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THE STRANGER: LITERARY ANALYSIS / BOOK REVIEW
Around two p.m., an agitated Raymond returns to the beach bungalow in bandages and states that he is going out for a walk. Mersault follows him in spite of the afternoon heat and Raymondís desire to go alone. Raymond walks until he spies what he has been looking for -- the two Arabs. They are lounging on the sand behind a big rock; one is playing on a reed flute, accompanied by the tinkling water in the nearby stream. When Raymond asks Mersault whether he should shoot the brother of the girl he has beaten, Mersault quickly advises that he must not shoot "in cold blood," but fire only if he is provoked. When the Arabs do nothing, Mersault again warns an anxious Raymond that he must not shoot unless the Arab pulls his knife on them. He knows Raymond well enough to know that he can provoke any situation, just as he provoked his girlfriend with the letter. When Mersault asks Raymond to hand the gun over to him as a safety measure, he complies. The reader feels certain that Mersault will not use the gun unless absolutely necessary.
As Mersault holds the gun in his pocket, the Arabs suddenly vanish. With the tension of the moment past, Raymond and Mersault return to the bungalow with Mersault constantly complaining about the intense heat. When they reach the house, Raymond goes upstairs, but Mersault returns to the beach with no specific purpose in mind. He does realize, however, that he feels tense and notices that the scorching heat and the blinding sun have made him extremely tired. Remembering the cool stream behind the rocks, he walks toward it. On the way, he grits his teeth and clinches his fist, as if to strike out at the intensity of the sun. As he reaches the rocks, he is shocked to see one of the Arabs, the brother of the girlfriend, lying on the sand. In truth, Mersault had been concentrating so hard on escaping the heat that he had totally forgotten about the Arabs.
When the Arab sees Mersault, he puts his hand into his pocket; Mersault
also puts his hand in his pocket, holding the gun ready as a safety measure.
He tells himself that he has no real argument with the Arab and should
simply turn around and walk away. For some reason, however, Mersault cannot
make himself leave. Instead, he thinks about the misery being inflicted
by the sun and takes a step towards the stream and the Arab. Fearing Mersaultís
approach, the Arab immediately draws his knife out of his pocket; the
sun flashes on the blade and into Mersaultís eyes. Mersault reacts by
pulling out his gun. Then without intending to do it, he shoots the Arab
without being conscious of aiming or pulling the trigger. He then fires
four more shots into the dead body. As he regains consciousness, Mersault
is aware, for the first time in the book, that he has done something meaningful
The trip to the beach spells disaster from the very beginning. Before Raymond, Mersault, and Marie ever board the bus, they spy a group of Arabs that includes the angry brother of Raymondís old girlfriend. Raymond reveals that he is scared about the situation, for he constantly looks behind him on the bus to see if the Arabs are following. When they arrive at the beach, the Arabs are no where to be seen; therefore, Raymond, Mersault, and Marie stroll to the beach bungalow of Raymondís friend. When they arrive, Raymond introduces Mersault and Marie to Masson and his wife. Masson immediately likes Mersault for his frankness and simple nature.
Mersault and Marie go for a swim, which they both enjoy; the water seems to wash away Mersaultís pains and bad mood from earlier in the day. He looks around him and appreciates the natural beauty of the ocean and the beach. He also reveals that he has a great concern for his own well being. He is always aware of his physical discomforts and reacts to them. When he grows tired, he naps on the beach. He is also bothered by the heat and tries to escape it. It is a reminder of the fact that the heat on the day of his motherís funeral also greatly affected Mersault and did not allow him to concentrate on the loss of his mother.
When Masson, Raymond, and Mersault go for a walk on the beach after lunch, they encounter two Arabs. When they are provoked, Masson and Raymond begin to beat the Arabs; in his typical, non-committal way, Mersault stands to the side and watches. He, therefore, notices that one of the Arabs has a knife. He tries to warn Raymond about it, but it is too late; the Arab slashes Raymondís arms and mouth. The injuries are serious enough that Masson takes his friend to the doctor.
When Raymond returns in bandages from the doctor, he immediately wants to go out on the beach. Mersault knows that he is going in search of the Arabs and follows him. When Raymond spies the Arabs, he asks Mersault if he should shoot the brother of the girlfriend. Mersault strongly advises him to shoot only if he is provoked. Afraid that he will be unable to control himself, Raymond hands his gun to Mersault for safekeeping. The action will result in the total complication of Mersaultís life.
Later in the afternoon, Mersault feels stressed by the womenís concern and
goes out to the beach by himself, still carrying the gun. He notices that
he is bothered by the blinding light and heat of the sun. As a result,
he heads toward the stream behind the rocks to find some relief from his
physical discomfort. As he approaches the rock, he sees one of the Arabs
lying on the sand. When the Arab reaches in his pocket for his knife,
Mersault reaches for the gun. Blinded by the sunlight and the sweat in
his eyes, Mersault believes that the Arab is moving the knife towards
him. He readies his guns and unintentionally fires a shot at the Arab.
When he realizes the man is dead, he fires four more shots into the dead
body without explanation. Mersault, who allowed himself to be drawn into
Raymondís web, has now committed a murder that cannot be undone. It is
ironic that Mersault, the stranger, has killed a stranger without any
intention of doing so. The absurdity of the situation is clear.
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