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Free Study Guide-The Stranger by Albert Camus-Free Online Chapter Summary
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PART II

Chapter 1

Summary

Mersault is taken into custody by the police and formally questioned about his identity and various other things. The whole procedure bores him, and he pays more attention to the details of his physical surroundings than he does to his interrogation. A week later Mersault is questioned by an examining magistrate, who possesses a "distinct curiosity" about Mersault; it is obvious to the magistrate that Mersault is not the typical criminal. Mersault pays little attention to the questions and answers them all with honesty; at the same time he notices the curtains, the armchair, and the lamp that make the space seem like a living room. During the proceedings he judges the whole thing to be "like a game." It is clear that Mersault is not the least bit concerned about his charges and does not feel the need to hire a lawyer; he believes his case is straightforward and unproblematic. The magistrate, however, appoints a lawyer for him. As the magistrate prepares to leave, Mersault, for seemingly the first time, realizes that he has killed a man.

Mersaultís court appointed lawyer comes to introduce himself and question his client.

It is clear that he has already studied the case and Mersaultís background. He states that he knows about Mersaultís motherís death at Merango and about Mersaultís outward indifference to it. When the lawyer asks him whether he felt grief about the passing of his mother, Mersault is embarrassed, for he would never ask such a personal question to anyone. Mersault, however, manages to give a reply, stating that although he was fond of his mother, it was natural to expect the death of an aged loved one. The response greatly disturbs the lawyer, who warns Mersault not to say any such thing in the future, especially in the courtroom. Mersault tries to explain his feelings - or lack of them. He states that on the day of his motherís funeral, the heat was terrible, and he felt exhausted. Then, as an afterthought, he adds that he would rather not have his mother dead. The lawyer seems to be taken aback by Mersaultís indifferent attitude and knows that it will be difficult for him to defend a man who has committed a murder without any motive, especially when that man has no emotions about his motherís death.

Mersault argues that his motherís death has no bearing on the murder charges leveled against him. The lawyer responds that the opposition is certain to use the information against Mersault. The head of the Home for the Aged and some of the staff will probably be called as witnesses to testify about Mersaultís attitude and behavior towards his mother and her funeral. The lawyer encourages Mersault to say that he always worked to control his emotions about his mother. Mersault, of course, is unwilling to say such a thing, for he states that he does not lie. When the lawyer finally takes his leave, Mersault feels that he should have been more amiable and tried to convince the lawyer that he was an ordinary person. Of course, everyone who comes into contact with Mersault knows that he is not ordinary. Even Marie has said that she probably fell in love with him because he was odd.

The following afternoon Mersault is taken in for questioning without his lawyer. The Magistrate tells him that he can reserve his answers until his lawyer is present, but Mersault opts to answer for himself. He makes no attempt to negate the Magistrateís charge that he is a "taciturn and self-centered person." The Magistrate cannot believe that Mersault is so naïve and answers his questions with such honesty and bluntness.


The magistrate asks Mersault to again explain the events surrounding the murder. Although he is annoyed that he is being asked to repeat the story again and again, Mersault tells everything that happened on the beach that day. When the magistrate questions him as to why he fired five consecutive shots at the Arab, Mersault corrects him by saying that there was a pause after the first shot. The Magistrate insists on an answer as to why he fired four more shots at the prostrate body, but Mersault says nothing. Holding out a silver crucifix, the Magistrate asks Mersault whether he believes in God. Mersault does not answer him, but talks about other things. The Magistrate asks his question again

When Mersault indicates that he does not believe in God, the Magistrate is shocked. He then tells Mersault that all criminals weep on seeing the crucifix; however, Mersault refuses to accept himself as criminal, even thought the magistrate considers him to the coldest criminal he has ever seen.

There are so many additional questioning sessions involving the lawyer, the Magistrate, and Mersault during the next eleven months that Mersault begins to think of the group as a family. There are even moments when he finds himself enjoying the proceedings. He especially likes it when the Magistrate calls him "Mr. Antichrist."

Notes

This chapter focuses on Mersaultís feelings and his reactions towards the situation and the happenings around him. In the beginning, he is totally disinterested in the proceedings and pays more attention to the physical environment than to his interrogation by the Magistrate. It is hard for Mersault to accept that he is in custody, for he does not think of himself as a criminal. In fact, it takes him awhile to realize that he has really killed a man.

Mersaultís strangeness is clearly developed in the chapter. He never seems to realize the seriousness of the charges against him and is not worried about his case. He refuses to hire his own lawyer, but accepts the court appointed one. When his lawyer questions him about his mother, Mersault does not try to pretend he loved her. Although he says he was fond of her, he admits he felt no grief over her death, explaining that he expected her to die since she was aged. When the Magistrate calls Mersault taciturn and self-centered, he does not disagree and seems unaffected by the criticism.

When the Magistrate questions him, Mersault makes no attempt to explain why he fired four shots into the dead body of the Arab. He also refuses to tell the Magistrate that he believes in God. Additionally, he shows no emotion when the Magistrate shows him a crucifix. It is no wonder that the Magistrate is shocked at Mersaultís honesty and bluntness. He has never seen a criminal quite like Mersault and judges him to be void of religion, emotions, and morals; he even calls him the "antichrist." It is amazing that Mersault, a creative young man, has so little emotion about anything, even about the fact that he has killed a man and is charged with murder.

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