Study Guide

The Stranger Quotes

  • Isolation

    Part 1, Chapter 1

    Then he offered to bring me a cup of coffee with milk. I like milk in my coffee, so I said yes, and he came back a few minutes later with a tray. I drank the coffee. Then I felt like having a smoke. But I hesitated, because I didn’t know if I could do it with Maman right there. I thought about it; it didn’t matter. I offered the caretaker a cigarette and we smoked. (1.1.13)

    Although Meursault feels a twinge of self-consciousness here (he is unsure as to whether he is doing the right thing), he ultimately excuses it as something meaningless. This can be seen a detachment or remorselessness, depending on the context.

    [A] soldier […] smiled at me and asked if I’d been traveling long. I said, "Yes," just so I wouldn’t have to say anything else. (1.1.4)

    When The Stranger begins, Meursault has no interest in other people whatsoever. This will gradually change as the novel progresses.

    That’s when Maman’s friends came in. there were about ten in all, and they floated into the blinding light without a sound. They sat down without a single chair creaking. I saw them more clearly than I had ever seen anyone […]. But I couldn’t hear them, and it was hard for me to believe they really existed. (1.1.15)

    Meursault is content being a spectator in life, and may even be slightly solipsistic (solipsism is the belief that the self is all that we can truly know exists). This is certainly one explanation for his self-prescribed isolation.

    Soon one of the women started crying. […] I thought she’d never stop. […] The woman kept on crying. […] I wished I didn’t have to listen to her anymore. But I didn’t dare say anything. (1.1.16)

    Meursault is so unattached and without pain over his mother’s death that others’ expressions of sadness annoy him more than they affect him.

    [M]y joy when the bus entered the nest of lights that was Algiers and I knew I was going to go to bed and sleep for twelve hours. (1.1.27)

    Ever notice that Meursault sleeps a lot? Yes, we did too.

    It had been a long time since I'd been out in the country, and I could feel how much I'd enjoy going for a walk if it hadn't been for Maman. (1.1.19)

    Meursault is so matter-of-fact in his physical desires that he has no room for sadness or sentimentality in his heart.

    "I suppose you’d like to see your mother."

    […]

    "We put the cover on, but I’m supposed to unscrew the casket so you can see her." He was moving toward the casket when I stopped him. He said, "You don’t want to?" I answered, "no." He was quiet, and I was embarrassed because I felt I shouldn’t have said that. (1.1.6-8)

    Meursault recognizes that his detachment is unacceptable.

    On their way out, and much to my surprise, they all shook my hand – as if that night during which we hadn’t exchanged as much as a single word had somehow brought us closer together. (1.1.18)

    Meursault does not subscribe to society’s rules about closeness; he does not easily attach or identify with other people.

    Part 1, Chapter 2

    It occurred to me that anyway one more Sunday was over that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed. (1.2.11)

    Meursault was isolated from his mother both before and after her death; this is why "nothing [has] changed."

    Part 1, Chapter 3

    […] he asked me again if I wanted to be pals. I said it was fine with me: he seemed pleased. (1.3.7)

    Here we see that Meursault doesn’t pursue isolation; it’s just that it is usually the path of least resistance for him. When the easiest road is friendship, then he takes that one instead.

    Meursault

    She was wearing a pair of my pajamas with the sleeves rolled up. When she laughed I wanted her again. A minute later she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn't mean anything but that I didn't think so. She looked sad. But as we were fixing lunch, and for no apparent reason, she laughed in such a way that I kissed her. (1.4.3)

    Meursault is isolated even from the one woman in his life.

    Part 1, Chapter 4

    First we heard a woman’s shrill voice and then Raymond saying, "You used me, you used me. I’ll teach you to use me." There were some thuds and the woman screamed, but in such a terrifying way that the landing immediately filled with people […]. The woman was shrieking and Raymond was hitting her." (1.4.4)

    Paradoxically, Raymond is at once so attached to yet so removed from this woman that he abuses her for cheating on him. (He has to be attached to get emotional, but removed—and evil—to bring himself to hurt her.)

    And from the peculiar little noise coming through the partition, I realized he was crying. For some reason I thought of Maman. But I had to get up early the next morning. I wasn’t hungry, and I went to bed without any dinner. (1.4.7)

    Meursault approaches a state of consciousness here—surely the following thought (about Maman) had to do with the fact that Salamano is crying over his dog, whereas Meursault couldn’t even cry over his mother. But because we’re only in Chapter Four, and it’s far too early for Meursault to have a revelation, he truncates his own thinking by going to bed. Nighty night, Meursault.

    Part 1, Chapter 5
    Meursault

    She just wanted to know if I would have accepted the same proposal from another woman, with whom I was involved in the same way. I said, "Sure." Then she said she wondered if she loved me, and there was no way I could know about that. After another moment’s silence, she mumbled that I was peculiar, that that was probably why she loved me but that one day I might hate her for the same reason. I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t have anything to add, so she took my arm with a smile and said she wanted to marry me. (1.5.4)

    Check out the line, "I didn’t have anything to add." Look familiar? This is what Meursault says after his execution sentence is read. Does he honestly never have anything to say? Or is it that anything he could say would be pointless?

    Then he said, very quickly and with an embarrassed look, that he realized that some people in the neighborhood thought badly of me for having sent Maman to the home, but he knew me and he knew I loved her very much. I still don’t know why, but I said that until then I hadn’t realized that people thought badly of me for doing it, but that the home had seemed like the natural thing since I didn’t have enough money to have Maman cared for. (1.5.9)

    Old Salamano’s apologetic comment is the first instance of society’s negative opinion of Meursault that Meursault is aware of—at least as far as we’ve seen. Meursault, of course, doesn’t seem to care.

    Marie Cardona

    That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her. "So why marry me, then?" she said. I explained to her that it didn’t really matter and that if she wanted to, we could get married. […] Then she pointed out that marriage was a serious thing. I said, "No." (1.5.4)

    With characteristic emotional indifference and detachment, Meursault answers Marie’s question with brutal honesty. However, his honesty betrays his ignorance of the range of human emotion, and perhaps even more than that, his primarily sexual interest in Marie.

    Part 1, Chapter 6

    Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness. (1.6.24)

    Meursault recognizes that his action will lead to "unhappiness," yet he doesn’t stop himself. It’s interesting that he takes the agency for the latter four shots ("I fired four more times") but not for the initial shot ("The trigger gave").

    We [Raymond and Meursault] stared at each other without blinking, and everything came to a stop there between the sea, the sand, and the sun, and the double silence of the flute and the water. It was then that I realized that you could either shoot or not shoot. (1.6.18)

    Even if there is no meaning to life, every person faces a choice in every situation. At this point in the book, however, Meursault’s sense of detachment prevents his thinking or acting rationally.

    Part 2, Chapter 1

    The investigators had learned that I had "shown insensitivity" the day of Maman’s funeral. […] He [the lawyer] asked if I had felt any sadness that day. […] I answered that I had pretty much lost the habit of analyzing myself and that it was hard for me to tell him what he wanted to know. I probably did love Maman, but that didn’t mean anything. At one time or another all normal people have wished their loved ones were dead. Here the lawyer interrupted me and he seemed very upset. He made me promise I wouldn’t say that at my hearing or in front of the examining magistrate. (2.1.4)

    Characteristically, Meursault’s honest answer betrays just how detached and apathetic he seems toward certain affairs or concepts. He refuses to adopt the perception that is approved by society; he refuses to lie to save himself.

    Without working up to it, he asked if I loved Maman. I said, "Yes, the same as anyone," and the clerk, who up to then had been typing steadily, must have hit the wrong key, because he lost his place and had to go back. (2.1.9)

    Either detachment, ignorance (about the concept of love) or logic accompanies Meursault’s answer. The clerk’s reaction represents society’s judgment that Meursault’s answer is due to detachment, or sociopathy.

    Meursault

    He started out by saying that people were describing me as a taciturn and withdrawn person and he wanted to know what I thought. I answered, "It’s just that I don’t have much to say. So I keep quiet." (2.1.8)

    Meursault attributes his having nothing to say to his passivity. Society apparently judges that other reasons, such as immorality or evil, account for his detachment.

    Part 2, Chapter 2
    Marie Cardona

    She shouted again, "You’ll get out and we’ll get married!" I answered, "You think so?" but it was mainly just to say something. (2.2.7)

    Whatever sense of closeness Meursault has developed for Marie is gone; the same detachment is all that remains.

    To get to the visiting room I went down a long corridor, then down some stairs and, finally, another corridor[…]. The room was divided into three sections by two large grates that ran the length of the room. Between the two grates was a space of eight to ten meters which separated the visitors from the prisoners. I spotted Marie standing at the opposite end of the room. […] Because of the distance between the grates, the visitors and the prisoners were forced to speak very loud. (2.2.3)

    The physical layout of the visiting room symbolizes the chasm between upstanding citizens of society and immoral criminals in prison. As if Meursault needed to be further separated or detached. Right.

    Part 2, Chapter 3

    The reporters […] all had the same indifferent and somewhat snide look on their faces. One of them, however, much younger than the others, wearing gray flannels and a blue tie, had left his pen lying in front of him and was looking at me […] examining me closely without betraying any definable emotion. And I had the odd impression of being watched by myself. (2.3.7)

    The courtroom spectators represent society; they are there to judge Meursault, the detached, nonconforming outsider. Ironically, however, the spectators are a pretty detached group themselves. Even more ironically, Meursault identifies with one of them, signifying that he is also beginning to judge himself by society’s rubric.

    To another question [the director of the home] replied that he had been surprised by my calm the day of the funeral. He was asked what he meant by "calm." The director then looked down at the tips of his shoes and said that I hadn’t wanted to see Maman, that I hadn’t cried once, and that I had left right after the funeral without paying my last respects at her grave. (2.3.14)

    Feeling no sadness over his mother’s death, Meursault’s detachment is starting to get him into real trouble.

