The Stranger Summary

The Stranger summary

In The Stranger, Meursault kills an Arab man because of the sun. The man had been following Meursault because Meursault's neighbor, Raymond, was on trial for beating the Arab's sister. Meursault is sentenced to death.

  • The novel opens with Meursault learning of his mother's death. This doesn't particularly upset him, and the day after viewing the body he meets Marie, a beautiful young woman with whom he strikes up an affair.

  • Meursault gets caught up in his neighbor Raymond's problems with his girlfriend. When Raymond is put on trial for domestic abuse, Meursault agrees to testify on his behalf. The Arab man he later kills is the girlfriend's brother.

  • Upon hearing that Meursault wasn't much affected by his mother's death, the examining magistrate decides that he's cold-blooded. Meursault is shown no mercy in court and gets sentenced to death.


Part I

"Maman died today." This is the first line of Albert Camus' great existential novel, The Stranger. The narrator and protagonist, Meursault, receives a telegram telling him that his mother has died in her retirement home. He isn't sure when she died, exactly, and his apparent indifference to the fact of her death puts people off. He takes the bus to Marengo, where she died, to sit vigil. Her friends from the home also attend, and their displays of grief make Meursault uncomfortable. His mother's fiancé, Thomas Peréz, joins the funeral procession, heartbroken over his loss. Meursault doesn't cry.

On the Saturday after the funeral, he decides to go to the beach. There, he meets Marie, a former coworker. He sleeps with her, then returns home. His apartment is too big for him, and ever since his mother moved into the home he has been living in a single room, having no need of the extra space. He sits in his room, staring out at the people on the street. When night falls, he gets up and thinks that, despite Maman's death, nothing has changed.

Meursault returns to work on Monday. His boss is nice to him, and he works hard. His coworker, Emmanuel, joins him for lunch at the usual place, Céleste's. That night, Meursault speaks to two of his neighbors, one of whom (Salamano) has a dog with a skin condition. His other neighbor, a man named Raymond, recently got into a fight with the brother of his Arab mistress, whom he'd been "keeping," as in paying her way. (In the French, Camus uses the term "Arabe," a pejorative word often used by French colonists.) Raymond found out she was cheating on him and beat her up. Now he wants to punish her, so he asks Meursault to write her a nasty letter.

Marie spends the night on Saturday. The next morning, they overhear a fight between Raymond and his mistress. One of their neighbors calls the cops, and Raymond is told to await a call from the police precinct. That afternoon, he visits Meursault. Meursault agrees to testify at Raymond's trial. Together, they go for a walk, then shoot some pool. When they return, Salamano tells them he lost his dog.

Meursault is at work when Raymond calls to invite him to a friend's beach house near Algiers for the weekend. Raymond also says that a small group of Arab men, including his mistress' brother, has been following him. Meursault's boss offers him a promotion, but Meursault doesn't care one way or the other. Nor does he care if he marries Marie or not. She thinks he's peculiar, but doesn't break up with him. He eats dinner alone at Céleste's, where a woman sits at his table, but doesn't speak. He goes home to find his neighbor Salamano upset. Evidently, the dog has disappeared.

Meursault, Marie, and Raymond head to the beach house, where they meet Masson and his wife. It's a hot, sunny day, and Meursault dislikes being in the sun when he's not swimming. After they eat, the three men go for a walk on the beach, where they're attacked by two Arabs, one of whom has a knife. Raymond is injured, but patched up. Later, Raymond and Meursault go for a walk on the beach, where they see the Arabs again. Raymond has his gun with him, but Meursault takes it away. Later, Meursault shoots one of the men.

Part II

Meursault speaks to a magistrate after being arrested. He has been appointed an attorney, but isn't much interested in his trial or defense. Both his lawyer and the magistrate take offense at the fact that Meursault shows no emotion, either about his crime or his mother's death. His "insensitivity" hurts his case. The magistrate begins calling Meursault "Monsieur Antichrist."

In prison, Meursault lives briefly with some Arab cellmates before receiving a cell of his own. It doesn't take long for Meursault to feel at home there. Marie visits him, trying to reassure him that he'll be acquitted. She's forced to shout, because the visiting room is very crowded, and the noise make Meursault ill. After this visit, Meursault begins to feel closed in by his cell; but that passes. He realizes that his mother was right: given enough time, you can get used to anything.

Meursault loses track of time in prison and begins talking to himself. He finds an old newspaper clipping about a Czech man who was killed by his mother and sister, who hadn't recognized him after his long absence. While Meursault is awaiting trial, the press gets hold of his story and runs with it. When he arrives in court, there's a large crowd. After the jury is selected, the judge starts to question him. This doesn't go well for Meursault.

Following Meursault's questioning, a series of witnesses are called to testify against his character in court. When the caretaker says that Meursault drank a cup of coffee and smoked a cigarette at his mother's funeral, the prosecutor argues that Meursault is a monster because of it. Then Marie takes the stand, and the courtroom falls silent when they hear that she and Meursault went to see a movie (a comedy) on the day after Maman's funeral. Raymond's testimony reflects poorly on Meursault, because Raymond is a pimp and therefore a known degenerate.

Meursault finds the prosecutor's summation boring. He knows that the prosecutor is twisting the facts to paint an overly negative picture of things. Meursault finallys says that he killed the man "because of the sun." His lawyer makes an impassioned speech on his behalf, to no avail. After a short recess, the jury returns with a guilty verdict. Meursault is sentenced to death by guillotine.

While awaiting execution, Meursault's thoughts are consumed by his appeal. He knows it will be denied, but this doesn't keep him from imagining it on a daily basis. He refuses to see a chaplain, thinking instead of his impending death and of what it will feel like to die. The chaplain comes to visit against Meursault's wishes, but grows frustrated when Meursault insists that there's no hope and that he will never turn to God. Finally, Meursault snaps and makes the chaplain cry with his shouts of rage, portending his existential doom. When the chaplain leaves, Meursault accepts his fate happily.

