The Outsider by Albert Camus

The Outsider by Albert Camus

Q. Write the summary of The Outsider by Albert Camus.


“The Stranger” (original French title: “L’Étranger”) is a novel by Albert Camus, first published in 1942.

The title of Albert Camus‘ novel was also translated into English as “The Outsider” by British publishers. This version was first published in 1946. The different titles reflect the varied interpretations of Meursault’s character:

“The Stranger” emphasizes his emotional and social detachment. At the same time “The Outsider” underscores his status as an outsider to society’s norms and expectations.

The novel is divided into two parts, each detailing different phases in the protagonist’s life, Meursault (Mewr-so).

The first part contains six chapters, and the second part contains five chapters, for a total of eleven chapters. The novel begins with Meursault receiving news of his mother’s death. The story progresses to cover his indifferent reaction to her death, his subsequent actions, and ultimately his involvement in a murder.

The second part of the novel focuses on Meursault’s time in prison, his trial, and his reflections on life and society as he faces the death penalty. The novel is considered a classic of existentialist literature.

Part One

Chapter 1

The novel “The Outsider” opens with the protagonist, Meursault, receiving a telegram that abruptly informs him of his mother’s death. He reacts with a surprising lack of emotion, noting that he cannot even remember her age.

Despite the news, he calmly arranges to take leave from his job as a clerk in Algiers and travels to Marengo, where his mother had been living in a retirement home.

At the home, Meursault participates in the vigil for his mother, staying up all night beside her coffin. His behaviour during this time is peculiar; he smokes cigarettes, drinks coffee, and engages in mundane conversations with the caretaker, showing an unusual detachment from the situation.

He does not cry or exhibit traditional signs of grief, which draws silent judgments from the other attendees at the vigil and the funeral.

Instead, Meursault is more preoccupied with the situation’s physical discomforts, such as the oppressive heat and the long, tedious walk during the funeral procession.

His indifferent attitude towards his mother’s death introduces him as a character profoundly disconnected from societal norms and expected emotional responses.

Chapter 2

After the funeral, Meursault returns to Algiers and resumes his everyday life with surprising ease. The day following his return, he encounters Marie, a former colleague. They decide to spend the day together, swimming at a public beach.

Meursault enjoys the physical and sensory experiences of the day, particularly the refreshing swim and Marie’s company. Their spontaneity continues as they go to see a comedy film and spend the night together.

Meursault and Marie interact casually. Meursault describes the physical aspect of their relationship without any deep emotional attachment. For him, the day’s activities and his time with Marie are pleasant but not meaningful beyond the immediate enjoyment.

He is straightforward about his feelings—or lack thereof—displaying his characteristic detachment and focus on the present moment without concern for deeper implications or future consequences.

Chapter 3

In Chapter 3 of “The Outsider,” Meursault provides insight into his daily life and the people around him in Algiers. He describes his interactions with various neighbours in his apartment building, most notably Raymond Sintes, who lives on the same floor.

Raymond is known in the neighbourhood for his unsavoury reputation, particularly concerning his relationships with women. Raymond takes a peculiar interest in Meursault, perhaps seeing a kindred spirit of emotional detachment in him.

He confides in Meursault about his troubled relationship with a woman he suspects of cheating. Raymond seeks Meursault’s help to write a letter designed to hurt the woman emotionally, a task Meursault undertakes without moral qualms.

His willingness to assist in such a manipulative endeavour highlights his indifference to social norms and ethical considerations.

This chapter develops Meursault’s relationship with Marie, though he maintains his typical emotional distance. She seems intrigued and somewhat puzzled by his indifferent attitude towards life and relationships.

This chapter also shows Meursault’s routine interactions at his workplace, where he displays competence but no ambition. His boss, who fails to understand Meursault’s lack of career motivation, discusses a potential promotion that Meursault receives with his usual disinterest.

Chapter 4

In Chapter 4 of “The Outsider,” the plot thickens around Meursault’s neighbour, Raymond Sintes. After sending the manipulative letter Meursault helped write, Raymond’s girlfriend returns, leading to a violent confrontation.

Raymond beats her, and the situation escalates to involve the police. Meursault, displaying his characteristic emotional detachment, testifies in favour of Raymond, further entangling himself in his neighbour’s troubled affairs.

He shows no remorse or concern about lying to protect Raymond, indicating a profound disconnection from societal moral values.

Later, Raymond invites Meursault and Marie to spend a Sunday at the beach with his friend, Masson. Meursault agrees, drawn by the prospect of a pleasant outing rather than any sense of loyalty or friendship.

The day is initially enjoyable, with the trio indulging in the simple pleasures of sunbathing and swimming.
However, the beach outing takes a dark turn when Raymond encounters a group of men, including the brother of his beaten girlfriend.

