The Stranger

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The Defense Lawyer Character Analysis

Meursault's lawyer who tries to defend Meursault's character, to present his crime as an accident, and to disassociate Meursault's behavior at his mother's funeral from the murder. He is exhausted by Meursault's unyielding impassiveness and by his self-sabotaging lack of savvy about public opinion. A less talented lawyer, in Meursault's opinion, than the prosecutor.

The Defense Lawyer Quotes in The Stranger

The The Stranger quotes below are all either spoken by The Defense Lawyer or refer to The Defense Lawyer. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of The Stranger published in 1989.
Book 2, Chapter 1 Quotes

The investigators had learned that I had "shown insensitivity" the day of Maman's funeral. "You understand," my lawyer said, "it's a little embarrassing for me to have to ask you this. But it's very important. And it will be a strong argument for the prosecution if I can't come up with some answers." He wanted me to help him. He asked if I had felt any sadness that day. The question caught me by surprise and it seemed to me that I would have been very embarrassed if I'd had to ask it. Nevertheless I answered that I had pretty much lost the habit of analyzing myself and that it was hard for me to tell him what he wanted to know. I probably did love Maman, but that didn't mean anything…I explained to him…that my nature was such that my physical needs often got in the way of my feelings.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), The Defense Lawyer (speaker), Madame Meursault
Page Number: 64-65
Explanation and Analysis:

While Meursault's lawyer seems committed to helping him in his defense against the prosecution, Meursault seems indifferent about these efforts. He also is surprised by the way in which the investigator brings up past events in the hope of explaining Meursault's emotions and the relationship of his emotions to his behavior. But while the investigator is genuinely confused about Meursault's lack of emotions in a situation that would be highly affecting to most people, Meursault can't bring himself to even recognize this confusion. He doesn't impede the lawyer's questions or refuse to help him, but he also doesn't care that he can't answer these questions.

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He asked me if I could say that that day I had held back my natural feelings. I said, "No, because it's not true." He gave me a strange look, as if he found me slightly disgusting…I pointed out to him that none of this had anything to do with my case, but all he said was that it was obvious I had never had any dealings with the law.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), The Defense Lawyer
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

Like Marie, the defense lawyer – even though he may be on Meursault's side – finds his behavior not only strange but repellent, wildly different as it is from any "normal" person's actions. Here, the lawyer is disturbed that Meursault won't admit to having had "natural feelings" – that is, feelings of grief and sorrow that for some reason he may have held back. The lawyer's disgust seems to indicate that he finds such lack of feelings to be inhuman.

At the same time, the lawyer finds it frustrating that Meursault won't even agree to speak or act as if he felt a certain way. The lawyer knows that in a legal case, the motivations of the suspect will be crucial for whether or not the jury gains sympathy for him. Meursault, however, seems to believe that the law will be indifferent to emotion or other issues. He thinks the law will care only about facts, about what happened. What's interesting here is that Meursault's idea of the law seems to be an idealistic vision of the law, that it is something based on action and evidence rather than tangentially connected appearances of how someone "felt." This interaction is just the first hint of how the law will really work, how it's findings are based on human emotions rather than some hard framework of pure evidence.

Book 2, Chapter 3 Quotes

Come now, is my client on trail for burying his mother or for killing a man?

Related Characters: The Defense Lawyer (speaker)
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

As Meursault's lawyer had expected, the prosecutor has continued to emphasize the coldness of Meursault's attitude as he buried his mother, the lack of feeling that he showed at her death, in order to convince the jury of how callous and unfeeling he is as a person. Here, the lawyer attempts to expose the irrelevance of Maman's burial, how silly it is to unite two disparate events. Indeed, this is the way that Meursault considers events as well, as distinct units irrelevant to each other, without any meaningful narrative able to emerge from them. 

However, this is not the way that most people think: it's not the way that society is set up to function. The prosecutor is playing into most people's innate hunger for narrative and for meaning, for stringing apparently disparate events together into a coherent story. Even Meursault is not immune to this kind of thinking, as he himself did find certain similarities between the heat of Maman's burial and the heat of the day at the beach, for instance. Still, he refuses to draw any significance from these similarities.

Here, the prosecutor's opposite strategy is suggested to be disingenuous or even arbitrary, despite the equal confusion stemming from Meursault's own refusal to assign any meaning to a sequence of events.

Book 2, Chapter 4 Quotes

But were their two speeches so different after all? My lawyer raised his arms and pleaded guilty, but with an explanation. The prosecutor waved his hands and proclaimed my guilt, but without an explanation…In a way, they seemed to be arguing the case as if it had nothing to do with me…There were times when I felt like breaking in on all of them and saying, "Wait a minute! Who's the accused here? Being the accused counts for something. And I have something to say!" But on second thought, I didn't have anything to say.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), The Prosecutor, The Defense Lawyer
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

Meursault is watching and listening with detached, even bemused interest, as the lawyers on both side of the case attempt to argue their case. While the prosecutor condemns the killing as a cold-blooded crime, Meursault's lawyer attempts to explain it and shed light on it. Both lawyers efforts involve emphasizing the meaning inherent to the crime. Meursault, of course, would object to both characterizations, since for him the murder meant and means absolutely nothing. 

In this passage, Meursault also has the strange feeling that he has had before, that he is witnessing life and experience unfold before him without playing any role in it himself. Here, however, what is unfolding before him actually has very much to do with himself and his own life. And yet, after remarking on the strangeness of this closeness, Meursault realizes that he nonetheless has no more expertise on or interest in the matter than he would if the lawyers were arguing about a stranger. 

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The Defense Lawyer Character Timeline in The Stranger

The timeline below shows where the character The Defense Lawyer appears in The Stranger. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 2, Chapter 1
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Importance of Physical Experience Theme Icon
Relationships Theme Icon
...Thinking his case "pretty simple," Meursault does not hire an attorney. The court appoints one. His lawyer refers to accounts of Meursault's "insensitivity" at his mother's funeral and asks Meursault if he... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 2
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Importance of Physical Experience Theme Icon
...of Maman's ideas…after a while you could get used to anything." Meursault looks forward to his lawyer 's neckties just as, before prison, he looked forward to holding Marie. "Killing time," he... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 3
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Importance of Physical Experience Theme Icon
Relationships Theme Icon
During cross-examining, Meursault's lawyer reveals that the caretaker had smoked and drunk coffee with Meursault, and that Thomas Pérez... (full context)
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Relationships Theme Icon
After Marie is questioned by Meursault's lawyer , the prosecutor questions Marie. He gets her to describe her date with Meursault the... (full context)
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Relationships Theme Icon
Meursault's lawyer protests "'is my client on trial for burying his mother or for killing a man?'"... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 4
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
...[was said] about me than about my crime." Still, he can see little difference between his lawyer 's speech and the prosecutor's: the former proclaims guilt with an explanation while the latter... (full context)
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Importance of Physical Experience Theme Icon
Meursault's lawyer gives his summation, speaking in the first person as if he were Meursault. Meursault is... (full context)
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
The jury files out to determine the verdict . Meursault's lawyer is confident that Meursault won't be sentenced to death. After forty-five minutes, the jury returns... (full context)