    He gave the policeman a warm handshake. I noticed then that everyone was waving and exchanging greetings and talking, as if they were in a club where people are glad to find themselves among others from the same world. That is how I explained to myself the strange impression I had of being odd man out, a kind of intruder. (2.3.4)

    Why does Meursault refer to his feeling like an outsider as a "strange impression?" You’d think he would be used to such a feeling by now. This passage reminds us that Meursault is actually less aware than the reader of his own strange nature.

    […] for the first time in years, I had this stupid urge to cry, because I could feel how much all these people hated me. (2.3.14)

    Buckling under the pressure, Meursault eases up on his detachment. He is beginning to feel the force of condemnation against him.

    [The caretaker] answered the questions put to him. He said I hadn’t wanted to see Maman, that I had smoked and slept some, and that I had had some coffee. It was then I felt a stirring go through the room and for the first time I realized that I was guilty. (2.3.15)

    Interesting! Meursault realizes that he is guilty—of being cold-hearted, not of shooting the Arab. At this point, not only does he realize that he is on trial more for his character than his crime, but he condemns himself for that very character.

    Part 2, Chapter 4

    In a way, they seemed to be arguing the case as if it had nothing to do with me. Everything was happening without my participation. My fate was being decided without anyone so much as asking my opinion. (2.4.1)

    Meursault accuses others of having his own sense of removal; they judge the case as though he isn’t there. It’s interesting, though, that this is how he treated other people (like the soldier on the bus, or Perez at the nursing home) up until now.

    Part 2, Chapter 5

    As if that blind rage has washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, I that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much life myself – so like a brother, really – I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate. (2.5.26)

    Earlier Meursault felt isolation from the world, but he now feels kinship with it. Because he is indifferent, and so is the world, they find kinship in their indifference.

    For now, it’s almost as if Maman weren’t dead. After the funeral, though, the case will be closed, and everything will have a more official feel to it. (1.1.2)

    Closure = certainty. Meursault suspends his emotional attachment until something is made "official," or at least certain.

  • Society and Class

    Part 1, Chapter 1

    Then he offered to bring me a cup of coffee with milk. I like milk in my coffee, so I said yes, and he came back a few minutes later with a tray. I drank the coffee. Then I felt like having a smoke. But I hesitated, because I didn’t know if I could do it with Maman right there. I thought about it; it didn’t matter. I offered the caretaker a cigarette and we smoked. (1.1.13)

    Although Meursault feels a twinge of self-consciousness here, unsure whether he is doing the right thing, he ultimately excuses it as something meaningless. This can be seen as detachment or remorselessness, depending on the context.

    On their way out, and much to my surprise, they all shook my hand – as if that night during which we hadn’t exchanged as much as a single word had somehow brought us closer together. (1.1.18)

    Meursault does not subscribe to society’s rules about closeness and relationships; he does not easily attach or identify with anyone.

    It was then that I realized they were all sitting across from me, nodding their heads, grouped around the caretaker. (1.1.15)

    The strategic opposing placement of Maman’s friends and Meursault betrays Meursault’s foreign status. Already, he is an outsider, a stranger.

    I thought he was criticizing me for something and I started to explain. But he cut me off. "You don’t have to justify yourself, my dear boy. I’ve read your mother’s file. You weren’t able to provide for her properly." (1.1.5)

    In the beginning of the novel, Meursault feels compelled to explain away or account for negative judgment.

    Part 1, Chapter 2

    I told her Maman had died. She wanted to know how long ago, so I said, "Yesterday." She gave a little start but didn’t say anything. I felt like telling her it wasn’t my fault, but I stopped myself because I remembered that I’d already said that to my boss. It didn’t mean anything. Besides, you always feel a little guilty. (1.2.2)

    Meursault possesses some semblance of a societal conscience—at first.

    Part 1, Chapter 5

    Then he said, very quickly and with an embarrassed look, that he realized that some people in the neighborhood thought badly of me for having sent Maman to the home, but he knew me and he knew I loved her very much. I still don’t know why, but I said that until then I hadn’t realized that people thought badly of me for doing it, but that the home had seemed like the natural thing since I didn’t have enough money to have Maman cared for. (1.5.9)

    Old Salamano’s apologetic comment is the first instance of society’s negative opinion of Meursault of which he is directly made aware.

    I had dinner at Celeste’s. I’d already started eating when a strange little woman came in and asked me if she could sit at my table. Of course she could. Her gestures were jerky and she [was] meticulous […]. Then she stood up, put her jacket back on with the same robot like movements, and left. I didn’t have anything to do so I left too and followed her for a while. […] I thought about how peculiar she was but forgot about her a few minutes later. (1.5.6)

    Unknowingly, Meursault identifies with this woman—who is obviously a societal outcast, much like himself.

    Part 2, Chapter 1

    Without working up to it, he asked if I loved Maman. I said, "Yes, the same as anyone," and the clerk, who up to then had been typing steadily, must have hit the wrong key, because he lost his place and had to go back. (2.1.9)

    Either detachment, ignorance (about the concept of love) or logic accompanies Meursault’s answer. The clerk’s reaction represents society’s judgment that Meursault’s answer is due to detachment, or sociopathy.

    He [the attorney] didn’t understand me, and he was sort of holding it against me. I felt the urge to reassure him that I was like everybody else, just like everybody else. But really there wasn’t much point, and I gave up the idea out of laziness. (2.1.6)

    Ironically, Meursault truly believes that he is as much of a constituent of society as any other person. He is unaware of his nonconformity.

    Then he looked at me closely and with a little sadness in his face. In a low voice he said, "I have never seen a soul as hardened as yours. The criminals who have come before me have always wept at the sight of his image of suffering." I was about to say that that was precisely because they were criminals. But then I realized that I was one too. It was an idea I couldn’t get used to. (2.1.12)

    Meursault struggles to come to terms with society’s judgment of his criminality.

    The investigators had learned that I had "shown insensitivity" the day of Maman’s funeral… He [the lawyer] asked if I had felt any sadness that day. […] I answered that I had pretty much lost the habit of analyzing myself and that it was hard for me to tell him what he wanted to know. I probably did love Maman, but that didn’t mean anything. At one time or another all normal people have wished their loved ones were dead. Here the lawyer interrupted me and he seemed very upset. He made me promise I wouldn’t say that at my hearing or in front of the examining magistrate. (2.1.4)

    Characteristically, Meursault’s honest answer betrays just how detached and apathetic he seems toward certain affairs or concepts. He refuses to adopt the perception that is approved by society; he refuses to lie to save himself.

    Part 2, Chapter 2

    To get to the visiting room I went down a long corridor, then down some stairs and, finally, another corridor. […] The room was divided into three sections by two large grates that ran the length of the room. Between the two grates was a space of eight to ten meters which separated the visitors from the prisoners. I spotted Marie standing at the opposite end of the room… Because of the distance between the grates, the visitors and the prisoners were forced to speak very loud. (2.2.3)

    The physical layout of the visiting room symbolizes the huge gulf between upstanding citizens of society and immoral criminals in prison.

    Part 2, Chapter 3

    He gave the policeman a warm handshake. I noticed then that everyone was waving and exchanging greetings and talking, as if they were in a club where people are glad to find themselves among others from the same world. That is how I explained to myself the strange impression I had of being odd man out, a kind of intruder. (2.3.4)

    Meursault observes society with a nearly scientific detachment.

    It was then that I noticed a row of faces in front of me. They were all looking at me; I realized that they were the jury. But I can’t say what distinguished one from another. I had just one impression: I was sitting across from a row of seats on a streetcar and all these anonymous passengers were looking over the new arrival to see if they could find something funny about him. (2.3.3)

    The jury represents society’s principles by which Meursault is judged.

    I think that at first I hadn’t realized that all those people were crowding in to see me. Usually people didn’t pay much attention to me. It took some doing on my part to understand that I was the cause of all the excitement. (2.3.4)

    The courtroom spectators represent society—they also judge Meursault.

    For the first time in years, I had this stupid urge to cry, because I could feel how much all these people hated me. (2.3.14)

    Meursault’s first tears! If he doesn’t care about society, why does he cry? Perhaps he has begun to assimilate their values: his tears aren’t because they hate him; they are because he hates himself.

    The reporters […] all had the same indifferent and somewhat snide look on their faces. One of them, however, much younger than the others, wearing gray flannels and a blue tie, had left his pen lying in front of him and was looking at me […] examining me closely without betraying any definable emotion. And I had the odd impression of being watched by myself. (2.3.7)

    The courtroom spectators represent society, and are there to judge Meursault, the detached, nonconforming outsider. Ironically, however, the spectators are a rather detached group themselves. Even more ironically, Meursault identifies with one of them, signifying that he is also beginning to judge himself using society’s rubric.

    [The caretaker] answered the questions put to him. He said I hadn’t wanted to see Maman, that I had smoked and slept some, and that I had had some coffee. It was then I felt a stirring go through the room and for the first time I realized that I was guilty. (2.3.15)

    Meursault begins to assimilate society’s judgments of him.

    Part 2, Chapter 4

    "First, in the blinding clarity of the facts, and second, in the dim light cast by the mind of this criminal soul." He reminded the court of my insensitivity; of my ignorance when asked Maman’s age; of my swim the next day – with a woman; of the Fernandel movie; and finally of my taking Marie home with me. (2.4.2)

    Painting Meursault as an alien to mankind—passive, detached, emotionless—the prosecutor urges the society of jurors to find Meursault guilty of premeditated murder.

    Meanwhile, the sun was getting low outside and it wasn’t as hot anymore. From what street noises I could hear, I sensed the sweetness of evening coming on. There we all were, waiting. And what we were all waiting for really concerned only me. (2.4.9)

    Meursault wonders why everyone is so concerned with his affairs.

    He stated that I had no place in a society whose fundamental rules I ignored and that I could not appeal to the same human heart whose elementary response I knew nothing of. […] "For if in the course of what has been a long career I have had occasion to call for the death penalty, never as strong as today have I felt this painful duty made easier, lighter, clearer by the certain knowledge of a sacred imperative and by the horror I feel when I look into a man’s face and all I see is a monster." (2.4.5)

    The prosecutor asks for the death penalty... but because of Meursault’s nonconformist attitudes, not because of his murder.

