The Stranger

The Stranger Summary and Analysis of Part One, Chapters 4-6

Chapter 4 Summary:

Meursault's narration skips ahead a week but fills us quickly in on the details of the past week. He worked hard and saw two movies with Emmanuel. The day before was Saturday and Marie came over. They caught a bus to the beach and swam and played games in the water where Marie taught him how to skim the foam and spout it up in the air. When the salt becomes too bitter, they move into the shore and press up against each other. Speechless, they hurry back to Meursault's bedroom. Marie stays the next morning to have lunch. They hear Salamano yelling at his dog and Meursault tells her about the two. Her laughter turns him on and she asks if he loves her. He replies that it does not matter and that he does not think he loves her. She looks sad but later laughs and he kisses her again.

A fight breaks out in Raymond's room between him and his girlfriend. The woman screams in such a way that the whole building goes out to see the fight. Marie says it is terrible whereas Meursault does not comment. She wants him to get the police but he does not like them. When they do come, Raymond finally opens the door and the woman says how he hit her. Raymond keeps smoking after the cop tells him to remove the cigarette so the cop slaps him. Raymond becomes meek. Raymond is ordered to stay in his room and wait to be summoned while the girl leaves. Meursault and Marie return to make lunch but Marie cannot eat much. Meursault eats most of his food.

Later in the day Meursault is visited by Raymond who tells him how his plan had gone along as expected until she slapped him and then he had beaten her. Meursault says that he should be happy the girl got her punishment. Raymond agrees and doubts the cops can change that. He is glad that Meursault did not care that he had not hit the cop back. Meursault agrees to be his witness and the two go out. They play pool and drink but Meursault refuses to go a whorehouse. On the way back home they see Salamano very flustered. He explains how he lost his dog at the parade grounds. Raymond tries to reassure him that if the dog is lost he will come back. Salamano is worried the police will get him. Meursault explains how he can pay to get the dog out of the pound which Salamano finds absurd (paying for a dog he does not even like) but questions Meursault about it later. Meursault explains how the pound keeps the dog for a short time before deciding what to do with it. Salamano leaves but Meursault can hear him pacing and then crying.


The week flies by because now that we have seen a typical workday there is no need to show us others in the routine. They will each be rather similar. The pleasure highlights are pointed out as Meursault goes to the movies twice and then sees Marie on Saturday. This day is given in much greater detail because the pattern is not quite set and it is a long stretch of time where Meursault enjoys what he is doing. As usual though, he and Marie head first to go swimming. Similar to the act of sex, Meursault's love for swimming hinges much on the feel and taste of the event. As he had longed for the salty smell of Marie's hair on the pillow after she had left the Sunday before, he likes playing her water game until his mouth stings with "salty bitterness." It is something he longs for but too much of it can become bitter. He is arrested in his behavior by a physical sensation. The act of swimming and absorbing the salt bring about sex as the two rush back to Meursault's apartment, unable to contain themselves. The cool air on their naked bodies makes him feel good and this is all Meursault needs to feel happy.

The harmony of their union is broken by the disharmonious and ugly fight between Raymond and his mistress the next morning. The fight comes right after Meursault tells Marie that he does not think he loves her, but it does not mean anything. Meursault is not involved in emotional excess or extremes of any sort but that does not mean he does not like Marie. He enjoys her very much. The emotional extreme of hate pours into the hall with the fight and provides the largest contrast and paradox, as Meursault does not judge or care much about either. He feels no need to get the police as Marie asks because he does not like police. This response seems very selfish but in fact his refusal to act is, by nature, the act of not acting and thus he chooses to allow the events to continue because his interference would not change anything. The cop's arrival does however throw a different light onto Raymond as he is forced to drop his tough guy exterior and ironically, falls to the other extreme of great acquiescence and fear. He later is relieved to find that Meursault was not disappointed that he did not hit the cop back. He had let his exterior persona drop and was scared at showing his inner fear. The pretense constructed by Raymond acts as a synecdoche for the superficial constructs of society in general, establishing an exterior faith in order to avoid facing the absurd existence of living life.