The Stranger Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Stranger offers one of the most striking openings in modern fiction: “Mama died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.” Immediately introduced is a character, Meursault, so disconnected from chronology and other human beings that he is one of twentieth century literature’s most memorable embodiments of alienation, of an absurdist world where social bonds are a sham. The British edition of Camus’s first published novel translates the title as The Outsider, and Meursault indeed finds himself a marginal figure in a decentered universe where private and immediate sensations have displaced objective norms.

Meursault, an employee of a shipping company, participates in the rituals of his mother’s funeral and, though he realizes he is supposed to be playing the role of bereaved son, cannot feel anything for the old woman’s corpse. Shortly after returning to Algiers, Meursault goes to the beach, picks up a woman, Marie Cardona, and takes her to the movies and then to bed.

The following Sunday, Meursault and Marie are invited by Raymond Sintès, a raffish neighbor, to spend the day at the beach. During the outing, they are trailed and menaced by two Arab men who are apparently resentful of the way in which Raymond has abused a woman. During a solitary walk along the shore, Meursault encounters one of the Arabs again. It is oppressively hot, and the knife that the Arab wields glistens blindingly in the sun. Without premeditation or reflection, Meursault takes the gun that Raymond has given him and fires five shots into the stranger.

Narrated in Meursault’s own affectless voice, The Stranger consists of two sections. The first recounts the events leading up to the fatal shooting, and the second reports its aftermath—Meursault’s imprisonment, trial, conviction, and impending execution. Part 2 is in effect a commentary on part 1, an attempt to find coherence in one man’s random actions. Marie, Raymond, the owner of the café that Meursault frequents, his mother’s elderly friend, and others testify in court about the events in part 1. Both attorneys attempt to find some pattern. In the story that Meursault’s lawyer tells, all the details paint the portrait of an innocent man acting in self-defense.

Yet the prosecutor finds a different design. For him, Meursault’s callousness about his mother’s death is symptomatic of a cold-blooded murderer, and it is that reading that the jury accepts when it sentences Meursault to death by guillotine. Meursault, however, rejects the specious patterns that both attorneys impose on events. He also refuses consolation from the prison chaplain, who offers him a kind of cosmic narrative in which everything is linked to a vast providential scheme.

Alone in his cell, Meursault realizes that despite the lies people tell to camouflage the truth, all are condemned to death. Uncomfortable with the florid rhetoric that distracts a reader from stark realities, he becomes a champion of candor. In his spare, honest style and his recognition that life is gratuitous and resistant to human attempts to catalog and rationalize it, Meursault is prepared to face extinction liberated from all illusions. He is, wrote Camus in 1955, “not a piece of social wreckage, but a poor and naked man enamored of a sun that leaves no shadows. Far from being bereft of all feeling, he is animated by a passion that is deep because it is stubborn, a passion for the absolute and for truth.”

The Stranger Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

When Meursault is notified of his mother’s death, he leaves immediately for Marengo, where she was living in the Home for Aged Persons. He is taken to the room where her coffin is placed and casually declines the doorkeeper’s offer to unscrew the lid so he can look at her. Meursault spends the night there, drinking coffee, smoking, and chatting with the doorkeeper. The next day, a Friday, he attends the funeral and leaves immediately afterward to return to Algiers.

Saturday morning, Meursault goes for a swim and runs into Marie Cardona, a girl who formerly worked in his office. He invites her to a movie and later takes her to bed.

Meursault spends Sunday lounging on the balcony of his flat, smoking and watching people on the street below. The next day, returning home from work, Meursault comes upon Raymond Sintes, a young man who lives on the same floor. Raymond, who calls himself a warehouseman but is reputed to be a pimp, was just in a fight with the brother of a Moorish girl he is seeing. Believing that the girl is cheating on him, he beat her up, and her brother accosted him, seeking revenge. Raymond asks Meursault to draft a letter to entice the girl back so he can humiliate her, and Meursault agrees to help.

One afternoon, Meursault is in his room with Marie when they hear Raymond beating the girl again. A police officer is summoned. Later, Raymond asks Meursault to testify to his own knowledge that the girl was false to Raymond. Again, Meursault agrees to help, and he and Raymond go out to a café. Upon returning, they encounter another neighbor, an old man named Salamano, whose dog ran off. Although he abused the animal mercilessly, he is weeping and fearful of what will become of him without his longtime companion.

That Sunday, Meursault and Marie accompany Raymond to the beach, where they encounter two Arabs who were following Raymond for some time. A fight breaks out, and Raymond is cut before the Arabs slip away. Later, with his wounds patched, Raymond goes walking and comes upon the Arabs again. This time, Raymond pulls a gun, but Meursault, who followed, offers to hold it to ensure a fair fight. Almost immediately, however, the Arabs vanish.

Raymond goes back to the bungalow, but Meursault—Raymond’s pistol still in his pocket—stays out in the blazing afternoon sunlight and soon comes upon the Arab who stabbed Raymond. Meursault steps forward and, seeing the flash of a knife blade in a blur of light and heat, pulls the trigger. He pumps four more bullets into the Arab’s inert body.

Meursault is arrested and questioned by the examining magistrate for the next eleven months, usually with a court-appointed lawyer present. The questions focus on two things: his apparent callousness at his mother’s funeral and the fact that he hesitated after his first shot and then fired four more times. At one point, the magistrate displays a small silver crucifix and asks Meursault whether he believes in God. When Meursault replies matter-of-factly that he does not, the magistrate is visibly upset.

Meursault is held in prison, where he is visited by Marie, who holds out hope for his acquittal. He soon becomes accustomed to prison life, although small privations occasionally upset him, most of all, the fact that he is not allowed to smoke. He begins to sleep sixteen to eighteen hours a day. Soon, six months pass, and he begins talking to himself without realizing it.

