I rubbed an ointment in. But his real trouble was old age, and there's no curing that. I told him he could stay, and that I was sorry about what had happened to his dog. He thanked me, and mentioned that my mother had been very fond of his dog. He referred to her as "your poor mother," and was afraid I must be feeling her death terribly.
When I said nothing he added hastily and with a rather embarrassed air that some of the people in the street said nasty things about me because I'd sent my mother to the Home. But he, of course, knew better; he knew how devoted to my mother I had always been.
I answered — why, I still don't know — that it surprised me to learn I'd produced such a bad impression. As I couldn't afford to keep her here, it seemed the obvious thing to do, to send her to a home. For the first time since I'd known him he held out his hand to me — rather shyly, I thought — and I could feel the scales on his skin. Just as he was going out of the door, he turned and, smiling a little, said: I always think it's mine I hear.
As we wanted to get into the water early, we didn't trouble about breakfast. My head was aching slightly and my first cigarette had a bitter taste. Marie told me I looked like a mourner at a funeral, and I certainly did feel very limp. She was wearing a white dress and had her hair loose. I told her she looked quite ravishing like that, and she laughed happily. On our way out we banged on Raymond's door, and he shouted that he'd be with us in a jiffy. We went down to the street and, because of my being rather under the weather and our having kept the blind down in my room, the glare of the morning sun hit me in the eyes like a clenched fist.
Marie, however, was almost dancing with delight, and kept repeating, "What a heavenly day! I mentioned this to Marie, but she paid no attention.
She was carrying an oilcloth bag in which she had stowed our bathing kit and a towel. Presently we heard Raymond shutting his door. He was wearing blue trousers, a short-sleeved white shirt, and a straw hat.
I noticed that his forearms were rather hairy, but the skin was very white beneath. The straw hat made Marie giggle. Personally, I was rather put off by his getup. He seemed in high spirits and was whistling as he came down the stairs. He greeted me with, "Hello, old boy! So they let him off with a warning.
They didn't check my statement. After some talk on the doorstep we decided to take the bus. The beach was within easy walking distance, but the sooner we got there the better. Just as we were starting for the bus stop, Raymond plucked my sleeve and told me to look across the street. I saw some Arabs lounging against the tobacconist's window. They were staring at us silently, in the special way these people have — as if we were blocks of stone or dead trees.
Raymond whispered that the second Arab from the left was "his man," and I thought he looked rather worried However, he assured me that all that was ancient history.
Marie, who hadn't followed his remarks, asked, "What is it? She insisted on our going at once. Then Raymond laughed, and squared his shoulders. The young lady was quite right, he said. There was no point in hanging about here. Halfway to the bus stop he glanced back over his shoulder and said the Arabs weren't following.
I, too, looked back. They were exactly as before, gazing in the same vague way at the spot where we had been.
I could see he was attracted by her, but she had hardly a word for him. Now and again she would catch my eye and smile. We alighted just outside Algiers. The beach is not far from the bus stop; one has only to cross a patch of highland, a sort of plateau, which overlooks the sea and shelves down steeply to the sands. The ground here was covered with yellowish pebbles and wild lilies that showed snow-white against the blue of the sky, which had already the hard, metallic glint it gets on very hot days.
Marie amused herself swishing her bag against the flowers and sending the petals showering in all directions. Then we walked between two rows of little houses with wooden balconies and green or white palings.
Some of them were half hidden in clumps of tamarisks; others rose naked from the stony plateau. Before we came to the end of it, the sea was in full view; it lay smooth as a mirror, and in the distance a big headland jutted out over its black reflection. Through the still air came the faint buzz of a motor engine and we saw a fishing boat very far out, gliding almost imperceptibly across the dazzling smoothness.
