Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
On Saturday evening, Mersault goes to the police station and testifies on Raymondís behalf, as promised. The police believe his testimony that the Arab girl provoked the fight and free Raymond of the charges, only giving him a warning. Afterwards, Mersault spends the night with Marie at his apartment. Both of them are looking forward to the trip to the beach on Sunday morning. The next morning, however, Mersault is in a bad mood and not feeling well. He ironically says "it was one of those mornings when I should have stayed in bed." In sharp contrast to Mersaultís mood, Marie is filled with excitement and gaiety. As she tries to get him out of bed, she accuses him of looking "like a mourner at a funeral," an ironic description for a man who did not mourn at his own motherís funeral. The day, however, will prove to be the day of Mersaultís symbolic funeral, the end of his life as a free man.
Mersault and Marie accompany Raymond to the station to board the bus to his friendís beach house. On the way, the heat and glare of the morning sun bother Mersault, who usually enjoys the outdoors; in contrast, Marie calls it "a heavenly day." Before boarding the bus, Raymond and Mersault notice some Arabs watching them. Raymond says that one of them is the brother of his girlfriend that he had beaten. Marie insists that they board the bus immediately. Throughout the journey, Raymond hides his nervousness by making jokes in order to amuse Marie. He also constantly keeps looking back to make sure the Arab men are not following him, revealing that Raymond is tense and afraid. When they finally arrive at their destination, the three of them walk to the beach and find the wooden bungalow of Raymondís friend.
Raymond introduces Masson and his wife to Mersault and Marie. The visitors then go for a swim, which Marie and Mersault fully enjoy. Feeling much better, Mersault naps for a while on the beach. After Marie wakes him, they swim again before having lunch. After eating, Masson proposes a short walk around the beach. He, Mersault, and Raymond leave the house, and the women stay behind to clean the dishes. Mersault comments on the glare of the noontime sun and notices the heat rising from the rocks.
As the men are strolling in the sand, Mersault suddenly spies two Arabs approaching them. As they get close to the Arabs, a fight breaks out. As Masson and Raymond hit the Arabs, Mersault looks on. When Mersault notices that one of the Arabs has a knife, he warns Raymond, but it is too late. The Arab slashes Raymondís arms and his mouth. The Arabs then depart, keeping the three men at bay with their knife. Masson takes Raymond to the doctor for treatment, and Mersault is left at the bungalow with the women, who are clearly upset. Mersault says little about what has happened; instead, he stares out at the beach.
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 and important.