Albert Camus

Summary and Commentary

I am afraid that I have not been able to synchronise the comments D.Y.

Meursault tells us that today his mum died - or perhaps it was yesterday –
he couldn't tell from the telegram.
N.B. The bald unemotional statement of his mum's death. 

Page 21 - Aujourd'hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas.

Meursault will catch the afternoon bus out of Algiers to the old folks’ home, 80 kilometres away at Marengo.

His boss hadn't been too pleased to give him two days off. Meursault told him that it wasn't his fault. - His boss would show the proper sympathy afterwards though.

Page 22 - Après l'enterrement, au contraire, ce sera une affaire classée et tout aura revêtu une allure plus officielle.

He has lunch at Céleste's cafe and finds the regulars full of sympathy.

He sleeps on the bus on the way to Marengo.  On arriving at the home, he wants to see his Mother immediately, but the caretaker tells him to see the Director first.

The Director reads from the file that Meursault, who was her only support, had put his mother in the home three years ago.

Meursault, feeling criticism of him in this, begins to justify himself but the Director says there is no need - his mother had needed a nurse to look after her and Meursault could not afford it.   Besides she was better there with people of her own age.

Meursault recalls to himself that it was true: at home she spent her time watching him without speaking.
Page 23 - C' était vrai. Quand elle était à la maison, maman passait son temps à me suivre des yeux en silence.

At first his mother had wept to be there - but purely out of habit. But later she would have wept to leave the old people’s home- again it would be out of habit.

Meursault had hardly visited her in the last year - partly because he knew she was settled there, partly because of the effort the journey needed.

The Director is speaking on, but Meursault is hardly listening.

The Director takes him to the morgue and leaves him there to keep vigil. He tells him that his mother had requested a religious service. Meursault is surprised as she had never thought about religion before.

As Meursault enters morgue, the caretaker runs in to unscrew the coffin lid, but Meursault stops him.
The caretaker asks him “Why" but not reproachfully.
The laconic Meursault replies "Je ne sais pas."

When the caretaker wants to leave, Meursault gestures to him to stay.
The caretaker chatters on about how in this hot climate funerals are so rushed that you have to run after the hearse.
Then, he is embarrassed at his tactlessness.  However, Meursault reassures him that he finds it true and interesting.

Meursault notes that although the caretaker is as old as the inmates he feels detached from them by his official position - calling them the "old folk."

Night comes. The Arab nurse re-enters. The caretaker invites him to the refectory for a meal but Meursault is not hungry. He accepts a café au lait, having a liking for the drink.
Page 26 - Il m'a offert alors d'apporter une tasse de café au lait. Comme j'aime beaucoup le café au lait j'ai accepté et il est revenu un moment après avec un plateau.
(N.B. The event is perfectly natural and it is incongruous that the prosecutor is able to invest it with such significance later).

Meursault hesitantly decides to smoke a cigarette, offering one to the caretaker.

The electric light in the whitewashed room is dazzling. Meursault asks the caretaker to dim them, but he can't. Meursault pays little attention to the caretaker who after leaves him alone with a nurse.

In the mildness of the twilight Meursault dozes –(N.B we will see again his love of the twilight.)
Page 27 - Il faisait doux, le café m'avait rechauffé et par la porte ouverte entrait une odeur de nuit et de fleurs. Je crois que j'ai somnolé un peu.

He is awakened suddenly by his mother's friends coming to keep vigil. The dazzling white of the room seems even more oppressive to him then..
Page 27 - Devant moi, il n'y avait pas une ombre et chaque objet, chaque angle, toutes les courbes se dessinaient avec une pureté blessante pour les yeux.

There are ten people. As they enter without the least sound, they give Meursault a strange sense of unreality and he looks at them as if he had never seen anyone before. They sit facing him and Meursault has the ridiculous impression of being on trial.

One of the women is weeping. Then there is silence except for some of them sucking the insides of their cheeks. Meursault and his company fall asleep. In the morning the others shake his hand and leave.

The caretaker takes Meursault to his room for a wash and brush up.
Meursault sees that a fine day is dawning and thinks he would enjoy a walk in the country if it wasn't for his mother.

Summoned to the Director's room, Meursault is asked if he wishes to see his mother for a last time before the coffin is closed. He declines.

The Director says that normally the old folk do not attend funerals but he has given permission to his mother's close friend, Thomas Perez, to attend. - He had not been at the vigil the night before. 

They go down to the waiting priest, who speaks to him. The taciturn Meursault does not record any reply on his part. (N.B. The matter of fact narrative.)
Page 31 - Quand nous sommes arrivés, le prêtre s'est relevé. Il m'a appelé mon fils et m'a dit quelques mots. Il est entré; je l'ai suivi.

He describes objectively the exit of the coffin. He sees the figure of Perez slightly ridiculous in mourning clothes. 
There was a delay before the cortege set off under the full Blare of the sun. As they wait the Director tells Meursault how Perez used to enjoy an evening walk with his mother.

Under the oppressive sun, they begin the 45 minutes’ walk to the church.
The undertaker's man having dropped back makes a few comments to which Meursault gives brief answers when he hears. When he is asked if his mother was old, Meursault replies "Getting on."

The glare of the sun and the heat become unbearable.
Page 34 -:_J'étais un peu perdu entre le ciel bleu et blanc et la monotonie de ces couleurs, noir gluant du goudron ouvert, noir terne des habits, noir laque de la voiture. Tout cela, le soleil, l'odeur de cuir et de crottin de la voiture, celle du vernis et celle de l'encens, la fatigue d’une nuit d'insomnie me troublait le regard et les idées.

Perez keeps falling behind but constantly catches up by taking short cuts over the fields.

Meursault has further recollections of that day –
The distress of Perez at the funeral. (The old man had in fact collapsed.)

The blood red coloured earth rolling onto his mum's coffin - the white flesh of the roots mingled in it.
Page 35 - la terre couleur de sang qui roulait sur la bière de maman, la chair blanche des racines qui s’y mêlaient. 

Waiting for the bus back and he feels relief to be returning to Algiers where he could make up his lost sleep. 

Unemotional Meursault








of absurd
human behaviour





The Director says
Meursault was right to put his mother in a home








Distracted Meursault



Meursault does not make a public show of emotion



Meursault is intrigued by the quirks of life

Meursault 's keen observation of absurd human characteristics


Is Meursault’s lack of appetite a sign of the sadness that he did not express.