    Part 2, Chapter 5

    As if that blind rage has washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, I that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much life myself – so like a brother, really – I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate. (2.5.26)

    With these, the closing lines to the book, Meursault finally accepts the absurdist tenets that the world is indifferent to human affairs and that life itself lacks rationality and meaning. He looks forward to leaving behind and triumphing above society and its worries.

  • Sadness

    Part 1, Chapter 1

    Then he offered to bring me a cup of coffee with milk. I like milk in my coffee, so I said yes, and he came back a few minutes later with a tray. I drank the coffee. Then I felt like having a smoke. But I hesitated, because I didn’t know if I could do it with Maman right there. I thought about it; it didn’t matter. I offered the caretaker a cigarette and we smoked. (1.1.13)

    Meursault does express some hesitation here—he is uncertain of whether or not he should smoke with his dead mother lying there. But this hesitation is the closest he comes to feeling any sort of sadness.

    It had been a long time since I'd been out in the country, and I could feel how much I'd enjoy going for a walk if it hadn't been for Maman. (1.1.19)

    Meursault is so matter-of-fact in his physical desires that he has no room for sadness or sentimentality in his heart.

    Soon one of the women started crying. […] I thought she’d never stop. […] The woman kept on crying. […] I wished I didn’t have to listen to her anymore. But I didn’t dare say anything. (1.1.16)

    Meursault is so unattached and without pain over his mother’s death that others’ expressions of sadness annoy him more than they affect him.

    The residents usually weren’t allowed to attend funerals. He only let them keep the vigil. "It’s more human that way," he remarked. (1.1.21)

    The sadness of others is such an overpowering feeling that the caretaker has to take measures to control it. This, of course, contrasts to Meursault’s total lack of emotion.

    Part 1, Chapter 2

    It occurred to me that anyway one more Sunday was over that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed. (1.2.11)

    Meursault almost defends his not feeling sadness. If nothing has changed, why would you grieve at all? (Meursault is a robot.)

    I told her Maman had died. She wanted to know how long ago, so I said, "Yesterday." She gave a little start but didn’t say anything. I felt like telling her it wasn’t my fault, but I stopped myself because I remembered that I’d already said that to my boss. It didn’t mean anything. Besides, you always feel a little guilty. (1.2.2)

    Rather than feeling sadness over his mother’s death, Meursault feels guilt. In the beginning of the novel, Meursault has some semblance of a societal conscience.

    Part 2, Chapter 1

    The investigators had learned that I had "shown insensitivity" the day of Maman’s funeral. […] He [the lawyer] asked if I had felt any sadness that day. […] I answered that I had pretty much lost the habit of analyzing myself and that it was hard for me to tell him what he wanted to know. I probably did love Maman, but that didn’t mean anything. At one time or another all normal people have wished their loved ones were dead. Here the lawyer interrupted me and he seemed very upset. He made me promise I wouldn’t say that at my hearing or in front of the examining magistrate. (2.1.4)

    Meursault doesn’t understand the impact of his words and lack of emotion. Of the lawyer’s reaction, he says "he seemed very upset," as though he (Meursault) has not considered how odd his own statement was.

    Part 2, Chapter 3

    To another question [the director of the home] replied that he had been surprised by my calm the day of the funeral. He was asked what he meant by "calm." The director then looked down at the tips of his shoes and said that I hadn’t wanted to see Maman, that I hadn’t cried once, and that I had left right after the funeral without paying my last respects at her grave. (2.3.14)

    Even the director is embarrassed for Meursault (he looks down at his shoes) and his inability to grieve.

    They [the jury] had before them the basest of crimes, a crime made worse than sordid by the fact that they were dealing with a monster, a man without morals. (2.3.20)

    Because Meursault doesn’t feel sadness, he is considered to be amoral.

    Flipping through a file, the prosecutor asked her bluntly when our "liaison" had begun. She indicated the date. The prosecutor remarked indifferently that if he was not mistaken, that was the day after Maman died… "Gentleman of the jury, the day after his mother’s death, this man was out swimming, starting up a dubious liaison, and going to the movies, a comedy, for laughs. I have nothing further to say." (2.3.18)

    Meursault is made an easy target because he doesn’t feel sadness like a normal person.

    [The caretaker] answered the questions put to him. He said I hadn’t wanted to see Maman, that I had smoked and slept some, and that I had had some coffee. It was then I felt a stirring go through the room and for the first time I realized that I was guilty. (2.3.15)

    It's pretty interesting that Meursault’s not caring about his mother’s death ends up causing his own death.

  • Man and the Natural World

    Part 1, Chapter 1

    She said, "If you go slowly, you risk getting sunstroke. But if you go too fast, you work up a sweat and then catch a chill inside the church." She was right. There was no way out. (1.1.27)

    The nurse speaks of both the weather and human condition. The sun’s heat is inescapable, just as death is inescapable. There was no way out except through acceptance. It's pretty interesting that Meursault isn't the only one to tie important human responses to the weather.

    […] the witness of the room seemed even brighter than before. There wasn’t a shadow anywhere in front of me, and every object, every angle and curve stood out so sharply it made my eyes hurt. (1.1.15)

    Brightness seems to have a negative effect on Meursault’s mood. At times, brightness even means pain to Meursault.

    It was pleasant; the coffee had warmed me up, and the smell of flowers on the night air was coming through the open door. I think I dozed off for a while. (1.1.14)

    Meursault, in his passivity, allows the weather and surroundings to dictate his actions.

    All around me there was still the same glowing countryside flooded with sunlight. The glare from the sky was unbearable. At one point, we went over a section of the road that had just been repaved. The tar had burst open in the sun. […] I felt a little lost between the blue and white of the sky and the monotony of the colors around me – the sticky black of the tar, the dull black of all the clothes, and the shiny black of the hearse. All of it – the sun, the smell of leather and horse dung from the hearse, the smell of varnish and incense, and my fatigue after a night without sleep – was making it hard for me to see or think straight. […] I could feel the blood pounding in my temples. (1.1.26)

    Meursault claims that the weather clouds his senses and his judgment. Major foreshadowing.

    The sky was already filled with light. The sun was beginning to bear down on the earth and it was getting hotter by the minute. I don’t know why we waited so long before getting under way. I was hot in my dark clothes […] it was inhuman and oppressive. (1.1.24)

    Meursault has little tolerance for summer heat—it instantly dampens his mood.

    Part 1, Chapter 2

    Then the street lamps came on all of a sudden and made the first stars appearing in the night sky grow dim. I felt my eyes getting tired. (1.2.11)

    Let’s get this straight: the hot sun makes Meursault tired; the night sky makes Meursault tired; the flowers make Meursault tired… does this guy do anything but sleep?

    Soon after that, the sky grew dark and I thought we were in for a summer storm. Gradually, though, it cleared up again. But the passing clouds had left a hint of rain hanging over the street, which made it look darker. I sat there for a long time and watched the sky. (1.2.8-10)

    […]

    The sky changed again. Above the rooftops the sky had taken on a reddish glow, and with evening coming on the streets came to life.

    Meursault spends a relaxed but pensive afternoon watching the street scene from his upstairs apartment. The changes in the sky mirror his changing moods.

    I had the whole sky in my eyes and it was blue and gold. On the back of my neck I could feel Marie’s heart beating softly. We lay on the float for a long time, half asleep. When the sun got too hot, she dove off and I followed. I caught up with her, put my arm around her waist, and we swam together. She laughed the whole time. (1.2.2)

    Compare this scene on the beach, in the sun, to the scene with the Arab that we see later. Why is it that the sun makes Meursault happy here, and later has such a drastically different effect? Could it be that his whole weather-defense is bunk?

    Part 1, Chapter 3

    The sky was green; I felt good. (1.3.3)

    We’re looking for a color motif here… earlier the sky was blue and gold, and now it’s green. Go "hmm" on that one for a while.

    Part 1, Chapter 4

    The four o’clock sun wasn’t too hot, but the water was warm, with slow, gently lapping waves. Marie taught me a game. (1.4.1)

    Warmth—not heat—puts Meursault in a happy mood. We’re trying to establish some sort of system here, but it could be that the associations are devoid of logic and reasoning—much like an absurdist world. Ooooh.

    I’d left my window open, and the summer night air flowing over our brown bodies felt good. (1.4.2)

    For Meursault, happiness is the result of physical pleasures. Simple as that.

    Part 1, Chapter 6

    […] a blending halo of light and sea spray. I was thinking of the cool spring behind the rock. I wanted to hear the murmur of its water again, to escape the sun and the strain […] and to find shade and rest again at last. (1.6.21)

    Nature’s conditions are so brutal that the only thing on Meursault’s mind is escape and peace.

    The sun was starting to burn my cheeks, and I could feel drops of sweat gathering in my eyebrows. That sun was the same as it had been the day I’d buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me, all the veins in it throbbing under the sun. It was this burning, which I couldn’t stand anymore, that made me move forward. I knew that it was stupid, that I wouldn’t get the sun off me by stepping forward. (1.6.24)

    Meursault notes that the sun is similar to the sun on the day he buried Maman—we wonder if his repressed anger/sadness/emotion in general from her death has anything to do with his sudden lashing out here.

    But most of the time, he was just a form shimmering before my eyes in the fiery air. The sound of the waves was even lazier, more drawn out than at noon. It was the same sun, the same light still shining on the same sand as before. It occurred to me that all I hate to do was turn around and that would be the end of it. But the whole beach, throbbing in the sun, was pressing on my back. (1.6.23-24)

    Camus’s descriptions of the sun-drenched conditions complement Meursault’s confused thoughts as we build toward the climax.

    The sun glinted off Raymond’s gun as he handed it to me. (1.6.18)

    Here we directly see the sun and the gun associated with each other. Meursault will later blame both of these items for the Arab’s death.

    Once out in the street, because I was so tired and also because we hadn’t opened the blinds, the day, already bright with sun, hit me like a slap in the face. (1.6.2)

    This looks a lot like the scene where the sun "cuts" Meursault’s eyes (just before he kills the Arab).

