The Outsider: Chapter Notes – Part 2, Chapter 1
· Meursault has been arrested due to killing the man on the beach. He is consequently questioned several times throughout the chapter.
· In order for Meursault’s case to be represented, a lawyer is appointed to him. The lawyer visits him at the prison and proceeds to ask him questions about his private life such as his Mother’s funeral.
· Afterwards, Meursault is taken to the examining magistrate again where he is questioned about the exact story of the day of the crime, and like the lawyer; the magistrate becomes flustered as he too doesn’t understand Meursault and why he shot at a dead body.
· As a result, the magistrate takes out a crucifix and begins to passionately tell Meursault about God. Meursault however, tells him that he doesn’t believe in God and becomes annoyed since he feels that the magistrate doesn’t understand him. The magistrate is shocked by Meursault’s soul.
· Meursault (accompanied by his lawyer) then frequently goes to the examining magistrate to clarify details from previous statements or charges are discussed with his lawyer. The magistrate no longer brings up God and Meursault feels that the discussions have become friendly and actually enjoys the 11 months of the investigation.
Meursault’s 11 month stay in prison further accentuates his disconnection from the rest of the world (his friends, Marie, etc) and in this sense it echoes the Sunday afternoon on his balcony as it gives him more of an opportunity to observe the world and think. Equally prison life with its obvious and prescribed routines, like the nursing home at the start of the novel, may be used as another microcosm of society the purpose of which is to make it more evident to the reader how life both inside and outside the prison walls follows a set pattern. Day to day, all the inmates follow the same empty routines which they are forced to follow therefore this reinforces the futility of their life. Camus has specifically used the word ‘game’ to convey the message of how life is playing a trick on us and we are simply the naïve characters in the game. Camus may be trying to imply that whether an individual is in prison or not, death is inevitable therefore emotions, love and reason are simply human constructs which ‘don’t mean anything’.
The theme of Absurdism is immediately presented as Meursault does not seem to want a lawyer help defend him in his court case. It is as if he has realized that his own trial and life or death are another meaningless thing and so doesn’t really see what all the fuss is about. Meursault’s perspective of how meaningless life really is, is clearly presented as he “could not be bothered” to defend himself and simply ‘agreed with him’ to prevent conversation when being questioned by the magistrate because “it was all really a bit pointless”. Not only in this chapter, but in the rest of the novel do we sense an absence of emotion (Page 64) Meursault “displayed a lack of emotion” on the day of his mother’s funeral which causes him to be viewed as an ‘outsider’ as you are ‘supposed’ to feel some sort of remorse on an occasion like this.
He also speaks matter of factly suggesting that he doesn’t really care how much trouble he is actually in. This is highlighted when Meursault states things such as “at first I didn’t take him seriously” (page 63) and “it all seemed like a game” (page 64). His life is on the line yet he continues to even forget that he himself is a criminal. This is shown in instances such as when he was going to shake the magistrate’s hand “but [remembers] just in time that [he had] killed a man” (page 64) and “I realized I was like them too” (in regard to criminals on page 69). By calling the situation he is in as a “game” Meursault is showing that he doesn’t believe in the constructs of law and order that humans have created.
Moreover, the connotations of ‘game’ portray how he feels that there is no greater meaning, no higher power above the game. You can play, make a mistake, and start over. This idea reflects with his consistency in just playing along in situations, shown in instances such as when Raymond asks Meursault to support him with this alibi against Raymond’s mistress. Game also suggests that the rules are arbitrary that we live our life by are arbitrary, like the rules of any game there is nothing real about them and they only apply to you because you have decided to ‘opt in’ to the game and have agreed to play by those rules. When playing football, for example, you are not allowed to touch the ball with your hands but that does not mean that there is anything really and absolutely wrong with touching a ball with your hands as the game of Rugby shows and neither game or set of rules is in any sense better than the other – they are both just games. In a sense Camus might be trying to point out that all of the laws (both moral and legal) that we live our lives by are no more solid or ‘real’ than the rules of the games we play. We all agree that ‘murder is wrong’ but, for Camus, possibly, this statement isn’t any weightier than the rule ‘Don’t touch the ball with your hands when playing football’.
