What happens in The Stranger?

Meursault receives a telegram stating that his mother has died in her nursing home in Marengo. While sitting vigil, he smokes and drinks a cup of coffee, which people find strange. Throughout the entire funeral procession, Meursault doesn't shed a single tear. He complains only of the heat.

  • The next day, Meursault decides to go to the beach, where he meets Marie, a beautiful young woman who once worked at the same shipping company as him. After seeing a film (a comedy), Meursault and Marie spend the night together.
  • When Meusault's neighbor Raymond is arrested for beating his Arab girlfriend, Meursault agrees to testify on his behalf. The girlfriend's brother follows Raymond and Meursault to the beach, where Meursault shoots the Arab, he says, "because of the sun."
  • Upon hearing that Meursault wasn't much affected by his mother's death, the examining magistrate decides that he's cold-blooded. Meursault is shown no mercy in court and is sentenced to death.

Download The Stranger Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Summary

Part I

"Maman died today." This is the first line of Albert Camus' great existential novel, The Stranger. The narrator and protagonist, Meursault, receives a telegram telling him that his mother has died in her retirement home. He isn't sure when she died, exactly, and his apparent indifference to the fact of her death puts people off. He takes the bus to Marengo, where she died, to sit vigil. Her friends from the home also attend, and their displays of grief make Meursault uncomfortable. His mother's fiancé, Thomas Peréz, joins the funeral procession, heartbroken over his loss. Meursault doesn't cry.

On the Saturday after the funeral, he decides to go to the beach. There, he meets Marie, a former coworker. He sleeps with her, then returns home. His apartment is too big for him, and ever since his mother moved into the home he has been living in a single room, having no need of the extra space. He sits in his room, staring out at the people on the street. When night falls, he gets up and thinks that, despite Maman's death, nothing has changed.

Meursault returns to work on Monday. His boss is nice to him, and he works hard. His coworker, Emmanuel, joins him for lunch at the usual place, Céleste's. That night, Meursault speaks to two of his neighbors, one of whom (Salamano) has a dog with a skin condition. His other neighbor, a man named Raymond, recently got into a fight with the brother of his Arab mistress, whom he'd been "keeping," as in paying her way. (In the French, Camus uses the term "Arabe," a pejorative word often used by French colonists.) Raymond found out she was cheating on him and beat her up. Now he wants to punish her, so he asks Meursault to write her a nasty letter.

Marie spends the night on Saturday. The next morning, they overhear a fight between Raymond and his mistress. One of their neighbors calls the cops, and Raymond is told to await a call from the police precinct. That afternoon, he visits Meursault. Meursault agrees to testify at Raymond's trial....

(The entire section is 3,114 words.)