The Stranger Part 1, Chapter 4: Summary and Analysis

Albert Camus

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

Allusions

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.

Motifs

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.

Repetition

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.

Simile

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

Themes

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.