Not surprisingly, once the fight is separated and Meursault and Marie return to lunch she has lost her appetite whereas Meursault eats all of his lunch. He simply does not allow other people's issue to affect him in such a way as a physical aspect of life could. He does not react as expected. When Raymond visits after Marie has left and Meursault napped, Meursault does not judge his character based on the abusive fight. Meursault agrees to act as his witness and go out with him. The structure of Meursault's thoughts points to his nonchalance concerning the actions of Raymond. Immediately following Raymond's assertion that he was glad the woman got what she deserved, Meursault ironically thinks of how friendly he is and how nice the moment is. A moment with a person society would likely consider to have poor moral values does not impact Meursault except to relate to him Raymond's attempt at friendship.

The portrait painted of Salamano at the end of the chapter is much different than the previous portrait. Though still acting the part of a hating dog owner, his compassion and love for the dog cannot but help to come through. It is a touch of obvious humor that Camus throws in that Salamano was watching "The King of the Escape Artists" when his dog disappears. And yet does not that parallel imply that the dog is also a king? Near death, Meursault will come to the conclusion that Maman's or his life are worth no more than Salamano's dog. The loss of Salamano's dog deeply affects and saddens the little man, however. The noise of his crying leads to Meursault's unexpected thought of Maman. The two have to be connected even though Meursault does not see the link. He says, "For some reason I thought of Maman." Yet the grief Salamano is expressing directly precedes the memories of Maman and Meursault goes to bed without eating, the first time during the novel one can note that he passes on a physical pleasure or is incapable of enjoying a physical stimulus. The reader must wonder if normal human sensations and societal behavior codes do lie deep inside Meursault or if we are simply reading too much into his behavior because of our own deeply ingrained expectations.

Chapter 5 Summary:

Raymond calls Meursault at his office which annoys Meursault because his boss does not like them to receive personal calls. Raymond tells him that they are invited to a beach house of a friend of his and that he can bring Marie. He also says that a pack of Arabs, one of which is his former girlfriend's brother, had been following him. After hanging up, Meursault's boss calls him but fortunately does not talk about the phone call. Instead he introduces to him the idea of working for the company in Paris. He thinks Meursault seems like the type who would enjoy the travel and change. Meursault says how he does not really care and is happy enough in Algeria. The boss says he has no ambition. Meursault admits to the reader that he once had ambition but lost it when he had to give up his studies.

Marie visits Meursault after work and asks if he would like to marry her. He agrees if that is what she would like but still says it does not matter and he does not love her. He admits that he would marry another woman in the same situation. Marie finally decides that her liking him for this peculiarity may make him hate her later but she will still marry him. She is excited about the prospect of going to Paris, but Meursault tells her how it is dirty. They go for a walk and Meursault mentions the beautiful women they see. Marie agrees. She leaves and Meursault has dinner at Céleste's. A strange little jerky woman joins him at his table. She eats feverishly and meticulously marks a radio program schedule. He follows her for a few minutes when she leaves but then forgets about her.

Salamano is waiting outside when he returns. His dog was not at the pound and he does not want another dog since he was used to his own. Salamano tells him about getting his dog and how nice his coat was before he got sick and old. Upon leaving, he tells Meursault that he is sorry about Maman and how much she liked the dog. He understands why he sent Maman to the home whereas many other neighbors thought it was cold. Meursault had not known that and justifies his behavior by noting that he did not have enough money. Besides, she had nothing more to say to him. Salamano says good night and wonders what he will do now that his life has been changed.


Chapter Five begins by introducing the reader to a collision of Meursault's two worlds, the world of the work week and of the weekend. Raymond calls Meursault at work and Meursault is annoyed right away. At work, he is in the mode of his pattern in which he wants nothing upset. He is afraid his boss will be mad at the personal call and he does not want to risk that. Ironically, he does want the balance of his life upset although he believes that individual choices and events do not matter. Just as it did not matter whether Maman had dies yesterday or the day before, the encounters of life occur but do not matter. In order to keep his work week encounters occurring in the routine he is used to, he does not want to upset his boss. Strangely though, Meursault ends up doing just that when he shows very little excitement at the idea of being transferred to Paris. He states, "it was all the same to me" and means that. He was not unhappy with his life in Algeria so why change it? The boss does not like his idea that one life is the same as another because that disturbs his sense of agency. The standard human sense that the choices one makes impact the outcome of events and make a difference on the quality of their lives and the goal they are heading toward is a non-issue for Meursault. We get a strange peak into Meursault's former life as a student when he did have ambition like the boss wishes he showed. It seems almost as if whatever made him give up his studies forced him to realize that nothing he did really mattered. Yet he is not bitter; the notion is that he has matured and now understands the way he must live life. This highlights that Meursault is capable of change, he is not stuck in a pattern he cannot move from. He simply chooses not to move from it at this point. This tone establishes a precedent, allowing the transformation he will make as he nears the hour of his death.