In addition, Meursault refuses to hide his true feelings, and when asked if he regretted the crime by the magistrate, a typical question, he replies that he feels more annoyance about it than true regret (page 69). A sense of guilt is missing here because Meursault holds no belief in universal morals or at personal levels. It is because Meursault doesn’t lie that the rest are threatened, the magistrate and society. He says what he actually feels and feels no need to do or say otherwise. For example, this ‘truth’ is shown earlier on in the chapter where the lawyer asks Meursault if he could say that he’d controlled his natural feelings at his Mother’s funeral (page 65) but Meursault refuses because it wasn’t true. Even if lying would help him with his case, Meursault still refuses. The lawyer in turn, seems “slightly disgusted” partly because Meursault lacks the normal human emotions but also possibly because he senses a challenge to his own routine – criminals who want to be found innocent give the lawyer a game to play, a meaning and if Meursault is content being proved guilty then that would undermine the ‘game’ of law and the meaning that the lawyer thinks he has in his life. The reason for Meursault telling the truth is that he finds no point in lying. He knows he is responsible of the crime he has committed and will accept the consequences accordingly. As a result, Meursault feels misunderstood by the lawyer and magistrate and towards the end of the chapter they begin to simply overlook him in meetings.
Moreover, the chapter explores people’s natural reaction to Meursault’s actions and behaviors. The Lawyer seemed to be ‘disgusted’ by him when he stated that he didn’t believe in God merely because there was no tangible proof that god existed. Furthermore, when Meursault was unsure about whether or not he loved his mother, the lawyer “looked at him in a peculiar way” and was “looking very flustered” therefore he made Meursault promise not to say that at the hearing since this would cause the judge to rule against him which reinforces the distance Meursault has with the society and why he is classed as ‘The Outsider’.
A Stochastic Universe
The theme of a stochastic universe is presented in this chapter in the quotation: “In the same breath, he asked me if I loved mother. I said, ‘Yes, like everyone else,’ and the clerk, who until now had been tapping away regularly at his typewriter, must have hit the wrong key, because he got in a muddle and had to go back” (page 69). There is no greater reason as to why the clerk hit the wrong key, as it ‘just happens.’ The occurrence is arbitrary. This sense of arbitrariness is further outlined by the fact that the shooting happened in the first place. Circumstantial things such as the sun and ocean had a big impact on Meursault and so it seems that our actions are just as arbitrary as our accidents. This may be the reason why Meursault shot another four times (page 67), in fact reason is the wrong word, it just sort of happened and there is no real reason for it because those kind of explanations that make sense of the world don’t really exist.
The theme of religion is explored in this chapter when the magistrate decides he wants to ‘help’ Meursault (page 67-68). The magistrate takes out a silver crucifix and comes towards Meursault “brandishing it” (page 67). The word “brandishing” suggests that the crucifix is like a weapon; that the magistrate is preparing to battle with Meursault and his differences, because as a Absurdist, the idea of a God or higher power is not accepted. The idea of the magistrate battling Meursault is further supported when he “[draws] himself up to his full height and [asks Meursault] if [he] believed in God” (page 68). Thus, the magistrate is trying to appear big and overwhelming. The narration of this section is written in a cold manner and exaggerates the fact that the magistrate is telling Meursault that he believed in God, rather than telling Meursault about God.
In the final line of the chapter, Meursault states (page 70) “And by the end of the eleven months which this investigation lasted, I must say I was almost surprised that I’d ever enjoyed anything other than those rare moments when the magistrate would escort me to his door of his study, slap me on the shoulder and say in a friendly voice, ‘That’s all for today, Mr. Antichrist.’ I would then be put back in the hands of the police.” This quotation suggests that the magistrate has given up. By referring to Meursault as “Mr. Antichrist” the connotations suggests that the magistrate believes he is pure evil and has no soul as Meursault seems to not regret what he has done – to murder someone and to continue to shoot at a lifeless body. However, the contrast between “Antichrist” and how the magistrate says it in a friendly voice creates a sense of irony. Indeed it seems as if the magistrate and Meursault have fallen into another routine, which given the nature of their relationship and the friendliness the religious magistrate shows towards the Anti-Christ is faintly ridiculous or absurd.
The recurring motif of sun/light is once again shown when Meursault is asked why he paused between his first shot and the following four shots (page 67), Meursault sees the “red beach in front of [him] and [feels] the burning sun on [his] forehead.” He doesn’t answer the question because one may think that he doesn’t know how to answer the question as the magistrate wouldn’t be able to understand the power that the sun has over him; wouldn’t be able to relate or the magistrate would just think that that is a silly reason as he may think external conditions can not affect someone in such a manner.
Another recurring motif in the book is the sense of routine, as well as pointlessness. “Raymond, the beach, the swim, the fight, the beach again, the little spring, the sun and the five shots” The way Meursault describes his day almost seems mechanical ‘well organized’ and robotic, as though he ‘cannot be bothered’ to describe it in detail. The use of short words inside the short sentence causes us to believe that the tone is supposed to be quite cynical and seems as though he is mocking the magistrate since he has not realized that his questioning ‘does not really matter’. This marks him out as a stranger, someone who is different to most other people since most people would defend themselves therefore they would tell the examining magistrate everything they know.
