Raymond Sintes, another neighbor, invites Meursault to dinner. Raymond is widely believed to be a pimp, but when anyone asks about his occupation he replies that he is a “warehouseguard.” Over dinner, Raymond requests Meursault’s advice about something, and then asks Meursault whether he would like to be “pals.” Meursault offers no objection, so Raymond launches into his story.
Raymond tells Meursault that when he suspected that his mistress was cheating on him, he beat her, and she left him. This altercation led Raymond into a fight with his mistress’s brother, an Arab.Raymond is still attracted to his mistress, but wants to punish her for her infidelity. His idea is to write a letter to incite her guilt and make her return to him. He plans to sleep with her, and “right at the last minute,” spit in her face. Raymond then asks Meursault to write the letter, and Meursault responds that he would not mind doing it. Raymond is pleased with Meursault’s effort, so hetells Meursault that they are now “pals.” In his narrative, Meursault reflects that he “didn’t mind” being pals with Raymond. As Meursault returns to his room, he hears Salamano’s dog crying softly.
Analysis: Chapters 2–3
Meursault appears heartless for failing to express grief or even to care about his mother’s death. Yet to condemn and dismiss him risks missing much of the meaning of thenovel. The Stranger, though it explores Camus’s philosophy of the absurd, is not meant to be read as a tale containing a lesson for our moral improvement. Camus’s philosophy of the absurd characterizes the world and human existence as having no rational purpose or meaning. According to Camus’s philosophy, the universe is indifferent to human struggles, and Meursault’s indifferent personality embodiesthis philosophy. He does not attempt to assign a rational order to the events around him, and he is largely indifferent to human activity. Because Meursault does not see his mother’s death as part of a larger structure of human existence, he can easily make a date, go to a comedy, and have sex the day after his mother’s funeral. Meursault is Camus’s example of someone who does not need a rationalworld view to function.
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, iteven 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 asjust 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...