The Outsider: Chapter Notes – Part 2, Chapter 4
· We see the conclusion of Meursault’s trial for his killing of the Arab
· Meursault listens to prosecutor in court repeatedly criticise his actions during his mother’s funeral
· The lawyer who was hired for Meursault’s defense provides witnesses such as Marie and Raymond who inadvertently prove that Meursault is more and more a ‘stranger’ who doesn’t share the values of the rest of his society
· The jury finds Meursault guilty and the judge sentences Meursault to execution in the middle of the public square for his crime.
The most obvious theme in this chapter is conflict. We know from previous chapters that Meursault’s absurdist views make him an outcast from society. Throughout this chapter, it is evident that the prosecutor, who represents society, and judges Meursault’s actions, is finally attacking the ideology of absurdism. The prosecutor even goes on to claim that a man like Meursault has no place in society where there are rules to be followed (Pg 99). The reason for this may be that absurdism challenges so many of the notions that society holds dear, principally that our lives and values really are valuable and meaningful. Meursault’s behaviour and very existence contradicts these dearly held values and so society, in the form of the laywer, feels the need to attack him. The following quotation “Especially when we encounter a man whose heart is so empty that it forms a chasm which threatens to engulf society.” shows the gulf between what society demands and expects from an individual as opposed to what an Meursault really wants to do. It shows that society has rules that have to be followed accordingly or that the individual would be judged by society resulting in alienation. Additionally, this quotation can be viewed as an attack on ideas that society feels is allowing people to see the truth, breaking the illusion that society has crafted.
During the course of the chapter, it is evident that Meursault has no remorse for the killing of The Arab. Moreover, we can see from his actions that he does not care for his mother’s death at the start of the book and even when it is put to the test by the prosecutor, he does not defend his actions on that day. Additionally, over the course of the trial he does not show any sort of emotion such as disgust, pity or even sorrow for his actions, but rather lets it all go on, while he just sits back and enjoys the show before him. It could be said that he does not care what would happen to him, as he sees the truth. The truth being that there really is no meaning to life and that we can try to make a meaning but that in the end it is not real, and that he knew what his fate would be, even before stepping into the courtroom. The following quotation nicely illustrates Meursault’s lack of remorse or sense of self pity or self preservation “was there so much difference, anyway, between the two speeches?” and this is further reinforced by “Has he even expressed any regrets?” and finally “I’d never really been able to regret anything.” which shows how even at the pivotal moment, Meursauly sticks to his own beliefs even if it means that he will surely be punished or even killed. Additionally, it gives an understanding to the character of Meursault from the way he acts to the way he thinks, as a whole and understands why he does certain things such as helping Raymond write a letter to his mistress, the way he does them.
The Absence of Self Importance
“The judge asked me if I had anything to add. I though it over. I said, “no”.” This quotation is important in that, it sums up Meursault, and how he could have added further information to defend himself but, realizing that whether he lives or dies is really of no value anyway, he does not take the opportunity. Camus tries to make a point from this to sum up the idea of absurdisim, that any action is ultimately pointless. Meursault does not seem perturbed by the entire case, dubbing the affair as an exciting experience as he had “never seen a trial before”.
This is reinforced by Meursault’s behaviour during the trial where he mostly sits and listens and notices the weather which was extremely “hot”. Meursault claimed that his “fate was being decided without anyone so much as asking my opinion” suggesting once again how far alienated from the rest of society Meursault has become.
Motifs and Connotations:
Throughout the novel, heat comes into play multiple times and creates a significant impact on the actions and the reactions of both Meursault and those around him. This is evident throughout the trial as heat is shown to affect the prosecutor “the prosecutor wiped his face which was glistening with sweat.” Additionally, heat becomes much more important when it is used by Meursault himself, when explaining that his actions were caused by the sun (pg 99), which we as readers know is true; we can say that Meursault lives in a stochastic universe where things just do happen unexpectedly. However, this was not enough to satisfy the justice system, as they want to see Meursault’s repent before they will forgive him but he cannot repent an act that was essentially meaningless.
Death is important throughout the whole book as to Meursault, death, like life, is irrelevant. The death of “The Arab” has placed him in a situation in which he may have to face death himself. The prosecutor who asks for Meursault’s head for the crimes that he had committed foreshadows Meursault’s death. When his death sentence does come Meursault is left unmoved and indeed seems to have been divorced from the proceedings throughout the whole trial as his lawyer tries to prevent him from speaking, and when he finally is able to say something, it is not taken seriously, leading to laughter within the crowd. Additionally, the lawyer uses “I” every time when speaking of Meursault which shows that even Meusaults position in the crime is taken away by the lawyer. Even the policemen understands that Meursault has no place in this trial and that he is a coin with two sides the same and that there was no point in even trying to intervene. This perhaps reflects how all human beings are essentially at the mercy of powers and events beyond their control.
The motif of isolation is clear through Meursault’s action of always keeping to himself and isolating himself from the rest of the world. Before his imprisonment he did on occasion interact with othersafter his incarceration he becomes isolated in a cell within a tower. Although, this is a form of physical isolation, there is the sense that it is also emotional, and it perhaps reflects how Meursault has, in reality, been cut off from all of the other characters throughout the novel although this has only now really become apparent.
The quotation ‘even when you’re in the dock, it’s always interesting to hear people talking about you.” suggests that Meursault is careless and does not really give much thought about his situation and that he is not that bothered by it.
Meursault continues to act as an observer of his own life reinforcing the idea that even his own life is not important enough to be emotionally involved with.
The main other character explored is the prosecutor who represents the views of Meursault’s society in general hence he believes it is important to ensure that Meursault is condemned to death as he is a danger due to the fact that he has no soul, and that his ideas threatened to “engulf society”. We do, however, get the impression that the behaviour of the prosecutor in court is merely an act or another routine.
In part one, the setting of the book takes place in multiple places, however, as we progress to part two, it is clear that there are only two settings. The two settings being, the prison cell and the courtroom. The courtroom is an obvious symbol that Meursault (and in fact his absurdist behaviour) is being judged by society while the prison reflects his isolation and the sense of distance between Meursault and other people.
Narrative Style/ Structure:
Throughout the novel, Camus uses first person, which is the view of Meursault. He uses this to further flesh out his views of absurdisim through a character, so that readers are able to understand it and have some sort of connection. Through the different chapters there is a great amount of detail about what Meursault observes, whether it be the facial structure of someone he had just met, or what is going on with either his body or the one he is observing such as wiping sweat off is forehead. The novel goes in a chronological order and only revisits certain events that have happened only in the novel thus making the reader understand what is going on.
Unity of Part to Whole (Development)
Chapter four, part two, is the penultimate chapter of the novel, and brings a closure to the trial. The closure is in itself presented in such a way, that the reader would be left with questions such as ‘does one’s life mean anything in the long-term’ or perhaps ‘why didn’t Meursault even try to defend himself’, which helps to further emphasise the important elements of absurdism. Chapter four really does tie everything together and foreshadow what will happen to Meursault as well as how the idea of absurdisim challenged society and lost the battle. This chapter also shows how society cannot allow another idea to come into play, as it believes that it’s illusion over the people will be shattered and cannot be rebuilt in the same way again like a mirror.