Marie picked some rock irises. Going down the steep path leading to the sea, we saw some bathers already on the sands. Raymond's friend owned a small wooden bungalow at the near end of the beach. Its back rested against the cliffside, while the front stood on piles, which the water was already lapping. Raymond introduced us to his friend, whose name was Masson. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and thick-set; his wife was a plump, cheerful little woman who spoke with a Paris accent.
Masson promptly told us to make ourselves at home. He had gone out fishing, he said, first thing in the morning, and there would be fried fish for lunch.
I congratulated him on his little bungalow, and he said he always spent his week ends and holidays here. I glanced at her, and noticed that she and Marie seemed to be getting on well together; laughing and chattering away. For the first time, perhaps, I seriously considered the possibility of my marrying her. Back in his cell, Meursault thinks about death and about escape.
He does not want to see the prison chaplain, but the chaplain visits him anyway and attempts to have him acknowledge his guilt and also the possibility of an afterlife. Meursault flies into a rage and attacks the chaplain in the only outburst of feeling he displays in the book. His last wish is that a large, hostile crowd attend his execution. Physical sensations of sun and wind and physical activities such as swimming or running mean a great deal to him.
Larger experiences in his life- the death of his mother, a chance for marriage, and a change in job- mean relatively little. We learn almost nothing about his past, though he is a curiously candid person, speaking of experiences in the present that most of us, if we felt them, might keep silent about.
He has a detached attitude toward other people. This annoys most people, but some are attracted to him because of his silence and his habit of not offering judgments.
The central event in his life, at least as far as it influences others, is killing an Arab. His most intense experience, however, is his attack on a chaplain while in prison. Many readers see Meursault as a hero and as a martyr for the truth. He refuses to disguise his feelings and by doing so threatens society. For instance, when Raymond is beating an Arab girl, Meursault refuses to send for the police because he dislikes them. His feelings take precedence over the immediate danger to the girl.
Meursault is a complex- in some ways contradictory- character, and one of the most rewarding challenges of reading The Stranger is trying to figure out his personality. At the trial, he tries to defend Meursault. He is more sympathetic toward Meursault than the warden and sits with Meursault during the all-night vigil by the coffin. He offers Meursault coffee in what seems a kind act. He generally expresses ordinary sentiments and tries to make Meursault feel guilty for leaving his mother in a home.
She, like Meursault, is devoted to sensual pleasures. But her values are rooted in traditional standards, and she wants what most people are said to want: Salamano loses the dog during the course of the story and turns to Meursault for advice and comfort. But his code of honor is as important to him as religion is to the chaplain or the magistrate.
Conversely, if someone does him a favor- as Meursault does, by writing a letter to his girlfriend- that person will be his pal. He takes part in the first scuffle with the Arabs but essentially has a minor role in the story.
At the trial, he attempts to create a favorable picture of Meursault. The magistrate is an authority figure who believes in God and wants criminals to believe and to repent their crimes. During their first interview, Meursault views the magistrate as an amiable and kindly person. At a later interview, however, the magistrate becomes perturbed and excited when Meursault refuses to answer his questions about the murder. Meursault is fascinated by the skill with which the prosecutor twists information to create his case.
For Meursault, the chaplain is just the last in a long line of people who have tried to foist their ideas on him. His insistence that Meursault express some belief in God leads to an attack by Meursault.
The city is described as bathed in sunlight so intense at times that it makes Meursault feel dizzy; it is surrounded by white-hot beaches and endless expanses of sky and water. The street where Meursault lived was modeled after the Rue de Lyon- the main artery of Belcourt, the Algerian suburb where Camus grew up. Algiers is a city of crowded apartment buildings, where the neighbors and shopkeepers all know one another.
The streets are lined with bars and restaurants. Arabs, Europeans, and pieds-noirs- people of European descent born, as Camus himself was, in Algeria- live side by side, but not without tensions and conflicts. The story should be seen against this background of racial mix and unrest. More than the city, even, the natural climate of North Africa forms a powerful backdrop to events and shifts of mood- the sun, the heat, the vastness of space and sky have much influence.