    The sun was shining almost directly overhead onto the sand, and the glare on the water was unbearable. […] It was hard to breathe in the rocky heat rising from the ground. (1.6.11)

    The heat makes Meursault angry. Like really angry.

    […] my head ringing from the sun […] the heat was so intense that it was just as bad standing still in the blinding stream falling from the sky. To stay or to go, it amounted to the same thing. A minute later I turned back toward the beach and started walking. There was the same dazzling red glare. The sea gasped for air with each shallow, stifled little wave that broke on the sand. I was walking slowly toward the rocks and I could feel my forehead swelling under the sun. All that heat was pressing down on me and making it hard for me to go on. And every time I felt a blast of its hot breath strike my face, I gritted my teeth, clenched my fists in my trouser pockets, and strained every nerve in order to overcome the sun and the thick drunkenness it was spilling over me. With every blade of light that flashed off the sand, from a bleached shell or a piece of broken glass, my jaws tightened. (1.6.19-20)

    The description of the heat accompanies Meursault’s rising annoyance perfectly, foreshadows the impending conflict perfectly, and illustrates properly just how absurd and irrational his forthcoming actions will be.

    […] the Arab drew his knife and held it up to me in the sun. The light shot off the steel and it was like a long flashing blade cutting at my forehead. At the same instant the sweat in my eyebrows dripped down over my eyelids all at once and covered them with a warm, thick film. My eyes were blinded behind the curtain of tears and salt. All I could feel were the cymbals of sunlight crashing on my forehead and, indistinctly, the dazzling spear flying up from the knife in front of me. The scorching blade slashed at my eyelashes and stabbed at my stinging eyes. That’s when everything began to reel. The sea carried up a thick, fiery breath. It seemed to me as if the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire. My whole being tensed and I squeeze my hand around the revolver. The trigger gave. (1.6.24)

    Meursault’s description of the sky splitting open to "rain down fire" is oddly religious. Could it be that he feels he ought to be punished (for not grieving his mother’s death), and that this self-destruction is why he pulls the trigger?

    We walked on the beach for a long time. By now the sun was overpowering. It shattered into little pieces on the sand and water. (1.6.16)

    Look at Camus’s word choice—verbs like "shatter" set our emotions on edge for the coming scene.

    Part 2, Chapter 1

    To tell the truth, I had found it very hard to follow his reasoning, first because I was hot and there were big flies in his office that kept landing on my face […]. (2.1.10)

    Meursault loses concentration and other cognitive abilities once the weather gets hot. We feel you, Meursault. Sort of.

    Then he said, "Why did you pause between the first and second shot?" Once again I could see the red sand and feel the burning of the sun on my forehead. (2.1.9)

    This is yet another instance of Meursault’s belief that his actions are dictated by his physical surroundings.

    I explained to him, however, that my nature was such that my physical needs often got in the way of my feelings. (2.1.4)

    That’s about as explicit as it gets. You can apply this line to all of Meursault’s words and actions in The Stranger.

    It was two o’clock in the afternoon, and this time his office was filled with sunlight barely softened by a flimsy curtain. It was very hot. (2.1.7)

    By this point, we know that hot weather is never a good sign for Meursault. Tension is built in this scene simply because of our previous associations between the sun and Meursault’s mood.

    Part 2, Chapter 3

    Despite the blinds, the sun filtered through in places and the air was already stifling. They hadn’t opened the windows. (2.3.3)

    Even more comments regarding the hot sun and the stifling air, and yes, even more foreshadowing of impending doom.

    The trial opened with the sun glaring outside. (2.3.1)

    That the sun is "glaring outside" does not bode well for Meursault’s trial. This foreshadows some form of agitation on his part, or possibly his getting sentenced to the guillotine. Take your pick.

    Part 2, Chapter 4

    Meanwhile, the sun was getting low outside and it wasn’t as hot anymore. From what street noises I could hear, I sensed the sweetness of evening coming on. There we all were, waiting. And what we were all waiting for really concerned only me. (2.4.9)

    As we approach the denouement and falling action, the sun gets lower in the sky. Nifty!

    Fumbling a little with my words and realizing how ridiculous I sounded, I blurted out that it was because of the sun. People laughed. My lawyer threw up his hands […]. (2.4.6)

    Think about Meursault’s defense ("the sun made me do it!") in the context of the last chapter of the novel, when he concludes that he feels a kinship with the earth, that the world is in fact his brother.

  • Passivity

    Part 1, Chapter 1

    She said, "If you go slowly, you risk getting sunstroke. But if you go too fast, you work up a sweat and then catch a chill inside the church." She was right. There was no way out. (1.1.27)

    Meursault’s solution to this paradox is passivity. If you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, you should… do nothing.

    When she was at home with me, Maman used to spend her time following me with her eyes, not saying a thing. For the first few days she was at the home she cried a lot. But that was because she wasn’t used to it. A few months later and she would have cried if she’d been taken out. She was used to it. (1.1.6)

    After a while one can get used to, or accept, almost anything.

    Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: "Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours." That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday. (1.1.1)

    Not only does Meursault not know the actual date, but he’s too passive to try to find out.

    Part 1, Chapter 5

    I said that people never change their lives, that in any case one life was as good as another and that I wasn’t dissatisfied with mine here at all. (1.5.3)

    For Meursault, being "not dissatisfied" is the same as being happy.

    Part 2, Chapter 2

    I couldn’t understand why they had taken [the cigarettes] away when they didn’t hurt anybody. Later on I realized that that too was part of the punishment. But by then I had gotten used to not smoking and it wasn’t a punishment anymore. (2.2.12)

    It seems that it’s difficult or impossible to punish a man like Meursault. Since he can be happy anywhere, prison isn’t an issue. Since he can get used to anything, no circumstance is trouble for him. Finally, since he approaches his death in exaltation, execution isn’t exactly a drag for him either.

    It was only after Marie’s first and last visit that it all started. From the day I got her letter (she told me she would no longer be allowed to come, because she wasn’t my wife), from that day on I felt that I was at home in my cell and that my life was coming to a standstill there. (2.2.1)

    At this juncture in the book, Meursault is at a crossroads, transitioning from free man to caged man.

    Then I remembered what the nurse at Maman’s funeral said. No, there was no way out, and no one can imagine what nights in prisons are like. (2.2.17)

    Wait a minute—here it looks like Meursault is feeling punished. What changed to cause this shift in attitude?

    At that time, I often thought that if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowing overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it. (2.2.10)

    Meursault, because of his passivity, can be content in any circumstance.

    Part 2, Chapter 3

    I answered that Maman and I didn’t expect anything from each other anymore, or from anyone else either, and that we had both gotten used to our new lives. (2.3.11)

    Meursault and his mother had both gotten used to, and accepted, their lives away from the other.

    Yes, it was the hour when, a long time ago, I was perfectly content. What awaited me back then was always a night of easy, dreamless sleep. And yet something has changed, since it was back to my cell that I went to wait for the next day… as if familiar paths traced in summer skies could lead as easily to prison as to the sleep of the innocent. (2.3.22)

    Meursault justifies his passivity by saying there’s nothing you can do anyway. If you’re at the mercy of chance and bad luck, you might as well drift along bumper-car style.

    Part 2, Chapter 4

    The presiding judge told me in a bizarre language that I was to have my head cut off in a public square in the name of the French people. Then it seemed to me that I suddenly knew what was on everybody's fact. It was a look of consideration, I'm sure. The policemen were very gentle with me. The lawyer put his hand on my wrist. I wasn't thinking about anything anymore. But the presiding judge asked me if I had anything to say. I thought about it. I said, "No." (2.4.11)

    Society has judged that the crime of a passive, detached atheist is punishable by death. Meursault, having nothing to add, accepts the sentence. Passively. How fitting.

    Part 2, Chapter 5

    Since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter. Therefore […] I had to accept the rejection of my appeal. (2.5.8)

    Meursault has logically come to the conclusion that he must passively accept his death sentence.

    Then, I don’t know why, but something inside me snapped. I started yelling at the top of my lungs, and I insulted him and told him not to waste his prayers on me. I grabbed him by the collar of his cassock. I was pouring out on him everything that was in my heart. […] He seemed so certain about everything, didn’t he? And yet none of his certainties was worth one hair of a woman’s head. He wasn’t even sure he was alive, because he was living like a dead man. […] But I was sure about me, about everything, surer than he could ever be, sure of my life and sure of the death I had waiting for me. Yes, that was all I had. But at least I had as much of a hold on it as it had on me. (2.5.25)

    This is the most active we’ve seen so far, and a big part of his revelation. By bringing in emotions of "anger" and "joy," by "yelling," Meursault breaks away from his old, passive self.

    For the third time I’ve refused to see the chaplain. I don’t have anything to say to him; I don’t feel like talking, and I’ll be seeing him soon enough as it is. All I care about right now is escaping the machinery of justice, seeing if there’s any way out of the inevitable. (2.5.1)

    This doesn’t sound passive at all. Meursault is looking to escape, to act. Also, he cares about something, which is more than we’ve seen so far.

    As if that blind rage has washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, I that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much life myself – so like a brother, really – I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate. (2.5.26)

    Here’s the big switch. Meursault no longer passively accepts his death, but actively goes towards it. He is no longer passively content, but actively happy.

  • Mortality

    Part 1, Chapter 1

    She said, "If you go slowly, you risk getting sunstroke. But if you go too fast, you work up a sweat and then catch a chill inside the church." She was right. There was no way out. (1.1.27)

    If Meursault initially believes there is "no way out" of the human condition, he later reverses this thinking—it is his own awareness that lets him escape.

    Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: "Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours." That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday. (1.1.1)

    Meursault treats his mother’s death with the same casual demeanor with which he will later treat the death of the Arab. How does this compare, though, to the way he will eventually address his own impending death?

    That way I can be there for the vigil and come back tomorrow night. I asked my boss for two days off and there was no way he was going to refuse me with an excuse like that. But he wasn’t too happy about it. I even said, "It’s not my fault." (1.1.2)

    Considering that death is the linchpin of Meursault’s big ol' revelation at the end of the text, this is a pretty casual treatment of death. He obviously has a long way to go. 123 pages, to be exact.