In June, his trial begins. One of the first witnesses called, the warden of the Home for Aged Persons in Marengo, testifies that Meursault’s mother complained about her son’s conduct toward her and that on the day of the funeral Meursault neither cried nor lingered by the grave. The doorkeeper is called to testify that Meursault did not want to view his mother’s body. When Marie takes the stand, the prosecutor maneuvers her into admitting that her affair with Meursault began the day after his mother’s funeral and that they first went to the movies to see a comedy. When Raymond attempts to exonerate his friend, he is exposed as a criminal and a pimp.

After a trial that seems almost to exclude him from its proceedings, Meursault is pronounced guilty and sentenced to death by decapitation. Meursault refuses repeatedly to see the chaplain, but one day the chaplain enters the cell without his permission and tries to talk to him about God. Meursault is patient at first, but then, becoming bored and annoyed, lashes out, cursing the chaplain and pointing out that all his supposed certainty amounts to nothing in the end. Hearing the commotion, the guards rush in to rescue the priest, leaving Meursault to drop off to sleep, exhausted.

When he awakens, he finds himself awash in a strange feeling of peace and resignation, devoid of hope and accepting of what he describes as “the benign indifference of the universe.” He is content to await his execution and, in fact, hopes that it will be witnessed by a large crowd of spectators cursing him.

The Stranger Summary

Part One
The Stranger opens with the narrator, Meursault, receiving a telegram telling him his mother has died. Departing on...

(The entire section is 1478 words.)

The Stranger Summary and Analysis

The Stranger Part 1, Chapter 1: Summary and Analysis

Part I, Chapter 1 Summary

Meursault receives a telegram informing him that his mother has died in Marengo. He isn't sure why his boss is reluctant to give him the time off. He has lunch at Céleste's, a favorite restaurant, then catches the two o'clock bus. He falls asleep, then wakes up to find that he has been sleeping against a soldier, with whom he does not wish to chat.

He walks two kilometers from the bus station to the nursing home where his mother died. There, he asks to see his mother, but isn't allowed to until he speaks to the director of the home. It's revealed that Meursault was his mother's sole financial support and that he was forced to put her in the home to ensure that she received the proper care. He feels that this was the right decision, in part because Maman, as he calls his mother, was never that happy living with him.

Maman's body has been taken to the home's mortuary. There, Meursault meets the caretaker, who isn't given a name. Meursault begrudgingly initiates small talk with the caretaker, who dives into his entire life story. He tells Meursault that he's sixty-four and came from Paris. He was destitute when he happened upon the home. He never expected this to be his life. Meursault offers him a cigarette, and they drink coffee together.

A group of women from the home comes into the mortuary to grieve over their loss. One woman in particular starts to cry, which makes Meursault very uncomfortable. Apparently, this woman is (or was) his mother's best friend. She cries for a while, but then quiets down. The caretaker offers the mourners coffee, but this doesn't prevent Meursault from falling asleep for a little while. He's later able to wash up in the caretaker's room.

Meursault signs some documents for the director, who says Maman's friends won't be allowed to attend the funeral; it's more "humane" that way. The director has, however, given Thomas Peréz, Maman's "fiancé," permission to attend the funeral. Peréz wears an almost comical outfit with a felt hat and corkscrewed trousers, but his grief is real. During the procession, Peréz cries so hard that the tears fill his wrinkles, blinding him. Meursault doesn't shed a tear.

Part I, Chapter 1 Analysis


You'll notice that this novel is told almost entirely in short, simple sentences. Camus rarely uses semi-colons and deliberately keeps the language plain and accessible. Nevertheless, a style starts to emerge, and the diction reflects Meursault's flat, unemotional affect. On the rare occasions that Meursault grows upset or feels the need to speed up time, the syntax changes, and sentences start to get more complicated.


Light and Heat. Throughout the novel, light and heat will appear as oppressive forces that upset Meursault, make him uncomfortable, and eventually lead him to commit murder. In the next chapter, we'll see how Meursault finds relief from the heat when he goes swimming with a woman.


Camus uses a simile when he describes Peréz "crumpl[ing] like a rag doll."


Red and White. Meursault describes the "blood-red earth" and the "white roots" that fall over his mother's coffin. This blood-red earth is of course a symbol of death, whereas the white roots are clear symbols of goodness and purity. Together, these two colors symbolize Maman's death and afterlife.

The Sun. Traditionally, the sun is a symbol of life and energy, its light a source of intense joy and pleasure. Meursault, however, finds the sunlight irritating, and the sun becomes a symbol of oppression for him. He will later blame his crimes on the sun itself.


The Absurd. The Stranger is Albert Camus' great absurdist novel. In this first chapter, Meursault's reactions to the formality of his mother's funeral underscores the essential absurdity of traditions about death, which dictate that Meursault not smoke at the funeral (a ridiculous expectation, to be sure).

Death. Much can and has been inferred from Meursault's response to his mother's death. Traditionally, a son who has recently lost his mother is expected to grieve openly, to cry at the funeral or express some feelings of remorse, but Meursault does none of these things. Throughout this chapter, he's irritated and insensitive, and seeing his mother's best friend weep makes him uncomfortable. His apparent apathy to everything around him will later result in him being called a monster at trial.

The Stranger Part 1, Chapter 2: Summary and Analysis

Part I, Chapter 2 Summary

Meursault wakes up in his own bed on Saturday morning, a day after the funeral. He realizes that his boss didn't want to give him the days off, because with Thursday and Friday off he has a four day weekend. He decides to enjoy himself and go down to the beach, where he runs into Marie, a former coworker of his. He spends the day swimming with her, and then takes her to see a movie (a comedy). Marie spends the night.

In the morning, Marie leaves, and Meursault eats breakfast alone. It's a nice afternoon, so he sits in front of his window and watches the people below. First, families fill the streets, and he sees kids running around in dresses and patent-leather shoes. Then the street clears for a while, only to be filled again by the fans of the local soccer team. As the evening wears on, many different kinds of people pass under Meursault's window. Though he never explicitly says so, he seems to find them beautiful and interesting. In spite of Maman's death, nothing has changed.