Most people, Camus is saying, accept the day-today events that make up existence without asking themselves: Why am I doing this? The only answer, he says, is that nothing we do has any long-lasting meaning. We die, the universe goes on. Nothing fundamental has changed. Later in his life Camus changed his thinking to add that within this framework, our actions can still be important because we can affect the lives of other persons.
We must behave as if life has meaning. Images of sun, water, earth, and sky give pleasure to fleeting moments of our lives. But they can turn dangerous and destructive. The natural forces do not have empathy for us or care. They are neither good nor evil; they are simply there, and they go on being there long after we are gone. To accept this philosophy is to live in a world without God. Meursault can accept this and lives with the sensations, both pleasurable and painful, of sun and wind, of caresses, of smells and sights.
Yet his incapacity to look beyond the sensation of the moment leads him into a pattern of action that changes his relationship to all these sensations, and in prison he is deprived of all that has made his life enjoyable. Society has developed patterns of behavior for given moments in our lives, whether or not we have the requisite feelings.
Meursault could have lied about his feelings at any time and made his ordeal easier. This attitude leaves him open to the charge that he has no basis to deter him from wrong action; it also leaves him without conventional hope.
He loved her the way people love their mothers. He says to Marie that he does not really love her but will marry her if she wants. Love, Camus is saying, and its institutionalized symbol, marriage, have been created by society and have nothing to do with how people really feel. Some readers argue that Meursault is incapable of loving anyone, while others claim that Camus is attempting to define love as the physical pleasure one experiences with another person.
There are several kinds of love in this book. Are these relationships involved with negative as well as positive feelings? Some readers feel that Meursault refuses to accept the possibility of feeling love because he recognizes the pain involved in such a relationship.
Camus poses the question whether or not a relationship that involves pain as well as pleasure is worth the trouble. Do you feel that this is an accurate interpretation of love? During the trial scene in Part Two, everyone participates in some sort of game, except Meursault.
He is just a spectator at his trial. We first meet the idea of justice in Part One, as Raymond seeks revenge on his girlfriend for being unfaithful to him. And again, when the Arabs attack Raymond, it is to punish him for beating her up. But during the trial, no one makes any real effort to discover why Meursault has acted the way he did. The fact is that Meursault has killed a man with apparent ease and without remorse.
Is the prosecutor right? Is Meursault a dangerous man and is justice served in this trial?
He drifts without thought into minor activities- his affair with Marie, his friendship with Raymond, his comforting of Salamano. He finds it easier to say yes than no. Yet, when pushed, he will not lie about his motives, even though to say what is expected of him would clearly make people more sympathetic to his ordeal.
As you read, keep in mind these questions: What is the purpose of acting when you know you will die? How committed are you to your own ideals and to what extent would you defend your feelings and beliefs? In order to do this, he has created recognizable characters and placed them in realistic situations.
The clarity of style is the perfect instrument to convey the thoughts of the narrator Meursault , who is attempting to find order and understanding in a confused and confusing world. Others compare his vocabulary to that of a child. Notice, also, the brevity of most of the sentences- which are also childlike- and the absence of complicated grammatical constructions. Camus describes objects and people but makes no attempt to analyze them.
His attention is always fixed on the concrete nature of things. He uses words cautiously as if he were somehow suspicious of abstract terms. Note the conversations between Meursault and Marie about marriage and the exchange between Meursault and the chaplain about God. Notice the scene where Meursault kills the Arab. Natural images- the sun, sea, and wind- appear in different guises at different times. As you read, pick out other words and phrases that appear regularly and try to figure out their significance.
The Stranger was originally written in French. The widely read American edition, translated by Stuart Gilbert, is faithful for the most part to the tone of the first-person narrator.
Be aware, however, that the translator makes many changes in the original text. For example, in the nursing home scene in the opening chap- ter, Meursault asks the doorkeeper if he would turn off one of the lamps in the mortuary.
