Literature Study GuidesThe StrangerPart 2 Chapter 4 Summary

The Stranger | Study Guide

Albert Camus

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The Stranger | Part 2, Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

In the courtroom, Meursault listens to the final speeches of the prosecutor and the defense attorney. During these speeches, Meursault at times feels like interrupting, but he states, "Everything was happening without my participation." However, on second thought, he realizes he does not have anything to say.

The prosecutor claims that Meursault's crime was premeditated. This attorney describes Meursault's heartlessness in the way he dealt with his mother's funeral, his affair with Marie, and his relationship with Raymond. Meursault feels that his good qualities are being used against him. The prosecutor accuses Meursault of not feeling any remorse for his crime, and Meursault admits to himself that he never felt much remorse about anything. The prosecutor goes on to assert that Meursault has committed a crime against society because he is "morally guilty of killing his mother." The prosecutor asks the jury to condemn Meursault to death.

The judge asks Meursault whether he has anything to say. Fumbling for words, Meursault tries to explain his actions on the day of the killing and ends up saying that the sun made him shoot the victim. People laugh. The defense attorney portrays Meursault as a loyal, hard worker and model son who is sympathetic to the misfortunes of other people. Meursault becomes distracted during his defense attorney's speech and remembers pleasant sensations of his life in Algiers. The attorney claims Meursault just lost control of himself for a moment when he shot the victim; he asks the jury not to issue the death penalty because of this momentary lapse.

After the defense speech, Meursault looks around the courtroom and, for the first time that day, notices Marie. She has a worried smile. The jurors file out and Meursault waits in a little room for his verdict. The defense attorney is confident that Meursault will not be sentenced to death. After almost an hour, Meursault is brought into the courtroom and hears his sentence of guilty with the punishment of beheading in a public square. Meursault is taken away.

Analysis

The judgments of the two legal officials who falsely characterize Meursault emphasize the theme of miscommunication. The prosecutor paints a picture of Meursault as a heartless, soulless monster who intended to kill the victim. Yet, Meursault's violent act was not premeditated. The defense attorney also portrays Meursault in a false and absurd way. He claims that Meursault is a model son who had strong feelings for his mother and sympathizes with the misfortunes of others. However, Meursault did not have a strong connection with his mother and does not sympathize with people. The "real" Meursault exists outside both these judgments.

Early in the chapter, Camus appears to diverge from his theme of miscommunication when Meursault mentions that he feels like "breaking in on all of them"—an impulse toward communication. Later, Meursault wants to take the opportunity to tell his side of the story. However, when he tries to explain, his words get jumbled and he miscommunicates. Meursault is not adept at reflection, explanation, or communication. As a result, he fumbles the opportunity given to him and ends up sounding comical.

The theme of miscommunication is further developed by Meursault's defense lawyer, whose mode of communicating further alienates Meursault. Meursault notes the attorney's habit of using "I" when referring to Meursault, which makes Meursault feel excluded from the proceedings. Also, by using this style of communication, the attorney takes Meursault's place in the action and reduces him to nothing. Court communication is used to reaffirm traditional views as represented by the attorney and negate the unacceptable views of Meursault.

Finally, the parallel between Meursault and Christ continues. While Meursault did commit a crime, he is put on trial not for the crime but—like Christ—for beliefs that threaten authority figures.

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