Part I, Chapter 2 Analysis


One example of this is the phrase "some saggy straw chairs." It's important to note, however, that The Stranger was written in French and only translated into English after its original publication. It's therefore important to keep in mind that some of these word choices are not Camus' own.


Fernandel (1903 - 1971). A French actor and singer. Fernandel was the leading comic actor of his generation. In Part II of the novel, the prosecutor in Meursault's trial will make much of the fact that Meursault went to see a comedy the day after his mother's funeral.


Meursault uses a hyperbole when he says, "I had the whole sky in my eyes."


Colors. In the previous chapter, red and white appeared as symbols of death and the afterlife. Here, color reappears as a motif that will weave through the entire novel. When Meursault goes swimming in the sea, he looks up at the beautiful "blue and gold" of the sky. His reaction to these colors stands in stark contrast to the irritation he felt when faced with sunlight in the previous chapter.

Light. Light inspires very different emotions in this chapter than in the previous one. The heat and light that he described as "oppressive" before appears here as a thing of beauty, gleaming on the water and on the lush, shiny hair of women he finds beautiful. This change appears to be a direct result of Meursault's new relationship with Marie. He seems to be the kind of man who only truly finds beauty in women and sex (topics he doesn't generally like to discuss).


Guilt. This chapter includes what may be Meursault's one admission of guilt: "Besides, you always feel a little guilty." He says this in relation to his mother's death, which isn't his fault, he says, but still makes him feel guilty. This could indicate that he does have some love for his mother, or it could just be an acknowledgement of the absurd responses to death that have been ingrained in society. Either way, it's telling that Meursault admits to some guilt over his mother's death but will never express remorse for his crimes later in the novel.

The Stranger Part 1, Chapter 3: Summary and Analysis

Part I, Chapter 3 Summary

Meursault returns to work on Monday. There's a stack of invoices on his desk, and he works hard to get through them. He and his coworker Emmanuel run to catch the streetcar to Céleste's. After lunch, Meursault heads home to nap, then returns to work. When he comes home later that night, he runs into Salamano, his neighbor. Salamano's dog, a spaniel, has a skin disease, and Salamano frequently berates the dog, calling him names. Nevertheless, the two are inseparable.

Meursault's other neighbor Raymond invites him over for dinner. Raymond "lives off women," a polite way of saying that he's a pimp. He has a short fuse, too, and has recently gotten into a fight with the brother of his mistress. Her Highness, as Raymond calls her, lived off the money that he gave her. He paid for rent and food and even gave her spending money, but she kept insisting that it wasn't enough. He began to suspect that she was cheating on him, so he beat her.

Even though Raymond and his mistress have broken up, he still has sexual feelings for her. Ever since the fight, he has been obsessed with the idea of punishing her. He finally asks Meursault to write her a nasty letter on his behalf. Meursault agrees. Raymond really appreciates it.

Part I, Chapter 3 Analysis


When Meursault feels the blood pounding his ears at the end of the chapter, it foreshadows what will be his eventual downfall: that letter and his friendship with Raymond. Though he never says so, his physical response to this scene with the letter indicates that he knows it was a bad idea.


Camus draws a parallel between Raymond and Meursault: though temperamentally the two men could not be more different, they were both nevertheless financially responsible for another—in Meursault's case, his mother, and in Raymond's case, his girlfriend. Both women were incapable of supporting themselves, though for different reasons. The parallel characterizes Meursault as a dutiful son and Raymond as a violent pimp. This will make Meursault's trial all the more absurd.


The Lottery Ticket. Raymond happens to find this lottery ticket in his mistress's purse one day. It becomes a symbol of chance and bad luck, because when Raymond finds it he makes assumptions about her social life and character that may or may not be true (he thinks she's having an affair, but there's no real evidence of this—nothing definitive). Chance will later become an important theme in the novel, as Meursault uses it to explain how he happened to kill the Arab man.


Violence. This chapter introduces two new characters, both of which are violent in their own ways. Elderly Salamano frequently beats and verbally abuses his spaniel, a small, whimpering thing. Similarly, Raymond beats his mistress, who has no immediate means of defending herself. When compared to these men, Meursault seems nonviolent to the point of apathy. This will make his later trial all the more absurd.

The Stranger Part 1, Chapter 4: Summary and Analysis

Part I, Chapter 4 Summary

Meursault has a normal week. He works hard, sees a couple movies with Emmanuel, then spends Saturday with Marie. The next day, they overhear a fight between Raymond and his mistress. He accuses her of using him and strikes her hard enough that one of the neighbors calls the cops. He talks back to one of the police officers, who tells him to await a call from the precinct. He will be questioned about the domestic abuse.

After the cops leave, Meursault and Marie sit down to lunch, but she isn't hungry. He takes a nap. Around three o'clock, Raymond drops by to ask if Meursault will testify on his behalf. Meursault agrees, and the men go play pool. When they return, they find Salamano on the doorstep, looking upset. It appears that he has lost his dog. Meursault suggests checking for it at the pound, but Salamano balks—he doesn't want to pay money for that beast.

That night, Meursault hears Salamano weeping. He thinks of Maman, but doesn't cry over her.

Part I, Chapter 4 Analysis


The King of the Escape Artists. It's unclear exactly what Camus is referring to here, but this may be an allusion to Roy Gardner, a bank robber famed for his daring escapes from various penitentiaries. Given that this novel is set in Algiers, however, it's unlikely that Salamano could have stopped to see Gardner himself.


Cigarettes. Cigarettes have appeared in almost every chapter of the novel thus far: while Meursault is sitting vigil for his mother, while he's speaking with Raymond at dinner, and when Raymond opens the door for the cops. In each case, the cigarette accompanies a scene of trouble, infusing its image with danger or distress. Later, the cigarette will become a symbol of Meursault's apparently evil or criminal character.


Raymond says, "You used me, you used me. I'll teach you to use me." This repetition of the word "used" emphasizes his hurt and fury over his mistress's alleged mistreatment of him.


Meursault uses a simile when he says that Marie's face looks "like a flower."


