Part 1, Chapter 6
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 man and if the Arab man pulls a knife, then he’ll shoot the Arab man for Raymond. This threat diffuses the situation temporarily. The Arab men 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 Arab men 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.
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.