The Stranger: Part One – Chapter Five

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Summary – Chapter Five

Raymond rings Meursault at the office and tells him a friend of his (to whom he has mentioned Meursault) has invited him to spend next Sunday at his seaside bungalow outside Algiers. Meursault says he would have been delighted, but has arranged to see a girl. Raymond says she can come too as his friend’s wife will be pleased to not be the only woman. Meursault would like to hang up as his employer does like employees having private calls, but Raymond also has further news. He says he has been shadowed all morning ‘by some Arabs’ and thinks one of them is the brother of the girl he had a ‘row’ with. He wants Meursault to tell him if he sees him later, and Meursault promises to do so.


His employer then sends for him and at first he is worried that he is to be told off for taking the call. However, it transpires he has called him to let him know they are opening a branch in Paris and wants to know if Meursault would like a post there. He says he is prepared to go, but also says he does not care one way or the other. His employer asks if ‘a change of life’ does not appeal, and Meursault answers that one never changes ‘one’s real life’ and one is as good as another anyhow. At this, his employer looks a little hurt and accuses him of lacking ambition; this is seen as a grave defect in business.


Meursault returns to his work and thinks how, by and large, his life is not unpleasant. He considers how he had ambition as a student, but when he had to drop his studies he realized ‘all that was pretty futile’. Later, Marie visits him at home and she asks if he would marry her. He tells her he does not mind and will if she is keen. She asks again if he loves her and he replies as he did before and still supposes not. She remarks that marriage is a serious matter and he answers ‘no’. She calls him a ‘queer fellow’ and supposes this is why she loves him, and why one day she might hate him. He has nothing to say to this.


They go for a walk and he notices the women are ‘good-lookers’ and she agrees. He invites her to dinner at Celeste’s, but she says she is already booked for this evening. She asks if he wants to know what she is doing and although he did, he had not thought of asking.


He eats at Celeste’s and an ‘odd-looking little woman’ joins him at his table. He watches her pay meticulous attention to her bill and her radio magazine. After she leaves, he follows her for a short distance (having nothing better to do) and her pace is so fast he turns back to home and forgets about the ‘little robot’ (as he thinks of her).


At home, he runs into Salamano and asks him into his room. He tells Meursault his dog is definitely lost as he has visited the pound. He says he does not want another one as he has got used to this one. Meursault finds him ‘rather boring’ but has nothing to do and is not sleepy, so keeps the conversation going. Salamano tells him he got the dog after his wife died and fed it from a bottle at first. He also used to rub ointment on the dog when it developed the skin disease, but this did no good. He then says how Meursault’s mother loved it and although some of the people in the area say nasty things about Meursault sending his mother to the home, he knows he was devoted to her.


Meursault answers that he is surprised to learn he has created this bad impression and as he could not afford to keep her here it seemed obvious to send her there. He adds that she had not spoken to him for years and he could see she was ‘moping’. As Salamano gets up to leave, he offers Meursault his hand to shake for the first time since they have known each other, and Meursault feels the scales on his skin. Salamano says he hopes they will not hear the dogs bark as he always thinks it is his.


Analysis – Chapter Five

Meursault’s indifference to ambition is made apparent in this chapter as he implies he does not care either way if he goes to Paris for the company. A little of his background is explained when he tells how he used to be ambitious, but when he had to give up his studies he saw it as ‘futile’. He is unwilling, or unable, to look to the future with either positive or negative emotions. He lives for the moment and nothing more. This is further made evident when Marie asks again if he loves her and he answers the same (that he supposes not). The honesty of his answer is countered by his apparent coldness towards relationships.


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