This may suggest that although Meursault claims to be “just like everyone else,” it seems that he has realized a ‘truth’ about life which no one else has and so everyone else actually finds him repulsive and as a result, he is seen as disgusting; a man that is always misunderstood because no one else knows or understands the ‘truth’ that he has seen. This ‘truth’ sets him apart from everyone else, creating a void of understanding. Hence, “He didn’t understand me and he rather held it against me. I wanted to assure him that I was just like everyone else, exactly like everyone else. But it was all really a bit pointless and I couldn’t be bothered.”
Throughout the chapter, Meursault clearly focuses on empirical truths for example, the description of the lawyer’s external appearance rather than the lawyer’s personality because he realizes that ‘emotions’ are merely another human construct which legitimately ‘don’t matter at all’. Camus is using Meursault to convey the idea that the exterior appearance of people can be just as important as the inside when usually we would say that it is the personality really matters.
The phrase “It really didn’t matter that much”
Throughout the chapter (and the novel), this phrase and related phrases are repeated constantly to emphasize the meaninglessness of life and to show how insignificant emotions are. This is further emphasised when Camus makes Meursault pay attention to sensory details such as the external features of the magistrate or the lawyer, as they are the only tangible things that are real.
(Page 65) “I probably loved mother quite a lot, but that didn’t mean anything” Meursault seems to dismiss any sign of emotion as he realizes that it simply does not matter therefore he finds no reason to believe why he ‘should’ love his mother. Meursault is constantly at war with his own perspectives and what society expects from him. As he ‘probably’ loved his mother, this may show that Meursault is ‘meant’ to because the whole of society does, therefore this clearly segregates him from the rest of the society because naturally, you are meant to love your mother since she gave birth to you, however he is uncertain whether or not he does.
Death and Decay:
The inevitability of death is the only truth in life. Not only does Camus explore death as a predictable reality in this chapter but, in the entire novel he presents death to be something which shouldn’t be grieved over since Meursault feels no sorrow when someone as close as his ‘mother’ dies. Furthermore, since Meursault remembered that he “killed a man”, no sign of emotion is portrayed as one would never forget about these thoughts, whereas nothing really matters from Meursault’s perspective therefore it is not important to him. (Page 64) “I was even going to shake his hand, but I remembered just in time that I’d killed a man” It takes Meursault to be situated in a police station and be questioned by the examining magistrate for him to remember that he had killed someone since these are the only tangible things that give the event any sort of meaning.
Again the focus in Meursault and once again Meursault’s is presented as someone who merely accepts everything to simply please people because he is coming to the realization that death is inevitable therefore human constructs are essentially not important. In contrast from when he was younger, he now “got out of the habit of analyzing’ himself which further emphasizes how his perspective has changed from what it used to be and what ours still is. Furthermore, Meursault is considered to be the outcast as the other characters such as the lawyer and the examining magistrate had never ‘seen a soul as hardened’ as his and are shocked not only by his indifference to the fact that he had killed someone, but also how he is unsure about his love towards his mother.
The stenographer in this chapter may seem to be an insignificant character but he plays some significance because he demonstrates how Meursault is completely segregated from society. When the magistrate asked Meursault whether or not he loved his mother and he replied ‘probably’ the stenographer immediately “got in a muddle and had to go back” possibly suggesting that this character is a spokesperson who resembles the way others see Meursault: as a heartless individual.
On page 68, while the magistrate passionately speaks about God, Meursault is not following his argument and focuses on how hot he is. He then goes on to describe how the “office was full of huge flies which kept landing on [his] face” (page 68). The straight forward description of facts and the lack of real imagery here is evident and it reinforces how Meursault is easily distracted from paying attention to the preaching by simple, worldly things.
In this chapter, the setting revolves around Meursault being in prison and the frequent visits to the examining magistrate’s office. The office is described as being like a “description in a book” which further emphasizes how “it all seemed like a game” as it is all merely another human construct.
The setting of the ‘police station’ or ‘prison’ where the inmates are obliged to follow specific rules and regulations mirrors how artificial life really is since individuals live their life by empty routines, i.e. waking up in the morning to go to school/work and then coming home to sleep. These empty routines are constantly repeated day to day which exemplifies the futility of life and how you never really achieve anything
The narrative style continues to be very dull and prosaic. Meursault mainly focuses on pragmatic facts rather than an individual’s emotions or thoughts for example his description of the lawyer’s features and how he “put the briefcase which he had under his arm down on [the] bed.” Camus uses Meursault to describe everything as it appears rather than investing with value or offering a judgment on it to show how life is really value neutral until we impose our judgments upon it.
Unity of Part to Whole
Ultimately, it is in this chapter that others begin to really notice how different Meursault really is. It is only until now that the other characters, such as the magistrate, begin to become confused with Meursault’s way of being and they attempt to find an explanation. These new developments foreshadow the future events where society will also begin to judge Meursault.