The Stranger: Part One – Chapter Four

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Summary – Chapter Four

Meursault is busy through the week at the office and Raymond drops in once to tell him he has dropped the letter off. He also goes to the cinema twice with Emmanuel. On Saturday, he sees Marie as they arranged and they go to the beach. She stays at Meurault’s place that night and agrees to stay for lunch. They hear Salamano with his dog on the stairs and Marie laughs when he tells her about them.


She then asks Meursault if he loves her and he says that sort of question has no meaning, but supposes he does not. She looks sad for a while, but brightens when they prepare the meal. They hear a row start in Raymond’s room as he bawls that ‘she’ has let him down; thuds and screams can also be heard. Marie says, ‘isn’t it horrible’ and Meursault says nothing. She asks him to fetch a policeman and he tells her he does not like them.


Another neighbor turns up with one though and Raymond opens the door the second time he knocks. He tells Raymond to remove the cigarette from his mouth and smacks his face when he refuses to. The girl in Raymond’s room is sobbing and calls Raymond a pimp. He refutes this and says to her that they will meet again. The policeman tells the girl to leave and orders Raymond to stay here until he is summoned to the police station. They all leave and Meursault and Marie finish preparing lunch. She has no appetite and he eats nearly all of it.


After Marie leaves, Meursault takes a nap and Raymond comes to see him at around 3pm. He explains it had been going ‘as per programme’ until the girl slapped him and ‘he’d seen red’ and beaten her. Raymond wants to know if he expected him to return the blow when the policeman smacked him, and Meursault tells him he had not expected anything whatsoever and has no use for the police. Raymond is pleased with this and also asks him to be his witness. Meursault has no objections, but does not know what to say. Raymond explains that he wants him to tell the police that the girl let him down and he agrees.


They go out together to a cafe and play billiards, but Meursault declines the idea of going to a brothel (as Raymond proposes) as he does not feel like it. On their way home, they see Salamano without his dog. He tells them the dog slipped his collar at the fair and is worried it will be put down by the police if they find it as it is bald and covered in scabs. Meursault says it could be in their pound and Salamano falls into a rage at the prospect of paying for the return of the dog. Meursault and Raymond go into their building and minutes later Salamano comes to see Meursault and asks if they will really take the dog from him. He also says that he does not know what he will do if this happens. Meursault replies that as far as he knows they keep them for three days before putting them down. Salamano looks at him in silence and says ‘good evening’. Later, Meursault hears him pacing then weeping and ‘for some reason’ (in Meursault’s words) he begins to think of his mother.


Analysis – Chapter Four

Salamano’s relationship with his dog takes a different turn as he loses him and then comes to mourn over the loss of him. As depicted in the previous chapter, he treats him with recurring cruelty, but once he has gone he is bereft. It is impossible to know if (at this point) he simply misses the power he had over a defenceless animal, or if he did care for it after all. The point is made, however, that despite the antagonism, this was a relationship of sorts that would have continued until one of them died if the dog had not escaped. Having a form of mastery over the animal entailed that he had a portion of control; without the dog, he is nothing.


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