A fight breaks out, and Raymond gets injured. The violence disrupts their carefree day, yet Meursault’s reactions remain curiously muted. He views the altercation and its consequences as inconveniences rather than significant events.

Throughout the chapter, Meursault’s interactions and decisions highlight his profound alienation from emotional engagement and moral judgment. An amoral stance guides his actions; he lives life momentarily without considering ethical considerations.

Chapter 5

In Chapter 5 of “The Outsider,” Meursault’s relationship with Marie grows more serious, at least from Marie’s perspective. She asks him if he loves her, to which Meursault responds honestly that he doesn’t think he does.

Despite his lack of emotional commitment, Marie remains with him, indicating her acceptance of his straightforwardness and her attachment to their relationship’s physical aspect.

Meursault’s inability to forge deeper emotional connections is further highlighted when he reflects on Marie’s questions about their future together, to which he shows little interest or concern.

During this period, Meursault’s employer offered him the opportunity to transfer to Paris. This potential promotion could be a chance for significant personal and professional growth.

However, Meursault reacts indifferently, demonstrating no ambition or desire for change. His boss is baffled by his lack of enthusiasm and ambition, which contrasts with the typical aspirations of his peers.

Meursault also attends his friend Raymond’s invitation to a friend’s beach house, which sets the stage for further developments in his passive involvement in potentially serious matters.

He also spends the weekends lounging on his balcony, observing life on the street below, further illustrating his preference for observation over participation.

Chapter 6

In Chapter 6 of “The Outsider,” Meursault, Marie, and Raymond go to the beach for a relaxing day. They visit a beach house owned by Masson, Raymond’s friend. The day begins well with swimming and enjoying the sun.

However, the atmosphere changes when they encounter a group of Arab men, including the brother of the woman Raymond had a conflict with earlier.

Tensions rise and result in a fight where Raymond gets hurt and cut by a knife. They go back to Masson’s house to treat Raymond’s wound. Later, Meursault decides to walk along the beach alone, where he meets one of the Arab men again.

The sun is very bright, and the heat intense, making Meursault feel overwhelmed and disoriented. The Arab man flashes a knife, and the light from the sun reflecting off the blade momentarily blinds Meursault.

Reacting more to his physical discomfort than any real threat, Meursault shoots the man. After the man falls, Meursault shoots him four more times.

This moment is critical because it shows how Meursault’s passive and detached nature can lead to extreme actions. He does not show any clear motive or emotional response to his actions, treating them as if they were an inevitable result of his circumstances.

Part Two

Chapter 1

Book Two begins with Meursault observing the judicial process calmly and detachedly in prison. He thinks his case is simple and does not hire a lawyer, so the court appoints one.

The lawyer is frustrated by Meursault’s lack of emotional response, particularly regarding his behaviour at his mother’s funeral. Meursault explains that he does not analyze himself and that his physical needs often overshadow his feelings. He insists that he was not holding back any feelings at the funeral.

Meursault is then taken to meet the examining magistrate. The magistrate, passionate about his beliefs, takes out a crucifix and asks Meursault if he believes in God. Meursault’s denial of God’s existence angers the magistrate, who cannot comprehend Meursault’s atheism.

The magistrate becomes increasingly agitated, shouting that all men believe in God and questioning the meaning of his own life if there is no God. Despite the magistrate’s outburst, Meursault remains indifferent. The magistrate eventually calls Meursault “Monsieur Antichrist” and concludes their meeting.

In prison, Meursault initially feels like he is just waiting for something to happen. From his cell, he can see the sea, which comforts him. Marie visits him, and they talk across a wide barrier, shouting to hear each other. Marie encourages him to have hope, telling him that he will be freed and they will get married.

Meursault is distracted by the noise and the interactions of other prisoners and visitors. He focuses on Marie’s presence but is also overwhelmed by the environment.

Soon, Marie writes to inform Meursault that she is no longer allowed to visit because they are unmarried. This marks the point when prison life truly begins for him.

Meursault struggles with his thoughts, longing for the freedom to go to the beach and be intimate with Marie. He befriends the head guard, who explains that prison is meant to take away men’s freedom as a form of punishment.

Meursault accepts this and starts to adapt to his new reality, letting go of his desire for cigarettes and finding some comfort in the routine.

Chapter 2

As Meursault adjusts to prison life, he finds the most challenging part is that his thoughts are still those of a free man. He wants to go to the beach and have sex. Over time, he gets used to the deprivation and accepts his situation.

The head guard explains that the prison’s purpose is to remove freedom, which Meursault had not considered before. He eventually accepts this and adapts to his new circumstances, even finding some aspects of prison life daily.