    Part 1, Chapter 3

    He was with his dog. The two of them have been inseparable for eight years. The spaniel has a skin-disease—mange, I think—which makes almost all of its hair fall out and leaves it covered with brown sores and scabs. After living together for so long, the two of them alone in one tiny room, they’ve ended up looking like each other. […] They look as if they belong to the same species, and yet they hate each other. (1.3.4)

    Ah-ha! Meursault has actually hit on his eventual revelation here, but is too ignorant to see it yet. What is it that makes Salamano and his dog look alike? The fact that they are both decaying—both dying. Meursault’s conclusion at the end of the text—that all creatures are made equal by death—is actually right here in front of his face. Too bad; that could have saved a lot of pages, one murder victim, a victim of domestic abuse, and a visit to the guillotine. Maybe next time.

    Part 1, Chapter 5

    Just for something to say, I asked him about his dog. He told me he’d gotten it after his wife died […]. He hadn’t been happy with his wife, but he’d pretty much gotten used to her. When she died he had been very lonely. So he asked a shop buddy for a dog and he’d gotten this one very young. He’d had to feed it from a bottle. But since a dog doesn’t live as long as a man, they’d ended up being old together. "And," he added, "you didn’t know him before he got sick. His coat was the best thing about him." Every night and every morning after the dog had gotten that skin disease, Salamano rubbed him with ointment. But according to him, the dog’s real sickness was old age, and there’s no cure for old age. (1.5.8)

    Argh! Here it is again! Salamano’s dog is directly compared to his wife, suggesting that they are in fact equal. Again, Meursault can’t make the connection.

    Part 1, Chapter 6

    The sun glinted off Raymond’s gun as he handed it to me. (1.6.18)

    Check out the connection between the gun and the sunlight—Meursault identifies both of these as the impetuses for his killing the Arab, rather than accepting personal responsibility himself.

    Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness. (1.6.24)

    Why does Meursault shoot four more times? Maybe because, in his mind, the Arab is no more dead once he's been shot than he was when he was alive. Check out the line Meursault shouts at the chaplain, when he accuses him of living "like a dead man."

    […] the Arab drew his knife and held it up to me in the sun. The light shot off the steel and it was like a long flashing blade cutting at my forehead. At the same instant the sweat in my eyebrows dripped down over my eyelids all at once and covered them with a warm, thick film. My eyes were blinded behind the curtain of tears and salt. All I could feel were the cymbals of sunlight crashing on my forehead and, indistinctly, the dazzling spear flying up from the knife in front of me. The scorching blade slashed at my eyelashes and stabbed at my stinging eyes. That’s when everything began to reel. The sea carried up a thick, fiery breath. It seemed to me as if the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire. My whole being tensed and I squeezed my hand around the revolver. The trigger gave. (1.6.24)

    At the Arab’s death, Meursault gives agency to the trigger, not to himself.

    Part 2, Chapter 1

    At first, I didn’t take him seriously. I was led into a curtained room; there was a single lamp on his desk which was shining on a chair where he had me sit while he remained standing in the shadows. I had read descriptions of scenes like this in books and it all seemed like a game to me. […] On my way out, I was even going to shake his [the policeman's] hand, but just in time, I remembered that I had killed a man. (2.1.2)

    Because Meursault doesn’t yet take death seriously, he can’t take the accusation seriously. He hasn’t developed his understanding of mortality—that doesn’t come until the very end of the novel.

    Part 2, Chapter 3

    To another question [the director of the home] replied that he had been surprised by my calm the day of the funeral. He was asked what he meant by "calm." The director then looked down at the tips of his shoes and said that I hadn’t wanted to see Maman, that I hadn’t cried once, and that I had left right after the funeral without paying my last respects at her grave. (2.3.14)

    Meursault is convicted not because of his crime, but because of his casual attitude toward death.

    Part 2, Chapter 4

    He stated that I had no place in a society whose fundamental rules I ignored and that I could not appeal to the same human heart whose elementary response I knew nothing of. "[…] For if in the course of what has been a long career I have had occasion to call for the death penalty, never as strong as today have I felt this painful duty made easier, lighter, clearer by the certain knowledge of a sacred imperative and by the horror I feel when I look into a man’s face and all I see is a monster." (2.4.5)

    It's interesting that the prosecutor calls Meursault a monster, because Meursault will later argue that there is no difference between a dog and a man (and therefore, between any living creature and any other).

    "First, in the blinding clarity of the facts, and second, in the dim light cast by the mind of this criminal soul." He reminded the court of my insensitivity; of my ignorance when asked Maman’s age; of my swim the next day – with a woman; of the Fernandel movie; and finally of my taking Marie home with me. (2.4.2)

    To convince the jury to find Meursault guilty, the prosecutor paints him as more of an alien or a robot than a man—passive, detached, and emotionless.

    The presiding judge told me in a bizarre language that I was to have my head cut off in a public square in the name of the French people. Then it seemed to me that I suddenly knew what was on everybody's face. It was a look of consideration, I'm sure. The policemen were very gentle with me. The lawyer put his hand on my wrist. I wasn't thinking about anything anymore. But the presiding judge asked me if I had anything to say. I thought about it. I said, "No." (2.4.11)

    Meursault assigns his own detached nature to those around him; his own execution having just been announced, he believes the crowd dons (pretty mild) expressions of "consideration."

    Part 2, Chapter 5

    As if that blind rage has washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, I that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much life myself - so like a brother, really - I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate. (2.5.26)

    It’s important to note that death is not Meursault’s escape from the shackles of society—this revelation is. He is free now, here, at this moment, not at the moment of the execution.

    The chaplain knew the game well too, I could tell right away: his gaze never faltered. And his voice didn't falter, either, when he said, "Have you no hope at all? And do you really live with the thought that when you die, you die, and nothing remains?" "Yes," I said. (2.5.15)

    The chaplain expects Meursault to be afraid of death. It’s obvious that the holy man, who "[knows] the game well," has in the past had success with this line of questioning. It seems then, that fear of death (and the potential nothingness that comes afterwards) is a typical driving force for religious belief (at least in the world of The Stranger).

    […] the way he saw it, we were all condemned to die. But I interrupted him by saying that it wasn’t the same thing and that besides, it wouldn’t be a consolation anyway. (2.5.15)

    In his atheist glory, Meursault has accepted death as his—and everyone else’s—final sentence.

    Then, I don’t know why, but something inside me snapped. I started yelling at the top of my lungs, and I insulted him and told him not to waste his prayers on me. I grabbed him by the collar of his cassock. I was pouring out on him everything that was in my heart […]. He seemed so certain about everything, didn’t he? And yet none of his certainties was worth one hair of a woman’s head. He wasn’t even sure he was alive, because he was living like a dead man […]. But I was sure about me, about everything, surer than he could ever be, sure of my life and sure of the death I had waiting for me. Yes, that was all I had. But at least I had as much of a hold on it as it had on me. (2.5.25)

    Meursault’s claim that the chaplain is "living like a dead man" is rooted in the chaplain’s lack of awareness. According to Meursault, the chaplain isn’t really alive until he accepts the fate of his own death—without turning to God for consolation.

  • Philosophical Viewpoints: The Absurd

    Part 1, Chapter 1

    She said, "If you go slowly, you risk getting sunstroke. But if you go too fast, you work up a sweat and then catch a chill inside the church." She was right. There was no way out. (1.1.27)

    The nurse speaks of both the weather and human condition. The sun’s heat is inescapable, just as death is inescapable. There was no way out except through acceptance.

    That’s when Maman’s friends came in. There were about ten in all, and they floated into the blinding light without a sound. They sat down without a single chair creaking. I saw them more clearly than I had ever seen anyone […]. But I couldn’t hear them, and it was hard for me to believe they really existed. (1.1.15)

    Meursault is content being a spectator in life, and may even be slightly solipsistic. (Solipsism is the belief that yourself is the only thing you can truly know exists—you know you’re not a figment of the imagination... but you can’t say the same for everyone else around you.) If this is true, it explains why he finds it difficult to sympathize or empathize in any way.

    Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: "Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours." That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday. (1.1.1)

    The opening sentences of the novel embodies Meursault’s absurdist outlook on life, his emotional indifference and detachment to people, and his passive but quiet alienation from the rest of society. It’s also a big flashing clue that our protagonist is unaware and apathetic. He doesn’t even know which day his mother died, and to him, it "doesn’t mean anything" anyway.

    Meursault

    [A] soldier […] smiled at me and asked if I’d been traveling long. I said, "Yes," just so I wouldn’t have to say anything else. (1.1.4)

    Super typical of his particular brand of passivity and/or detachment (i.e., Absurdism), Meursault does something just so he won’t have to do something else.

    Part 1, Chapter 2

    It occurred to me that anyway one more Sunday was over that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed. (1.2.11)

    Meursault is able to say that "nothing […] changed" after Maman died since he wasn’t living with her anyway. This makes sense practically, but not emotionally (like many of Meursault’s beliefs).

    Part 1, Chapter 3

    I tried my best to please Raymond because I didn’t have any reason not to please him. (1.3.12)

    Meursault himself, on the other hand, doesn’t feel any of these normal emotions himself.

    He [Raymond] asked if I thought she was cheating on him, and it seemed to me she was; if I thought she should be punished and what I would do in his place, and I said you can't ever be sure, but I understood his wanting to punish her. (1.3.11)

    Meursault’s response to Raymond’s question signifies his belief that one can never be sure about anything in life (much less the sex life of Raymond's mistress).

    [H]e asked me again if I wanted to be pals. I said it was fine with me: he seemed pleased. (1.3.7)

    Meursault observes the emotions of others with a strange and almost scientific detachment. "He seemed pleased," he records, as though he’s watching through a fish tank.