His mind wanders in the middle of conversations. Only rarely does he make value judgments or express opinions about what he or the other characters are doing. At the trial, in Part Two, you learn what the other characters think of Meursault.
Some readers think the book would have been more successful if it had been told in the third person by an omniscient narrator.
He begins an affair with Marie and drifts into a relationship with his neighbor, Raymond Sintes. Then he commits the murder that will result in a sentence of death. Part Two picks up directly following the murder and ends eleven months later. We see Meursault in his prison cell and during his trial, and are introduced to the various functionaries of the state: Meursault compares his life in prison with his former life, and we watch how his attitudes evolve.
Does he change? Or does he simply become crystalized in his old pattern? Are there other possibilities? The two parts of The Stranger can be seen as forming a kind of duality. In Part One, Meursault walks through the world largely unaware of the effect of his actions on others; in Part Two he is conscious of every aspect of his experience, both past and present. Camus was, however, very concerned with some of the same questions as philosophers.
Since he did not state his ideas systematically and unambiguously, it is difficult to summarize them, and there have been conflicting interpretations of his outlook. People want, and need, a basis for their lives and values, but the world offers them none, Camus believed.
Nonreligious in a traditional sense, Camus, like many others, was cast adrift, feeling that life had no significance as well as no meaning.
Life for him has little meaning on a deeper level, and he is not concerned about making value judgments or assessing right and wrong. Yet at the end of The Stranger, Meursault draws some order out of life. Through this feeling of solidarity, Meursault seems to gain strength, and seems to come to terms, at least partially, with the absurdity of life.
The Stranger is written in the first person. All the events in the story are seen or experienced from the point of view of one person, Meursault, What we know about the events in the novel and about the other characters is based on his interpretation.
In the opening scenes, notice how Meursault emphasizes the external aspects of his environment, and how little you learn about his inner feelings and thoughts. Eventually, he dozes off. Meursault has the feeling, in the course of their conversation, that the warden blames him for sending his mother to the home.
The doorkeeper appears and begins to unscrew the lid of the coffin so that Meursault can view his mother one last time. Meursault stops him. At first Meursault feels uneasy in the presence of the doorkeeper. To ease the tension, he strikes up a conversation. His conversation with the doorkeeper could be taking place anywhere- they might be two strangers meeting in an elevator or on a train.
As night falls, the doorkeeper offers to bring Meursault a mug of cafe au lait- coffee with milk. Meursault accepts the offer, and the two men continue their vigil beside the coffin. What reasons could you attribute to such an attitude?
In preparation for the customary all-night vigil, the doorkeeper arranges a number of chairs around the coffin. Pay close attention to the way Camus interweaves and emphasizes certain details, most notably the image of light- both natural sunlight and electric light. You will find many more references to light throughout the story. Do you have the impression they are trying to make him feel guilty? They nod their heads and suck their toothless gums.
One of the old women at the vigil weeps, and the doorkeeper tells Meursault that his mother had been her closest friend.
As the night progresses, Meursault grows tired and becomes aware of a pain in his legs. At dawn, all the old people shake hands with Meursault and leave. Yet he has a hard time staying interested in anything for very long. His mind seems to work like an instant camera; after he takes the picture, however, he throws it away. To him, no one picture is much more important or carries much more weight than any other.
Meursault experiences the funeral as a series of physical sensations. He smells the hot leather and the horse dung from the hearse and feels exhausted as a result of staying awake most of the night. He has a bad headache and can barely drag himself along to the cemetery. As you read the novel, see how Camus conveys his philosophy in terms of human testimony, experience, and description- not analysis.
But he was true to his own feelings. Why do you think he did? At the pool near the harbor he meets Marie Cardona, a former typist in his office. Meursault and Marie swim together, frolicking happily in the water like children.