He enjoys the little pleasures of life



Meursault s sensitivity to strong light.






Meursault's disorientation











Matter of
fact narrative of the





Meursault’s disorientation in the heat and the sun




Perhaps his confusion suggests Meursault’s genuine sorrow?
He reacts badly to sleep deprivation


He has recorded sad details of the day that he buried his mum.



He reacts badly to sleep deprivation



(2) Meursault now realises why his boss was displeased at his asking for two days off - added to his Saturday and Sunday this gives him four days off.

He goes to swim and in the water meets Marie Cordona who had worked at the same office. They had been mutually attracted but she had not stayed long.

They lie on a buoy together and she does not mind when he, as if joking, lets his head rest on her stomach.

She accepts his invitation to the cinema and suggests a film of Fernandel.

She is taken aback when he explains his black tie is because his mother died yesterday.

Meursault almost repeated again that it was not his fault but remembered he'd said it before to his boss - and then one is always a bit in the wrong.
Page 37 - J'ai eu envie de lui dire que ce n'était pas de ma faute, mais je me suis arrêté parce que j'ai pense que je l'avais déja dit à mon patron. Cela ne signifiait rien. De toute façon, on est toujours un peu fautif.

In the cinema Meursault strokes Maria’s breasts and kisses her. She stays the night with him but leaves before he awakens.

Meursault dislikes Sunday and stays in bed until midday.

He doesn't have lunch at Céleste’s because he doesn't like answering questions.
Page 38 - Je ne voulais pas déjeuner chez Céleste comme d'habitude parce que, certainement, ils m'auraiont posé des questions et je n'aime pas cela.


In the afternoon he becomes bored. He cuts out of the newspaper an advertisement for Kruschen salts and glues it in an exercise book where he keeps amusing clips.

From his window he watches the people on the way to the Sunday matinees. He observes them return in the evening. Then night falls.

He describes this Sunday routine in detail and reflects on its passing.
Page 41 - J'ai pensé que c'était toujours un dimanche de tire, que maman était maintenant enterrée, que j'allai reprendre mon travail et que, somme toute, il n'y avait rien de changé.
N.B. This perhaps reveals that his mother's death had not left him indifferent. In this description there is a suggestion that Meursault had to re-adapt after her death. The detailed description of this blank Sunday shows Meursaults recognition that whatever happens to the individual, life goes on).

Meursault works hard at his office. His boss is agreeable. When he asks his mother's age, Meursault says about 60 so as not to tell a lie. He notes that at this answer his boss seemed relieved regarding his dutiful enquiry as a finished piece of business.

Meursault washes his hands before lunch. He enjoys washing his hands at lunch time as the roller towel is dry.


He and his friend, Emmanuel, chase a passing lorry and jump on the back. Emmanuel is in fits, laughing.

He lunches at Céleste's then returns to work until the evening.

On returning home he meets his old neighbour Salamano cursing and dragging his shabby mangy dog. Master and dog are the same in appearance and bearing and yet each detests the other,
Page 44 - Le chien, lui a pris de son patron une sorte d'allure voutée, le museau en avant et le cou tendu. Ils ont l’air de la même race et pourtant ils se détestent.

Meursault describes the absurd ritual of the twice daily walks:
The dog pulling its master- being beaten - then being pulled by its master.
The dog is beaten by its master for doing its business in the flat.

Céleste has said it’s too bad about the dog but Meursault (as always) reserves his judgement.
Page 44 - Il y a huit ans que cela dure. Céleste dit toujours que c'est malheureux, mais au fond. personne ne peut savoir.

Meursault meets his other neighbour Raymond Sintès who, people say, is a pimp. Raymond invites him in to eat. His hand is injured. He tells him how a man had challenged him to a fight when he was on the tram. Raymond had got off and thumped him and put in his knee - the man had yielded and gone away bleeding.

Raymond Sintès says that if Meursault will help him, he will be his friend if he wants to be, The non­committal Meursault says it's all the same to him.


Raymond says that the man who had just picked the fight with him was the brother of the woman he had once kept. He used to give her just enough to live off but one day he had found she'd been spending more money than he had given her. So he'd known she was deceiving him. He'd beaten her up, told her what he thought of her and left her.

He had always knocked her about a bit more as a prelude to sex, but this time he had beaten her up seriously.

His problem was that he still fancied her and wanted to punish her more. He had thought of framing her, to get her arrested by the vice squad. He had tried to get friends in the underworld to help.

He asks Meursault what he thinks. Meursault casts no judgement - it is merely interesting.
Page 49 - il voulait savoir ce que je pensais de cette histoire. J'ai répondu que je n'en pensais rien mais que c'était intéressant.

Raymond wants to entice the woman back, to spit in her face and throw her out. He gets Meursault to write this letter which he himself cannot draft. Meursault who has been drinking wine, writes it haphazardly, but had not refused to write so as not to offend Raymond.
Page 49-50 - Je l'ai écrite un peu au hasard, mais je me suis appliqué à contenter Raymond parce que je n'avais pas de raison de ne pas le contenter.

They drink and smoke and Meursault has difficulty in standing up.
Returning to his room, he hears Salamano's dog wining.

(4) Meursault worked hard all week. Raymond came to say he had sent the letter.

Meursault went to the cinema twice with Emmanuel for whom he had to explain the action.

He met Marie again on Saturday. He found her extremely attractive.
Page 51 - J'ai eu très envie d'elle parce qu'elle avait une belle robe à raies rouges et blanches et des sandales de cuir. On devinait ses seins durs et le brun du soleil lui faisait visage de fleur.

They go for a swim at a beach outside Algiers. They play amorously in the waves. They are in a hurry to get home and make love.
Page 52 - Je l'ai tenue contre moi et nous avons été pressés de trouver un autobus, de rentrer, d'aller chez moi et de nous jeter sur mon lit. J'avais laissé ma fenêtre ouverte et c'était bon de sentir la nuit d’été couler sur nos corps bruns.

That Sunday Marie stayed for lunch. They hear Salamano on the stairs cursing his dog and Marie laughs at the story. Her gaiety makes Meursault fancy her again - but when she asks him if he loves her he said it didn't mean anything but he thought he didn't. She looked sad.

