The Stranger

by: Albert Camus

Part One: Chapters 2–3

Summary Part One: Chapters 2–3

Meursault’s interactions with Marie on the beach show the importance he places on the physical aspects of existence. He reports to us almost nothing about Marie’s personality, but he carefully describes their physical interactions. The prose in his description of lying on the float with Marie and looking up at the sky is unusually warm and heartfelt. In this passage, it even seems that Meursault is happy. When he describes watching people from his balcony the following day, he again seems content.

While watching from his balcony, Meursault does not express any sort of judgment about the people he sees—he simply notices their primary characteristics. While the people he watches obviously attach great importance to their own activities, Meursault sees them as just part of another Sunday, like any other. Throughout the novel, Meursault plays this role of the detached observer. Just as he does not pass judgment on those he sees from far above on his balcony, so too does he refrain from judging the more significant characters with whom he interacts throughout the novel. Meursault will not commit to either condemning or defending Salamano’s treatment of his dog. Likewise, while he does not expressly condone Raymond’s treatment of his mistress, neither does Meursault refuse to participate in Raymond’s scheme.

Meursault and Raymond seem to display similarly indifferent responses to the world around them, but Raymond in fact serves as a foil for Meursault. In contrast with Meursault, who is amoral, meaning he does not make moral distinctions, Raymond is clearly immoral: he beats up his mistress and he fights with her brother. Moreover, Raymond’s manner of convincing Meursault to assist him in his scheme to take further revenge on his mistress seems somewhat manipulative. Raymond’s plan for revenge crystallizes the distinction between Meursault and Raymond. Raymond plans to make love to his mistress and then spit in her face. He uses the physical act of sex as a tool for humiliation and revenge. Meursault, conversely, sees his sexual affair with Marie as a source of delight, in much the same way that he responds positively to other physical aspects of life.