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The Stranger

The Stranger


by Albert Camus

Meursault Timeline and Summary

  • It all starts with a telegram Meursault receives informing him of his mother’s death. He doesn’t know (and doesn’t care) on which day she died.
  • Meursault borrows a black tie and arm band from his friend Emmanuel, and hurries to take the bus to the funeral in rural Marengo.
  • At the home, Meursault meets his mother’s caretaker, the director, the nurse, and a handful of his mother’s friends.
  • Meursault declines seeing his mother for one last time, but shares a smoke with the caretaker alongside his mother’s casket.
  • Meursault stays for the vigil, but eventually falls asleep. He is mostly annoyed by the ordeal of a vigil.
  • Morning comes, and the funeral procession commences. Meursault is surprised to meet Thomas Perez, his mother’s boyfriend, at the home.
  • During the funeral procession, Meursault realizes that he did not know how old his mother was.
  • When it is all over, Meursault is happy to be rid of the sweltering weather of Marengo, and joyously takes the bus back to Algiers to go to bed.
  • At waking up, Meursault goes for a swim at the public beach down at the harbor.
  • He bumps, or rather, swims into Marie Cardona, a former co-worker he liked but didn’t have time for. Now Meursault makes a move on her.
  • Meursault asks her out to a movie; they decide on a comedy.
  • He picks her up wearing a black tie. Marie seems shocked that Meursault’s mother died only yesterday, but soon afterward, she forgets it.
  • The two mess around in the theatre… then take it to bed at Meursault’s place.
  • Meursault lazes around for the rest of the weekend.
  • Come Monday, Meursault works hard at the office. His boss is nice to him, presumably because Meursault is in mourning.
  • He and Emmanuel, coworker and friend, jump a large truck for a lift to Celeste’s diner for lunch.
  • After lunch, Meursault goes back to his apartment for a nap. Then he goes back to work.
  • That evening as Meursault walks back home, he bumps into his neighbor, Salamano – with his disease-ridden old dog – in the stairway.
  • Meursault chats briefly with Salamano until Raymond Sintes, his other neighbor, comes in. Raymond invites him for a light dinner, and Meursault agrees.
  • Over dinner and wine, the two chat about a fight Raymond was in earlier.
  • Raymond then confides in Meursault about his wanting to teach his ex-girlfriend – his cheating mistress – a lesson.
  • The two devise a plan. First, Meursault writes an emotional letter for Raymond which they expect will compel the ex-girlfriend to come back. Once she does, Raymond can have sex with her, but "right at the last minute" spit in her face and throw her out.
  • Raymond, pleased with the letter and the plan, seals it off for mailing. Meursault stumbles drunkenly back across the landing to his apartment.
  • Meursault works hard all week. Raymond informs him that the letter is sent, and Meursault goes to the movies twice with Emmanuel.
  • On Saturday, he frolics with Marie on a beach a few miles outside Algiers. After all afternoon in the sun, the two hurriedly catch a bus home for some sex.
  • The next morning, Marie asks Meursault if he loves her. He tells her he doesn’t think so, and she is saddened.
  • As the two fix their lunch, a fight breaks out in Raymond’s room as he hits his ex-girlfriend repeatedly. A cop shows up and breaks the fight. Once the commotion is over, everyone leaves. Meursault and Marie go back to their lunch, and then Marie leaves at 1pm and Meursault sleeps a while.
  • At three p.m., Raymond knocks on Meursault’s door. The two go for a walk. Raymond asks Meursault to be a character witness for him, and Meursault agrees.
  • After a brandy or two, the men shoot a game of pool. Raymond then suggests visiting the brothel, but Meursault declines. So the two leisurely stroll back to their apartments.
  • A ways from the apartment, Meursault realizes that Salamano is standing at the entrance steps looking flustered and missing his dog.
  • Salamano reveals that… his dog has disappeared. Meursault consoles him.
  • As Meursault prepares for bed, he overhears Salamano crying.
  • The next morning, Raymond calls Meursault at the office to invite him and Marie to spend the coming Sunday at his friend’s beach house near Algiers.
  • Meursault’s boss sends for him after the call. The boss wonders whether Meursault would be open to working at the company’s new office in Paris; Meursault is incredibly vague in his answer.
  • That evening, Marie comes by and asks Meursault if he wants to get married. Meursault says it doesn’t make any difference to him.
  • The two go for a stroll through the main streets on the other side of town.
  • Then, Meursault goes for dinner at Celeste’s.
  • Meursault goes home to find old Salamano waiting outside his door. The two chat.
  • Meursault has a hard time waking up on Sunday; Marie helps him out.
  • Meursault lets us know about the past Saturday: he and Raymond went to the police station so Meursault could testify about Raymond’s mistress having cheated on him. Thus, Raymond got off with a warning.
  • Meursault and Marie meet up with Raymond that morning and the three catch a bus.
  • They arrive at Raymond’s friend’s (Masson) wooden bungalow.
  • Masson, Meursault, and Marie go for a swim down at the beach.
  • They all have lunch. Afterwards, as the ladies take care of the dishes, the men take a stroll down the beach.
  • The three men are confronted by two Arabs that have been following them since the bus stop, one of whom was Raymond’s ex-girlfriend’s brother.