Meursault and Marie doze off on a raft, his head upon her lap. As you read, note all the ways in which Camus uses the image of water. You might compare the water imagery to the images of sunlight which also occur frequently throughout the book. Ask yourself how you would have reacted if you were Marie. Many people in Western cultures observe a period of mourning after a close relative has passed away or wear black as a sign that someone close to them has died.
Perhaps that is why Marie is not deeply affected by the news of the death. That evening, Marie and Meursault go to the movies to see a comedy starring the French actor Fernandel. On Sunday morning, Meursault awakens to find Marie gone. Is it because he prefers the regimented life of the work week to the freedom of the weekend, when he must make his own choices about what to do?
After lunch, he wanders restlessly around his apartment. You get the feeling that Meursault is just killing time, waiting for Monday and the routine of going to work.
His meeting with Marie at the pool was purely accidental. Whatever encounters he has with people take place by chance. As you read, ask yourself what makes Meursault different or stand out from other people. He spends most of the day on the balcony of his apartment.
From that vantage point, he observes a family going for their Sunday walk, the local teenagers on their way to the movies, the tobacconist across the street sitting outside his shop.
Most people would probably be bored with this routine, but Meursault seems content just to exist. Sunday or Monday, life or death- it seems to be all the same.
He believed that the weariness that resulted from the acts of a mechanical life- a life that continued, unchanging, from week to week- was the condition necessary to give birth to the feeling of absurdity in an individual. But you are told that the simple physical act of washing his hands during the day gives him pleasure.
Then he returns to his apartment for a nap and later goes back to the office. This is his daily routine. Why do you think Camus spends so little time describing what Meursault does at work? Others feel that the ritual of going to work is more important to Camus than the work itself.
After work Meursault walks home along the harbor, feeling the coolness of the evening air on his face. On the steps of his apartment he meets an elderly man, Salamano, who lives with his dog on the same floor as Meursault. The man and the dog have lived together for eight years. But Salamano regularly beats the dog, and the dog, in turn, irritates his master, by pulling on the leash when they walk down the street.
Before reaching his apartment, Meursault greets another neighbor, Raymond Sintes, who invites him into his room for dinner. Though he tells people he works in a warehouse, he is reputed to be a pimp.
Camus named several characters in The Stranger after members of his own family. Some readers think that the similarities in the names seem to indicate that Camus wanted to call attention to the autobiographical elements in the novel and to indicate that much of the book was inspired by his childhood experiences.
But why Salamano beats his dog or Raymond beats his girlfriend is a mystery to him. Does this interpretation contradict his antisocial behavior at the nursing home? Others feel that Meursault is just drifting, as always, from one chance encounter to another. As you read, ask yourself why Meursault feels and acts the way he does. Do you think of him as an honest person? Or is he just acting selfishly? He has done this, disregarding the possible consequences, especially to the girl.
Meursault and his coworker, Emmanuel, have seen two movies, but we are not told the names of the movies. Why do you think Meursault tells you about the roller towel at work, yet neglects to give details about other aspects of his life?
On Saturday, Marie and Meursault go to the beach. Her physical presence stirs him out of his normal lethargy. He takes pleasure in just being with her, staring at her, enjoying her beauty and sensuality. At the beach they swim together on their backs. The next morning Marie asks Meursault whether he loves her.
Or maybe his spontaneity and impulsiveness, and his unwillingness to conform, are what appeal to her most. A moment of tenderness between Meursault and Marie is shattered by the sounds of a violent quarrel between Raymond and his girlfriend.
This is another of the rare instances in which Meursault expresses an opinion. Some readers feel his dislike of the police indicates a dislike of authority in general. Others think that the reference to the police is a way of foreshadowing events in the second part of the novel.
Another tenant in the building arrives with a policeman. Raymond, a cigarette dangling between his lips, finally opens the door. The policeman orders Raymond to take the cigarette out of his mouth. After a glance at Meursault for approval? Raymond defiantly continues smoking, and the policeman smacks him in the face. In his essay The Myth of Sisyphus, written about the same time as The Stranger, Camus posed the question whether to commit suicide when one is faced with the utter indifference of the universe.
