The Outsider: Chapter Notes – Part 1, Chapter 3
· Meursault goes back to work after returning from his mother’s funeral.
· His boss behaves as he would be expected to and briefly talks to Meursault about his mother.
· When returning from work, Meursault meets his neighbor, Salamano, who is on the stairs with his dog.
· Raymond Sintes, another neighbor, invites Meursault to dinner.
· Over dinner, Raymond requests Meursault’s advice about his story of the mistress: he suspected that his mistress was cheating on him, he beat her, and she left him which ultimately led Raymond into a fight with his mistress’s brother.
· Raymond is still attracted to his mistress, but wants to punish her for her infidelity. His idea is to write a letter to make her return to him and when she does he will sleep with her but spit in her face at the moment of orgasm.
· Raymond then asks Meursault to write the letter, and he does.
· As Meursault returns to his room, he hears Salamano’s dog crying softly.
“…he also wanted to know how old mother was. I said “about sixty” so as not to get it wrong.” (page 29) This sentence leaves the impression that he doesn’t really care for his mother. Most members of society will know their mother’s age, or if not, know the age that she was when she died so this emphasises how Meursault is different to everyone else. In addition to this, “..about sixty..” sounds very casual which enforces the sense of absurdism. It seems that Meursault is only concerned by what is existing now, not what happened ten minutes ago, not what will happen in ten minutes time, at if the only things that are really real and have any real import are those which are immediately impinging on the senses.
When he has made a few simple remarks about Meursault’s mother, Meursault’s boss seems to "regard the matter as closed". The description of this as a “matter” suggests that the whole behaviour of the boss is some kind of routine, which has now been successfully finished. By portraying ‘what you say to someone whose mother has died’ –as a routine, it shows how that it is just a social/ human construct, with no ‘real’ meaning to it.
Neither the external world in which Meursault lives nor the internal world of his thoughts and attitudes possesses any rational order. Meursault has simple and basic reasons for his actions, in other words they are not driven by any higher goal. For instance, he kisses Marie because she looks beautiful when she laughs, not because he loves her.
“Most people don’t like him much … [but] … I have no reason not to talk to him” (page 32) reinforces Meursault’s absurdist views. It seems that Raymond is generally looked down upon by the society in which he lives as he is seen as a womaniser and, possibly, pimp and so Meursault’s choice to be friends with him demonstrates that he does not care what society believes. In this case, Meursault starts talking to Raymond and becomes “mates” with him which shows he is doing what he wants to do, not what society thinks is acceptable. He will talk to whoever he wants to talk to, not ignore those whom society frowns down upon if he wishes in this sense he is, then, an outsider – alienated and alone. On page 32 Camus describes Raymond’s room as “dirty” which suggests how he is a reprehensible character
Raymond’s comment “ ‘Now you’re really my mate’ and used it again that it struck me” emphasises this alienation and disconnection from the world: Meursault’s almost awkward usage of the word suggests that he does not really feel the feelings that should be associated with friendship and is more using a label that he has heard used by other people before but isn’t quite sure how to apply properly.
Absence of Emotion
“he asked me if it didn’t disgust me, I said no” (page 32) shows Meursault’s lack of emotions. It shows us that he does not believe that old Salamano beating his dog is inhuman or cruel. This is perhaps because from Meursault’s point of view absolute moral judgements like ‘cruel’ or ‘wrong’ have no meaning and as such Salamano beating up his dog does not matter because people frowning down upon this act is just a social human construct.
In the quotation "dragging the animal after him as it trailed its feet along the ground, whimpering." may seem like Meursault is feeling sorry for the dog but it is actually him just stating what he sees, and to point out that the readers are part of the society like in the book who probably think it is "dreadful". We read into Meursault the emotions which we feel and we think he should feel. For instance, at the beginning of the chapter when he told his boss about the roller towel, his boss said "it was none the less a detail which didn't matter". Meursault here doesn’t judge him and goes as usually on to the next statement. Here, Camus is trying to show that we should care just as much about a wet roller towel as a dead mother because neither are important in the end.