    Raymond Sintes

    "I’ve got some blood sausage and some wine at my place. How about joining me?" I figured it would save me the trouble of having to cook for myself, so I accepted. (1.3.6)

    Typical. Meursault joins Raymond for dinner not because he has a good reason... but because there is no reason compelling a different response.

    Part 1, Chapter 4
    Raymond Sintes

    "I’m not drunk, officer. It’s just that I’m here, and you’re there, and I’m shaking. I can’t help it." (1.4.4)

    Raymond’s explanation appeals to the notion that sometimes behaviors just are—they exist without rationality.

    He told me that I’d have to act as a witness for him. It didn’t matter to me, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to say. According to Raymond, all I had to do was to state that the girl had cheated on him. I agreed to act as a witness for him. (1.4.5)

    Meursault is basically amoral; he doesn’t seem to have any issues testifying to the "character" of a completely questionable dude. If there’s "no good reason not to," you could get Meursault to do anything.

    Part 1, Chapter 5

    I would rather not have upset him, but I couldn't see any reason to change my life. Looking back on it, I wasn't unhappy. When I was a student, I had lots of ambitions like that. But when I had to give up my studies I learned very quickly that none of it really mattered. (1.5.3)

    Meursault is so dispassionate here that he can’t identify much of a difference between "unhappy" and "happy." He’s neither; he’s just "content," middle of the road.

    I said that people never change their lives, that in any case one life was as good as another and that I wasn’t dissatisfied with mine here at all. (1.5.3)

    Meursault’s response to his boss’s offer of a position in Paris betrays his belief that a certain hopelessness surrounds change and human existence. His comment also implies that each person’s life is essentially equal to everyone else’s, and that there is no sense in changing your own life. This is super-important; Meursault comes back to this notion of omni-equality at the end of the novel, at which point he declares the reason for it (namely, that everyone will die, just the same). Think of this as a half-way point for his transformation.

    Part 1, Chapter 6

    The heat was so intense that it was just as bad standing still in the blinding stream falling from the sky. To stay or to go, it amounted to the same thing. A minute later I turned back toward the beach and started walking.

    There was the same dazzling red glare. The sea gasped for air with each shallow, stifled little wave that broke on the sand. I was walking slowly toward the rocks and I could feel my forehead swelling under the sun. All that heat was pressing down on me and making it hard for me to go on. And every time I felt a blast of its hot breath strike my face, I gritted my teeth, clenched my fists in my trouser pockets, and strained every nerve in order to overcome the sun and the thick drunkenness it was spilling over me. With every blade of light that flashed off the sand, from a bleached shell or a piece of broken glass, my jaws tightened. (1.6.19-20)

    The description of the heat accompanies Meursault’s rising annoyance perfectly, foreshadows the impending conflict exactly, and illustrates just how nutso-irrational his coming actions will be.

    We [Raymond and Meursault] stared at each other without blinking, and everything came to a stop there between the sea, the sand, and the sun, and the double silence of the flute and the water. It was then that I realized that you could either shoot or not shoot. (1.6.18)

    Even if there is no meaning to life, every person faces a choice in every situation. (No fate and no controlling deity = radical personal freedom.) At this point in the novel, however, Meursault’s sense of detachment prevents his thinking or acting rationally. So while he recognizes that choice exists, he isn’t yet able to commit to making one. (Think of it as a halfway point in his evolution.)

    The Arab drew his knife and held it up to me in the sun. The light shot off the steel and it was like a long flashing blade cutting at my forehead. At the same instant the sweat in my eyebrows dripped down over my eyelids all at once and covered them with a warm, thick film. My eyes were blinded behind the curtain of tears and salt. All I could feel were the cymbals of sunlight crashing on my forehead and, indistinctly, the dazzling spear flying up from the knife in front of me. The scorching blade slashed at my eyelashes and stabbed at my stinging eyes. That’s when everything began to reel. The sea carried up a thick, fiery breath. It seemed to me as if the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire. My whole being tensed and I squeeze my hand around the revolver. The trigger gave […]. (1.6.24)

    Nature unleashes its fiery inferno against Meursault, and he becomes irrationally (though probably unintentionally) violent. Of course, because he is the narrator, we really can’t trust this description any more than the members of the court can trust his absurd defense that "the sun made me do it!"

    Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness. (1.6.24)

    Without explanation or motivation, Meursault shoots four more times at the dead body before him. This behavior is ridiculously irrational and can only be committed by a total misanthrope... it's the result of serious detachment from mankind.

    The sun was starting to burn my cheeks, and I could feel drops of sweat gathering in my eyebrows. That sun was the same as it had been the day I’d buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me, all the veins in it throbbing under the sun. It was this burning, which I couldn’t stand anymore, that made me move forward. I knew that it was stupid, that I wouldn’t get the sun off me by stepping forward. (1.6.24)

    The powerful sun pains Meursault and compels him, by pure chance, to take a step towards his absurd fate. According to him, he doesn’t make a decision to step forward; he is compelled to step forward.

    Part 2, Chapter 1

    And I can say that at the end of the eleven months that this investigation lasted, I was almost surprised that I had ever enjoyed anything other than those rare moments when the judge would lead me to the door of his office, slap me on the shoulder, and say to me cordially, "That’s all for today, Monsieur Antichrist." I would then be handed back over to the police. (2.1.13)

    The magistrate has begun to acknowledge Meursault’s nonconformity in Christian society, and Meursault has started to revel in it.

    At first, I didn’t take him seriously. I was led into a curtained room; there was a single lamp on his desk which was shining on a chair where he had me sit while he remained standing in the shadows. I had read descriptions of scenes like this in books and it all seemed like a game to me. (2.1.2)

    Meursault can’t take the investigation seriously; he feels that he has done nothing wrong. It proves difficult for him to view himself as a criminal, because he truly believes in the simplicity of his case—he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and it was all a matter of absurd [bad] luck.

    On my way out, I was even going to shake his [the policeman's] hand, but just in time, I remembered that I had killed a man." (2.1.2)

    Meursault feels little or no personal remorse for having killed the Arab; however, he presently knows that he has done something wrong according to society’s standards. Again, unable to feel emotion himself, he categorizes it scientifically and objectively.

    […] drawing himself up to his full height and asking me if I believed in God. I said no. He sat down indignantly. He said it was impossible; all men believed in God, even those who turn their backs on him. That was his belief, and if he were ever to doubt it, his life would become meaningless. "Do you want my life to be meaningless?" He shouted. As far as I could see, it didn’t have anything to do with me, and I told him so. But from across the table he had already thrust the crucifix in my face and was screaming irrationally, "I am a Christian. I ask Him to forgive you your sins. How can you not believe that He suffered for you?" (2.1.11)

    The magistrate places the meaning of his existence on his faith in God. Meursault rejects that proposition that the rest of society seems so bent on accepting, and dismisses it instead as irrational.

    Part 2, Chapter 2

    On the one hand it wasn’t very likely. On the other, it was perfectly natural. Anyway, I thought the traveler pretty much deserved what he got and that you should never play games. (2.2.15)

    Referring to the story about the Czechoslovakian, Meursault’s reasoning lays out the basic tenet of Absurdism: Life is meaningless—so don’t rely on any logic-based "rules" to get you through it.

    Part 2, Chapter 3
    Meursault

    The prosecutor […] would like to know whether I had gone back to the spring by myself intending to kill the Arab. "No," I said. Well, then, why was I armed and why did I return to precisely that spot? I said it just happened that way. (2.3.12)

    Meursault truly believes that his killing the Arab was incidental—due only to some absurd chain of irrational events over which he had no control.

    And my lawyer, rolling up one of his sleeves, said with finality, "Here we have a perfect reflection of this entire trial: everything is true and nothing is true!" (2.3.16)

    Meursault’s defense attorney has just uttered the perfect epigraph to The Stranger.

    Celeste put his hands on the edge of the box, and you could tell he had something prepared. He said, "The way I see it, it’s bad luck. Everybody knows what bad luck is. It leaves you defenseless. And here it is! The way I see it, it’s bad luck." (2.3.17)

    Celeste’s outburst in trial puts a further spin on the concept of absurdity, and emphasizes just how irrational Meursault’s crime was.

    Yes, it was the hour when, a long time ago, I was perfectly content. What awaited me back then was always a night of easy, dreamless sleep. And yet something has changed, since it was back to my cell that I went to wait for the next day...as if familiar paths traced in summer skies could lead as easily to prison as to the sleep of the innocent. (2.3.22)

    With much detachment and passivity, Meursault begins to accept his fate.

    Part 2, Chapter 4

    Meanwhile, the sun was getting low outside and it wasn’t as hot anymore. From what street noises I could hear, I sensed the sweetness of evening coming on. There we all were, waiting. And what we were all waiting for really concerned only me. (2.4.9)

    It’s almost as if Meursault doesn’t understand why everyone else cares so much. It’s his life—why the big deal? Why are these people waiting around to hear a decision that doesn’t concern them?

    The presiding judge told me in a bizarre language that I was to have my head cut off in a public square in the name of the French people. Then it seemed to me that I suddenly knew what was on everybody's fact. It was a look of consideration, I'm sure. The policemen were very gentle with me. The lawyer put his hand on my wrist. I wasn't thinking about anything anymore. But the presiding judge asked me if I had anything to say. I thought about it. I said, "No." (2.4.11)

    Society has judged that the crime of a passive, detached atheist is punishable by death. Why doesn’t Meursault have anything to say? Possibly because he realizes response is futile, possibly because he can’t think of anything, and possibly because it’s hot in that courtroom and he’d really like to get back to his prison cell as quickly as possible.

    The utter pointlessness of whatever I was doing there seized me by the throat, and all I wanted was to get it over with and get back to my cell and sleep. (2.4.8)

    Meursault isn’t able to take his trial seriously. Think back to the scene at the nursing home, when he felt like the elderly residents were "there to judge [him]." For a man who is used to being constantly evaluated against normative behavior (when his behavior is anything but normal) this trial is just another day in the life.

    Fumbling a little with my words and realizing how ridiculous I sounded, I blurted out that it was because of the sun. People laughed. My lawyer threw up his hands […]. (2.4.6)

    An element of nature and an absurdist, Meursault finds himself in quite a bind: he has no explanation (regardless of its truth) that society would find valid. But this doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an explanation that—in his mind, if nowhere else—is cogent.