To the anti-hero, suicide is not a solution. Instead, the anti-hero accepts his state of being, concentrating on experiencing the pleasures of the moment. After she goes, Meursault takes a nap. You should note other places in the novel when Meursault sleeps after upsetting scenes or circumstances. Had Meursault, Raymond wants to know, expected him to defend himself against the policeman?
The two men go drinking in a cafe. Raymond proposes that they visit a brothel, but Meursault declines. On their way home they meet Salamano, who is frantically looking for his dog. Raymond tries to reassure Salamano by telling anecdotes about dogs that have returned to their masters, but Salamano is afraid that the police will find and destroy the dog.
Meursault says that Salamano should inquire at the pound where stray dogs are taken: At the idea of paying money in exchange for his dog, Salamano flies into a rage and begins cursing the lost animal. Salamano with his dog, Raymond with his girlfriend.
Both men are controlled by their emotions. His self-control impresses people like Raymond and Salamano. Why do you think the visit from Salamano makes Meursault think of his mother? Does Meursault, at this moment, want to be like everyone else?
He assures Meursault that Marie can come along as well. Raymond also says that he thinks some Arabs, including the brother of his girlfriend, are following him. He asks Meursault to be on the lookout for any Arabs hanging around the house. If he were to move to Paris, they argue, he would truly be a stranger, out of place, forced to focus on the minute details of merely surviving.
The irony of this interpretation lies in the fact that Meursault already acts as if he were a foreigner, unaware of the customs of the world in which he presently exists, a world where a display of emotion at the death of your mother is expected of you, and where lack of ambition- turning down a bet- ter job- is frowned upon.
When Meursault returns to his desk, he gives us a brief glimpse of his past. For example, when he was 17, he suffered a bout of tuberculosis. Just as Meursault had to give up his studies, so Camus was forced to abandon his dreams of becoming a teacher. Marie visits Meursault that evening and asks him to marry her.
But his answer does hurt her and makes her wonder whether she really loves Meursault. Yet nothing Meursault says bothers Marie for very long.
Sensing that marriage is important to her, Meursault agrees to marry her whenever she wants. He tells her about the possibility of moving to Paris, and we learn that he once lived there. In a book such as The Stranger, where the language a character uses is important in order to understand motivation, one must take into consideration such changes in the text. As you may have noticed, Meursault observes the people around him with great clarity and with an almost photographic precision, as if each person were a specimen under a lens.
Once this woman joins Meursault, she takes no notice of him; but he watches her intently. The way she moves reminds Meursault of a robot. Readers have interpreted the function of the robot-woman in the novel in a number of ways. Some feel that she epitomizes a machinelike, antihuman aspect of the world- rigid, inflexible, out of touch with the rhythms of the universe. At the door of his house Meursault meets Salamano, who tells him that the dog is definitely lost. Meursault invites Salamano into his apartment and suggests that he find another dog to replace the lost one.
Uncertainty surrounds virtually all the relationships in The Stranger. A friend offered him a puppy, whom Salamano treated like a baby, feeding it first from a bottle. Before leaving, Salamano informs Meursault that some neighbors had been critical of him for sending his mother to the nursing home. Salamano assures Meursault that he knew how much the latter was devoted to his mother, but, nevertheless, the criticism surprises Meursault.
Going to the home, where she could make friends, was the best thing for her, he feels. His bad mood on waking seems to foreshadow the events to come. Perhaps his mood is a warning that he should stay home. Marie, on the other hand, is excited about the excursion.
Some people think that Marie is being thoughtless when she tells Meursault that he resembles a mourner. Some readers think that by becoming so involved with Marie and Raymond, Meursault is compromising his sense of freedom. Others feel that his headache, on the day of the outing, is a signal that his involvement with other people is becoming too much for him to handle.
