protagonist and narrator of The Stranger
, to whom
the novel’s title refers. Meursault is a detached figure who views
and describes much of what occurs around him from a removed position.
He is emotionally indifferent to others, even to his mother and
his lover, Marie. He also refuses to adhere to the accepted moral
order of society. After Meursault kills a man, “the Arab,” for no
apparent reason, he is put on trial. However, the focus of Meursault’s
murder trial quickly shifts away from the murder itself to Meursault’s
attitudes and beliefs. Meursault’s atheism and his lack of outward
grief at his mother’s funeral represent a serious challenge to the
morals of the society in which he lives. Consequently, society brands him
in-depth analysis of Meursault.
former co-worker of Meursault who begins an affair with him the
day after his mother’s funeral. Marie is young and high-spirited,
and delights in swimming and the outdoors. Meursault’s interest
in Marie seems primarily the result of her physical beauty. Marie
does not seem to understand Meursault, but she feels drawn to Meursault’s
peculiarities nevertheless. Even when Meursault expresses indifference
toward marrying her, she still wants to be his wife, and she tries to
support him during his arrest and trial.
in-depth analysis of Marie Cardona.
local pimp and Meursault’s neighbor. Raymond becomes angry when
he suspects his mistress is cheating on him, and in his plan to
punish her, he enlists Meursault’s help. In contrast to Meursault’s calm
detachment, Raymond behaves with emotion and initiative. He is also
violent, and beats his mistress as well as the two Arabs on the
beach, one of whom is his mistress’s brother. Raymond seems to be
using Meursault, whom he can easily convince to help him in his
schemes. However, that Raymond tries to help Meursault with his
testimony during the trial shows that Raymond does possess some
capacity for loyalty.
in-depth analysis of Raymond Sintes.
- Madame Meursault’s death begins the action of the
novel. Three years prior, Meursault sent her to an old persons’
home. Meursault identifies with his mother and believes that she
shared many of his attitudes about life, including a love of nature
and the capacity to become accustomed to virtually any situation
or occurrence. Most important, Meursault decides that, toward the
end of her life, his mother must have embraced a meaningless universe
and lived for the moment, just as he does.
priest who attends to the religious needs of condemned men, the
chaplain acts as a catalyst for Meursault’s psychological and philosophical development.
After Meursault is found guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced
to death, he repeatedly refuses to see the chaplain. The chaplain visits
Meursault anyway, and nearly demands that he take comfort in God.
The chaplain seems threatened by Meursault’s stubborn atheism. Eventually,
Meursault becomes enraged and angrily asserts that life is meaningless
and that all men are condemned to die. This argument triggers Meursault’s
final acceptance of the meaninglessness of the universe.
of the elderly residents at the old persons’ home where Meursault’s
mother lived. Before Madame Meursault’s death, she and Perez had
become so inseparable that the other residents joked that he was her
fiancé. Perez’s relationship with Madame Meursault is one of the
few genuine emotional attachments the novel depicts. Perez, as someone
who expresses his love for Madame Meursault, serves as a foil the
The Examining Magistrate
- The magistrate questions Meursault several times
after his arrest. Deeply disturbed by Meursault’s apparent lack
of grief over his mother’s death, the magistrate brandishes a crucifix
at Meursault and demands to know whether he believes in God. When
Meursault reasserts his atheism, the magistrate states that the
meaning of his own life is threatened by Meursault’s lack of belief.
The magistrate represents society at large in that he is threatened
by Meursault’s unusual, amoral beliefs.
worker at the old persons’ home where Meursault’s mother spent the
three years prior to her death. During the vigil Meursault holds
before his mother’s funeral, the caretaker chats with Meursault
in the mortuary. They drink coffee and smoke cigarettes next to
the coffin, gestures that later weigh heavily against Meursault
as evidence of his monstrous indifference to his mother’s death.
It is peculiar that the court does not consider the caretaker’s
smoking and coffee drinking in the presence of the coffin to be similarly
manager of the old persons’ home where Meursault’s mother spent
her final three years. When Meursault arrives to keep vigil before
his mother’s funeral, the director assures him that he should not
feel guilty for having sent her to the home. However, by raising
the issue, the director implies that perhaps Meursault has done
something wrong. When Meursault goes on trial, the director becomes
suddenly judgmental. During his testimony, he casts Meursault’s actions
in a negative light.
proprietor of a café where Meursault frequently eats lunch. Celeste
remains loyal to Meursault during his murder trial. He testifies
that Meursault is an honest, decent man, and he states that bad
luck led Meursault to kill the Arab. Celeste’s assertion that the murder
had no rational cause and was simply a case of bad luck reveals
a worldview similar to Meursault’s.
of Raymond’s friends, who invites Raymond, Meursault, and Marie
to spend a Sunday at his beach house with him and his wife. It is
during this ill-fated trip to Masson’s beach house that Meursault
kills the Arab. Masson is a vigorous, seemingly contented figure,
and he testifies to Meursault’s good character during Meursault’s
lawyer who argues against Meursault at the trial. During his closing
arguments, the prosecutor characterizes Meursault as a cool, calculating
monster, using Meursault’s lack of an emotional attachment to his
mother as his primary evidence. He demands the death penalty for
Meursault, arguing that Meursault’s moral indifference threatens
all of society and therefore must be stamped out.
of Meursault’s neighbors. Salamano owns an old dog that suffers
from mange, and he frequently curses at and beats his pet. However,
after Salamano loses his dog, he weeps and longs for its return.
His strong grief over losing his dog contrasts with Meursault’s indifference
at losing his mother.
brother of Raymond’s mistress. On the Sunday that Raymond, Meursault,
and Marie spend at Masson’s beach house, Meursault kills the Arab
with Raymond’s gun. The crime is apparently motiveless—the Arab
has done nothing to Meursault. The Arab’s mysteriousness as a character
makes Meursault’s crime all the more strange and difficult to understand.