    I was listening, and I could hear that I was being judged intelligent. But I couldn’t understand how an ordinary man’s good qualities could become crushing accusations against a guilty man. At least that was what struck me […]. "Has he so much as expressed any remorse? Never, gentlemen. Not once during the preliminary hearings did this man show emotion over his heinous offense." (2.4.4)

    Meursault realizes the paradoxical fact that he was being penalized for being intelligent and remorseless—not for the murder itself.

    But all the long speeches, all the interminable days and hours that people had spent talking about my soul, had left me with the impression of a colorless swirling river that was making me dizzy. (2.4.7)

    Meursault is uninterested in any discussion as to the condition of his soul; to him, such matters are totally nonsensical.

    Part 2, Chapter 5

    Then, I don’t know why, but something inside me snapped. I started yelling at the top of my lungs, and I insulted him and told him not to waste his prayers on me. I grabbed him by the collar of his cassock. I was pouring out on him everything that was in my heart […]. He seemed so certain about everything, didn’t he? And yet none of his certainties was worth one hair of a woman’s head. He wasn’t even sure he was alive, because he was living like a dead man […]. But I was sure about me, about everything, surer than he could ever be, sure of my life and sure of the death I had waiting for me. Yes, that was all I had. But at least I had as much of a hold on it as it had on me. (2.5.25)

    Look at the differences here: the chaplain cannot escape death, yet Meursault accepts death; the chaplain lives for the afterlife, yet Meursault has lived his life in the present; the chaplain’s world is meaningless without Christianity, but Meursault has no such reliance on anything external.

    "I know that at one time or another you’ve wished for another life." I said of course I had, but it didn’t mean any more than wishing to be rich, to be able to swim faster, or to have a more nicely shaped mouth. It was all the same. (2.5.23)

    The chaplain is looking for some sign of remorse, but the best Meursault can come up with is that wishing he didn’t kill the Arab is no different than wishing for a nice six-pack.

    "Then God can help you," he said. "Every man I have known in your position has turned to Him." I acknowledged that that was their right. It also meant that they must have had the time for it. As for me, I didn’t want anybody’s help, and I just didn’t have the time to interest myself in what didn’t interest me. (2.5.14)

    Uninterested in relying on any external authority or source for meaning, Meursault lays bare his atheism for the chaplain to see. The chaplain is not amused.

    Despite my willingness to understand, I just couldn’t accept such arrogant certainty. Because, after all, there really was something ridiculously out of proportion between the verdict such certainty was based on and the imperturbable march of events from the moment the verdict was announced. The fact that the sentence had been read at eight o’clock at night and not at five o’clock, the fact that it could have been an entirely different one, the fact that it had been decided by men who change their underwear […] all of it seemed to detract from the seriousness of the decision. (2.5.2)

    The uncertainty surrounding Meursault’s death sentence disturbs him as an absurdist. Because the ultimate sentence is meaningless, the obsession over it is ridiculous.

    As if that blind rage has washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, I that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much life myself – so like a brother, really – I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate. (2.5.26)

    With these, the closing lines to the book, Meursault finally accepts the absurdist tenets that the world is indifferent to human affairs and that life itself lacks rationality and meaning. His journey has been one of enlightenment, from passive contentment to a new absurdist understanding of the world. Interestingly enough, Meursault views his execution as an affirmation of his newly acquired philosophy. He looks forward to leaving behind and triumphing above society and its worries. We guess this is kind of uplifting?

    Nothing, nothing mattered, and I knew why […] what did other people’s deaths or a mother’s love matter to me; what did his God or the lives people choose or the fate they think they elect matter to me when we’re all elected by the same fate, me and billions of privileged people like him […]? Couldn’t he see, couldn’t he see that? Everybody was privileged. There were only privileged people. The others would all be condemned one day. And he would be condemned, too. What would it matter if he were accused of murder and then executed because he didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral? Salamano’s dog was worth just as much as his wife. (2.5.25)

    Okay, we’re good with the claim that all men are equal—but then Meursault pushes it one step further: he says Salamano’s dog was worth just as much as his wife. Hold up. This seems shocking at first, but not when you look at the reason for Meursault’s initial claim that people are all equal: they’re all going to die. Well, so are dogs. So the life of a man can’t be more privileged than the life of a dog (or an amoeba, actually), since all are made equal by death.

    Meursault

    The chaplain knew the game well too, I could tell right away: his gaze never faltered. And his voice didn't falter, either, when he said, "Have you no hope at all? And do you really live with the thought that when you die, you die, and nothing remains?" "Yes," I said. (2.5.15)

    Meursault is clearly the toughest nut the chaplain has come up against. Their interaction is so interesting to watch because it represents a larger struggle; that of religion against absurdist philosophy.

  • Friendship

    Part 1, Chapter 1

    "I’m sure you understand. It’s a rather childish sentiment. But he and your mother were almost inseparable. The others used to tease them and say, ‘Perez has a fiancée.’ He’d laugh. They enjoyed it. (1.1.21)

    Maman and Perez find companionship with each other despite their age.

    He added, "You see, she had friends here, people her own age. She was able to share things from the old days with them. You’re young, and it must have been hard for her with you." (1.1.5)

    Meursault’s mother made friends with companions who shared her old age and interests, and probably preferred their companionship over Meursault’s which, let’s face it, is about as comforting as a lampshade.

    Part 1, Chapter 3

    He was with his dog. The two of them have been inseparable for eight years. The spaniel has a skin-disease – mange, I think – which makes almost all of its hair fall out and leaves it covered with brown sores and scabs. After living together for so long, the two of them alone in one tiny room, they’ve ended up looking like each other. […] They look as if they belong to the same species, and yet they hate each other. (1.3.4)

    It’s interesting that Salamano and his dog look like they hate each other, especially since later, Salamano is sobbing over the dog’s absence. This is somewhat of a commentary on the nature of companionship; it’s a love-hate thing.

    Raymond gave me a very firm handshake and said that men always understand each other. (1.3.13)

    Indirectly a commentary regarding women’s (frivolous) place in Meursault’s life, Raymond and Meursault seem to have established the bond for male friendship and understanding.

    [H]e asked me again if I wanted to be pals. I said it was fine with me: he seemed pleased. (1.3.7)

    Meursault doesn’t choose to form a friendship; he allows friendship to happen to him.

    Celeste seemed to be asking me what else he could do. I said nothing; I made no gesture of any kind, but it was the first time in my life I ever wanted to kiss a man. (2.3.17)

    Meursault’s emotions toward Celeste are surprising, however, the friendship between the two is not. The question is why this offer of condolence makes Meursault happy, whereas others annoyed him. Perhaps it’s because Celeste understands him; he doesn’t have to make a verbal reply which, we all know, can be quite exhausting.

    Raymond Sintes

    "I’ve got some blood sausage and some wine at my place. How about joining me?" I figured it would save me the trouble of having to cook for myself, so I accepted." (1.3.6)

    Typical of Meursault, he joins in friendship with Raymond Sintes not for any good reason, but because there is no good reason not to.

    Part 1, Chapter 4
    Old Salamano

    ‘They’re not going to take him away from me, are they, Monsieur Meursault? They’ll give him back to me. Otherwise, what’s going to happen to me?"

    […]

    And from the peculiar little noise coming through the partition, I realized he was crying. (1.4.8)

    Old Salamano wonders what will happen to him if he doesn’t get the dog back – losing a companion really will change his life (as Meursault later notes).

    He [Raymond] told me that I’d have to act as a witness for him. It didn’t matter to me, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to say. According to Raymond, all I had to do was to state that the girl had cheated on him. I agreed to act as a witness for him. (1.4.5)

    Meursault doesn’t testify for Raymond because he’s a pal; he does it because it doesn’t matter to him.

    I found him very friendly with me and I thought it was a nice moment. (1.4.6)

    Meursault enjoys friendship, but not so much that he would ever pursue a friendship with someone else.

    From a distance I noticed old Salamano standing on the doorstep. He looked flustered. When we got closer, I saw that he didn’t have his dog. He was looking all over the place, turning around, peering into the darkness of the entryway, muttering incoherently, and then he started searching the street again with his little red eyes. (1.4.7)

    Old Salamano reminds us that one can find companionship in anything—even a dog. You just can’t find it in Meursault.

    Part 1, Chapter 5

    Just for something to say, I asked him about his dog. He told me he’d gotten it after his wife died. […] He hadn’t been happy with his wife, but he’d pretty much gotten used to her. When she died he had been very lonely. So he asked a shop buddy for a dog and he’d gotten this one very young. He’d had to feed it from a bottle. But since a dog doesn’t live as long as a man, they’d ended up being old together. (1.5.8)

    Old Salamano’s dog has replaced the role his wife once had. Not the most ecstatic relationship, however, he had "gotten used to" it and it will do for now. Sometimes, time is sufficient for companionship.

    Old Salamano

    Just for something to say, I asked him about his dog. He told me he’d gotten it after his wife died. […] He hadn’t been happy with his wife, but he’d pretty much gotten used to her. When she died he had been very lonely. So he asked a shop buddy for a dog and he’d gotten this one very young. He’d had to feed it from a bottle. But since a dog doesn’t live as long as a man, they’d ended up being old together. "And," he added, "you didn’t know him before he got sick. His coat was the best thing about him." Every night and every morning after the dog had gotten that skin disease, Salamano rubbed him with ointment. But according to him, the dog’s real sickness was old age, and there’s no cure for old age. (1.5.8)

    Old Salamano’s dog has served as his wife and companion since the former’s death. Growing old together, Salamano has become attached to the dog. However, the dog’s skin condition reminds us of the inescapability of death and decay.

  • Women and Femininity

    Part 1, Chapter 3
    Raymond Sintes

    "It was clear that she was cheating on me. So I left her. But first I smacked her around. And then I told her exactly what I thought of her. I told her that all she was interested in was getting into the sack." […] He’d beaten her till she bled. […] What bothered him was that he "still had sexual feelings for her." (1.3.9-11)

    Raymond hates his girlfriend because he feels his sexual attraction to her makes him powerless.