Death. Though never explicitly stated, we can assume that Salamano's dog has died from the fact that it never returns. This is the second of three deaths in the novel (not counting Meursault's execution, which occurs after the novel ends). Salamano's quiet grief, as heard through the walls that night, serves as an interesting counterpoint to Meursault's apparent lack of grief over his mother's death in Part I, Chapter 1. The fact that Meursault thinks of his mother when he hears Salamano weeping indicates either that he is upset or that he doesn't feel required to be. Either way, he doesn't cry.

Law. When Marie asks Meursault to call the police, he makes a telling comment: he doesn't like cops. This aversion to the police will become even more relevant later in the novel, when Meursault is put on trial for murder. He has very little to say to the police, the prison guards, and even his own lawyer, which of course makes him seem like even more of a monster.

The Stranger Part 1, Chapter 5: Summary and Analysis

Part I, Chapter 5 Summary

Raymond calls Meursault at work to invite him to a friend's beach house that Sunday. Marie can come, too. Raymond also says that he's being followed by a group of Arabs. He wants Meursault to keep his eyes open for them. Meursault agrees.

A little later, Meursault's boss says that he's thinking of opening an office in Paris and would like Meursault to run it. This would mean a promotion and a chance to leave Algiers and go to Paris; but Meursault doesn't really want to go. His boss takes issue with his response, but Meursault has let go of his ambitions and isn't that interested in the job.

Marie comes over that night and asks Meursault if he would marry her. He says if that's what she wants, then yes, but it doesn't matter to him either way. If he happened to love another woman as much as Marie, he would say the same thing to her. It makes no difference. For some reason, this satisfies Marie, and they go for a walk around town before she has to leave.

Meursault has dinner at Céleste's, where a woman sits at his table, but doesn't speak to him. After dinner, he follows her for a while out of vague curiosity and boredom. Later, Salamano comes to visit, and Meursault offers his condolences about the dog, which may well have gotten run over. Maman liked the dog, Salamano says. He thinks it was right of Meursault to put her in the home. There, she could make friends.

Part I, Chapter 5 Analysis


Meursault describes the woman who sits at his table as having "robotlike" movements.


Friendship. In spite of his apparent apathy, Meursault has developed a number of friendships throughout this novel: with Emmanuel, Raymond, Salamano, and even the caretaker from his mother's home. He expresses no real affection for these friends, however. Camus further emphasizes the emotionless nature of these friendships by introducing his mother's grieving friends and Salamano's poor dog, whom he desperately misses, in spite of his previous behavior.

Marriage. Camus discusses two marriages in this chapter: Meursault and Marie's proposed marriage (which will never take place) and Salamano's marriage to his late wife. Like Meursault, Salamano wasn't terribly enthusiastic about his marriage. He was merely "used to" his wife, which is more or less how Meursault feels about Marie. The reader can safely assume, however, that, unlike Salamano, Meursault wouldn't feel particularly lonely if Marie were to leave him or to die. We will see how their separation affects him in Part II of the novel.

The Stranger Part 1, Chapter 6: Summary and Analysis

Part I, Chapter 6 Summary

Meursault, Marie, and Raymond wake up early to get to the beach on Sunday. Meursault is tired and has a slight headache (a bad way to start what will turn out to be a terrible day). He testified on Raymond’s behalf the day before, and Raymond got off with a warning for beating his mistress. Her brother, however, hasn't let it go, and he and some other Arab men follow Raymond and the group to the beach.

Raymond introduces Meursault and Marie to his friend, Masson. Marie and Masson's wife hit it off immediately. Masson offers his guests some fish he just caught. They go swimming, then go back to Masson's house for lunch. Everyone drinks, some of them way too much. Masson's wife takes a nap, but Masson, Meursault, and Raymond go for a walk. That's when they see the Arab men.

Raymond strikes the first blow. One of the Arab men pulls a knife and slashes Raymond's mouth and arm. He quickly retreats, and Masson takes him to the doctor. Meursault tries to explain what happened to the women, who are understandably upset about their fight. When Raymond returns, he's bitter and angry and insists on going down to the beach. Meursault comes with him, trying to keep him out of trouble.

When they see the Arab men lying on the beach, Raymond asks Meursault if he should shoot one of them. Meursault says he shouldn't do it unless the man draws his knife again, but then changes his mind and takes Raymond's gun, promising that if Raymond gets into a physical fight with the Arab and if the Arab pulls a knife, then he'll shoot the Arab for Raymond. This threat diffuses the situation temporarily. The Arabs retreat, and Raymond is satisfied.

Meursault, however, feels drained under the sun's oppressive glare. Exhausted by the very idea of climbing the stairs to Masson's bungalow, he turns back toward the beach, carrying the gun. He's already on edge when he sees one of the Arabs again. The man is lying in the sand, watching him intently. Half-blinded by the sun, Meursault steps forward, foolishly trying to escape the heat. He tenses, accidentally pulling the trigger. He kills the Arab man, shooting him once, then four more times.

Part I, Chapter 6 Analysis


Meursault's "funeral face" foreshadows his later death sentence, which he receives for his actions in this chapter. In describing Meursault's expression as a "funeral face," Camus indicates that his protagonist is already walking toward his death.


Meursault uses a metaphor when he describes the bullets "knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness." This figures unhappiness as a place where Meursault will live for the rest of the novel (i.e. a prison).


Meursault personifies the sea when he describes how it "gasped for air with each shallow, stifled little wave."


Meursault describes the day hitting him "like a slap in the face." This is just one of many similes he uses in this chapter to describe the heat and the sun as a violent force driving him to shoot the Arab man.


Beaches. For Meursault, beaches symbolize happiness, health, and joy. When the fight with the Arab men breaks out, this happiness is forever ruined, and the beach becomes just as oppressive as the rest of the world.

Raymond's Gun. Raymond's gun becomes not just a symbol of death and violence but of Meursault's demise, as he shoots the Arab man needlessly. Its glinting metal and reflective sheen only amplify the violence of the sun's light, linking violence and oppression to the heat of the day.

