Key Plot Points
Last Updated on July 10, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 625
The Stranger consists of 11 chapters that are split into two parts. In part 1, Meursault interacts with the larger society around him. He attends his mother’s funeral, dates Marie, meets with his neighbors, and ultimately kills a man at the beach. In part 2, Meursault is in prison and awaits trial. The characters with whom he interacts in part 1 give testimony about their previous interactions with Meursault.
Meursault Attends His Mother’s Funeral (Part 1, Chapter 1): The Stranger opens as Meursault, a man of French descent living in Algiers, learns of his mother’s death. He travels to the home for the elderly where she lived, interacts with the funeral director and the caretaker, and observes his mother’s friends. Remarkably, Meursault doesn’t show any external signs of grief.
Meursault Goes to the Beach and the Movies (Part 1, Chapter 2): The day after his mother’s funeral, Meursault goes on a date with his girlfriend, Marie. They spend the day at the beach, see a popular comedy, and spend the night together. The next day, Meursault spends time on his balcony, observing the people of Algiers.
Meursault Writes a Letter for Raymond (Part 1, Chapter 3): Meursault returns home after a day at work and has dinner with his neighbor Raymond. Raymond explains that his mistress has been cheating on him. Angry that he is still attracted to her, Raymond asks Meursault to write a letter to his mistress, enticing her to return to Raymond’s apartment. Meursault agrees, despite his knowing that Raymond treats his mistress violently.
Raymond Assaults His Mistress (Part 1, Chapter 4): On Sunday, Meursault is eating in his apartment with Marie when they hear a commotion coming from Raymond’s apartment. They investigate and find Raymond attacking his mistress. A police officer arrives and ends the violence. Later, Meursault agrees to be a character witness for Raymond.
Marie Proposes to Meursault (Part 1, Chapter 5): While walking around town, Marie proposes marriage. Meursault agrees, though says that it doesn’t make any difference to him. Meursault then eats dinner alone before returning to his apartment. Once in his building, he sees his neighbor Salamano. Salamano expresses his condolences to Meursault about his mother’s death, saying that he was sure Meursault loved his mother despite his sending her to a home for the elderly.
Meursault Shoots a Man (Part 1, Chapter 6): Meursault, Raymond, and Marie all go to the beach. There, they see Raymond’s mistress’s brother, whom they call “the Arab.” Raymond fights with his mistress’s brother, and Meursault takes Raymond to the hospital. Back at the beach, Meursault advises Raymond not to shoot his mistress’s brother. Returning to the beach later without Raymond, Meursault finds the man alone and shoots him himself.
Meursault Stands Trial (Part 2, Chapter 3): Imprisoned for his crime, Meursault is tried for murdering Raymond’s mistress’s brother. The funeral director, the caretaker, Marie, and Raymond give testimony as to Meursault’s behavior and state of mind in the days following his mother’s death. The prosecutor argues that there is a “profound, fundamental, and tragic” connection between Meursault’s unusual actions: his lack of grief for his mother and his murder of the man at the beach.
Meursault Considers His Execution (Part 2, Chapter 5): Convicted of murder and sentenced to death, Meursault considers his life’s worth. In argument with the chaplain, Meursault realizes that all humans are alike in that, no matter what choices they make, their lives ultimately end in death. Meursault opens himself to the “gentle indifference” of the world, realizing that he has “only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of [his] execution and that they greet [him] with cries of hate.”