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The Stranger: Part One – Chapter Three

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Summary – Chapter Three

On Monday, Meursault is busy at work and his employer asks if he is not too tired. He then asks his mother’s age. Meursault thinks for a while and answers ‘round about sixty’ as he does not want to make a blunder. He thinks his employer looks relieved as though this closes the matter.


At lunch time, Meursault leaves with Emmanuel and they pause to look at the ships in the harbour. He notes that the sun is scorching hot. A big truck then comes up and Emmanuel suggests they should try to jump it. They have to chase it for a short time and with the heat and the noise Meursault feels ‘half dazed’. However, he reaches it and helps Emmanuel scramble up too. By the time they reach Celeste’s, they are dripping with sweat.


Celeste is sympathetic and asks if Meursault is not feeling too badly. He tells him no but says he is hungry. He then goes home for a nap and returns to work in the stifling office. It comes as a relief when he leaves and strolls along the wharves in the coolness. The sky is green and it is pleasant to be outside, but he returns home for his meal.


The hall is dark and Meursault almost bumps into his neighbor ‘old Salamano’ who as usual has his dog with him. He is described as resembling his dog (which has a skin disease), but despite the resemblance they detest each other. On the regular walk, the dog pulls so hard that Salamano almost falls and then beats the dog. He then has to drag it along and does not let it stop to urinate. This relationship has been going on for eight years.


As he leaves another neighbor (Raymond Sintès) appears. He is known as a pimp locally and is unpopular, but he tells people he is a warehouseman. He often has a word for Meursault, though, and drops in occasionally to talk to him. Raymond, like Celeste, also finds it terrible the Salamano treats his dog and once asked if it did not disgust him. Meursault told him it did not.


Raymond and Meursault go up the stairs together and Meursault accepts his invitation to eat with him, as it strikes him he will not have to cook. His flat is small and Meursault describes it as dirty. Raymond produces a grubby bandage and wraps it around his right hand. He explains he got into a fight with a man that had been looking for trouble.


He then tells Meursault that he would like his advice as he has knocked about the world a bit and will be his pal for life if he can help him. Meursault does not answer, but makes no objection when Raymond asks if he would like to be pals. Raymond goes on to explain that the man he fought with is the brother of a girl he was seeing – he also denies being a pimp. He explains that he found out one day this girl was letting him down but still paid her rent and gave her money for food. He asked her to get a job but she would not. One day, he says he found a lottery ticket in her bag and she would not tell him where she got the money to buy it. He also found a pawn ticket for a bracelet he has never seen before. He presumed infidelity and at first he gave her ‘a good hiding’ (until she started bleeding). He claims he had only beaten her ‘affectionately’ before.


By now, Meursault’s head is buzzing from drinking a bottle of wine. Raymond wants his advice on how to punish her further and asks if he would want to do this. He replies it is difficult to know how to act in such cases, but understands him wanting her to suffer. Raymond explains he wants to write her a letter ‘that’ll get her on the raw’ and at the same time make her repent. Then, when he goes to bed with her and she is ‘properly primed up’, he will spit in her face and throw her out. Meursault agrees this is not a bad plan and says it will punish her alright.


Raymond wants Meursault to write the letter and when Meursault does not respond, Raymond asks if he would not mind doing it right away. He says he will have a shot at it and when Raymond tells him her name he realizes she is a ‘Moor’. He writes it with little trouble and also wants to satisfy Raymond as he sees no reason not to. Raymond is pleased with it and says again how they are pals now. When Meursault makes no response, Raymond prompts him and he says yes, although he does not care one way or the other.


Meursault leaves and on the landing he can hear nothing but the throbbing in his ears. He listens to this for a while and then hears Salamano’s dog moan. He thinks the sound rises slowly through the house ‘like a flower growing out of the silence and the darkness’.


Analysis – Chapter Three

Meursault’s encounter with Raymond and agreement to write the letter for him has a greater significance later in the plot (at Meursault’s trial for murder), but is also worth noting because of his reaction to Raymond’s story. He does not offer a negative judgement of Raymond’s behavior, or Salamano’s, despite knowing that both are inclined to use violence unnecessarily. It is as though Meursault at this point epitomizes amorality as he either remains silent or assists the perpetrator (Raymond) as he knows of no reason not to. His indifference is also notable as he does not mind whether he is ‘pals’ with him or not.


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