    He [Raymond] asked if I thought she was cheating on him, and it seemed to me she was; if I thought she should be punished and what I would do in his place, and I said you can't ever be sure, but I understood his wanting to punish her. (1.3.11)

    While Meursault doesn’t feel normal sex-related emotions himself (like love, or jealousy, or possession), he rationally understands when others feel them.

    Part 1, Chapter 4

    First we heard a woman’s shrill voice and then Raymond saying, "You used me, you used me. I’ll teach you to use me." There were some thuds and the woman screamed, but in such a terrifying way that the landing immediately filled with people. […] The woman was shrieking and Raymond was hitting her. (1.4.4)

    Paradoxically, Raymond is at once so attached and detached to this woman that he abuses her for cheating on him.

    Meursault

    Marie came over as we’d planned. I wanted her so bad when I saw her in that pretty red-and-white striped dress and leather sandals. You could make out the shape of her firm breasts, and her tan made her face look like a flower. […]

    […] I kissed her. We didn’t say anything more from that point on. I held her to me and we hurried to catch a bus, get back, go to my place, and throw ourselves onto my bed. […]

    […] She was wearing a pair of my pajamas with the sleeves rolled up. When she laughed I wanted her again. A minute later she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn't mean anything but that I didn't think so. She looked sad. But as we were fixing lunch, and for no apparent reason, she laughed in such a way that I kissed her. (1.4.1-3)

    Meursault’s attitude toward and interest in Marie is basically sexual.

    Part 1, Chapter 5
    Marie Cardona

    That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her. "So why marry me, then?" she said. I explained to her that it didn’t really matter and that if she wanted to, we could get married. […] Then she pointed out that marriage was a serious thing. I said, "No." (1.5.4)

    With characteristic emotional indifference and detachment, Meursault answers Marie’s question with brutal honesty. However, his honesty betrays his ignorance of the range of human emotion, and perhaps even more than that, his primarily sexual interest in Marie.

    Part 1, Chapter 6

    Just then his wife was laughing with Marie. For the first time maybe, I really thought I was going to get married. (1.6.6)

    Meursault’s emotional landscape begins to mature and grow more sophisticated.

    We swam a few strokes and she reached out and held on to me. I felt her legs wrapped around mine and I wanted her. (1.6.9)

    Meursault never says anything about Marie as a person. She could really be any nameless woman, since all he likes about her is that she is, in fact, a warm person to have sex with.

    Together again, Marie and I swam out a ways, and we felt a closeness as we moved in unison and were happy. (1.6.7)

    Meursault’s "happy feelings" toward Marie are really only based on physical feelings (like the "closeness" of their bodies).

    Part 2, Chapter 2
    Marie Cardona

    She shouted again, "You’ll get out and we’ll get married!" I answered, "You think so?" but it was mainly just to say something. (2.2.7)

    Whatever sense of closeness Meursault has developed for Marie was short lived; detachment is now all that is left.

    Meursault

    Marie shouted to me that I had to have hope. I said, "Yes." I was looking at her as she said it and I wanted to squeeze her shoulders through her dress. I wanted to feel the thin material and I didn’t really know what else I had to hope for other than that. (2.2.7)

    Even while he’s in prison, Meursault can only be comforted by the physical, not by words or emotional support.

    I never thought specifically of Marie. But I thought so much about a woman, about women, about all the ones I had known, about all the circumstances in which I had enjoyed them, that my cell would be filled with their faces and crowded with my desires. (2.2.11)

    Why would Meursault think about Marie? To him, she is just a generic woman.

  • Religion

    Part 2, Chapter 1

    […] drawing himself up to his full height and ask[ed] me if I believed in God. I said no. He sat down indignantly. He said it was impossible; all men believed in God, even those who turn their backs on him. That was his belief, and if he were ever to doubt it, his life would become meaningless. "Do you want my life to be meaningless?" He shouted. As far as I could see, it didn’t have anything to do with me, and I told him so. But from across the table he had already thrust the crucifix in my face and was screaming irrationally, "I am a Christian. I ask Him to forgive you your sins. How can you not believe that He suffered for you?" (2.1.11)

    The magistrate places the meaning of his existence on his faith in God. This is why he gets so upset when Meursault denounces it—he’s not concerned about Meursault, but he’s nervous that his own faith is being attacked.

    After a short silence, he stood up and told me that he wanted to help me, that I interested him, and that, with God’s help, he would do something for me. (2.1.9)

    The magistrate judge is interested in saving Meursault—in the name of God.

    Suddenly he stood up, strode over to a far corner of his office, and pulled out a drawer on a file cabinet. He took out a silver crucifix which he brandished as he came toward me. And in a completely different, almost cracked voice, he shouted, "Do you know what this is?" I said, "Yes, of course." Speaking very quickly and passionately, he told me that he believed in God, that it was his conviction that no man was so guilty that God did not forgive him, but in order for that to happen a man must repent and in so doing become like a child whose heart is open and ready to embrace all. […] He was waving his crucifix almost directly over my head. (2.1.10)

    Meursault’s description reveals that the magistrate—though he tries to be threatening—comes off as ridiculous. If he’s "waving his crucifix almost directly over [Meursault’s] head," it looks like he’s brandishing it as a weapon. Um. That's not super-scary.

    Then he looked at me closely and with a little sadness in his face. In a low voice he said, "I have never seen a soul as hardened as yours. The criminals who have come before me have always wept at the sight of his image of suffering." I was about to say that that was precisely because they were criminals. But then I realized that I was one too. It was an idea I couldn’t get used to. (2.1.12)

    The magistrate tries to invoke Christianity as Meursault’s ultimate savior. When it doesn’t work, Meursault is made a more "hardened" criminal because of his reaction. Religion is being used to assign guilt once again.

    And I can say that at the end of the eleven months that this investigation lasted, I was almost surprised that I had ever enjoyed anything other than those rare moments when the judge would lead me to the door of his office, slap me on the shoulder, and say to me cordially, "That’s all for today, Monsieur Antichrist." I would then be handed back over to the police. (2.1.13)

    There is an absurdist’s brand of humor. Ha ha ha... oof.

    Part 2, Chapter 4

    But all the long speeches, all the interminable days and hours that people had spent talking about my soul, had left me with the impression of a colorless swirling river that was making me dizzy. (2.4.7)

    Meursault, though uninterested, does at least comprehend that it is his soul on trial here, not his crime. The jury, the judge, and the prosecutor have added a religious element to the court system and Meursault, by using the word "soul," recognizes this.

    Part 2, Chapter 5

    Nothing, nothing mattered, and I knew why. […] What did other people’s deaths or a mother’s love matter to me; what did his God or the lives people choose or the fate they think they elect matter to me when we’re all elected by the same fate, me and billions of privileged people like him […]? Couldn’t he see, couldn’t he see that? Everybody was privileged. There were only privileged people. The others would all be condemned one day. And he would be condemned, too. What would it matter if he were accused of murder and then executed because he didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral? Salamano’s dog was worth just as much as his wife. (2.5.25)

    Meursault declares that, if everyone’s going to die, God shouldn’t matter. Those who believe in God will meet their ends just as those who don’t. Death makes life a level playing field.

    For the third time I’ve refused to see the chaplain. I don’t have anything to say to him; I don’t feel like talking, and I’ll be seeing him soon enough as it is. All I care about right now is escaping the machinery of justice, seeing if there’s any way out of the inevitable. (2.5.1)

    Meursault has outwardly declined the chaplain’s efforts three times. Though he accepts death to be inevitable, he doesn't want to give up hope for life and freedom—yet.

    […] the way he saw it, we were all condemned to die. But I interrupted him by saying that it wasn’t the same thing and that besides, it wouldn’t be a consolation anyway. (2.5.15)

    Through his atheism, Meursault has accepted death as his—and everyone else’s—final sentence.

    The chaplain knew the game well too, I could tell right away: his gaze never faltered. And his voice didn't falter, either, when he said, "Have you no hope at all? And do you really live with the thought that when you die, you die, and nothing remains?" "Yes," I said. (2.5.15)

    Meursault has already gone through all this with the magistrate. In its absurd repetition, he sees the whole thing as a "game"—the same word he used to describe his own arrest, trial, and conviction.

    "Then God can help you," he said. "Every man I have known in your position has turned to Him." I acknowledged that that was their right. It also meant that they must have had the time for it. As for me, I didn’t want anybody’s help, and I just didn’t have the time to interest myself in what didn’t interest me. (2.5.14)

    Because he's totally uninterested in relying on any external authority or source for meaning, Meursault lays bare his atheism for the chaplain to see.

    Meursault

    "Why have you refused to see me?" he asked. I said that I didn’t believe in God. He wanted to know if I was sure and I said that I didn’t see any reason to ask myself that question: it seemed unimportant. (2.5.13)

    Meursault’s fight with the chaplain is one-sided: the chaplain is adamant about their opposition, but Meursault doesn’t really care.

    Then, I don’t know why, but something inside me snapped. I started yelling at the top of my lungs, and I insulted him and told him not to waste his prayers on me. I grabbed him by the collar of his cassock. I was pouring out on him everything that was in my heart. […] He seemed so certain about everything, didn’t he? And yet none of his certainties was worth one hair of a woman’s head. He wasn’t even sure he was alive, because he was living like a dead man. […] But I was sure about me, about everything, surer than he could ever be, sure of my life and sure of the death I had waiting for me. Yes, that was all I had. But at least I had as much of a hold on it as it had on me. (2.5.25)

    Meursault combats the chaplain’s religiousness with his own brand of certainty—his certainty of his own death.

    "I know that at one time or another you’ve wished for another life." I said of course I had, but it didn’t mean any more than wishing to be rich, to be able to swim faster, or to have a more nicely shaped mouth. It was all the same. (2.5.23)

    Meursault challenges the chaplain’s view of Christianity with the absurdist position that nothing means more than anything else.