Study Guide

The Stranger Part 2, Chapter 4

By Albert Camus

Part 2, Chapter 4

  • At first, Meursault finds the pleading stage and closing remarks amusing. Both lawyers plead guilty, but his attorney does it with an explanation, whereas the prosecutor does so without one.
  • Meursault feels that all through trial, more is said about him than about the crime he committed. Every now and then he feels the urge to intervene, but is shut down by his attorney.
  • Meursault gathers that the prosecutor wants the jury to see the murder as premeditated (meaning Meursault planned it ahead of time), having painted him as a cold, insensitive, remorseless killer.
  • The way he (Meursault) sees it, why should he feel remorse? It's not as though he's ever been able to feel it before.
  • Meursault realizes that he has been judged to be intelligent by the prosecutor, which somehow makes him worse for having committed the murder; he doesn't really understand this logic.
  • The prosecutor now speaks of Meursault's soul; he says he peered into it and found nothing. He concludes Meursault's crime is worse than parricide (murdering of one's family member), which is the other hot trial of the summer. The prosecutor pushes for the death penalty, on the grounds that Meursault has no place in a society whose fundamental rules he ignores.
  • Meursault's head spins; the heat of the afternoon is getting to him.
  • The judge asks him for final words. He stands up to tell the jury that he never intended to kill the Arab… that he only did so because of the sun. Everyone laughs, in that "Ha-ha, we're going to kill you legally" kind of way.
  • Meursault's attorney requests that trial be reconvened in the afternoon.
  • When trial resumes, Meursault's attorney gives a closing that never seems to end. Meursault is irritated that his attorney speaks in the first-person, as if he were Meursault himself. Meursault notes that the defense (his lawyer) is less artful than the prosecutor (the lawyer fighting against him).
  • Finally, as the sun sets outside and it begins to cool, the jury leave to decide a verdict.
  • Meursault's attorney assures him that he'll get off with a few years in prison or at hard labor, but that there is no chance of overturning an unfavorable (i.e., guilty) verdict.
  • After forty five minutes pass, the foreman of the jury files back in to announce their verdict. Meursault hears a muffled voice somewhere, and then the presiding judge tells him that he is to have his head cut off, in a public square, in the name of the French people.
  • Meursault of course has nothing to say when asked, so he is promptly taken away.