Page 52 - Un moment après, elle m'a demandé si je l'aimais, Je lui ai répondu que cela ne voulait rien dire, mais qu'il me semblait que non. Elle a eu l'air triste.

A violent row has broken out in Raymond's room. Raymond is beating his woman who is shouting. Marie tells Meursault to call the police but he doesn't like policemen.

They join the other tenants outside Raymond’s door. A policeman arrives - when Raymond speaks with a cigarette in his mouth the policeman slaps it out. Raymond trembles with fright. The Moorish woman is told to go and Raymond is told to wait a summons to the police station. 

Meursault and Marie finish making the lunch but Marie is no longer hungry and so Meursault eats practically all of it.

About 3 p.m. Raymond came to talk over what had happened before lunch with Meursault. He is satisfied. His vanity is re-assured when Meursault tells Raymond that he hadn't expected him to hit the policeman back. Raymond asks Meursault to testify that the girl had let him down and that will get him off.

The two men have a drink and then a game of billiards. Raymond says he was glad he'd punished his mistress.

For Meursault what counted was Raymond was nice with him and it was a good time they were having.
Page 55 - il me disait combien il était content d'avoir réussi à punir sa maitresse. Je le trouvais très gentil avec moi et j'ai pensé que c'était un bon moment.

On returning they find Salamano in distress because his dog had strayed away while he was out walking it through the fair.

When they suggest he goes to the dog pound, Salamano explodes at the idea of having to pay to get him back. But later he knocks on Meursault's door for re-assurance that they'll give him his dog back at the pound.

That night Meursault hears him crying through the partition wall. -For some reason Meursault thinks of his mum.

Page 56 - Et au bizarre petit bruit qui a traversé la cloison, j'ai compris qu'il pleurait, Je ne sais pas pourquoi j'ai pensé à maman.
(N.B. is this an oblique reference to a feeling of pain and emptiness which Meursault might feel at times even though he had revealed no affection for his mother in the final year).




His enjoyment of physical pleasures



The natural reticence of Meursault







Is this suppressed sorrow?




Meursault’s eye for the absurd





Is this suppressed sorrow?





His enjoyment of simple physical sensations

Meursault looks after a friend Emmanuel who is mentally retarded


Meursault's eye for the absurd: Salamano & his dog.





Meursault will not cast judgement.


The despicable character of Raymond



Meursault's refusal to judge his fellows























Meursault's enjoyment of sensual pleasures.



Meursault's cruel honesty.










Raymond is a pathetic figure in Meursault’s description.-His boastful vanity









The pathetic inadequacy of love


Meursault & his mother



(5) Raymond invites Meursault to spend next Sunday in his friend’s beach hut. He tells him to bring Marie. He asks Meursault to keep his eyes open for him. His former mistress's brother is following him with a gang of other Arabs, out for revenge.

Meursault's boss offers him a transfer to Paris, thinking it is an attractive offer. Meursault is non­committal. He is quite happy with his life here and he thinks life is the same anywhere.
Page 50 Il m'a demandé alors si je n'étais pas intéressé par un changement de vie. J'ai répondu qu'on ne changeait jamais de vie, qu'en tout cas toutes se valaient et que la mienne ici ne me déplaisait pas du tout. Il a eu l'air mécontent, m'a dit que je répondais toujours à côté.

Meursault explains to the reader that when he was a student he had ambition to get on, but having had to give up his studies, he realised these ambitions were not important.
(N.B. Some see may see in this attitude “the malaise of the man of the 1930s”).

That evening, Marie asks Meursault if he wants to marry her. She receives one of his typical non­committal answers. It was all the same to him. He would do what she wanted.

When she presses him, asking if he loves her, he repeats his earlier answer and says again this is of no importance. He denies that marriage is important and tells her he would accept the same proposal from any other girl.

Marie's annoyance does not last long. She says he is odd but probably that is what attracts her.
Page 59 - Après un autre moment de silence, elle a murmure que j'étais bizarre, qu'elle m'aimait sans doute à cause de cela mais que peut-être un jour je la dégoûterais pour les mêmes raisons

She says she wants to marry him and he agrees to do so as soon as she wishes. Marie would like Meursault to transfer to Paris.

Meursault doesn't agree with her: to him Paris is only a dirty town with pigeons and people pale with lack of sun.

Meursault annoys Marie by commenting on the beauty of the women of Algiers.

Marie has to go. She won't say why and looks reproachful that Meursault is not apparently curious.

Meursault, in fact, wanted to know but had not thought to ask her why. (N.B. Meursault lives in his private world and does not enter the private world of others uninvited).

Finally Marie laughs and kisses him before she leaves.

Meursault has dinner at Céleste’s. He is fascinated by the odd little woman who shares his table. Like an automaton she performs every movement with feverish haste. Methodically performing the least task like ticking off the radio programmes in the radio magazine.

Salamano comes to his room to tell him that his dog had not been found. Meursault suggests getting another one. Salamano says he was used to that one.

Salamano talks about his life. As a young man he had wanted to go on the stage, but in the end he had gone on the railways - which had given him security.

He had married late and hadn't been happy with his wife - but had got used to her, missing her when she had gone.
Page 61 - Il n'avait pas été heureux avec sa femme, mais dans l'ensemble, il s'était bien habitué à elle. Quand elle était morte, it s'était senti très seul.

He had got the dog after her death. Meursault pays the dog a compliment. Salamano says he tried to cure its skin disease but the real problem was old age.
Page 62 - Mais selon lui, sa vraie maladie, c'était la vieillesse, et la vieillesse ne se guérit pas

When Meursault says He's sorry about the dog, Salamano recalls how Meursault's mother had liked the dog. He knows Meursault had loved her even though the people locally had a low opinion of him for putting her in the home.

Meursault says he couldn't afford the nursing she required and they had no longer anything to say to each other.

Salamano leaves - He's going to miss his dog.

(6) On Sunday Meursault oversleeps and Marie has to waken him.
He has a headache and Marie laughs at his dismal appearance.

Meursault finds Marie beautiful in her white dress with her hair loose. She laughs with pleasure at his compliment.


When they go out into the street, Meursault in his state of fatigue finds the sunlight hits him like a slap in the face.
Page 63 - Dans la rue, à cause de ma fatigue et aussi parce que nous n'avions pas ouvert les persiennes, le jour, déjà tout plein de soleil, m'a frappé comme une gifle. 
Raymond comes down. Meursault sees his white skin under the dark hair of his arms and is disgusted. 

