Harun shoots the Frenchman with seven bullets, two more than Meursault fired into Musa. Mama stands behind him the whole time, and Harun feels that she is guiding him and helping him take aim. The man looks surprised as Harun shoots him, and a dog barks. It occurs to Harun that the man’s death is “not a murder but a restitution.”
Harun tries to think of his act as just retribution, rather than an act of murder on par with Meursault’s. However, as the years pass this distinction will come to seem specious, and his sense of guilt will grow.
Behind Harun, Mama breathes softly, much more easily than she has since Musa died. It’s nighttime, and the moon seems to calm everything down. Harun knows that, with this deed accomplished, Mama is “packing her bags, on her way to meet old age.” Harun imagines that Musa is talking to him. When you murder someone, he tells the interlocutor, your mind immediately starts to make up explanations in order to absolve your guilt.
Mama views this act of retribution as the culmination of her life; the murder seems to end her obsession with Musa’s death and inaugurate an era of tranquility. However, for Harun it just adds a new source of stress and guilt.
Harun already knows he won’t be punished for the murder. Outside, the War of Liberation is raging, so this murder will be considered part of the combat. It’s one of the first days of Independence and all is chaos, with the French trying to flee or save their possessions while young men, filled with revolutionary fervor, maraud in the streets.
After Musa’s death, Harun constantly wondered how justice could be achieved when the government protected his murderer. Now, he has to figure out how to atone for his own crime in the absence of any formal punishment.
After killing the Frenchman, Harun feels a sense of immense freedom. Finally, he’s no longer being silently asked to murder someone but has already done it. He can finally go to the movies, or on a date with a woman. He and Mama look at the body for a long time, with Mama still holding Harun’s arm. Harun has always considered himself a prisoner to “Musa’s death and my mother’s vigilance,” but now he sees himself inhabiting the entire night, free to do what he wishes.
Harun’s sense of relief shows that he feels not just grief over Musa but a sense of resentment that his brother’s memory has so dominated his life. Even though Musa is dead, Harun has always felt powerless compared to him; in a sense, by taking action now, he’s proving himself the more powerful brother.
Mama is already looking at the body and planning the grave they must now dig. She exhorts Harun to work quickly, and sweeps away the sand. As he works to obscure the details of this murder, he thinks of how Meursault obscured the details of his own crime. It occurs to Harun that he has murdered the Frenchman around two in the morning, just as Meursault murdered Musa at two in the afternoon.
Already it’s becoming obvious to Harun that he has not extricated himself from the tangle of circumstances surrounding Musa’s death, but merely linked himself more closely to the first murderer.
Harun and Mama bury the Frenchman’s body quickly. No one seems to have noticed the gunshots. In any case, right now no one in the village is concerned about vanished French people. Back in the present, Harun tells the interlocutor that he now knows Harun’s secrets. The “bottle ghost” might have heard as well, but Harun doesn’t really care.
Harun seems to dismiss the bar ghost, but he also imbues him with importance just by mentioning him. As one of the few people who have heard Harun’s narrative in its entirety, the ghost is now closely linked to Harun’s obsession with language and storytelling.
Harun didn’t even know the Frenchman he killed. He resumes his story. Moments before the murder, the Frenchman climbs the wall outside the house in order to take refuge in the garden, awakening Harun and Mama in the process. There is a lot of killing going on outside, between the liberation army and the unofficial freedom fighters. People are abandoning the fields and settlers are fleeing in large numbers.
It’s important to note that Harun’s act takes place in the context of the War of Liberation. The fact that he’s committed an unjust murder at this moment foreshadows his later convictions that the “liberated” Algerian government is hardly a paragon of righteousness.
The Larquais family left three months ago, so since then Mama has commandeered their house, and Harun stays up every night on watch for burglars. On their departure, the family had charged Mama with looking after the house until their return, but she knows they will never come back. At first, Mama and Harun are too intimidated to settle into the main house, but they take over the kitchen and eventually sleep in the bedrooms. In order to cement their ownership of the house, Mama invites some neighbor women over for coffee and gives Harun a jacket left behind in a closet.
Algerian freedom fighters and the new government want to portray Independence as a momentous ideological moment, but for Harun and Mama it’s a more prosaic moment, one of modest economic gain. At the same time, this is the first time the family has been economically secure—or even lived in a real house—since Musa died, so it is a truly meaningful moment.
In the days following, it seems impossible to trust anyone. Any neighbor could kick them out of the house by brute force. Once, Harun sees a resistance fighter shooting out streetlights so he can plunder in the dark.
In a sense, Harun must take on Musa’s role even more during this tense time—he has to embody his role as head of the family in order to protect their dominion over the new house.
Some of the French have stayed, as they are technically entitled to official protection. One afternoon, Harun walks past a group of them protesting the recent murder of two French people by resistance fighters. He notices the Frenchman whom he will shoot two days later, wearing the same shirt. When they make eye contact, the other man looks away. Harun recognizes him as a friend of Mama’s employers, who often comes to visit. Harun walks home quickly—people are suspicious of his refusal to join the resistance, so he doesn’t go out much.
Here, Harun is describing events that occur before the murder, but both he and the reader are fully cognizant of the fact that the murder will soon occur. This technique makes it seem as if the act was inevitable, rather than an avoidable and conscious decision Harun made. Harun uses language not just to illuminate Musa’s story but to evade moral responsibility for his own crimes.
When Harun hears noises on the night in question, Mama is already awake and directs him to pick up the gun, which he found in the shed weeks before. When he goes outside, he finds that the sounds are coming from a panting man near the shed. Harun knows he could just walk away, but Mama is standing behind him demanding revenge.
Harun reluctantly but firmly embraces Mama’s concept of retribution—the idea that a crime can only be expunged by an equivalent action. As an adult, Harun will become convinced that such cut-and-dry concepts are neither just nor rational.
Harun is sure that he and Mama thought about Musa simultaneously, believing that killing this Frenchman is their duty to Musa and at the same time a chance to move past him. As Harun moves forward, the Frenchman moves away, and “the darkness devoured what remained of his humanity.”
Just as Meursault kills Musa because he sees him as a faceless “Arab” rather than a complex individual, Harun’s murder is prefaced by the erasure of Joseph’s essential humanity.
After shooting the Frenchman, Harun drags his corpse into the courtyard, where he and Mama bury it with difficulty. The night begins to lighten and the trees of the courtyard become visible. Harun realizes that something very important has ended; he lies down in the courtyard and closes his eyes. When he opens them, he sees stars and knows that he is “trapped in a bigger dream, a more gigantic denial” than he was before.
Mama sees the murder as the finale to her long period of mourning, but for Harun it brings on new and thornier moral dilemmas. This shows that his ideas of what constitutes appropriate retribution are much less fixed and harsh than Mama’s.