Study Guide

The Stranger Part 2, Chapter 1

By Albert Camus

Part 2, Chapter 1

  • Meursault has been arrested and questioned, first at the police station, then by the examining magistrate. Since he has read about these interrogations in books, he can't help but wonder whether it is all a game. It's not until he leaves that he even remembers that he killed a man.
  • Eventually, an attorney is appointed for him. Meursault thinks his case is a simple one, but his lawyer believes it to be "tricky," though one they could win if Meursault trusts him.
  • Apparently, the investigators are perturbed by Meursault's "insensitivity" towards his mother's death. Meursault does not understand this, but cooperates as much as he can by answering all the questions.
  • The attorney asks whether Meursault felt sadness on the day of his mother's funeral. Meursault answers that he has lost the habit of self-analysis, and that though he probably did love Maman, it didn't mean anything… nothing means anything.
  • The attorney is annoyed and dissatisfied, but continues to pry into Meursault's head.
  • After another question or two, he gives Meursault the look of disgust, and says that "things could get very nasty" for him. The attorney leaves.
  • Meursault realizes that his attorney doesn't understand him, and that this inability frustrates the lawyer.
  • At two p.m., the examining magistrate interviews Meursault; his attorney didn't make it.
  • The room is hot and bright.
  • The conversation gets around to Raymond, the beach, the swim, the quarrel, then back to the beach, the little spring, the sun, and the five shots from the revolver.
  • After a short silence, the magistrate says that he wants to help Meursault, that Meursault interests him, and that, with God's help, he can do something for him.
  • But first, a few more questions. He asks whether Meursault loves his mother.
  • Meursault answers, yes, the same as anyone, and the clerk typing up his responses makes some sort of error recording this.
  • Next, the magistrate asks about the five shots. Meursault explains that at first it was one, and a few seconds later, the other four.
  • But why the pause, he wants to know.
  • All Meursault can remember is the red sand and the burning sun on his forehead—he doesn't answer.
  • The magistrate gets worked up. Why would anyone shoot at a dead body four more times?
  • Meursault is annoyed and doesn't know what to say. The magistrate is beginning to scare him, the room is hot, and giant flies in this office keep landing on his face.
  • The magistrate pulls out a silver crucifix and starts in about his belief in God as every criminal's savior.
  • Meursault responds that he does not believe in God.
  • The magistrate now screams at him irrationally, demanding that he ask God for forgiveness.
  • As it gets hotter and hotter, Meursault finally surrenders. He pretends to comply just to get rid of the magistrate.
  • The magistrate is appeased, but says Meursault is the most hardened criminal he has encountered.
  • After that, Meursault sees a lot of the magistrate, who keeps bugging him to clarify his statements and so forth—the conversation always goes through Meursault's attorney. For all purposes, the magistrate seems to have lost interest in saving Meursault or his soul.
  • Time passes in this manner for eleven solid months. Meursault says he has never enjoyed anything so much as the moment when he gets to leave the magistrate's office. When he is walked to the door, slapped on the shoulder, and told, "That's all for today, Monsieur Antichrist."