  • A fight breaks out among the men. One Arab cuts Raymond’s arm and slashes his mouth with a knife.
  • Masson takes Raymond to the doctor, while Meursault stays behind to explain what happened to the women.
  • After Raymond comes back all bandaged up, he and Meursault take a walk for some air at the beach. They come upon the Arabs again.
  • Raymond wants to shoot the Arab who attacked him, but Meursault talks him out of it. Finally, Raymond hands Meursault his gun for safekeeping.
  • The Arabs back away behind the giant rock. Raymond and Meursault turn and go back to the beach house.
  • The heat is intense from the sun by now. Meursault turns around back toward the beach to cool off.
  • Meursault’s head swells under the sun. He walks for a long time, looking for shade and quietude.
  • As he approaches the spring, Meursault encounters the Arab yet again.
  • The Arab doesn’t move at first. As Meursault moves closer, the man draws his knife and holds it up.
  • The light bounces off the steel and cuts like a blade at Meursault’s forehead. A drip of sweat temporarily blinds him.
  • Meursault squeezes the trigger, pointing at the Arab. He then shoots four more times at the motionless body.
  • Fast forward a few months. Meursault has been arrested and questioned, first at the police station, then by the examining magistrate.
  • Meursault thinks his case is a simple one. His attorney disagrees.
  • After hours of questioning, trying to understand Meursault’s psyche, the attorney is still disappointed. Meursault realizes that his attorney doesn’t understand him and is frustrated because of it.
  • Later, the examining magistrate interviews Meursault about the pertinent details of that fateful day. Meursault answers all the questions matter-of-factly.
  • The magistrate then pulls out a silver crucifix, and talks about his belief in God as every criminal’s savior. Meursault responds that he does not believe in God.
  • The magistrate now screams irrationally at Meursault, demanding that he ask God for forgiveness. It is getting hotter and hotter, and Meursault finally acquiesces.
  • The magistrate is appeased, but says Meursault is the most hardened criminal he has encountered.
  • The investigations had gone on for eleven months at this point. During these months, Meursault has awaited trial in prison. He dislikes his life there, as might have been expected.
  • Marie visits him briefly. It isn’t an interesting encounter.
  • After that, Meursault receives a letter from Marie stating that she is not allowed to visit him anymore as she is not his wife.
  • Meursault realizes that his biggest problem in the first few months of prison is that he had the thoughts of a free man.
  • Afterwards, his thoughts became that of a prisoner. He's gotten used to life on the inside, so now he’s more annoyed than unhappy.
  • Meursault realizes that he has grown serious… morbid…joyless.
  • By the beginning of summer (it has been a full year since the shooting), the trial has been set for June, in the Court of Assizes.
  • Meursault’s attorney tells him that it won’t last more than two or three days because a more interesting parricide is slated just after his trial.
  • Trial opens, and everything seems chaotic and wrong. Meursault’s examination begins right away by the presiding judge.
  • The prosecution continues the line of questioning.
  • Meursault’s answers make himself nervous.
  • After that, the hearing is adjourned until the afternoon.
  • Meursault is taken back to the prison for lunch and promptly back to the courthouse thereafter.
  • The court then calls all of Meursault’s friends and acquaintances to the stand. Meursault senses something is terribly wrong.
  • Meursault is irritated. His attorney assures him that he will get off with a few years in prison or at hard labor.
  • The foreman of the jury files back in to read the verdict. Meursault is found guilty and sentenced to death by guillotine.
  • When asked whether he has anything to add, Meursault says no and is promptly taken away.
  • Back in prison, Meursault refuses three times to see the chaplain.
  • Other than reminiscing about his childhood, two other issues occupy Meursault: the dawn and his appeal.
  • Meursault tries to stay calm; he is not without hope that his appeal will be granted.
  • Sometimes Meursault thinks about Marie – but nothing substantial.
  • One day, the chaplain comes to visit suddenly. Meursault shudders.
  • The chaplain is gentle at first. Meursault declines every offer of salvation he makes.
  • After a few more rounds of this, something in Meursault snaps. He starts to yell at the top of his lungs. He insults the chaplain, grabs him by the neck, and screams for what seems like an hour.
  • Finally, Meursault lets go of the chaplain, threatened by the guards. The chaplain’s eyes are full of tears, and he turns and disappears.
  • With the chaplain gone, Meursault is able to calm down. He drifts off to sleep.
  • Just before dawn, he awakes to the wonderful smells of the earth and the peace of summer.
  • Then, for the first in a long time, he thinks about his mother. He says he finally understands why at the end of her life she begins a love affair, playing at beginning again as if she were young once more. So close to death, Maman must have felt free, ready to live it all over.
  • Meursault draws the analogy to himself. Just as his mother rebelled against dying, he must, too. At last, he is emptied of all hope – he is free from worry, and able to acknowledge the "gentle indifference" of the world.
  • Meursault declares that all that is left, in order for him to be less alone, is to wish for a large crowd of hating spectators at his own execution.

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