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The Stranger: Part Two – Chapter Four

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Summary – Chapter Four

Meursault describes at is always being interesting to hear oneself being talked about, even in the prisoner’s dock. A lot is said about him from both sides and most of it is about him personally than about his crime. There is also little difference between the two speeches from the defence and prosecution, except the defence says there are extenuating circumstances.


Meursault wishes to speak up and it takes quite an effort at times to refrain from doing so. The prosecutor stresses that he sees it as a pre-meditated crime and he shot the man five times to make sure he was dead. He also points out to the jury that Meursault is intelligent and educated, and knows the value of words. It is impossible, therefore, to assume he was unaware of what he was doing. He also says he has shown no regret, and Meursault cannot understand why he harps on this point so much. He agrees that this is right, but still thinks the prosecutor over does it. Meursault would like to explain that he is too absorbed in the present moment, or the immediate future, to think back.


The prosecutor then says that Meursault has no soul and there is nothing human about him. He speaks at greater length about the conduct to his mother and his crime and Meursault loses the thread of the argument. He then pauses and says the crime of parricide pales against ‘the loathing inspired’ by Meursault’s callousness. He accuses him of being morally guilty of his mother’s death and says they will find he is not exaggerating when he says he is also guilty of the murder to be tried tomorrow in this court. He asks for the capital sentence.


The presiding judge asks Meursault if he has anything to say and Meursault says the first thing that crosses his mind, that he had ‘no intention of killing the Arab’. He asks what his motives were and Meursault tries to explain that it was because of the sun but speaks too quickly. He is conscious that he sounds nonsensical and hears people titter. His lawyer is directed to address the court, but he only asks for an adjournment.


The next day the fans still churn the heavy air and his lawyer speaks of Meursault and uses the word ‘I’. Meursault thinks this excludes him further from the proceedings and also thinks his lawyer has less talent than the prosecutor. Only one incident stands out: towards the end of his counsel’s ramblings he hears the tin trumpet of the ice cream vendor in the street. He has a rush of memories ‘of a life which was mine no longer’ and that gave him ‘humble pleasures’. The futility of what is happening here seems to take him by the throat and he then feels like vomiting. He just wants to return to his cell and sleep and sleep. He catches Marie’s eye for the first time, but his heart has turned to stone and cannot even return her smile.


The jury goes out and Meursault is taken to a small room. He is brought back to the court for the verdict and notices the young journalist now has his eyes averted. Meursault is to be decapitated in some public place. He thinks those present have the look of ‘almost respectful sympathy’ and the policeman handles him gently. Meursault has stopped thinking altogether. He hears the judge asking if he has anymore to say and after thinking for a moment says ‘no’ and is led out.


Analysis – Chapter Four

In this pen-ultimate chapter, Meursault receives the death sentence and he stops thinking altogether. The futility of the situation has already dawned on him and his insignificance has been made final in the prosecution’s argument that he is without a soul and is inhuman. He is being prosecuted for murder and is judged by his morality. This same court sentences him to death, and thus the novel highlights the hypocrisy of the state-administered death sentence. 


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