White Flower Petals. These flower petals are symbols of Marie's innocence. She knocks the petals off their flowers as she walks through the grass—a happy, idle gesture, like that of a child.

The Stranger Part 2, Chapter 1: Summary and Analysis

Part II, Chapter 1 Summary

A week after Meursault's arrest, he's questioned by the magistrate. During the first interrogation, Meursault reveals that he has not hired a lawyer. He's then appointed a lawyer, who visits him in prison to discuss the case. It seems that investigators have spoken to people at his mother's home and discovered that he "showed insensitivity" during the wake. Meursault's response to this (that he may or may not have loved Maman and that it doesn't matter, either way) upsets the lawyer a great deal. In fact, he appears disgusted by Meursault and leaves angry.

Once again, Meursault is taken to see the magistrate. His lawyer isn't present, due to "unforeseen circumstances." This time, the magistrate has two main questions: did Meursault love his mother and why did he pause between the first and second shot? Meursault answers the first question in an indifferent tone of voice, stating that he loved his mother as much as anyone else, but doesn't explain why he shot the Arab man four more times. He doesn't have a good reason.

Frustrated, the magistrate shows Meursault a silver crucifix, insisting that God will forgive him if he repents. When this backfires, the magistrate gets angry and declares that Meursault is the most hard-hearted criminal he has ever met. He becomes dejected and loses interest in Meursault, or at least in saving his soul. Their subsequent meetings always include Meursault's lawyer. These are all so routine that Meursault begins to think almost fondly of the magistrate. Eleven months into the investigation, however, the magistrate shows how he really feels when he refers to Meursault as "Monsieur Antichrist."

Part II, Chapter 1 Analysis


Though the magistrate isn't aware of it, his renaming of Meursault as "Monsieur Antichrist" is an example of hyperbole. Meursault, who has expressed little interest in religion, is by no means the Antichrist and does not symbolize the end of society or the triumph of sin. Suggesting as much is inappropriate and demonstrates prejudice against Meursault, who doesn't receive a fair trial.


Light and Heat. Camus returns to the motif of light and heat in this chapter, as Meursault sits in the unusually hot office of the magistrate. This heat reminds him of the beach, making it easier for him to recall the exact events of that day on the beach. It does not, however, help him understand his behavior.


Meursault uses a simile when he describes his first conversation with the magistrate as seeming "like a game," meaning it feels scripted, as if they're part of a role-playing game out of a simple detective novel. This only enhances the absurdity of Meursault's situation.


The Silver Crucifix. This crucifix symbolizes forgiveness and the magistrate's belief that Meursault can still be saved if he repents for his crimes. This crucifix means nothing to Meursault, however, and his apathetic repudiation of the symbol strips it of much of its power.


Religion. In this chapter, Camus brings the theme of religion to the forefront. He hinted at this theme in the funeral scene in Part I, when Meursault's apathy toward religion and traditional ceremonies had a distinctly alienating effect on the mourners. Here, his apparent atheism gets him into trouble with the magistrate, who believes him to be the Antichrist because of it.

The Stranger Part 2, Chapter 2: Summary and Analysis

Part II, Chapter 2 Summary

Meursault initially feels some reluctance about speaking of his life in prison, but gets over it. The prison guards place him in a cell with several Arab men, but then transfer him to his own cell. He lives in solitude after that. Early on, he receives a visit from Marie. This visit takes place in a big, brightly lit room where ten prisoners and their visitors shout over each other to be heard. She still thinks that they'll get married.

During their conversation, Meursault periodically grows bored with Marie. He listens in on some of the conversations around him, noting the husband and wife beside him and the young man and his mother to his other side. Eventually, Marie is taken away, and he returns to his cell. After this, she writes to say that they wouldn't allow her to visit again because she wasn't his wife.

Meursault struggles with his separation from Marie. He doesn't like to admit it, but he misses the physical contact and longs to touch a woman again. On the basis of this, he becomes friends with the head guard, who understands. Soon, however, Meursault lets go of his desires, succumbing to the silence and isolation of his imprisonment. He also struggles to give up cigarettes. Eventually, though, he breaks his addiction and starts looking for ways to kill time.

Meursault starts sleeping most of the day. When he's awake, he thinks about his old apartment in Algiers and imagines his old possessions. He finds an old newspaper clipping under his mattress. It tells the story of a Czechoslovakian man who had returned to a village after a twenty year absence, only to be murdered by his mother and sister, who didn't recognize him. Meursault loses track of time in prison. After five months, he finally looks at himself in a mirror and realizes he has been talking to himself.

Part II, Chapter 2 Analysis


Cigarettes. Cigarettes make their final appearance in this chapter, which sees Meursault kick his habit due to the absence of cigarettes in solitary confinement. He suffers a brief withdrawal period, but is able to recover without medical attention. Though this vice has caused him trouble in the past, getting rid of it doesn't improve his situation and merely resigns him to his fate.

Sound. Sound becomes an important motif in this chapter. Previously, sound was most noticeable in the murder scene, when the gunshots sounded like knocking on a door. Here, Camus approaches the motif of sound through the voices of his characters: the prisoners in the visiting room, shouting to be heard, and Meursault himself, who talks out loud for months without even noticing it. The sounds in this chapter all point to the devastating effects that prison has had on Meursault (often without his even acknowledging it).


Marie's Letter. For Meursault, Marie's letter symbolizes the end of romance, the end of sex, and, ultimately, the end of happiness. When Meursault reminisces about waiting to see Marie each week, it becomes clear that this was his primary joy in life and that giving it up is harder than giving up cigarettes, to which he was addicted. He thinks of the loss of physical intimacy as the worst part of prison.

The Newspaper Clipping. This clipping becomes a symbol of absurdity itself. Its story (of a wealthy man who just happens to be killed his mother and sister when he hides his identity from them) hinges entirely on chance and could easily have gone differently. During the trial, Meursault will assert that it was "chance" that led him to be on the beach the day of the murder. This makes his story as improbable as that in the clipping.


