The Outsider: Chapter Notes – Part 1, Chapter 4



·         In this Chapter Meursault meets with Marie again and they go to another beach.

·         Marie stays the night at his house. The next morning they are interrupted by loud noises from the fight between his neighbor, Raymond, and his mistress.

·         The police are called and Raymond is taken away and the mistress is asked to leave.

·         Marie leaves and Meursault goes back to bed, he is woken by Raymond, they go for a walk and he is asked to be a witness in court.

·         Salamano loses his dog and, later, the old man asked Meursault what will happen if someone finds his dog. Meursault explains that the pound would keep the dog if they found him for three days, after which they would deal with him in a way that seemed fit to them.

·         After this Meursault heard Salamano pacing up and down before sitting on his bed, and Meursault realized that Salamano was crying.




Physical Attraction but not ‘love’

Meursault shows a lot of physical attraction towards Marie. For example page 38: ‘sparkling eyes’, ‘when she laughed I fancied her again’. These lines are all showing that his feelings of attraction towards Marie are real and true however there is nothing more to it. There is no ‘love’ or greater justification.


This is most obviously shown by Meursault’s response to when Marie asks if he loves her, he says: ‘I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so.’ This shows that Meursault does not believe in anything more elevated then attraction between two people. He doesn’t believe in the human construct idea of ‘love’.


In this line the words: ‘it didn’t mean anything’, are very significant as they could mean a number of different things. Primarily it could be interpreted as: it simply doesn’t matter in general: there is no real or objective importance to the idea of love, this ‘it doesn’t matter’ is a reoccurring motif throughout the book. Another way to interpret this line is that: it doesn’t matter to him, so he sees no sense in this idea of love, which is also a clearly well supported idea throughout the book. Either statement reinforces the sense of Meursault’s disbelief in the human constructed idea of ‘love’, instead, he only believes in the attraction between two people and of nothing greater than that.



Throughout the chapter, we sense a lack of externally authenticated meaning. The only judgments and justifications we get are entirely human and the majority are linked to simple pragmatic truths: “I really fancied her because she was wearing a pretty red dress and leather sandals. The observations he makes are realistic and completely down to earth and do not call on any higher idea or higher power to validate them. This contrasts with Marie who appeals to the concept of ‘love’ when she asks whether Meursault loves her or not, to which he replied “It didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so” thus suggesting that in actual fact Meursault has believes / has realized that the ideas to which Marie is referring are not really real – they are just human constructs and so easily dismissed.


Equally Meursault is seemingly oblivious to things which would spark outrage to the modern man, for instance when he says “So we made our way slowly back and he kept telling me how pleased he was that he’d managed to punish his mistress. I found him very friendly towards me and I thought it was a good moment”. This serves to indicate how much of a stranger / outsider Meursault is but is probably also meant to reveal to the reader how the ideas and judgments which we take for granted are not felt by everyone and are therefore not as obvious and indubitable as we have previously felt.


Meursault’s absurdist view can also be seen in his reaction to the police turning up at his friend’s house, he doesn’t seem moved by the incident and simply goes back to sleep again when it is over, ‘I slept for a bit’ page 40. This is absurdist as he does not feel the necessity that we would usually feel, to be concerned or curious about how his ‘mate’ is and what happened at the police station. This is emphasized when Raymond returns from the police station and Meursault doesn’t rush to make sure his ok when he turn up as his door instead he stays in bed: “…Raymond came in. I didn’t get up.’ and doesn’t ask questions or feel the need to act worried or supportive for his friend.


The Importance of the Present

In the chapter you can see that Meursault is not concerned with the past or the future, instead, he only sees importance in the present. This can be seen on page 38 where he says “When she laughed, I fancied her again.” This shows, that he love her permanently or believe that he is going to love her forever. Instead, he seems to feel something more akin to lust or infatuation for her beauty when she smiles, or when she looks particularly beautiful at a given moment. This is reinforced at the end of the chapter, on page 42, where he mentions his mother; ‘I thought of mother. But I had to get up early in the morning’. This shows that he also does not dwell in the past. He is not interested in the past event and instead only is worried about the present moment, as he adds, ‘but I had to get up early in the morning’.




‘It doesn’t matter’

This phrase is repeated in this chapter suggesting the unimportance of everything. The absence of meaning is emphasized by the repetition of this phrase throughout the book.


“Filthy lousy animal”

Throughout the chapter the phrase, “Filthy lousy animal” is used repeatedly and amongst other things it helps to draw attention to that fact that Meursault doesn’t respond to basic human constructs. We might expect that after hearing such abuse and indeed witnessing it too Meursault would be outraged by the way in which Salamano treats his dog, ‘man’s best friend’. However this doesn’t seem to have any effect on Meursault.