The day before, Meursault had testified at the Police Station that Raymond's mistress had let him down.

The Arabs are waiting at the tobacconists but make no move to follow them.
They take the bus to the beach and meet Raymond’s friend Masson and his wife. Seeing Mme. Masson laughing with Marie, Meursault thought for the first time he was going to marry Marie.
He and Marie go for a swim with Masson. Meursault expresses his pleasure at swimming with Marie.

Page 66 - L'eau était froide et j'étais content de nager. Avec Marie, nous nous sommes éloignés et nous nous sentions d'accord dans nos gestes et dans notre contentement.

After the swim they rest on the beach and Meursault dozes off. When he awakens Masson has gone back to the hut. Marie invites him into the sea for a kiss.
Page 67 - Nous avons fait quelques brasses et elle s'est collée contre moi. J'ai senti ses jambes autour des miennes et je l’ai desirée.

Meursault enjoys the meal and drinks a lot of wine. His head is heavy. Marie too is a little tipsy.

The three men decide to go for as walk. The sun is at its height and the glare is unbearable.

Page 68 - Le soleil tombait presque d'aplomb sur le sable et son éclat sur la mer était insoutenable.

Meursault lets the two men talk on, he is half asleep through the sun on his bare head.
Suddenly they see two Arabs a long way ahead of them at the end of the beach. One is Raymond's man.

Meursault and his two companions carry on walking and the Arabs advance towards them.

The Arab attempts to butt Raymond. Masson who is of strong build, lays out the second Arab. Raymond has hit the other man in the face, but when Raymond turns to Meursault to boast about what he's going to hand out to the Arab, the latter draws a knife and slashes him. The other Arab picks himself up and sheltering behind the knife they back away and then run off.

The women are upset to see Raymond's wound. Masson takes Raymond to a doctor who says the wounds are superficial.

Afterwards Raymond insists on going out again. Meursault goes with him. Raymond is going to deliberately seek out the two Arabs, who they find behind a big rock near a little spring.

Raymond has brought a revolver. He asks Meursault if he should shoot the Arab down.

Thinking it would only provoke his angry companion to say "No," Meursault says that as the Arab hasn't spoken it would be a dirty trick to shoot him down like that. He tells Raymond he can't shoot unless the other man draws a knife.

Meursault asks to be given the revolver saying that he, Meursault, will shoot if the Arab pulls a knife. Raymond gives him the gun. 

Both sides stand motionless - time seems to come to a stand­still as they stare at the Arabs. The Arabs slip away and Meursault and Raymond go back - the latter now satisfied.

Meursault his head ringing with the sunlight, doesn't feel he can go up to the hut and that he can be with the emotional women again.
Page 72 - je suis resté devant la première marche, la tête retentissante de soleil, décourage devant l'effort qu'il fallait faire pour monter l'étage de bois et aborder encore les femmes.
He turns back from the hut with no clear intention in mind except that he can't keep still under the blinding stream of sunlight.

He feels oppressed by the heat and strains himself to cope with the sunlight and its intoxication:­
Page 73 - je me tendais tout entier pour triompher du soleil et de cette ivresse opaque qu'il me déversait. 

He needs to get out of the sun to find the coolness of the Spring.
Page 73 - J'avais envie de retrouver le murmure de son eau envie de fuir le soleil, l'effort et les pleurs de femme, envie enfin de retrouver l'ombre et son repos,

To his surprise he finds that Raymond's Arab has come back. Meursault hadn't expected it at all.

Immediately the Arab puts his hand to his pocket. As a natural reaction, Meursault reaches for his gun.
The Arab is ten yards away - but his image is dancing before Meursault's eyes in the burning air.

Meursault could turn around and get away – but he can't face the prospect of the heat. He walks towards the spring.

It was the same sun beating on him as on the day of his Mother's funeral and causing him the same distress.
Page 74- C'était le même soleil que le jour où j'avais enterré maman et, comme alors, le front surtout me faisait mal et toutes les veines battaient ensemble sous la peau.

Because of this burning Meursault moves forward - knowing it is stupid.

The Arab draws the knife, and Meursault has the illusion that the reflection strikes him in the face. He is blinded by sweat in his eyes. Everything dances in front of him.
He tightens his grip on the revolver and the trigger goes off. Meursault shakes off the sunlight and the sweat and realises what he has done:­

Page 75 - J'ai compris que j'avais détruit l'équilibre du jour, le silence exceptionnel d'une plage ou j'avais été heureux.

Then he fires four more bullets which disappear without mark in the inert body. They are like four brief raps on the door of misfortune.
Page 75 - Et c'était comme quatre coups brefs que je frappais sur la porte du malheur.






Meursault’s view of the futility of ambition.

He already possesses as much as he expects from life.



LOVE is of little importance to Meursault nor is marriage.




Marie finds Meursault odd.




Meursault's disapproval of Paris.

Meursault appreciates
feminine beauty



Meursault's private world


Meursault's eye for the ABSURD in human behaviour






LOVE and habit





Old age & death: the inescapable reality.








Meursault admires Marie


Meursault's sensitivity to the blinding light


Meursault's distaste for Raymond





His genuine love of Marie


Meursault's enjoyment of sensual pleasures



Meursault's enjoyment of sensual pleasures



His discomfort in the dazzling sunlight


















Meursault takes the gun to stop a killing.





Meursault’s suffering under the intense heat to which he is sensitive.


Meursault is intoxicated by the sun




















Meursault underwent several short periods of questioning immediately after his arrest.

A week later the examining magistrate interviewed him and was the first to show great interest.

Meursault did not wish to choose his own lawyer and allowed a lawyer to be appointed.

At first Meursault hadn't taken the theatricality of the proceedings seriously. The magistrate sat Meursault in a chair with a light on him while he sat in the shade.
Page 80 - J'avais déjà lu une description semblable dans des livres et tout cela m'a paru un jeu.

Meursault describes the magistrate fine featured - tall - abundant almost white hair - with such a pleasant manner that Meursault almost shook his hand on leaving.

The next day the lawyer appointed to defend Meursault came to prison. Small, plump, hair plastered down, dark suit and an eccentric tie. (N.B. Meursault's lawyer will not impress the Court).