Still others claim that his involvement with Marie and Raymond has changed his attitude toward himself. He is no longer free to concern himself solely with his own physical comforts. Marie and Meursault wait outside for Raymond.
The previous evening, Meursault tells us, he went to the police station, where he told the police that Raymond had been justified in beating his girlfriend. Is there a connection between this hypocrisy on his part and his bad mood? One of the men, according to Raymond, is the brother of his girlfriend. On the bus ride Meursault notices that Raymond is attracted to Marie. Occasionally Marie gives Meursault reassuring looks, as if worried that he might be feeling jealous. The beach is on the outskirts of Algiers.
As they walk to the water, Marie innocently swings her bag against the petals of the flowers. Raymond introduces Meursault and Marie to Masson and his wife, who live in a small bungalow near the beach. Some readers feel that Meursault knows instinctively that his life is about to change. Like Masson, Meursault would like to have a house at the beach where he could go with Marie on weekends.
Can you imagine Meursault working overtime to save money to buy a house? As usual, Meursault begins to feel better with the combination of warm sunlight and cold, refreshing water. He and Marie take a long swim together. Why do you think time is important here?
Some readers feel that the element of time- of knowing the exact time is one way of creating order in an unstable universe. After lunch, Meursault, Masson, and Raymond head back to the beach. Many readers feel that in this scene Meursault becomes a victim of the natural elements. His ability to appreciate the pleasures of the physical world- lying in the sun, bathing- backfires.
The sun, once a symbol of peace and pleasure, becomes a demonic force from which Meursault, as if hypnotized, is unable to escape. The three men walk along the shore. Once again, he feels groggy, paralyzed, half-asleep. Meursault notices two Arabs coming toward them from the other end of the beach.
Raymond lashes out at the man and calls to Masson for help. Masson attacks the second Arab and knocks him into the water. The Arabs back away, one holding the knife in front of him, then race off down the beach. Masson and Meursault help Raymond, who appears to be badly wounded, back to the bungalow. Meursault stays behind with Marie and Madame Masson, both of whom are upset by the incident. Instead, he stares Meditatively at the sea. Raymond returns from the doctor in a bad mood and insists on going for a walk by himself on the beach.
Despite his insistence that he wants to go can you think why he might want to? Meursault follows him. The two men walk to the end of the beach and come upon the two Arabs lying on the sand. One of them is playing the same three notes over and over again on a reed flute. The other Arab stares at them without saying anything. Raymond reaches into his pocket as if to pull out a revolver and unexpectedly asks Meursault if he should shoot one of the Arabs.
Then he advises Raymond not to do anything unless the Arab threatens or insults him. Others think that he wants the gun so that he can be more fully involved in the episode. Still others hold that Meursault subconsciously wants to do something that will alter his life and that possessing the gun is a way of taking control of his destiny. As the men continue to eye one another, Meursault thinks that it makes no difference whether one fires the gun or not. What do you think he means by this?
Then, suddenly, the two Arabs leave, and Meursault and Raymond return to the bungalow. Do you remember the incident between Raymond and the policeman earlier in the novel? Meursault returns to the beach. He walks now like a shell-shocked veteran returning to the scene of battle.
Instead, his conflict is with the red, glaring sun, which presses itself on him from all sides. His temples are throbbing. His goal is to return to the cool stream and the shade of the rock where he and Raymond encountered the Arabs on their last walk.
He thought that the incident between Raymond and the Arab was closed. Not once on his walk from the bungalow to the rock did he think of meeting the Arabs. He takes some more steps toward the stream. Is it possible he is still thinking only of the cool water, rather than of a confrontation with the Arab?
As Meursault confronts the Arab, the language he uses to describe the scene becomes more intense than in any previous section of the novel: At that, the Arab takes out his knife. He seems- as he presses down on the trigger of the gun in his pocket- like a man possessed. It is not even certain, as he fires a shot at the Arab, that he has done so deliberately: Then he fires four more times at the body of the Arab but he does not tell us why he does this. Is it the action of someone temporarily insane?
