Literapedia Book Notes for

L'Etranger by Albert Camus

Direct quotes are from Matthew Ward's English translation.

Characters

  • Monsieur Meursault (Part One, ch 1)—main character and narrator; French
  • Maman (Part One, ch 1)—Meursault's mother; died before beginning of narration; name is closer to "Mommy" or "Ma" than "Mother"
  • Céleste (Part One, ch 1)—owner and cook at Celeste's restaurant, which Meursault frequents
  • the director (Part One, ch 1)—director of the home where Maman had been living
  • the caretaker (Part One, ch 1)—caretaker at the home where Maman had been living; not any older than some of the residents, whom he calls "them"
  • Thomas Pérez (Part One, ch 1)—Maman's "fiancé"
  • Marie Cardona (Part One, ch 2)—Meursealt's love interest; "a former typist in our office whom I'd had a thing for at the time"
  • Emmanuel (Part One, ch 3)—a dispatcher at Meursault's job
  • Salamano and his dog (Part One, ch 3)—inseparable until the dog runs away; took a walk every day at eleven and six; live in Meursault's building
  • Raymond Sintès (Part One, ch 3)—lives in Meursault's building; invites Meursault and Marie to the beach; provokes a fight with "the Arabs"
  • "the Arabs" (Part One, ch 5)—angry at Raymond for how he treated his ex, whose brother is among them; fight with Raymond and Meursault at the beach
  • Masson and his wife (Part One, ch 6)—Raymond's friends; own a bungalow at the beach
  • Meursault's examining magistrate (Part One, ch 1)—can hardly believe Meursault's own lack of faith, rhyme, or reason
  • Meursault's attorney (Part Two, ch 1)—disgusted by Meursault
  • the chaplain (Part Two, ch 5)—tries to comfort and help Meursault

Chapter Summaries

Part One
  1. The novel opens with the lines, "Maman died today. Or yesterday, maybe, I don't know." Meursault stops by Céleste's before taking the bus to the "old people's home" at Marengo. Meursault refuses to look at Maman and falls alseep during the vigil. The next morning, the funeral procession, including Pérez, makes its way into town, and Pérez faints. Meursault returns home to sleep.
  2. Meursault catches up with Marie, and they spend Saturday at the beach. They see a movie, and they go back to Meursault's place. Marie is gone when Meursault wakes up, and he has lunch, wanders around his apartment, and people-watches from his balcony as daylight fades.
  3. After work, Meursault and Emmanuel go to Céleste's, and Meursault "[runs] into old Salamano" and his dog as he returns home. Meursault accepts Raymond's invitation to dinner. Meursault agrees to write a letter to Raymond's ex-mistress.
  4. Marie and Meursault spend the day at a beach near Algiers and then return to Meursault's. The next morning, Marie asks if he loves her, and he "told her it didn't mean anything but that [he] didn't think so." Raymond beats his ex, the cops arrive, and Meursault agrees to testify for Raymond. Salamano tells Meursault and Raymond that his dog has run away.
  5. Raymond was followed by "the Arabs" all day. Marie asks Meursault if he wants to get married. "[He] said it didn't make any difference to [him] and that [they] could if she wanted to." She asks if he loves her, and he responds in the same way as last time, adding that, [he] probably didn't love her." Meursault eats at Celeste's and has a strange dinner companion. Salamano tells Meursault that he couldn't find his dog at the pound and describe's the dog's importance.
  6. Meursault, Marie, and Raymond go to Masson's beach cottage, briefly worrying that "the Arabs" are following them. Masson, Marie, and Meursault go swimming. Everyone eats lunch, and the men take a walk. "The Arabs" are on the beach, "walking slowly," and all the men end up in a fight. Raymond is badly injured, and Raymond, Meursault, and Masson return to the bungalow. Meursault follows Raymond back out to the beach, and they eventually return to the bungalow again. Meursault walks onto the beach again, and he shoots "Raymond's man" five times while he's down.
Part Two
  1. The examining magistrate suggests an attorney, who visits Meursault in prison the next day. Meursault angers and disgusts him. The examining magistrate grows furious as he tries to find some reasoning behind Meursault's actions, some goodness or potential for salvation in him.
  2. Marie visits. Meursault receives Marie's letter and accustoms himself to prison life. He becomes friendly with a guard and finds the story about the Czechoslovakian. He hates nights and "remembered what the nurse at Maman's funeral had said. No, there was no way out, and no one can imagine what nights in prison are like."
  3. Meursault's case goes to trial. Meursault is taken back to prison, and from his "mobile prison," he recalls "a certain time of day when [he] used to feel happy."
  4. The trial continues, and Meursault catches Marie's eye. The jury finds Meursault guilty of premeditated murder, and he returns to prison.
  5. Meursault sits in a prison cell, narrating, "For the third time I've refused to see the chaplain." He has been sentenced to death by decapitation, and he struggles to grasp what is going to happen. "Despite my willingness to understand, I just couldn't accept such arrogant certainty." He comments, "If by some extraordinary chance the blade failed, they would just start over....the condemned man was forced into a kind of moral collaboration. It was in his interest that everything go off without a hitch." He places enormous importance on making it through another dawn, on gaining another day to live. He tries to convince himself that his appeal will be denied. The chaplain enters and tries to convince Meursault to turn to God. The chaplain becomes "genuinely upset, so [Meursault listens] more closely." The chaplain becomes increasingly distraught, and ultimately, Meursault "[starts] yelling at the top of [his] lungs" and grabs the chaplain. Guards take the chaplain away, and Meursault "[opens himself] to the gentle indifference of the world." He concludes his narration with the line, "For everything to feel consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate."


Book Note Creator

Alexandra Gecker, '08