His lawyer tells him that the examining magistrates have found out that Meursault showed insensitivity at the funeral of his mother.
Page 80 - Les instructeurs avaient appris que j'avais fait preuve d'insensibilité le jour de l'enterrement de maman.

He asks Meursault if he had felt grief. Meursault, the private man, is shocked at this intrusion.
Page 80 - Cette question m'a beaucoup étonné et il me semblait que j'aurais été très gêné si j'avais eu à la poser.

He analyses his reactions and says that he loved his mother-of course but all people had more or less wished the death of those they love.
Page 81 - Sans doute, j'aimais bien maman, mais cela ne me voulait rien dire. Tous les êtres sains avaient plus ou moins souhaité la mort de ceux qu'ils aimaient.

The lawyer interrupts him excitedly and makes him promise not to say that in court.

Meursault then explains the reason for his behaviour at the funeral. He was so tired he wasn't aware what was happening.
Page 81 - j'avais une nature telle que mes besoins physiques dérangeaient souvent mes sentiments. Le jour où j'avais enterré maman, j’étais très fatigué et j'avais sommeil. 

He would certainly have preferred his mother not to have died.

81/15 His defence counsel wishes Meursault to say that he had been controlling his feelings. But Meursault refuses as this would be false. He says it has no bearing on the case - but the lawyer says Meursault doesn't know the law.

As the lawyer leaves, Meursault realises that his own counsel does not understand him.
Page 82 - Il ne me comprenait pas et il m'en voulait un peu.

Meursault feels like trying to explain but feels that it would be pointless and doesn't make the effort.


One afternoon shortly afterwards he was taken to the examining magistrate once again.

Meursault's lawyer was able to attend but Meursault agreed to proceed nevertheless.

The magistrate says people depict Meursault as a taciturn and uncommunicative person.
Page 82 - Il m'a d'abord dit qu'on me dépeignait comme étant d'un caractère taciturne et renfermé.

Meursault says that he has not much to say.

He gets Meursault to tell the full story encouraging him with a "good, good" after each sentence. Meursault has never spoken so much before.

When the magistrate asks him if he loved his mother, Meursault replies with merciless honesty "Oui comme tout le monde" and the clerk of the court, in shock, hits the wrong keys on his typewriter. 

Then the magistrate asks if he had fired the shots in succession. Meursault replies he fired once and then four more shots a few seconds later. The magistrate asks why.

Meursault thinks of the answer but does not or cannot put into words the oppressive physical sensation that made him act:­
Page 83 - Une fois de plus, j'ai revu la plage rouge et j'ai senti sur mon front la brûlure du soleil, Mais cette fois, je n'ai rien répondu.

The magistrate becomes excited but Meursault doesn't answer.

Suddenly the magistrate gets a crucifix out of the drawer. He brandishes the figure of Christ over Meursault. His conviction was that everyone however guilty who humbly repented could get His forgiveness.

Meursault finds it hard to follow him because he is feeling hot and there are big flies settling on his face and because the magistrate frightens him a bit.
Page 84 - A vrai dire, je l'avais très mal suivi dans son raisonnement, d'abord parce que j'avais chaud et qu'il y avait dans son cabinet de grosses mouches qui se posaient sur ma figure, et aussi parce qu'il me faisait un peu peur.

Meursault tries to reassure him about the shots but the magistrate exhorts him again, asking him if he believes in God.

Meursault replies "No," and the magistrates sits down. But he persists. His conviction is that all men believe in God, and were he to doubt it, life would have no meaning for him.

He asks God's forgiveness on Meursault's behalf and Meursault oppressed by the heat, wanting to put an end to it all, must have given the impression that he went along with him.

The magistrate is delighted and says Meursault is going to entrust himself to Jesus.

Meursault replies "No," and the magistrate wearily falls back in his chair.

All criminals he has met before had wept before the crucifix.

He asks Meursault if he regrets the act.
Page 85 - J'ai réflechi et j'ai dit que, plutôt que du regret veritable, j'éprouvais un certain ennui. J'ai eu l'impression qu'il ne me comprenait pas. 

At the end of all the subsequent interrogation the magistrate dismisses Meursault saying cordially.
Page 86 - C'est fini pour aujourd’hui, monsieur l'Antéchrist.
N.B. Meursault has lost the chance of the magistrate’s clemency because he is not a Christian and will not react as required to the evangelism of the magistrate.



2. When he was first put into prison, he had been put in a cell with other prisoners, mainly Arabs. He had realised that he would never like to talk about this part of his life. Later however he accepted these nasty things as of no importance.
(Hint of nasty revenge? experiences at the hands of Arab inmates)


He had already been moved to a cell on his own when Marie paid him her one and only visit. (Afterwards she wrote to say she wouldn't be allowed to visit again as she wasn't his wife.)

He finds he has to speak to her through two metal grills with a passageway running between them. Around him the other prisoners are shouting across to their visitors. Marie has to shout.

Meursault feels like touching her shoulder and desires the touch of the material of her dress.
Page 89 - En même temps, je la regardais et j'avais envie de serrer son épaule par-dessus sa robe. J'avais envie de ce tissu fin et je ne savais pas très bien ce qu'il fallait espérer en dehors de lui

Marie says they'll get married when he gets out.

In the din, Meursault feels sick and would like to go but he wants to take advantage of Marie's presence.

She throws him a kiss as he is led back to his cell, her face crushed against the grill and her habitual smile tense.

Then he got Marie's letter and the nasty times began.

In those first months he had the ideas of a free man and could not get used to being imprisoned,
He missed a woman - cigarettes.

He conquers his boredom eventually by exercising his memory, recalling every detail of his bedroom.

In the early months, Meursault slept 16 to 18 hrs. a day.

His reading was a newspaper clipping which told the story of a Czechoslovakian who had returned home after 25 years, a rich man, intending to surprise his mother and sister. Failing to recognise him, they had murdered him to steal his money.

The evenings were the moments of despair for Meursault. He describes how he heard a sound in his ears and realised it was his own voice and that he had been talking to himself for days. Five months have now gone by.


(3) In the end, the year passed quickly. His case was to be heard in June. Meursault's lawyer had said that they would get it over quickly because the main case (a parricide) was to come after.