The routine of Salamano beating his dog reveals how in general our lives are full of routines which we think give them a sort of meaning but, when looked at from the outside, appear ridiculous and their true meaninglessness becomes apparent. The fact that “They look as if they belong to the same species and yet they hate each other” reinforces the ridiculousness of the situation.
Detailed comments on natural surroundings
Throughout the chapters one, two and three, Meursault is always commenting on the natural surroundings in preference to his human or social ones. For example: "We spent a few minutes just watching the boats in the harbor in the burning sun", "The sky was green and I felt happy" and "Outside, everything was quiet and we heard the swish of a car".
There are also detailed observations made by him, which usually people wouldn't make. It emphasizes the importance of the tangible, visible details of the physical world where there is no bigger meaning. Meursault is stating exactly what he sees, yet makes no judgments form them. For example "the spaniel scatters a trail of little drops behind it"
Meursault is amoral, he does make decisions, yet he doesn’t make value judgments about human constructs. For instance when Raymond asks for him for "advice" he doesn’t offer help on his own, until asked and then he said he "didn't mind", even though writing a letter to lure Raymond’s mistress into his trap is obviously a morally dubious thing to do. In both the case of Salamano’s dog and Raymond’s mistress Meursault seems to lack the feelings of sympathy evoked in most readers. As such he seems an outsider from society and he is fraternising with people who are frowned down upon and is not bothered by old Salamano beating his dog where as society finds it “disgusting”
Raymond is Meursault’s neighbour, who says he is "warehouseman", yet known for "liv[ing] off women", in other words, he is a 'pimp', although the reader doesn’t know either way, as Meursault doesn’t think it’s important enough to investigate. We learn that Raymond likes Meursault very much, possibly because Meursault "listen[s] to him", whereas "Most people don't like him very much."
Raymond comes across as a violent character with no respect for women who will do whatever it takes to serve his own interests: the only reason he makes friends with Meursault is for advice and so he could have help with writing a letter to his mistress to “punish” her. He also has "some friends... in the underworld" which may show the type of community he is involved in.
The difference between Raymond and Meursault is that he is more 'normal' compared to Meursault, for example towards the end of the chapter he tells Meursault not to "let go of [him]self", in the matter of his mother's death when he fears that Meursault is becoming emotional (although in actual fact Meursault is just tired and drunk). Camus’ inclusion of Raymond, who is clearly repulsive but who Meursault becomes “mates” with, is used to reinforce the differences between Meursault and the reader – Meursault does not share the same kinds of moral judgements as we do.
Salamano is Meursaut's neighbour; he lives in "one tiny room" with his old dog which suffers from mange. Meursault describes his physical appearance, as him resembling his dog, in fact that "they look like they belong to the same species". Salmano takes his dog "twice a day... for a walk", and constantly abuses it, physically and verbally, which even Raymond finds "dreadful". This suggests again the absurdity of routines.
This chapter is set in Meursault’s neighbour hood and in his apartment block. We see when he is out at Celeste’s restaurant watching Salamano beating his dog, when he is talking with Raymond in Raymond’s apartment and at the very end of the chapter when he is laying in bed in his own apartment.
This is written in chronological order and from Meursault’s point of view (first person) which enables us to see what is happening in Meursault’s head and see the world from a different point of view. Camus uses this technique to make it clear to us how differently Meursault sees the world from everyone else which makes the reader realize that the value judgments society makes about the world, such as when we would describe the treatment of the dog as disgusting, are not inevitable, they are not natural. Instead they are rather just constructs we have created that everyone agrees are true just because everyone else does without stopping to really think things through. His description of the other characters is entirely objective, and on the overall the tone is very dull and isolated.
Unity of Part to Whole:
This chapter develops Meursault as we seem him befriend Raymond, which ultimately leads to his killing of the Arab. Meursault’s absurdist viewpoint is also emphasised by his behaviour towards others which helps establish the ground work for the chapters to come.