Plot Summary

Part 1 – Chapter 1

Meursault, a shipping clerk in Algiers, receives a telegram informing him his mother has died. He expresses little sorrow and requests two days off from work to attend the funeral. On the bus to the nursing home, it is clear his moods are affected by physical sensations: "the glare off the road" and "the reek of gasoline". Meursault does not wish to see his mother’s body before she is buried, and engages the doorkeeper in conversation throughout the vigil, drinking café au lait and smoking. His mother’s friends arrive, and one of them sobs incessantly. Meursault, meanwhile, is only aware of a pain in his leg. His mind moves rapidly over images, never lingering over one or the other. Instead, he experiences the funeral as a series of physical sensations: for example in the smell of the hot leather and the horse dung. He feels also a longing to return to the comfort of his small bed in Algiers.

Part 1 – Chapter 2

On Saturday he is tired after Friday’s events and decides to go for a swim. There he meets Marie Cardon, a former typist in his office, and they play in the water together. They are clearly enjoying themselves. He casually mentions his mother’s death and that evening they go to the movies to see a comedy. Later they sleep together but Marie is gone in the morning. Meursault lies in bed until lunch, wanders restlessly around the apartment and spends the rest of the day on the balcony watching others carry out their Sunday routines. He seems very content to do this.

Part 1 – Chapter 3

Meursault returns to work but little detail is given of this. Instead we are told of the physical sensation of washing his hands – physical comforts seem more important to Meursault than his mother’s age. On his return he meets Salamano and his dog. Inseparable though they are, they both irritate each other. He also greets Raymond Sintes, who explains he has a bandage on his hand from a fight with his girlfriend’s brother. Meursault agrees to write a letter to Raymond’s girlfriend to make her feel bad about being unfaithful to him. Over this they become friends, setting in motion a drama that will change Meursault’s life forever.

Part 1 – Chapter 4

A week goes by. On Saturday Marie and Meursault go swimming and return to his flat. Marie is hurt when Meursault says he is not sure if he loves her or not. A violent quarrel breaks out between Raymond and his girlfriend but Meursault refuses to call a policeman merely because he dislikes them. Marie appears to be upset by the scene and leaves. Meursault seems unfazed and goes to sleep. Raymond asks Meursault to testify to the police about his girlfriend’s infidelity and Meursault agrees. The two men are now friends and go to a café. On the way back they meet Salamano urgently searching for his dog. He flies into a rage when Meursault says he might have to pay to reclaim him.

Part 1 – Chapter 5

Raymond calls Meursault at work and invites him to a friend’s bungalow outside Algiers on Sunday. His boss then offers him a promotion in Paris and is surprised by his lack of enthusiasm and ambition. Marie visits him that evening and asks him to marry her. Meursault agrees if it will make her happy although he himself doesn’t seem to care either way. He suggests dinner at Celeste’s but Marie says she is already busy. Meursault scrutinises Robot-woman over dinner. Meets Salamano again who tells him his dog is definitely lost and seems very upset. This is juxtaposed with Meursault’s indifference to his mother.

Part 1 – Chapter 6

Sunday, Meursault feels unwell, Marie is very excited about the excursion. Meursault sees the Arab men at a bus-stop, and is aware that Raymond is attracted to Marie. They meet Masson and his wife.

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