Where in Camus' The Stranger do characters try and make rational sense of Meursault's actions?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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In section I of Part Two, the police question Meursault and try--and apparently fail--to make rational sense of his statements. This is indicated when Meursault notes in his narrative that the magistrate, to whom the police take him next, “eyed [him] with distinct curiosity.” After this, Meursault is assigned a lawyer who begins to try to make rational sense of Meursault’s actions starting with the “charge of callousness” surrounding his behavior at his mother’s vigil and funeral. The lawyer is irritated and disgusted with Meursault, especially when in reply to whether “he could say that on that day [Meursault] had kept [his] feelings under control,” Meursault said, “No. … That wouldn’t be true.” Meursault describes the lawyer’s reaction as one of revulsion:

He gave me a queer look, as if I slightly revolted him; then [spoke] in an almost hostile tone … . Soon after this he left, looking quite vexed.

Finally, after the lawyer, the magistrate re-examines Meursault. The lawyer is meant by law to be present there with the prisoner, however, Meursault’s lawyer does not come--the insinuation is that he stays away out of the disgust and revulsion Meursault engenders in him. The magistrate however has permission to proceed with the examination. In a thematically very significant scene, the magistrate, repelled by Meursault’s shocking answers, such as,

I said that what I felt was less regret than a kind of vexation—I couldn’t find a better word for it. But he didn’t seem to understand.

turns the conversation to religion and belief in God in hopes of breaking through Meursault’s exterior to his spiritual interior. Yet, Meursault baffles him once again by claiming atheism, thus preventing the magistrate from making rational sense of Meursault’s actions or beliefs.

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conpierson55 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) eNoter

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they try to make sense starting with the judge right after Meursaults arrest. the judge questions him, starting in the second part of the book. page 63, and throughout his trial, and at the end with the father in his cell. They all use religon and God to try and find remorse or even a hint of such. Although it is clear that he regrets what he did, He does not offer any sign that he is sorry or that he wishes that things had gone different, He has this whats the use additued.

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