Meursault is taken to court in a police van. To a gendarme Meursault replies that he is not scared.
Page 97 - Il m'a demandé peu après si j'avais le trac. j'ai répondu que non. Et même, dans un sens, cela m'intéressait de voir un procès.

He is stunned by the number of people in the crowded room who have come to see him. The gendarme explains that the papers have written the case up. The journalists and police greet each other like old friends. He feels an intruder in an exclusive club.
Page 98 - tout le monde se rencontrait, s'interpellait et conversait comme dans un club où l’on est heureux de se retrouver entre gens du même monde. Je me suis expliqué aussi la bizarre impression que j'avais d'être de trop, un peu comme un intrus.

Meursault's lawyer tells him to answer briefly and rely on him. On his left Meursault sees the prosecutor a tall slim man wearing a pince-nez

The three judges enter.

Among the journalists Meursault sees a younger man, examining him without expressing anything definable. He feels he is being watched-by himself. (N B. Camus said he had put himself in the story in the. person of this journalist,).


Meursault is bewildered by the events which follow - the selection of the jury, and the first exchanges.
The president of the court calls the witnesses. Thomas Perez - Raymond - Masson - Salamano – Marie- Céleste

The president reads the accounts of Meursault’s crime asking him to confirm the facts - which he does.
The president then says he is going to deal with questions apparently foreign to the affair; Meursault feels instant annoyance, that his relationship with his mother is introduced.

He explains, that he put his mother in the home because he could not afford the nursing, she required.
When the president asks if this had pained him - Meursault replies:
Page101 - ni maman ni moi n'attendions plus rien l'un de l'autre ni d'ailleurs de personne, et que nous nous étions habitués tous les deux à nos vies nouvelles.

The prosecutor asked why Meursault had returned armed, precisely to the spot where the Arab was.

Meursault replies it was chance. The prosecutor with an unpleasant tone says -that will be all for now.

The hearing is adjourned, until the afternoon.
Tired and hot Meursault is brought back for the afternoon session. 


The first witness is the director of the Old Folk's Home. He confirms that Mme Meursault complained about her son putting her there: - but all of his inmates did - The President gets him to confirm it again without this final qualification.

He confirms that Meursault had surprised him with his calm at the funeral - also that an undertaker's man said Meursault didn't know his Mother’s age."

The prosecutor declines to question this witness and Meursault feels like weeping to see how he is hated by all these people.
The concierge of the Old Folk's' Home tells how Meursault had not wished to see the corpse – had smoked slept and drunk cafe au lait. . .
"Meursault then senses something in the room which tells him he is guilty`. "Page 103 –
J'ai senti alors quelque chose qui soulevait toute la salle et, pour la premiere fois, j'ai compris, que j'étais coupable.'
Meursault's lawyer asks the concierge whether he had smoked as well. Embarrassed he says Meursault gave him one. Meursault confirms this. In gratitude the concierge admits that he brought the café au lait. Meursault's lawyer is jubilant at this. But the prosecutor asks the jury to note that a concierge can offer coffee but a son must refuse it.


Perez,is asked whether he had seen Meursault weep. He hadn't but Meursault's lawyer- asked him whether he had seen him not weeping. To which he also replied "No,"
Meursault's lawyer feels he has made a point.

Céleste, the next witness after the adjournment, is uncomfortable in new clothes. He tells the court that Meursault was a friend as well as a customer. He says that the crime is a misfortune. The president of the court interrupts him. Céleste tries to go on - but the only words he can find are to say again it is a misfortune, 
He looks at Meursault in despair.
Page 105 - Il avait l'air de me demander ce qu'il pouvait encore faire. Moi, je n'ai rien dit, je n'ai fait aucun geste, mais c'est la première fois, de ma vie que j'ai eu envie d'embrasser un homme.

Marie enters the box. Meursault thinks her beautiful and thinks- of her body. She tells the prosecutor that they intended to marry.

However, under cross examination, she has to reveal that their liaison started the day after the funeral. She tells of the swim, the Fernandel film, going back home with Meursault -
At the end the prosecutor to a silent courtroom sums up Meursault's conduct with Marie:
Page 107 - Messieurs les jurés, le lendemain de la mort de sa mère, cet homme prenait des bains, commençait une liaison irréguliere, et allait rire devant un film comique: Je n'ai rien de plus à vous dire.

Marie bursts into sobs and says she's been made to say the opposite of what she intended.

After this the testimony of Masson, and old Salamano is in Meursault's favour but falls on deaf ears.

Raymond begins his evidence by saying Meursault is innocent. He says it was pure chance that Meursault was on the beach, pure chance that Meursault had written the letter to Raymond's mistress.

The prosecutor asks if it was by chance that Meursault hadn't stopped him beating his mistress and had given false witness on his behalf. He says that Raymond is well known, as a pimp.
Page 108 - de notoriété générale le témoin exerçait le métier de souteneur...J’étais son accomplice et son ami. Il s'agissait d'un drame crapuleux de la plus basse espèce, aggravé du fait qu'on avait affaire à un monstre moral.

(Meursault's position is being made even worse by his association with the shady unattractive character of Raymond. Raymond proceeds unconsciously to aggravate it further).
To the prosecutor's question, Raymond replies that Meursault is a pal.
When asked to confirm this, Meursault seeing Raymond looking at him- merely answers "Yes."

From this the prosecutor ends in a dramatic flourish. Meursault's love affair with Marie is the most shameful debauchery; his liaison with Raymond proves his involvement in paying off a debt concerning unspeakable vice,

Meursault’s lawyer asks if Meursault is tried for murder or for 'burying his mother.15
Page 109 - Enfin, est-il accusé d'avoir enterré sa mère où d'avoir tué un homme?
The prosecutor's ready reply shatters Meursault's counsel.
Page 109 j’’accuse cet homme d'avoir enterré une mère avec un cœur de criminel­.

Meursault recognises that things are not going well. He is taken back to prison in the evening-- his favourite part of the day.
Page 109 - j'ai 'retrouvé un à un, comme du fond de ma fatigue, tous les bruits familiers d'une ville que j'aimais et d'une certaine heure où il m'arrivait de me sentir content.
But now his evening led not to a quiet sleep but to a prison cell.








Meursault's sense of the absurd.



Lottery of justice: the unfortunate chance of the lawyer with Meursault's life in his hands.

N.B. Meursault is being tried for his behaviour at the funeral.

Meursault's reticence.



