It was quite like old times; a lot of young people were in the swimming pool, amongst them Marie Cardona, who used to be a typist at the office. I was rather keen on her in those days, and I fancy she liked me, too.
Meursault describes meeting Marie in the swimming pool near the harbor the day after Meursault’s mother’s funeral. They spend time together that afternoon and he invites her to a movie that evening. During the movie they fondle, kiss clumsily, and spend the night at Meursault’s flat.
When we had dressed, she stared at my black tie and asked if I was in mourning. I explained that my mother had died. “When?” she asked, and I said, “Yesterday.” She made no remark, though I thought she shrank away a little.
Marie expresses her surprise at Meursault’s black tie, a symbol of mourning. She feels shock he didn’t mention his mother’s death, which deepens to revulsion as he describes the loss that had just happened the previous day. Meursault notices her silent withdrawal from him but draws no conclusion. Although she may have misgivings about going on a date so soon after his mother’s burial, in another instance of absurdity, they proceed to lose themselves in a comedy film.
“Don’t you want to know what I’m doing this evening?” I did want to know, but I hadn’t thought of asking her, and I guessed she was making a grievance of it. I must have looked embarrassed, for suddenly she started laughing and bent toward me, pouting her lips for a kiss.
This exchange between Marie and Meursault happens right after he agrees to marry her even though he admits that he doesn’t love her. His lack of commitment and even concern remains consistent. At this point, she finds him strange but attractive enough, and she must believe that she can change him if she sticks around.
Marie told me I looked like a mourner at a funeral, and I certainly did feel very limp. She was wearing a white dress and had her hair loose. I told her she looked quite ravishing like that, and she laughed happily.
Meursault recalls a time when he and Marie head to the beach with Raymond. Marie ironically mentions that Meursault looks like a mourner, yet readers know he never truly mourned his mother’s death. She maintains a flirtatious and light-hearted attitude toward him, seemingly willing to overlook his lack of emotion and his callous attitude about the ups and downs of daily life.
She was pressing her brown, sun-tanned face to the bars and smiling as hard as she could. I thought she was looking very pretty, but somehow couldn’t bring myself to tell her so.
Meursault describes his initial thoughts and observations when Marie comes to visit him in prison. His reaction reveals his consistent passionless attraction, and his continuing reluctance to express any kind of emotion. Marie tries to keep up a strong persona in light of his dire circumstances. During the visit, she asks Meursault if he has everything he wants, and he replies that yes, he does, an ironic reply since he lacks his own freedom.
I imagine something of the same sort was in Marie’s mind, for she went on smiling, looking straight at me. “It’ll all come right, you’ll see, and then we shall get married.”
In a rare moment of human connection, Meursault reveals a sudden longing to touch Marie’s shoulders. While in a room with many other prisoners and visitors, the two speak loudly over the din and Marie attempts to comfort Meursault with her words. She smiles at him before she gets ready to leave and say what will be her final goodbye. She feigns optimism about his fate, knowing full well that he committed a horrible crime for which he will be punished.
My turn came next. Marie threw me a kiss. I looked back as I walked away. She hadn’t moved; her face was still pressed to the rails, her lips still parted in that tense, twisted smile.
Meursault recalls the final moments of his only visit with Marie while in prison. She tries to be optimistic, but Marie’s true opinion reveals itself in this “tense, twisted smile.” Readers learn that, for Marie, the visit proves awkward and disappointing, since Meursault remains unable and unwilling to express any kind of tenderness or love for her. The next and final time he sees her will be at his trial.
Then all of a sudden Marie burst into tears. He’d got it all wrong, she said; it wasn’t a bit like that really, he’d bullied her into saying the opposite of what she meant. She knew me very well, and she was sure I hadn’t done anything really wrong—and so on.
Meursault describes a portion of Marie’s testimony at his trial. The prosecutor uses her to provide evidence that Meursault visited a swimming pool and began a romantic liaison with her, and then they went to see a comic film—all on the day immediately following his mother’s death. Here, Marie expresses her distress that her words implicated Meursault rather than defended him.
Then I did something I hadn’t done for quite a while; I fell to thinking about Marie. She hadn’t written for ages; probably, I surmised, she had grown tired of being the mistress of a man sentenced to death. Or she might be ill, or dead. After all, such things happen.
Meursault reflects on Marie while sitting in his cell, waiting for news of his appeal and thinking about his imminent death. He lists possible explanations for her lack of letters, from indifference to illness to death, all equally plausible and none of any concern to him. Callous to the end, he reflects that death happens. This leads to the conclusion that others will feel this way about him after his death, an idea that he realizes he will get used to in time.