The Stranger

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The Prosecutor Character Analysis

Determined to portray Meursault as a cold-blooded, premeditating murderer and soulless monster unfit for society, the prosecutor builds his case around Meursault's insensitive attitude towards his mother, evidence that shouldn't properly be relevant. Still, the prosecutor is passionate, articulate, and convincing. Even Meursault notes that he is a talented lawyer.

The Prosecutor Quotes in The Stranger

The The Stranger quotes below are all either spoken by The Prosecutor or refer to The Prosecutor. 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 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 prosecutor] said that he had peered into [my soul] and that he had found nothing, gentlemen of the jury. He said the truth was that I didn't have a soul and that nothing human, not one of the moral principles that govern men's hearts, was within my reach. "Of course," he added, "we cannot blame him for this. We cannot complain that he lacks what it was not in his power to acquire. But here in this court the wholly negative virtue of tolerance must give way to the sterner but loftier virtue of justice. Especially when the emptiness of a man's heart becomes, as we find it has in this man, an abyss threatening to swallow up society.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), The Prosecutor (speaker)
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, the prosecutor reaches new, dazzling rhetorical heights as he attempts to convince the jury of the necessity of the death penalty. In doing so, he draws on anything he can that might move the audience or prove rhetorically powerful. He alludes to divine justice, for instance, in addition to basic legal justice, and his references to man's empty heart and soul suggests that he is making a moral case as well.

Even as we witness Meursault's indifference throughout the trial, we are also meant to see the weaknesses, the lack of systematic or rational thought, on the side of the prosecutor. Meursault's own commitment to the meaninglessness and absurdity of life may be incomprehensible to society, but at least it is consistent. Of course, the prosecutor is mainly focused on doing whatever he can to gain a conviction – but even this pragmatic use of logic to make a case contrasts to Meursault's passivity in a way that suggests that the prosecutor's belief system is not necessarily superior to others.

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The Prosecutor Character Timeline in The Stranger

The timeline below shows where the character The Prosecutor appears in The Stranger. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 2, Chapter 3
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
...a home, whether it had been "hard." Meursault says no and, in response to the prosecutor asking if he'd intended to kill the Arab, says, no, "it just happened that way." (full context)
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Importance of Physical Experience Theme Icon
Relationships Theme Icon
After lunch, the court reconvenes and the prosecutor calls witnesses. The director and caretaker each attest to Meursault's "calm" at Maman's funeral, how... (full context)
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Relationships Theme Icon
When the prosecutor acts triumphant in response to the director's testimony, Meursault thinks, "for the first time in... (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 day after his... (full context)
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Relationships Theme Icon
...for burying his mother or for killing a man?'" and, though the court laughs, the prosecutor sobers them by insisting on the "profound, fundamental, and tragic relationship" between the funeral and... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 4
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
...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 proclaims guilt without one. They... (full context)
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Relationships Theme Icon
The prosecutor attempts to show that Meursault's crime was "premeditated," relying on "the blinding clarity of the... (full context)
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
The prosecutor talks about Meursault's soul, or lack thereof. He says it isn't Meursault's own fault he... (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
Given a chance to add onto the prosecutor's speech, Meursault, dizzy in the heat, claims he'd "never intended to kill the Arab," then... (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
...he's told it's standard procedure. He finds his lawyer ridiculous, much less talented than the prosecutor. His lawyer also discusses Meursault's soul (though positively) but he doesn't mention the funeral, which... (full context)