The reader is further struck by the totality of the theme of Meursault's indifference and apathy during this part in his life when he agrees to marry Marie. Many times, Meursault will make a decision based on the fact that he sees no reason not to act in a certain way though he does not see a reason to either. He will get married if Marie wants to and he is annoyed that she questions his reasons when it is her idea. Meursault is completely honest in his responses to her questions and it is disturbing to a reader, and obviously to Marie, that he participates so little in the rules of manners. It is not polite to tell someone that he would marry any woman in the same situation but this is not a consideration for Meursault. He is happy with Marie and likes her but there is no emotional attachment. We are not surprised by his comment to Marie that Paris was dirty and dark and the people pale. He is attached to the sun and warmth and his Mediterranean lifestyle of swimming and napping. Paris would have nothing to offer him, a man not interested in a cultured lifestyle or architecture, but in the physical stimuli Algeria has offered him. He does not participate in the game of society's expectations and so rejects Paris if he wants to, tells Marie he does not love her, and agrees with his boss that he has no ambition. Marie sees him confused when she scolds him for not wanting to know where she is going to. As Camus wrote, "The hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game." His refusal to conform to the value system of society in these small ways, though they do not upset Marie or his other friends too drastically, will parallel his time in prison and will give ammunition to his attackers, condemning Meursault as a danger to society.

The little robot-like woman who sits with Meursault provides an interesting contrast to his own character. By this point in the book the reader has likely started to wonder if Meursault is himself a robot, going through the motions of life and routine and asking little else but to continue in this pattern. Yet for Meursault his routine and indifference is a choice and a stop on his progression toward finding meaning in a meaningless universe. His character, though changing little over the course of the novel until the end, is a work in progress and will have the suggestions of more than one dimension. The robot woman intrigues Meursault through her feverish, robotic movement. It is as if she is propelled ahead by some strange motivation which Meursault cannot grasp. She is so meticulous about her radio program schedule that she appears ridiculous. When she rises from her seat she moves through the crowd with such assurance and speed that she never needs to swerve. Here is a predestined preprogrammed woman. Her life is not a choice but a program. Meursault forgets her soon because she is not real or true to herself. Not immersed in superficial pretext as are other characters, and most of society, she still fails to exercise choice in her actions and again distinguishes Meursault as a singular being in an absurd world.

Salamano without his dog is a truly pitiful creature. The reader watches a man who seemed truly despicable when first introduced but is now saddened by the loss of a companion whom he loved. We understand the depths of his character which suggest that depth is possible in the other characters . We are also hit by the irony of a narrative where a man is crushed by the loss of his dog but a son does not flinch when told of the death of his mother. Is this son a monster? And yet he is compassionate toward Salamano's loss and willing to listen to his stories of the dog. The theme of reliving ones life through memories in order to live it again is central to the novel and will appear again as Meursault approaches death. It is minimized here for the reader in order to plant the seed which will grow into the beautiful prose Camus and Meursault share at the end of the book. He and Salamano become connected through the handshake at the end of the chapter, reflecting the intersection of their stories. Though not similar in personality, the two will each learn how meaning can be represented in life. Salamano, however, still lives within the prescribed boundaries of society and expresses his sadness over the loss of Maman. Meursault characteristically feels no need to respond. What does it matter?

Chapter 6 Summary:

Meursault finds it difficult to wake up on this Sunday but Marie shakes him awake. He is in a sour mood. They wait for Raymond outside and the sun hits Meursault like a slap. Marie is excited but Meursault is hungry. Raymond arrives and they decide to take the bus. The day before Meursault had testified that Raymond's girl had been cheating on him and Raymond got off with a warning. They notice a group of Arabs across the street and hurry to the bus. Raymond's friend's name is Masson and his wife has a Parisian accent. The couple causes Meursault to realize for the first time that he is getting married. Masson, Marie, and Meursault go swimming first off but Masson stay near the shore. Marie and Meursault feel close and happy swimming together. Meursault goes in first and then watches Marie come out later, admiring her wet body. Meursault falls asleep until right before lunch when he and Marie fondle in the water.

