I’d lunched, as usual, at Céleste’s restaurant. Everyone was most kind, and Céleste said to me, “There’s no one like a mother.”
Meursault explains what his friend Céleste tells him when at his restaurant. Céleste’s empathetic reaction to Meursault’s mother’s death contrasts wildly with Meursault’s own reaction. In addition, readers note Meursault’s stoic response to Céleste’s kindness. While Céleste reflects the depth of humanity, Meursault remains flat.
Céleste was at his usual place beside the entrance, with his apron bulging on his paunch, his white mustache well to the fore. When he saw me he was sympathetic and “hoped I wasn’t feeling too badly.” I said, “No,” but I was extremely hungry.
On the day after Meursault’s mother’s funeral, he and his friend Emmanuel go for dinner at Céleste’s restaurant after running hard to jump on a passing truck, all for fun. Céleste shows sensitivity to Meursault’s loss, but Meursault again prioritizes his physical sensation of hunger over any emotional response to either his own loss or his friend’s compassion.
Asked if I was one of his customers, he said, “Yes, and a friend as well.” Asked to state his opinion of me, he said that I was “all right” and, when told to explain what he meant by that, he replied that everyone knew what that meant. “Was I a secretive sort of man?” “No,” he answered, “I shouldn’t call him that. But he isn’t one to waste his breath, like a lot of folks.”
Meursault recalls Céleste’s testimony as a character witness at Meursault’s trial. Céleste’s words reveals he respects Meursault for being a man of few words, and yet his defense rings hollow in the courtroom. Later, the judge cuts his testimony short when he states that Meursault’s crime was an accident or simply a stroke of bad luck.
Céleste turned and gazed at me. His eyes were moist and his lips trembling. It was exactly as if he’d said: “Well, I’ve done my best for you, old man. I’m afraid it hasn’t helped much. I’m sorry.” I didn’t say anything, or make any movement, but for the first time in my life I wanted to kiss a man.
In a rare moment of affection and appreciation, Meursault responds to Céleste’s testimony about his character at his trial. Readers observe a budding self-realization here, as if Meursault were a young child just beginning to become aware of his relationship to other human beings. Céleste did his best to be kind and supportive but, in the end, his testimony didn’t help Meursault’s case. Readers learn that, ever the loyal friend, Céleste stays for the remainder of the hearing, leaning forward, not missing a word.
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