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Free Study Guide: The Stranger by Albert Camus - Free BookNotes

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THE STRANGER: FREE PLOT SUMMARY / CHAPTER NOTES

PART ONE

CHAPTER 4

Summary

This chapter deals with the relationship between Mersault and Marie and the consequences of Raymondís sending the letter to his girl friend. Marie and Mersault spend their next Saturday morning on the beach outside Algiers. Marie asks Mersault whether he loves her. Mersault answers that such questions do not mean anything to him. He believes that love is too abstract and vague an emotion to think about. When they leave the beach, they return to Mersaultís apartment to make love. They soon hear a female screaming in Raymondís apartment. Mersault realizes that Raymond is beating his girlfriend, as he promised to do. Marie wants to go out and see what is happening. When she sees the Arab woman being repeatedly hit, she feels that they should call the police. Mersault, in characteristic fashion, is unconcerned about the girlís welfare. He refuses to summon the police, for he does not like policemen and does not want to get involved, even though he is responsible for writing the letter that led to the fight.

A short while later, a policeman arrives and begins to interrogate Raymond. He accuses Raymond of being drunk and warns him to stay indoors until he is summoned to the police station. After things are quiet again, Mersault and Marie sit down to have their lunch. Marie has lost her appetite and cannot eat a bite; however, Mersault, seemingly unbothered by the earlier fight, easily finishes his food. After Marie leaves, Mersault talks to Raymond, who is concerned about Mersault's personal feelings towards him. In a typically non-committal way, Mersault tries to reassure Raymond that he is unconcerned about the fight. Mersault even agrees to be a witness in Raymondís defense, testifying that the girlfriend provoked Raymond.

Salamano approaches Mersault to say that he has lost his dog and questions Mersault about where the dog could possibly be. Mersault tries to pacify the old man by saying the dog will surely be found. Later, however, Mersault hears Salamano weeping in his apartment. The crying makes Mersault think about his own dead mother. Then realizing that he is tired from the events of the day, Mersault goes directly to bed without eating dinner.

Notes

Much important information is presented in this chapter. Marie is obviously very attached to Mersault, but he seems to have few feelings for her. When she wants to know if he loves her, the non-committal Mersault responds that he does not think about love, for it is too vague of an emotion. His response is not surprising, for he seems unwilling to commit himself to anything. When Raymondís Arab girlfriend is being beaten, Mersault refuses to call the police, for he says he does not want to get involved and does not like policemen.

Because it is out of character for him, it is surprising that Mersault agrees to be a witness for Raymond and testify that the girlfriend provoked him to his actions. Without realizing it, Mersault is slowly being drawn into Raymondís drama, which will later prove to be catastrophic in his life. It is also surprising that Mersault thinks about his dead mother when he hears Salamano weeping over his lost dog. When he goes to bed without eating dinner, the reader senses that Mersault has some emotions.



PART ONE

CHAPTER 5

Summary

On Monday, Mersault feels glad that his Sunday was less monotonous that normal. He does not look forward to another week of boredom at work, where he will perform his routine tasks without interest. Despite the monotony on his work as a shipping clerk, Mersault is a good employee. He is annoyed that Raymond telephones him at work, for he does not think personal phone calls during business hours are appropriate. Raymond informs Mersault that he is concerned about his girlfriendís brother following him. He also invites Mersault and Marie to spend Sunday with him at his friend's house, just outside Algiers. Mersault eagerly accepts the invitation for he likes the beach and swimming. They are one of the few things that give him pleasure in life.

Mersaultís boss summons him to his office. Mersault is sure that he is going to be criticized for the personal phone call from Raymond about which he feels guilty. Mersault is, therefore, surprised when he is offered a promotion, which will mean a move to Paris. When Mersault says he has no desire to go to Paris, largely because the sun rarely shines, his boss seems angry and accuses Mersault of lacking ambition. Mersault reflects on the fact that he once had ambition, until he was forced to leave his studies behind. Since then, he has been indifferent about his life.

After work, Mersault meets Marie. When she brings up the subject of their getting married, Mersault expresses complete indifference. He states that he does not believe that marriage is a serious issue; therefore, if she insists on getting married, he probably will not object to it. Mersault then tells Marie about his employer offering him a position in Paris. Marie thinks it would be divine to be married and live in Paris. In contrast, Mersault cares about neither.

After Marie departs, Mersault goes to Celesteís Restaurant to have dinner. A woman comes and sits at his table. As soon as she orders her food, she puts the money for it on the table, including the tip. She then eats her food with gusto. Mersault thinks of her as a "little robot." Since they both finish dinner at about the same time, Mersault follows her for awhile, but he soon loses sight of her and heads home. The next time he sees the woman, she is an observer at his trial.

As Mersault is just about to enter his apartment, Salamano calls him. When Mersault enters Salamanoís apartment, the old man tells him that he has been to the pound to look for his dog, but with no luck. Mersault then listens as Salamano talks about his dog and his past life. The old man reveals that he had worked for the railroad and had married late.

After his wife died eight years ago, he took the spaniel, a gift from a friend, as his companion. Salamano states that the dog was beautiful before it developed the skin disease. The old man then mentions that Mersault's mother liked the dog. He also tells Mersault that people criticized him behind his back for sending his mother to the Home for the Aged and for not being more upset over her death. The news surprises for Mersault, for he feels that sending his mother to the home was an absolutely normal thing. He tells Mersault that he felt his mother was better off in the home since he was at work all day. He believed she would have better care and could make friends at the old folk's home. Salamano assures Mersault that he understands his decision and has his sympathy. Mersault shakes the old manís hand and departs.

Notes

In this chapter, Mersaultís character is further developed as "a stranger," for his decisions and responses are not typical. Although he has stated that he does not want to get involved with Raymond, he accepts an invitation to spend the day with him at his friendís house. He also shows no excitement over being offered a promotion and tells his boss that he does not want to move to Paris. When Marie asks him about getting married, Mersault responds that he does not think that marriage is an important issue and that he probably would not object to it if Marie insists, even though he does not love her. At dinner, he thinks of the woman at his table as a robot, but when she leaves, he follows her, for no apparent reason. When Salamano tells him that the neighbors have criticized Mersault for sending his mother to the Home for the Aged, Mersault is totally surprised, for he feels that it was a normal decision, unworthy of comment.

Salamano is also furthered developed in the chapter. He reveals that he worked for the railroad and married late in life. When his wife died, he was given his dog as a gift, and it became his substitute companion. It is strange, therefore, that he has been seen treating the dog very badly; but he obviously cares about it, for he has been to the pound looking for the lost spaniel. It is also significant that it Salamano who tells Mersault that he is looked down in the neighborhood for sending away his mother and seeming to care little about her death. He does, however, assure Mersault that he understands his feelings. Salamano seems to be reaching out for a relationship with the distant Mersault.


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