Free Study Guide: The Stranger by Albert Camus - Free BookNotes|
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THE STRANGER: FREE BOOK SUMMARY / ONLINE NOTES
Mersault appears to lack emotional ties or sensitivity towards human relationships. He has no feelings of sadness or loss over his motherís death, which occurred earlier in the week. Even though he should be in a period of mourning, he behaves as if nothing has happened.
After her funeral on Friday, he decides to go for a swim on Saturday.
When he meets Marie, he asks her to a movie and then brings her back to
his place to spend the night; but his relationship with Marie means nothing
to him. Because of Mersaultís lack of emotion, there will be an underlying
current of alienation, hopelessness, and uncertainty throughout the novel.
On Monday Mersault returns to work. His co-workers express their condolences and ask about the funeral. When someone inquires about the age of his mother, Mersault realizes that he has no idea how old she was. It was never important to him. As a result, he answers the question by stating that she was around sixty.
When he meets Emmanuel in order to go and have lunch, the two of them do something really irrational, for they run and jump onto a fast moving firetruck, just for the fun of it. Almost like children, they are proud of their accomplishment. It is a relief from the boredom of the office. After lunch, Mersault goes back to his office and completes a tiring day. When he returns home after work, he encounters Salamano, his neighbor. He is an old man, who lives alone with his old dog, a spaniel that has developed some kind of skin disease. Both dog and owner are a terrible sight, for they are hairless and scabby. Even though Salamano walks the dog every morning and evening, he treats him in such a disgusting manner that everybody in the neighborhood calls it a "crying shame." Mersault, however, does not condemn Salamano for beating the dog, for he feels the dog would run away if he were dissatisfied in any way.
Before entering his apartment, Mersault also encounters Raymond Sintes, another neighbor, who works as a pimp. No one in the neighborhood likes him because of his occupation and his intense, sometimes violent, personality. Mersault, however, does not care about Raymondís personal life and has developed a casual friendship with him. When Raymond tells Mersault about just beating up a man until he was "bleeding like a pig," Mersault is unaffected by the story.
When Raymond asks Mersault to come over for dinner, he accepts the invitation.
As they eat, Raymond explains that he has learned that his girlfriend
is having a relationship with another man. As a result, he plans to throw
her out of his apartment, beat her up, and write a letter to her that
will make her repent. Raymond asks Mersault to write the letter on his
behalf. Finding the whole issue interesting, Mersault agrees to write
the letter, which he finishes before returning to his apartment.
In spite of the fact that Mersault does not have emotional ties to other people, he does enjoy the company of Emmanuel. When he meets him for lunch, the two young men irrationally jump onto a fast moving firetruck, for no real reason except to relieve their boredom. This act emphasizes two aspects of Mersaultís personality; he can be spontaneous and do things just for fun.
Although Mersault is basically a non-interfering person, he does know and acknowledge his neighbors who live in his apartment complex. When he returns home, he greets Salamano, an old man who lives on his floor. Unlike his other neighbors, who condemn Salamano for treating his old dog poorly, Mersault does not judge him. He feels the dog would run away if he were unhappy.
When Mersault sees Raymond, the pimp, he agrees to have dinner with him. Even though everyone in the neighborhood dislikes Raymond because of his job and violent personality, Mersault seems to be unbothered and does not worry about the consequences of being associated with a pimp. He is also unaffected by the news that Raymond has just beaten up a man until he was "bleeding like a pig." In a like manner, Mersault does not care that Raymond has beaten his girlfriend, who had been cheating on him. In fact, Mersault even agrees to write a letter of condemnation to the girlfriend on Raymondís behalf. This action complicates the plot, for it gets Mersault involved with the Arabs, who will cause his downfall.
Mersaultís non-committal, non-judgmental attitude is the crucial feature of
his character. He does not seem to care about much of anything and rarely
contemplates the consequences of his actions. It is ironic then that he
sometimes makes an issue over unimportant details. He has complained to
his boss about the wet towels in the bathroom at work. After washing his
hands, he prefers to dry them on a clean towel rather than a soggy one.
In a similar manner, Mersault will notice details in life that other people
would miss. He comments on the shading of the sky as he walks home from
work and the color of the scabs on Salamanoís dog. At the same time, he
has no idea of the age of his mother. This contrast is part of the absurdity
of his character.
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