Meursault devours his lunch and then takes a walk with the other men. The heat and glare of the sun are almost unbearable to Meursault. They walk along until they see two Arabs on the beach, one being Raymond's man. They approach and Raymond and Masson fight with them. Raymond is cut with a knife and he and Masson go to bandage it before returning to the house. Meursault has to explain to the women but does not like to so says very little. Raymond heads back down the beach later and Meursault follows him although he wants to be alone. They find the two Arabs again, lying on the beach. Raymond wants to shoot but Meursault talks him into giving him the gun which he will shoot for Raymond if the knife is drawn again. The Arabs back away at the last minute and Meursault and Raymond walk back.

Not wanting to enter the bungalow, Meursault goes back to the beach. The heat and glare of the sun strike him like blades against his forehead, as on the day of the burial, he remembers. He sees Raymond's Arab again though he did not intend to search him out. The two watch each other, hardly moving. Meursault notes that the last two hours have stood still. Knowing that he could just turn and leave, he cannot help but move forward. The pain of the sun and heat and salt leaves him dazed and unable to breath or think clearly. The trigger gives and he realizes he has shattered the day and happiness. He has shot the Arab. He fires four more times.


It is very significant how hard of a time Marie has waking Meursault up the morning that opens chapter six, the chapter of the novel's climax. He is a man easily driven by physical stimuli ,who sleeps and wakes when he chooses. Thus when he has such difficulty dragging himself from sleep, it cannot be a good sign. In fact, the day becomes his last as a free man and his first as a murderer. Meursault certainly had better sense in wanting to stay asleep. Furthermore, Marie notices how glum Meursault looks, almost like a mourner. Meursault has never looked like a mourner, not even when his mother dies. To have the look of one on a simple Sunday morning, the days were he usually does nothing all day long, foreshadows a death which will affect Meursault much mroe deeply than any other death has before. This death, on some levels, will matter. In fact, it will bring the end of Meursault's freedom and ability to enjoy the physical pleasures he loves most as well as the beginning of Meursault's realization of what living life means and his subsequent vindication. Marie laughs with delight, but Meursault feels drained and many of his pleasures already lose their flavor. His life is about to be completely altered. Once he reaches the street, the sun does not have the normal calming effect on Meursault but instead slaps him on the face. We have learned that if the sun is portrayed in a negative way by Camus, it is a harbinger for disastrous encounters or events. This morning light does not even seem to be harsh or too hot since Marie claims how beautiful it is but in Meursault's state, he can already feel the daggers of the sun which will stab him later. The tone of the chapter's opening is very expectant, pointing toward danger or disaster.

Marie's joy is heavily contrasted not only by Meursault's gloom, but also by the physical symbols of impending doom represented by the group of Arabs across the street. The metonymic usage by Camus of the conflict between Raymond and the Arabs to represent the French/Algerian conflict alerts the reader to the deeper meaning of the Arab tough guys on the corner. Meursault, being part of the pied-noir working class, is stuck in the battle between two sides and ends up striking out against the Arabs for almost no reason. The situation has placed him there, just as Camus has placed the Arabs conveniently across the street. Meursault will later say that he knows the day could have gone either way, it would have been just as easy for him to shoot as not shoot. Note how when the trio walks to the bus, Meursault looks back and finds that the Arabs are standing indifferently in the same position staring at the same spot of ground as when they left. They are just the tools Camus uses to indict Meursault and represent the intensifying conflict of the French-Algerian in the context of the Absurd.