The death of one person, these readers say, is as important as the hundreds of thousands of deaths that occur during a war. For Camus, all forms of violence are equally meaningless; nothing can justify the killing of another person.
Other readers interpret the murder of the Arab as an indication of the violent impulse inherent in all people.
These readers feel that his act is a reflection of the violence brewing beneath the surface; it exposes the naked violence in the most apparently harmless of people. The acts of violence in the book so far- Salamano beating his dog and Raymond beating his girlfriend and fighting her brother- have arisen out of passion.
The recognition of the absurd occurs when the routine that characterizes each life has been destroyed. Yet in the first chapter of Part Two the tone he uses to describe his experiences is similar to the tone in Part One.
During his first interviews with the police, Meursault has the feeling that no one is particularly interested in him or his case. The police, and later the magistrate, all ask him the same questions: Meursault answers that he has no lawyer and that it has never occurred to him to get one. The magistrate explains that, in keeping with the law, the court will appoint a lawyer to defend him. The magistrate seems intelligent, almost likeable, and Meursault is even tempted to shake his hand on leaving.
Is he wise to have answered so bluntly? He makes Meursault promise not to express any negative sentiments about his mother to the magistrate or at the trial. Recall how earlier in the book Meursault agrees to marry Marie to satisfy her and how he writes the letter for Raymond to satisfy him.
Meursault explains to the lawyer that his feelings are influenced by his physical state at any given moment. Meursault refuses to lie and explain his actions at the funeral by saying, as the lawyer suggests, that he had kept his emotions under control.
In his eyes, Meursault is being naive. Until his period of imprisonment, Meursault has not felt particularly alienated from society. Only when he is confronted by the religious and judicial branches of society does he feel like an outsider.
In these initial interviews with the lawyer, you see a man who will not compromise his notion of the truth to save his own life. Later that day, Meursault has another interview with the magistrate. You know by now how sensitive he is to light and heat, and how frequently his present physical state determines the things he says and does.
But first Meursault has to answer a few more questions. Did he love her? Why, the magistrate continues, did Meursault fire five consecutive shots into the body of the Arab? Meursault waits for a moment, then corrects the magistrate. After his first shot he paused.
But why, the magistrate asks, did he pause? Meursault returns in his mind to the scene of that hot afternoon on the beach. The magistrate again asks why: Many readers have pointed out how difficult it is for Meursault to respond to a question with more than a few words.
Recall how the Arab displayed his knife to Meursault when they were alone on the beach. What does all this talk about religion have to do with the case? Meursault, without thinking twice, answers no, but the magistrate refuses to accept this. If he ever came to doubt the existence of God, the magistrate tells Meursault, his life would have no meaning. Meursault is anxious for the interview to end and pretends to agree. Do you feel that the magistrate is being sincere?
Though Meursault is willing to agree with other people in some instances, he refuses to budge when his religious beliefs are questioned. Why do you think this issue is so important to him? The interview ends with a final question: Meursault takes his time answering.
Over the next 11 months, Meursault, accompanied by his lawyer, has numerous interviews with the magistrate. Sometimes the lawyer and the magistrate ignore Meursault.
At other times, they allow him to take part in the conversation. Never once, Meursault tells us, do they express hostility toward him. In his role as an anonymous officer worker, Meursault could limit and control his encounters with the world. At the end of the previous chapter, we learned that the examinations with the magistrate had gone on for 11 months.
When Meursault first enters prison, he never imagines talking to anyone of his experiences there.
Gradually, as time passes, this reluctance fades away. He tells us that during the first few days he was hardly conscious on where he was; he had the vague hope that something would happen to alter his circumstances. The noise of the other prisoners and their visitors in the visiting room makes it hard for Meursault to concentrate on her.
As Marie presses up against the rail that separates them, Meursault feels a great desire to reach out and squeeze her shoulders.