“They’ll take him away from me”

In contrast to the above this is phrase also recurs throughout the final part of the chapter, Salamano appears genuinely worried and indeed upset following the disappearance of his dog. His emotions completely contradict the manner in which we had seen Salamano treat his dog in the previous chapters. He worries that if he can’t find him no one will take him in, “but they won’t, everyone’s disgusted by his scabs.” What’s ironic here is that Salamano is worried for his dog because he may not find proper care due to his lack in appearance, an appearance that he created through constant abuse, which is on top of the skin disease that he developed. It’s absurd. Salamano cares for his dog in such a devoted manner that we have to question where that care has emerged from, especially as it was clear from his previous behaviour that really he didn’t care for the dog at all. Perhaps this shows that we become so attached to our routines (taking the dog for a walk, beating the dog and swearing at the dog) that when they are broken we can’t bear it.


Constant sensory observations

“I really fancied her because she was wearing a pretty red dress and leather sandals”, again Camus makes Meursault dwell on Marie’s appearance. His reasoning for pursuing her is clear physical which can be seen clearly in the contrast between “She asked me if I loved her, I told her that it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so” and “You could see the shape of her firm breasts and her suntanned face was like a flower”.




Meursault’s neighbors Raymond and Salamano are both significant, as they are both social outcasts and yet Meursault doesn’t display any discomfort or other socially expected reactions towards them.


Salamano’s relationship with his dog is poor. He always calls it a ‘Filthy, lousy animal’ and doesn’t treat it well. The image that we get from the description of the relationship between him and his dog is something that usually people would frown upon however, Meursault does not respond to them in a negative way and treats them in the same way that he would treat everyone else. Another, more extreme example of a socially unacceptable person is Raymond. His vengeful actions against his ex-mistress show that he isn’t a person that society would embrace. Nevertheless, Meursault on the other hand expresses his like for Raymond and shows how much he likes him. This shows Meursault’s absurdist attitude, and shows his disbelief in the artificial construct of these socially based expectations and emotions.



Imagery and Setting:

Firstly the scene is set when Meursault describes the day he had prior to seeing a film with Emmanuel. He had gone with Marie a few miles out of Algiers by bus “to a little beach surrounded by rocks and bordered inland by reeds”. This setting is perhaps used by Camus to reveal the vitality of nature over the obviously human construct of the city, for example the phrase; ‘long, lazy waves’ creates a relaxed atmosphere in these natural surroundings. It is also clear that, once out of the city, the description of the surroundings become more vivid and the relationship between Marie and Meursault becomes more passionate as she “clung to me in the water. She pressed her mouth to mine. Her tongue cooled my lips and we rolled in the waves for a while.”


From then on the chapter is set in Meursault’s building, where Raymond and Salamano also live. Meursault is able to oversee a lot of activity; in this chapter Meursault’s sense of hearing is accentuated in that he is constantly listening to Raymond and Salamano in their different apartments. He hears Raymond unleashing a ferocious beating on his mistress at one point and in another he listens closely as he can hear Salamano crying for his lost dog. Camus reliance on the sense of hearing could perhaps be used to suggest, once again, Meursault’s alienation from everyone else. Aware of what is going on around him but unmoved to respond Meursault simply listens.



Narrative Style:

The narrative style of this chapter is very simple as in the chapters prior. On page 37, when Meursault describes his surroundings in nature he uses long, detailed sentences, suggesting the depth of his feelings and how comfortable he is with the area e.g. “The four o’clock sun wasn’t too hot, but the water was warm and rippled with long, lazy waves.” However, when he feels restricted and usually when he is inside his sentences become short and dull. They almost seem to be suggesting the meaninglessness of things constructed by humans by implying that (almost literally) there is nothing more to be said other then what he is stating, e.g.: ‘She looked sad.’ Page 38 or, ‘I didn’t get up.’ Page 40.



Relation of Part to Whole:

The paragraph: ‘We went out…good moment’ on page 40, seems to sum up the chapter very well as it creates an absurdist atmosphere, and shows Meursault’s unusual ideas: Raymond asks him if he would like to go to a brothel, and he says no (because he doesn’t want to), then Raymond talks about his old mistress and how he thinks he has punished her enough this time. After this ‘awkward’ conversation Meursault comments: ‘I found him very friendly towards me and I thought it was a good moment’. This is the most convincing demonstration of his absurdist attitude and the lack of usual human feelings that that he feels. In this instance he doesn’t feel awkward, in a situation that someone would usually feel extremely uncomfortable in, he concludes with how much he likes his new friend.


Overall the chapter shows us Meursault’s lack of belief in any kind of human construct. He doesn’t share society’s expectations of a reaction towards a tragedy. He doesn’t believe in the greater picture of love, or in the need to feel awkward in a silence or during a ‘strange’ conversation. Previously, this has also been evident in his discomfort in enclosed human constructed buildings, his preference to nature and his description of the people in the old people’s home as ‘inmates’. The characters of Raymond, Salamano and Marie are all used to reveal just how much of a ‘stranger’ Meursault is.


This in turn develops Meursault’s refusal to invest anything with a greater significance that it immediately has to him and thus his unflinching awareness of the absence of meaning in the artificial human construct of life.