The proprietor of a café, Céleste is one of the closest relationships Meursault maintains. Céleste serves as a kind of anchor of normal human emotion in the face of Meursault’s detachment. He expresses sympathy for Meursault’s loss and comments, “You only have one mother.” However, this kind sentiment is a stock phrase commonly said in the face of such a loss. Therefore, Céleste’s empathy, though genuine, also has a hollowness to it because of the mismatch between what Céleste assumes Meursault feels and Meursault’s actual feelings. He assigns to Meursault emotions based on cultural scripts around mourning. When Céleste later testifies on Meursault’s behalf, his description of Meursault has few specifics in part because Meursault does not talk often. These silences have allowed Céleste to assume he understands Meursault to be “all right” in a way that can be stated and universally understood. In this sense, Celeste’s description of Meursault is as much a projection onto Meursault as the prosecutor’s. Meursault is a loyal, quiet regular, and so Céleste likes him and thinks well of him. In this way, Céleste plays into the novel’s exploration of how humans attempt to impose order and meaning in a chaotic world.

Although others defend Meursault at his trial, Meursault expresses the greatest emotion about Céleste’s defense, even wanting to kiss him. One possible reason is that Céleste appears to be such an ordinary, honest man. As a café proprietor, it is his job to be likable. Throughout the novel, Meursault expresses a desire to say or do the right thing so that people are not upset, which does not always come naturally to him. Céleste appears adept at saying or doing things according to cultural scripts, as with his comments about Meursault’s mother’s death or Salamano’s dog.  While the prosecutor paints Meursault as an aberration, Céleste’s assertion that Meursault is merely facing bad luck brings him back into the fold of humanity, as bad luck can happen to anyone. Thus, we can read Meursault’s overwhelmed warmth toward Céleste as him feeling moved that someone so apparently ordinary can see him this way, as if he has achieved a measure of acceptance.