The picture of love in l’Etranger.

  1. Love is seen between mother and son.  - Between Meursault and his mother.
  2. Love is seen between husband and wife.  - Between Salamano and his wife.
  3. Love is seen between young lovers.  - Between Meursault and Marie
  4. Love between a man and his dog   - Between Salamano and his dog


Love is a meaningless abstraction

 After a happy Saturday at the beach, Meursault takes Marie to sleep with him at his apartment.  They have a night of passionate love.  However, on the Sunday morning when Marie asks him if he loves her he said it didn't mean anything but he thought he didn't:
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.

The most negative interpretation of this would be that Meursault was merely using Marie for his sensual satisfaction and would give grounds for the prosecutor’s denunciation of Meursault at the trial, (see page 170 summary notes).  In his final summing up, the prosecutor describes Meursault’s part in the relationship with Marie as the most shameful debauchery.

Yet we know that this is not the full picture.  Meursault had known Marie prior to their meeting on the beach.  Having first got to know her at the shipping office where he worked.  Meursault shows real love, even though he is hesitant about the term.  There is certainly sensual passion between them.   The two lovers played amorously in the waves and were 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.

However, Meursault valued her and felt a genuine admiration for her beauty as he looked at her on the beach. He thinks she is beautiful  as he looks at her in the witness box.
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.

There is also spiritual harmony between them.  On the Sunday morning when Marie stayed for lunch, it was her gaiety that drew him to her.  Elsewhere he tells us that he loves her smile and feels the need for her presence.

Marie gives evidence in his defence at the trial.  She says that theirs was a serious relationship and that they intended to marry.    She is heartbroken when the prosecutor puts a false construction on her words and she feels she has been made to say the opposite of what she had intended. (Page 17 summary notes).  She stays throughout the trial and at the end, before the verdict, she catches his eye to show her relief that it is all over.  Meursault cannot smile back as he cannot deceive himself about the outcome. (Page 19 summary notes)


In the days when he awaits execution (See page 21 summary notes), Marie neither visits him nor writes to him.  He thinks she could be ill or dead.  At he times when he thinks of the possibility of a reprieve, his thoughts are of Marie.  When the Prison Chaplain asks him if he has ever looked for the face of God in his prison walls, Meursault replies (Page 21 summary notes) 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.


His rejection of abstract notions:  (Copied from the Character of Meursault notes)
Meursault believes that pure existence (i.e. being and feeling) is the only truth.  He lives from day to day, completely in the present.
He believes that all the conventional human values are pure deception. 

Notions of friendship and love

Thus he rejects hypothetical notions like 1) friendship and 2) love.  These are ideas created by human society and whether he becomes the friend of the crook, Raymond, or the lover of Marie is a matter of the way things happen and does not need these social constructs.   Human love is a poor inadequate thing Time destroys love and human communication is always a difficult thing.  Thus, as his mother aged, Meursault found that they had little to say to each other
Page 23 –
C'etait vrai. Quand elle était à la maison, maman passait son temps à me suivre des yeux en silence.

Finally Mother and son lived independent lives and expected nothing more.  Meursault tells the Prosecutor at the trial:
 Page 101:
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 a nos vies nouvelles.

Meursault after a night of passionate love with Maria, whose beauty he admires and whose laugh delights him, tells her he does not love her.  He says this because, to him, love is a concept that has no meaning.
Page52 :
 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.