Study Guide

The Stranger Friendship

By Albert Camus

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.