The Outsider: Chapter Notes – Part 1, Chapter 5
· Raymond calls Meursault at work to tell him about the Arab men following him around, one of which is the brother of his mistress. He asks Meursault to keep an eye out for them on his way home Page 43.
Raymond invites Meursault and
Marie to his Chalet, just outside
Meursault’s Boss offers him a job in
· In the evening, Marie asks him if he wants to get married. He responds very vaguely and wants to if that’s what would please her. He eventually decides to marry her Page 44-45.
· Meursault’s ability to notice small details about the physical appearances of people is emphasized again as he meticulously describes a woman examining her bill whilst eating dinner at Celestes Page 46.
· Meursault meets Salamano outside his door and learns that he has given up all hope of finding his dog. He also finds out that Salamano got his dog after his wife had passed away. Salamano reveals that he and Meursault’s mother used to be friends and that he was sorry to hear about her death Page 47-48.
Absurdism and the Meaninglessness of Human Life
The theme of Absurdism is conveyed through
the way Meursault carries out his everyday life. This
theme is seen in chapter 5 as Meursault shows how
insignificant he believes life to be. He is offered a new job in
The theme of Absurdism is further conveyed as Meursault has no opinion about even a marriage proposal, responding by merely saying that he “didn’t mind”. Furthermore, as Marie tries to reason with him, saying “that marriage was a serious matter”, and that it required a lot of thought. He undermines her with a blunt “no”, the bluntness of his sentence suggests not only a sense of certainty but, more significantly, the refusal to use more elaborate words or sentences reflects the fact that there are no greater / more elabourate truths or concepts (such as love) in the world and that all we have are bare, basic and dull facts. This is further reinforced when he says that their “love” could be replicated with another woman, if the same situation had arisen. Interestingly Marie’s obliviousness to how Meursault truly feels about her and the fact that he “probably didn’t” love her may be being used by Camus to show how most people (Marie represents every day people) live their lives refusing to appreciate the bare truths of reality and are so obsessed with the routines of life – in this case of love and marriage – that they don’t pay attention to the things that disrupt this routine.
Finally When Raymond beats his ex-girlfriend, Meursault is not shocked and he feels no remorse for the part that he played in inflicting violence on another human being. Later Meursault promises to support Raymond with the police and act as a witness even though he has not witnessed anything. He seems detached and indifferent to the violence and the thought of lying in a court of law.
Camus’s main philosophy that is revealed in this novel is absurdism and that human life has no redeeming meaning or purpose. He argues that the only thing in life is the inevitability of death, because all humans will eventually meet their death, therefore all lives are equally meaningless. As such Meursault is frequently heard to say “I very soon realized that none of it really mattered”. Hence also his indifference to marriage, usually a vital part in a person’s life, Marie cannot understand why Meursault thought that “it really didn’t matter”, but he does and this further marks him out as an ‘outsider’ and ‘stranger’ in contrast to other people.
Throughout the novel there is an ongoing motif of noticing the finer aspects of people’s outward appearance. In chapter 5, Meursault notices a “peculiar little woman” as he is dining at Celeste’s. He scrutinizes her behavior, from her calculation of the tip to the radio program magazine. He also notices the color of the pencil she uses as being blue and observes her “robot-like movements”. This clearly portrays the way in which he studies people’s characteristics and traits, whilst at the time, being isolated from the situation around him (also suggestive of detachment). Furthermore, at this point, absurdism is identified when he begins to follow the lady for no apparent reason, however he ‘fairly soon forgot about her’.
Meursault never forms emotionally attached opinions but simply states descriptions and his immediate sentiment regarding them. When Meursault watches people, he does so passively, absorbing details but not judging what he sees. The style of Meursault’s narration also reflects his interest in the physical aspects of the world around him and is far less curious about the more emotional aspects. We notice this because his descriptions become complex when he discusses topics such as the weather or nature.
Camus describes watching as a mysterious activity. The moments of watching and observation reflect humanities endless search for meaning, which he clearly, finds absurd. As such, Meursault constantly notices background details in the novel; paying attention to everything, because to him everything is equally insignificant and lacks meaning.
Not Doting on Marie
In The Outsider, Meursault is never fully focused on Marie, and tends to point out things in his surroundings, rather than listening to what she has to say. This is shown in chapter 5 as during a walk with Marie he asks her if she has noticed all the other “beautiful women” on the “main streets”. This inability to give her attention gives evidence to the opinion that Meursault’s feelings are mainly based on her physical appearance, rather than personality and emotions and also the idea that he is easily affected by his immediate surroundings as these are the things that are really real.
In Chapter 5, the more affectionate side of Salamano is seen as he shows the first signs of grief after losing his dog. He tells Meursault that he got the dog after his wife died, showing how it filled a void for Salamano and the emptiness he felt after losing his wife. This is further conveyed as he tells Meursault about how he used to have a “right old row” with his dog. This personification reinforces the reading that the dog was merely to fill the hole his wife had left and this in turn suggests that the routine of the dog walking which was ridiculed earlier in the novel actually seems to have been cherished by Salamano as it gave his life some kind of meaning. Camus is using Salamano as an example to show how we rely on routines (in themselves empty or ridiculous) to give our lives meaning and we are at a loss when these are taken from us.
Meursault’s character is further developed as a ‘stranger’, for his decisions and responses are not normal. When Marie asks him about getting married, Meursault responds by telling her that he doesn’t think marriage is an important issue and that he wouldn’t object if she really insisted on this idea, even though he does not love her. Finally, when Salamano explains how the neighbors criticized Meursault for sending his mother to a home, he seems surprised , for he feels that it was the correct decision.
This chapter is set in a number of places: firstly we see Meursault in his office where he is offered the new job and then the chapter progresses to his apartment where Marie presents her idea of marriage. Meursault then goes for a walk and the ends up eating dinner alone at Celeste’ and he finally meets Salamano outside the door to his apartment when he arrives home from dinner.
Unity of Part to Whole
Page 44-45 is very significant as it reinforces Meursault’s absurdist attitude to life and his view that nothing really has any meaning as he tells Marie and his boss that he “really didn’t mind” about the marriage proposal and offer of promotion and that it “didn’t matter”, because “in any case one life as good as another”.