Meursault's uncompromising honesty




Meursault tells of his great sensitivity to physical disturbances.


Meursault's strict honesty


























Meursault tells of his great sensitivity to physical disturbances.










Meursault's strict honesty







Meursault's reaction to painful experience - reticence.







His sensual nature Meursault's need to touch Marie

Meursault's & Marie's love.


Meursault's sensitivity to loud noise.







Meursault's need for sleep.

Meursault's eye for the absurd.


The moments of despair





Meursault's detachment from events of vital importance to himself



Meursault's sense of the absurd: He is the intruder at his own trial





Camus is this reporter in court.








The independence of character of Meursault and his mother.










Justice - absurd triviality of points raised as evidence


After the way his Mother's funeral has been represented, Meursault senses that the Court is turned against him.


Justice - absurd triviality of points raised as evidence





Céleste's friendship for Meursault


Meursault's emotional sense of gratitude to Céleste.

Sensual Meursault




Meursault is on trial for his conduct after the funeral.




Unintelligent Raymond.



The dramatic exaggeration of the prosecutor












Meursault’s normal pleasure in the ordinary details of the world around him - but for him no longer!


Chapter 4
Meursault says that even in the dock it is interesting to hear people talk about you and perhaps they talked more about him than about his crime.
Page.111 - Pendant les plaidoiries du procureur et de mon avocat, je peux dire. qu'on a beaucoup parlé de moi et peut-être plus de moi que de mon crime.
He had been told it would be better if he said nothing. 

At times he felt he should speak, yet on reflection he had nothing to say.

Meursault accepts that the prosecutor's case is lucid and plausible. His two-prong attack is on the facts of the murder and the character of Meursault.

The prosecutor says:
Page 112 –
J’en ferai la preuve, messieurs, et, je la ferai doublement. Sous l'aveuglante clarté des faits d'abord et ensuite dans l'éclairage sombre que me fournira la psychologie de cette âme criminelle.

He sums up Meursault's behaviour after the funeral and shows Meursault's active involvement in Raymond's affairs.

The prosecutor rejects the idea that Meursault did not know what he was doing: He is an intelligent, literate man.

The, prosecutor condemns him for- not expressing regret for his crime.

 (Meursault admits to himself that he did not regret it much - but this is because, his concern is not for the past but for the present and the future).

Page 113 - J'aurais voulu essayer de lui expliquer cordialement, presque avec affection, que je n’avais jamais pu regretter vraiment quelque chose. J'étais toujours pris par ce qui allait arriver- par aujourd'hui où par demain,

The prosecutor then talks about Meursault's total lack of moral principles. Society is threatened by such men and they should not be tolerated.

Page 114--Surtout lorsque le vide du cœur tel qu'on le découvre chez cet homme devient un gouffre ou la société peut succomber.

The prosecutor then spends more time talking about Meursault's mother than he had about the crime and

Meursault is again distracted by the heat.
Page 114 - Mais il a été beaucoup, plus long que lorsqu' il parlait de mon crime, si long même que finalement, je n'ai plus senti que la chaleur de cette matinée.

The Prosecutor speaks of Meursault's insensitivity.

The Prosecutor accuses him of morally killing his mother. The next day the court is to try a case of parricide - but today they have a man guilty of the same offence- the killing of a parent 

As Meursault has disregarded the essential rules of society, the prosecutor asks for the death penalty. He expresses the horror he feels before the face of Meursault in which he reads nothing but monstrousness.­

The courtroom is silent. Meursault is dazed by heat and astonishment is asked to speak. Jumbling his words, Meursault denies he pre-meditated the crime and tells feebly the truth – that it was the sun.
Page 115 - J'ai dit rapidement mêlant un peu mes mots et en me rendant compte de mon ridicule, que c’était à cause du soleil. 
There is laughter in the courtroom and the defence shrugs his shoulders in despair.
The defence lawyer’s statement seems endless in the oppressive heat of the afternoon with the ventilators whirring. Meursault hears only snatches. 

Meursault is fascinated to hear that his lawyer says "I" every' time he means Meursault. He asks the gendarme, who says all lawyers do that. 
Meursault feels this habit is pushing him as a person further out of the case.

Meursault feels the lawyer is ridiculous. He makes a plea of provocation but skips over what should be the strength of his case, to spend his time talking about Meursault's character. 

Defence counsel claims: he can read Meursault like an open book and vaunts "his qualities”.
Page 116- j’étais un honnête homme, un travailleur régulier, infatigable, fidèle à la maison qui l'employait aimé de tous et compatissant aux misères d'autrui.

He praises the excellence of the provision of the old folk's home.

Meursault is distracted by the trumpet of an ice cream man outside and recalls the life, which is no longer his.
Page 117 - j'ai été assailli des souvenirs d'une vie qui ne m'appartenait plus, mais où j'avais trouvé les plus pauvres et les plus tenaces de mes joies : des odeurs 'd’été, le quartier que j'aimais, un certain ciel du soir, le rire et les robes de Marie. Tout ce que je faisais d'inutile en ce lieu, m'est alors remonté à la gorge.


When Meursault's lawyer finally sits down he is acclaimed for his fine performance but the weary Meursault is half hearted in his congratulations.


The trial is over. Meursault looks for Marie in the hall. She makes a gesture of relief that it’s over, but Meursault cannot smile back.

Meursault waits in a side room for the jury to consider the verdict. He is only brought back for the reading of sentence. He sees on entering that the young journalist has for the first time turned his face away from him.

After the verdict - that he should have his head cut off in the name of the French people, - Meursault recognises that the mood of the Court has changed and now feels consideration for him.


He declines to say anything and is led off.


(5) Three times Meursault has refused to see the prison chaplain. He has nothing to say to him.

His preoccupation now is to escape the guillotine.

In his new cell he watches the sky and the passing of the days.

He tries to believe that there is some chance of breaking free on the execution day - but each time knows it can't be.

Meursault finds it hard to accept this certainty. There is a ridiculous disproportion between the verdict, which could have been quite different, made by fallible human beings late in a weary day and the grim reality of the execution.
Page 121 - Le fait que la sentence avait été lu a vingt heures plutôt qu' à dix-sept, le fait qu'elle aurait pu être tout autre, qu'elle avait été prise par des hommes qui changent de linge, qu'elle avait été portée au crédit d'une notion aussi imprécise que le peuple français (ou allemand, ou chinois), il me semblait bien que tout cela enlevait beaucoup de sérieux à une telle décision.