Sex. Meursault repeatedly says that there are certain things he has "never liked talking about." It takes a moment to realize that one of those things is sex. He refuses to go into particulars about his sex life with Marie or his romantic entanglements with women, but it's clear that sex—if not romance—is one of the few pleasures in his life.

The Stranger Part 2, Chapter 3: Summary and Analysis

Part II, Chapter 3 Summary

Meursault's trial begins. He's stunned to see that the stuffy courtroom is full. Apparently, the press had gotten hold of the story and built Meursault up to be a monster in the papers. This is less about Meursault's actions and more about the fact that it was a slow news cycle. His lawyer and all of the guards seem friendly with the members of the press, who greet each other as if they're at some kind of country club. A bell rings, signalling the beginning of the trial.

Three judges enter the courtroom, one in red and two in black. The prosecutor is also wearing a red robe. First the jury is selected, then the judge checks that all the witnesses are in attendance. Marie, Raymond, Salamano, Masson, Thomas Peréz, and a number of Meursault's acquaintances are there. Before the witnesses take the stand, the presiding judge questions Meursault. He reads Meursault's previous statements, then asks about Maman: was it hard for Meursault to put her in the home? He says no. This will not be the last time he's asked about Maman.

There's a short recess, in which Meursault is driven back to the prison to eat some lunch. Then the trial begins again. First, the director of the nursing home is called. He testifies that Meursault was unusually "calm" at the funeral and appeared unmoved by the loss of his mother. He also says that Maman complained about being put in the home, but adds that this is common among residents. It nevertheless reflects poorly on Meursault.

Then the caretaker is called to the stand. He testifies that Meursault offered him a cigarette during Maman's vigil and later accepted a cup of coffee (as did the other mourners). This upsets the jury, and Meursault notices that the entire audience has been judging him because of it. He doesn't deny what he did, and his lawyer argues it's insignificant, but the prosecutor uses it to smear Meursault's character.

Thomas Peréz then testifies that he was crying too hard at Maman's funeral to notice if Meursault was crying, too, meaning that he may or may not have been crying. Meursault's lawyer points out that this may or may not be true, and that this characterizes the entire trial: "everything is true and nothing is true!"

Céleste then takes the stand. He states that Meursault was a good customer and a friend and that the murder was simply "bad luck," meaning that it was the result of a series of unfortunate events. This makes Meursault happy, but he doesn't show it; and of course the jury doesn't care. Marie takes the stand. The prosecutor asks her to describe her first date with Meursault. He points out that this date took place the day after the funeral. His comments cause Marie to burst out in tears.

Following Marie's outburst, Masson and Salamano take the stand. Both testify that Meursault is an honest man. Raymond is the last witness and, some would say, the last nail in the coffin. He says it was all "just chance": chance that Meursault had the gun, chance that he shot the Arab man, chance that he was involved in Raymond's dispute in the first place. The prosecutor immediately discredits Raymond's testimony by revealing that he's a pimp.

Meursault's lawyer shouts, "Come now, is my client on trial for burying his mother or for killing a man?" When the spectators laugh, the prosecutor proclaims that the two are gravely related. Soon, the trial is adjourned, and Meursault is taken back to prison. The dim light of evening reminds him of his old life and how content he was to listen to the sounds of the city.

Part II, Chapter 3 Analysis


Meursault equates the jury with streetcar passengers who stare at him (the new passenger) in order to figure out if there's something funny or weird about him. He uses this metaphor to indicate that he's often judged in the real world, just as he is in the courtroom.


Colors. In this chapter, red and black become very prominent colors. Both the prosecutor and the presiding judge wear red, whereas the two other judges, who remain silent, wear black. The use of color here aligns the prosecutor and the presiding judge, who seem united in their distaste for Meursault.


Meursault describes a man "who looked like a fattened-up weasel."


Chance. Chance first made its appearance in this novel in Part I, Chapter 3, when Raymond finds a lottery ticket in his mistress' purse. Here, chance frames Meursault's crime as a kind of happenstance: all the events leading up to it were "just chance," as if at any given point things might've worked out differently. One might reasonably assume, because of this, that Meursault's actions were mistakes, but he doesn't seem to think of it that way at all.

Isolation. Just before the trial begins, Meursault gets the feeling that he's an "odd man out, a kind of intruder" at his own trial. He's surrounded by people who already know each other (lawyers, journalists, and judges) and doesn't notice his friends in the crowd at first. That word—"intruder"—touches on the theme of isolation implied by the title, The Stranger. The reader is meant to assume that Meursault doesn't really fit in French society, that he isn't part of the status quo and thus can't relate very well to others. His isolation makes it easy for the prosecutor and the press to target him.

Truth. Meursault's lawyer makes a good point when he says that in this absurd trial "everything is true and nothing is true." The truth of the matter is that Meursault shot the Arab man for no good reason and without planning the murder in advance. However, the prosecutor and the reporters are twisting the facts of the case, making Meursault out to be a monster simply for drinking a cup of coffee. Truth, it seems, is less important than appearances, at least in this novel.

The Stranger Part 2, Chapter 4: Summary and Analysis

Part II, Chapter 4 Summary

Meursault's lawyer and the prosecutor both make their closing arguments. Meursault notes that, at heart, the two speeches are the same: both claim that he's guilty, but one offers an explanation and the other doesn't. The prosecutor argues that Meursault's actions were premeditated and that all of his actions are indicative of a criminal mind. He then says that Meursault is a soulless monster who has never expressed remorse for his crimes. He even suggests that, because of his supposed moral culpability in his mother's death, Meursault is spiritually guilty of the crime to be tried in the court the next day (a parricide).

Astonished, Meursault stands up to say he never intended to kill the Arab man. He did it "because of the sun," meaning the heat and light that has been oppressing him throughout the novel.

