The Stranger Part 1, Chapter 3: Summary and Analysis

Albert Camus

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

Foreshadowing

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.

Parallelism

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.

Symbols

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.

Themes

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.