Arriving at the beach, the atmosphere is still highly negative though on the surface, one would think it would be more positive. Yet note the images which Camus includes, such as Marie's destruction of the flowers or the houses stripped naked in Meursault's view. The air is heavy with the sense of approaching doom. Meursault feels slightly better when he is able to go swimming at Masson's house. He notes that the sun is doing him good. He is in his favorite element and able to shut out the negative energy of the day. His later actions are not predetermined. However grumpy he was feeling before, he is not led to killing someone. The paths in front of him are equally open. Meursault lives in the moment, not in memories of the past or thoughts of the future. He does not think of the implications of agreeing to marry Marie until he sees her talking to Masson's wife. Still just an objective realization, Meursault is most happy when he and Marie swim out into deeper waters and can move together in smooth solid strokes. Time is broken down into a smaller scale and Meursault appreciates the pleasure of taking each stroke with her. This action puts his body at such ease that he naps after reaching the beach and must again be woken up by Marie. She is the consummation of his physical desires. She is united with him in his love for the ocean and sun and she encourages the closeness of their bodies. He wants her because he wants that type of happiness. He eats all of his lunch because his sensations of been peaked and he wills to be physically satisfied.

The sun's negative, blinding attributes reappear as the three men walk together along the beach. Meursault nearly stops listening to them talk because the sun's weight makes him so sleepy. Camus uses terms such as "unbearable","hard to breath", and "red" to describe the damage the sun is doing to Meursault. He feels beaten down. At this point, paralleling the sun struck moment outside of the apartment building in the morning, the men notice the Arabs. Meursault agrees to stand aside in case a third Arab comes because he has no reason not to agree. As always, this indifference marks Meursault's decisions. It was easiest to agree. He watches the men fight much like he watched Raymond fight with his girlfriend. It is an event which happens separate from him and does not concern him or his judgment. Raymond is injured foreshadowing the danger inherent in meeting the Arabs like this but it is only a surface wound. The wound is enough to require attention and to make Meursault awkwardly have to recount the event to the women. This place of transferring emotional information does not please him as much as the ocean which he turns to look at instead.

Always making his own decisions and acting on a singular basis, Meursault follows Raymond back to the beach even though he angrily demands to be left alone. Meursault mentions that by this point, the sun is overpowering. The details of the moment which Meursault gives us become even more specific and minute to minute. The reader feels almost like they are in an old Western movie as Raymond reaches toward his pocket for a gun and they watch to see if the Arab reaches for anything in his pocket. We see Meursault try to control the emotions of Raymond from doing something he would regret. He does not want to say anything to set Raymond off. But is this because he is against him shooting? The reader will likely think so but Camus does little to tell us this is so. Meursault averts danger by taking the gun from Raymond at this point and is not overly hesitant when he uses it himself later. Meursault is simply reacting to the situation objectively.

Meursault notices that time has come to a stop. It will not begin again until after Meursault has shot the Arab five times. Nothing happens at this moment with Raymond but the sun and heat still ring in Meursault's ears after they leave the Arab. Meursault decides to head back down the beach after Raymond returns to the house because he realizes that "to stay or to go, it amounted to the same thing." Here is Camus' interjection of Meursault's journey back to meet the Abusrd head on. He did not have to go back and he does not intend to shoot the Arab but the sun is strong and nothing matters. He could go back or he could not but by going back he will force the ultimate conclusion of his creation of meaning in a meaningless world and that is the important goal of Camus' novel.

The sun attacks Meursault's sensibility as he walks back toward his chosen route. His body tenses as the sun is symbolized as a knife, foreshadowing the knife which will set him off. He is dazed and feels drunken because his senses have been overwhelmed. It is his existential struggle against the world and others in it which moves him nearer to the encounter which will bring him meaning. God is not present. Meursault has the power to kill or not to, and he is influenced by no outside influence other than the beating sun and drunkenness of his senses. Time slows even further when he nears the Arab and grips onto Raymond's gun. He is reacting instinctively, he implies, by saying that it was natural that he gripped the gun. The moment of the climax is hyperbolic in nature as Meursault feels that all time has frozen while he and the Arab stare at each other. The light that bounces off the knife of the Arab is like a shot at Meursault, stabbing his eyes and forehead. His eyes are blurred by sweat and salt. Each detail and element evident in Camus' narrative lead to Meursault's physical state when he shoots, but none are responsible. Meursault alone is. He is as removed from reality and social context at this moment as every moment. He squeezes the trigger without intent. Each small act is singular. He realizes that he has shattered his happy harmonious life -- so why fire four more times? What kind of monster can this be? He will later stress to the reader that he is really like everyone else. What does this say about man and our struggle in the world? Is there another solution to living than blame or indifference? The shots are the peak of Meursault's physical life. In order to transcend this blurred dazed drunkenness he consumes, he must knock "on the door of unhappiness."