Literature Study GuidesThe StrangerPart 1 Chapter 2 Summary

The Stranger | Study Guide

Albert Camus

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The Stranger | Part 1, Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

Meursault for a moment forgets that it is Saturday morning. He realizes his boss seemed annoyed at him for taking time off to attend the funeral because doing so gave Meursault a long weekend. However, Meursault asserts that this situation is not his fault. He shaves and decides to go for a swim. When he arrives at the channel, he meets Marie, a former typist at Meursault's office. They swim together and a sexual chemistry sparks between them. After the swim, they decide to go to a Fernandel movie, a comedy. Dressed for the film, Marie is surprised to see Meursault's black tie, indicating that he is in mourning, but she does not question him. He thinks again of saying it is not his fault about the funeral being yesterday but decides it does not matter.

During the movie Meursault fondles Marie's breasts and kisses her. Then they go to his place and have sex. The next morning Marie is gone, having left to visit her aunt. Meursault remembers that it is Sunday and is annoyed because he does not like Sunday. He decides not to eat at his usual restaurant, Céleste's, because people might ask him questions about Maman's funeral. Meursault eats lunch and wanders around his apartment. He reads a newspaper, washes his hands, and goes out on the balcony. There, he views people passing by, including, "little boys in sailor suits" and local boys wearing "tight-fitting jackets." The street slowly empties and Meursault notices empty streetcars and a waiter sweeping a restaurant. He smokes cigarettes, eats chocolate, and watches the sky grow dark.

Meursault sees soccer fans loaded in streetcars. Some enthusiastically wave at Meursault, and he nods back. As twilight descends, the street comes back to life. People exit a movie theater and seem excited about the film. The street lamps come on, and Meursault feels "tired from watching the street filled with so many people and lights." Then, the neighborhood empties and the street becomes deserted. Meursault eats dinner and looks in the mirror, noticing his alcohol lamp, a type of candle, and piece of bread on a table. Meursault thinks that Sunday is over. His mother is buried, and tomorrow he will go back to work, and "really, nothing had changed."

Analysis

The theme of the meaningless life is suggested when Meursault nonchalantly mentions that he wants to take a swim the day after his mother's funeral. His mother's death, therefore, has no more meaning for him than any other event. Other actions that day further emphasize that Meursault is going about his life as if nothing traumatic has happened. His view of the meaninglessness of life is reiterated through his descriptions of people passing by on the street. All of the descriptions have the same emphasis. An old man wearing a straw hat is just as important as enthusiastic fans coming back from a soccer game. Nothing stands out because, for Meursault, nothing has meaning.

The long descriptions of everyday life taking place beyond Meursault's balcony stress his detachment. He is not a participant in everyday activities; he is an impassive observer. Sundays, in particular, may bother him because the holiday from the distraction of work forces him to be more aware of the meaninglessness of life. The resulting discomfort suggests that he has difficulty handling the pain of his own nihilism. Later, when Meursault looks in a mirror, he does not even notice his own reflection. Symbolically, his failure to acknowledge himself suggests that he has become alienated from even himself.

Meursault's relationship with Marie emphasizes again the theme of the physical life. Here, Meursault the sensualist comes to the fore. Meursault describes sensory details, such as the "sky in my eyes" and "Marie's heart beating softly." However, once more, the sun, Meursault's hostile antagonist, drives him and Marie off the float and into the water.

Meursault toys with defensiveness about his boss's annoyance over Meursault's long weekend, and considers apologizing to Marie about swimming and going to a movie the day after his mother's death. However, in both cases, Meursault's view of life as meaningless reestablishes itself, and he decides that his actions and his words do not matter.

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