Last Updated on January 13, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 562
Part 2, Chapter 1
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 is 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.
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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.”
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 1, 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.