Meursault's lawyer asks for a few hours to prepare his closing remarks. That afternoon, they return to the courtroom to hear the lawyer's argument. He speaks in the first person, assuming the role of Meursault as he says, "It is true I killed a man." This is a rhetorical strategy that all defense lawyers use, according to one of the guards. Meursault finds his lawyer's closing remarks less skillful than the prosecutor's. He hears the sound of an ice cream truck and remembers the life he has lost.

Finally, the jury leaves the courtroom to deliberate. It only taken them forty-five minutes to deliver a verdict of "guilty." The judge then sentences Meursault to death by guillotine. Meursault is given the opportunity to say something, but doesn't.

Part II, Chapter 4 Analysis


During his closing statement, the prosecutor argues that Meursault is also guilty of the parricide (or murder of a father) to be tried that following day. Though the prosecutor clearly thinks this to be a logical statement, given his speech, it is an obvious example of hyperbole, because Meursault is in no way culpable for that murder, morally or legally.


Camus has used repetition throughout the last several chapters to both clarify and warp the facts of Meursault's case. Essentially, the more often these facts are repeated, the more vulnerable they are to interpretation, making it easy for the prosecutor to repeat them all in a damning light that makes Meursault seem like a monster. This is a rhetorical device he's using to make it difficult for the jury to interpret the facts any other way.


Prosopopoeia is a rhetorical device in which a speaker (in this case, Meursault's lawyer) speaks on behalf of another person (in this case, Meursault). Typically, this only occurs when the other person is physically absent. However, an argument can be made that, because Meursault describes himself as "far removed from the courtroom," that he's spiritually "absent" enough for his lawyer to use the rhetorical device of prosopopoeia during summation.


The Tin Trumpet. The ice cream vendor's tin trumpet symbolizes not only freedom but joy: the joy of life in summer, the sweet cool ice cream breaking through the heat, the pleasure of pleasure itself. Once convicted, Meursault will never experience these things again.

The Stranger Part 2, Chapter 5: Summary and Analysis

Part II, Chapter 5 Summary

Meursault refuses to see the chaplain again. Instead, he thinks about the impossibility of escape and of how, even if he were to run from the guillotine, he would be shot down by a bullet anyway. Even though he knows this, he can't help himself from thinking of escape. He remembers a story Maman told him about his father, whom he never actually knew: that one day his father went to witness an execution, and when he came home he spent the morning throwing up, because he was so upset. It doesn't make Meursault feel better.

Meursault expounds on how he would change the system if he had a chance: he would devise some kind of drug cocktail that would guarantee death nine times out of ten; that way there would still be some hope of surviving for the prisoner. He thinks the guillotine is too final. It makes him wish the blade will work the first time, which is tantamount to wishing for death itself. He also realizes that there are no steps leading up to the guillotine. This makes it less of a spectacle for him.

Meursault clings to two things: the dawn and his appeal. He knows that the guards will take him in the morning, so whenever he survives it, he knows he has another day. He thinks of his appeal even though he knows it's futile. He even considers the distant possibility of being pardoned. Most often, though, he succumbs to his fears and anxieties. He again refuses to see the chaplain, who visits him anyway.

During his visit, the chaplain insists that Meursault turn to God. Everyone in his position has, in the past. When Meursault expresses no interest in God, the chaplain stands up, looks Meursault right in the eye, and asks if he has any hope at all. Meursault doesn't look away, having mastered this game of chicken, and insists that there's nothing after death, that when he dies he will merely be dead. He finds the chaplain's presence oppressive.

Finally, Meursault snaps and grabs the chaplain by the collar. He yells that the chaplain is wrong to believe in hope, that his chastity is a kind of death, and that nothing matters, nothing at all. He feels vindicated, because no one believed his theories of life before, but he knows he's right now. There's no reason for him to care about death. He was going to die anyway, and so will everyone else. This outburst brings the chaplain to tears. He's taken away, and Meursault finds peace.

Part II, Chapter 5 Analysis


Camus uses alliteration when he describes the light as a "golden glow" in Meursault's cell.


The French Revolution (1789 - 1799). The French Revolution was a time of great upheaval in France, which was swimming in debt. Over a period of ten years, the monarchy was destroyed, feudalism abolished, and a new French republic founded. Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were famously executed by guillotine in front of large audiences. Meursault alludes to this because their executions gave him the impression that he would have to walk up stairs to reach the guillotine. This is false.


Meursault refers to the prison-industrial complex as a "relentless machinery" that conspires to keep men in prison and bury them under the machinations of a heartless justice system.


Colors. Within his prison cell, Meursault's world is reduced to gray stones, drab uniforms, dark nights. The only color in his life is that of the sun and sky, which he can see through the bars of his window. He takes great comfort in these colors, describing their "golden glow" and brilliant red in almost tender terms. It's clear that color is his only real joy in this chapter.

Sound. While awaiting his execution, Meursault becomes acutely aware of sound. He listens for the guards and their footsteps, knowing that when they come for him he'll be led to the guillotine. He rushes to the door at even the faintest sounds, straining to decipher his own fate. Sound becomes a source of great anxiety, as Meursault contemplates his death, just as silence becomes a source of peace.


Meursault compares his breath to a dog's panting, indicating his level of distress.


Death. Near the end of the chapter, Meursault asserts that there's no afterlife and that, once he dies, he will be forgotten, just like everyone else. He goes so far as to say that, if Marie is dead, then she doesn't matter to him anymore. When one absurd life ends, millions more continue, so what does it matter if someone lives or dies? Originally, he regards his execution with a mix of fear and disbelief. After he speaks with the chaplain, however, he makes peace with his impending death and meets it with a kind of happiness.

Religion. Camus has woven the theme of religion throughout the novel, beginning with Maman's funeral and continuing through Meursault's trial. His atheism has damned him in the eyes of the law even more so than his actual crime, which would appear no more or less vile than any other murder were it not for the discussion of Meursault's criminal "soul." In this chapter, Meursault repudiates religion and yells at the chaplain who lectures him about God and hope. Religion, like life, proves meaningless, because it will not save Meursault from death.