He thinks of his mother's story that his father had viewed an execution, puts himself in the role of a spectator, then a moment later freezes with terror realising he is the victim.

The condemned man can only hope that things will go without a hitch.

He revises his view of the guillotine. It is on ground level not on a public platform. One is killed discreetly and precisely.

Two things obsess him - the dawn when he will be taken for execution - his appeal.

He no longer sleeps at night, in order to be prepared for the men coming for him.

He recalls his mother's view that one is never totally unhappy, when each day dawns safely because just as easily he could have heard the footsteps approaching and his heart might have burst:­
Page 125 - Parce qu'aussi bien, j'aurais pu entendre des pas et mon coeur aurait pu éclater.

During the daytime his thoughts are on his appeal. He gets the maximum return from this idea.

Taking the worst supposition that he will die, he tells himself life is not worth living and we all die sooner or later in any case.

What is hard is to think of the twenty years or so lost; yet he tells himself he would be faced with the same position in 20 years.

Having reconciled himself to death, Meursault allows himself to consider the possibility of a reprieve. The trouble is that the prospect fills him with uncontrollable joy, which he has to restrain to achieve a period of calm.

At such a time he thought of Marie. It was a long time since she had written to him. She could be ill or dead. If so there would no longer be any human contact, no ties would remain. Thus dead he also would be forgotten.

Just then the Chaplain came in. Meursault trembles at the news he may bring, but the Chaplain knows nothing of the progress of the appeal.

The Chaplain asks why Meursault would not see him. He replies that he doesn't believe in God and does not regard the subject as important.
Page 127 - J'ai répondu que je ne croyais pas en Dieu. Il a voulu savoir si j'en étais bien sûr et j'ai dit que je n'avais pas à me le demander cela me paraissait une question sans importance.

The Chaplain thinks Meursault speaks out of despair. Meursault says he suffers only from natural fear. He has no time to waste on subjects of no interest to him.

The priest says all men must die sometimes. Meursault says this is no consolation.

He looks at Meursault in the face but Meursault is experienced in outstaring.

He answers the priest that he does not believe in the after-life.
Bored, Meursault now hardly listens.

The priest thinks the appeal will be accepted but is concerned for Meursault's guilty soul.

Meursault says he has been found guilty by human laws and will pay the penalty. Nothing more can be asked of him.

The Priest says he perhaps might be asked to see the face of God in these walls.

Getting excited, Meursault says that the only face he has looked for has been the face of Marie - in vain.
Page 130 - Peut-être, il y a bien longtemps, y avais­-je cherché un visage. Mais ce visage avait la couleur du soleil et la flamme du désir: c'était celui de Marie. Je l'avais cherché en vain.

Meursault refuses the priest’s embrace and the two men remain in silence.
Then the priest asks him to think of another life -

Meursault finally says such thoughts would be idle fantasy - but such a life would merely be one where he could think of this one.

When the priest talks of praying for Meursault, something bursts within him. He yells at the priest and grabs him by the cassock, rejecting the priest's certainties as invalid.

He, Meursault, knew that he had certainty in his grasp. 
Page 131 - Moi, j'avais l'air d'avoir les mains vides. Mais j’étais sûr de moi, sûr de tout, plus sûr que lui, sûr de ma vie et de cette mort ­qui allait venir. Oui, je n'avais que cela. Mais du moins, je tenais cette vérité autant qu'elle me tenait. 

He had lived in one way and he could have lived in another. He had done such and such a thing, when he could have done something else.

It seemed that everything had waited for this moment of execution when he would be proved right.

Meursault speaks of his absurd life. What can life mean, the death of others, love of a mother, the life one leads, since we all have finally one destiny.

What is the point of putting values on different things, since in the end each amounts equally to the life that we are privileged to have.
So why waste time asking:
(1) Why a man accused of murder was executed for not weeping at his mother's funeral.
Page 132 - Qu'importait si, accusé de meurtre, it était executé pour n'avoir pas pleuré à l'enterrement de sa mère?

(2) Salamano's dog was valued as much as his wife. 

(3) If Raymond was his friend as much as Céleste who was a better man. 

(4) Whether Marie was now kissing a new Meursault. 

The warders drag the priest from Meursault.

Meursault finds peace on the priest’s departure.

He hears the sounds of the evening and thinks of his Mama and how she played at starting life again with her boy-friend in the old folks home, so near to death.

Evening is a melancholy truce, when one feels free and ready to start all over again.

Cleared of hope, Meursault accepts the tender indifference of the world, so like himself, and he becomes aware of his happiness.
Page 133 - Je m'ouvrais pour la première fois à la tendre indifférence du monde. De l’éprouver si pareil a moi, si fraternel enfin, j'ai senti que j'avais été heureux, et que je l'étais encore.

His final wish is that on the day of his execution there will be a big crowd who greet him with cries of hatred.
Page 133 Il me restait à souhaiter qu’il y ait beaucoup de spectateurs le jour de mon exécution et qu’ils m’accueillent avec des cris de haine.




Meursault’s detachment from events vitally concerning him.

Yet it is Meursault’s character that is on trial.
Reticent Meursault.




The relevance of Meursault's character according to the prosecution


Meursault is intelligent





Meursault explains that he does not dwell on guilt because he lives for the present.



Justice: ­The exaggeration of the prosecution.
Much of the prosecution case is irrelevant to the crime

Meursault is distracted by the heat.


Justice:- The emotionality of the court dramatics
Justice: ­The exaggeration of the prosecution.



Meursault struggles to describe the simple realities of events



Meursault’s disadvantage due to the limitations of his lawyer





Meursault’s qualities of character as seen by his defence lawyer







Meursault’s love of life


















The absurd lottery of Justice


In different circumstances the verdict of the court could have been completely different




He feels terror at the horror of the cold-blooded execution














Human love: its mortality




The atheism of Meursault














His love of Marie





Meursault’s love of existence the here and now. (This is the freedom of the man without illusions (The philosophy of Existentialism)
Meursault's crime in society's eyes





Life in its absurdity is to be accepted and lived to the full.











Meursault and existence

Meursault and his Mother





Life in all its aspects has to be lived to the fullest extent (Existentialism)