Meursault spends hours recalling every detail of his apartment in Algiers. He realizes that a man with only one day’s worth of memories could live in prison for a hundred years without getting bored.

This realization helps him cope with his confinement. He learns to sleep for most of the day and finds an old newspaper article that becomes a source of reflection.

The article tells the story of a man who returned to his village anonymously after 25 years of being away. Not recognizing him, his mother and sister bludgeon him to death to rob him.

When they discover his identity, they kill themselves. Meursault finds the story both unlikely and natural, reflecting his view on life’s randomness and the absurdity of human actions.

Time loses meaning for Meursault in prison. The days blend, and only “yesterday” and “tomorrow” hold any significance. When he is told that he has been in jail for five months, he believes it but does not understand it.

He looks at his reflection and realizes he has been talking out loud to himself since he arrived in prison. He recalls the nurse’s words at his mother’s funeral: there is no way out.

Chapter 3

After a year in prison, Meursault’s trial begins. He is curious rather than anxious, seeing it as an opportunity to observe something new. The trial gains attention due to a concurrent parricide case. Meursault feels like an outsider in the busy courtroom filled with reporters, police officers, and lawyers who seem familiar with each other.

The trial focuses heavily on Meursault’s behaviour at his mother’s funeral. Witnesses describe his calm demeanour, lack of tears, and disinterest in viewing the body.

The prosecutor uses this to argue that Meursault is morally corrupt and lacks a soul. Meursault feels the weight of the public’s disdain for the first time. His lawyer tries to counter the prosecutor’s narrative, but the damage is done.

Testimonies from Céleste, Marie, and others about Meursault’s character are overshadowed by the prosecutor’s portrayal of him as a monster. The prosecutor emphasizes Meursault’s association with Raymond, depicting Meursault as a morally bankrupt individual who killed the Arab without remorse.

Meursault realizes that the court is more interested in his perceived character flaws than the actual crime he committed. During cross-examination, Meursault’s lawyer attempts to discredit the witnesses by pointing out inconsistencies in their testimonies.

However, the prosecutor objects loudly, claiming the lawyer is trying to taint the witnesses. The court proceedings continue, with both sides presenting their arguments.

Chapter 4

As the trial continues, Meursault feels disconnected from the arguments being made. The prosecutor argues that Meursault’s crime was premeditated, relying on his insensitivity and association with Raymond as evidence.

Meursault finds the prosecutor’s argument plausible and privately admits he has no remorse. He wishes to explain this calmly to the prosecutor but knows it would not make a difference.

The prosecutor talks about Meursault’s lack of a soul and calls for severe punishment to protect society. He links Meursault’s crime to the parricide case, claiming that both crimes sever the criminals from society in the same way.

The prosecutor argues that Meursault is morally guilty of killing his mother and asks for the death penalty.
When given a chance to speak, Meursault claims he did not intend to kill the Arab and did it because of the sun. The court laughs at his explanation.

Meursault’s lawyer gives his summation, speaking in the first person as if he were Meursault. Meursault finds this tactic ridiculous and feels further excluded from his trial. He notes that his lawyer’s argument about his soul is less compelling than the prosecutor’s.

The jury deliberates briefly and returns with a verdict. Meursault is sentenced to death by guillotine. He feels detached from the formal language of the sentence and the reactions of those around him. The realization of his impending execution sinks in as he is taken back to prison.

Chapter 5

Back in prison, Meursault focuses on the certainty of his execution. He files for an appeal but knows the chances of success are slim.

He regrets not paying more attention to executions in the past, hoping to find a case where chance intervened. This hope for a miraculous escape consumes his thoughts as he waits for the outcome of his appeal.

Meursault thinks about Marie, who has stopped writing to him. He speculates about her fate, feeling indifferent whether she is tired of him, sick, or dead. This indifference highlights his disconnection from the emotional aspects of relationships.

The chaplain visits repeatedly, trying to discuss God and the afterlife with Meursault. Despite the chaplain’s insistence, Meursault rejects these notions, focusing instead on the tangible reality of his earthly existence.

He argues with the chaplain that human justice is the only justice he knows. The chaplain speaks of God’s face and divine justice, while Meursault counters with thoughts of Marie and earthly life.

He insists that none of the chaplain’s certainties are worth one hair of a woman’s head. Meursault declares his certainty in life and death, rejecting the idea that his life could have been any different. He grabs the chaplain by the collar, and guards must separate them.

Exhausted after the encounter, Meursault feels a sense of peace. He thinks of his mother and understands why she took a fiancé at the end of her life. He realizes she feels free and ready to live again, close to death.

Meursault, too, feels ready to live his life over again. He finds comfort in the idea that everyone is equally privileged and condemned and feels a sense of brotherhood with humanity. He wishes for a crowd to witness his execution, feeling less alone in the world.

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