Harun insists that he’s not telling the interlocutor about his crime in order to relieve his conscience. He’s not afraid of going to hell. Harun then continues his story.
It’s important to note that Harun’s guilt is not related to religious belief. For Harun, morality is not dependent on religion and can exist without any belief in the divine.
The day after the murder, everything seems the same. The only new development is Harun’s conviction that he has condemned himself, without the aid of “judge nor God nor the charade of a trial.”
In fact, Harun wishes he could go on trial now, as Meursault did. He’d like to see a crowd of people looking at him, and for Mama to be incapable of defending him. In his imagination, Meursault is the protagonist and questions him about his family history. Joseph, the Frenchman he has killed, is there, as is Harun’s Koran-reciting neighbor, who visits him in jail to preach about God. However, Harun says he can’t be accused of anything—he was just serving his mother, and in any case so many people have died in the lead-up to Independence that no one would consider it important.
In this fantasy, Harun recalls the end of The Stranger, in which Meursault faces trial for his crimes and receives a visit from a priest in his jail cell. Even though such a scenario would involve prison time, he wishes that his feelings of guilt and regret could be solved through such obvious and rational means. As it is, he feels that conventional mechanisms of justice are unable to achieve meaningful retribution or eliminate the stain of a crime.
Harun says that his life has been more tragic than Meursault’s. In his memory, he acts out every role in the story, from the Musa’s part to that of “the stranger” (Meursault) to the judge at the trial. This constant performance doesn’t change after his revenge; it’s still a “curse” to him.
Here, Harun reiterates his belief that, as much as he might wish for one, a trial and even punishment would do nothing to alleviate the moral burden of his crime.
Again, Harun says he wishes he could stand trial. However, he blames Mama for his crimes. She was the one who held his arm while he shot, “while Musa held hers.” Harun knows that he is philosophizing, but he says that Meursault did the same in his book. He points out the sky outside the bar is darkening. He loves the beginning of night, since it always reminds him that night’s darkness allowed him to commit his crime.
Harun is partly correct in saying that his crime is the result of a long chain of circumstances, from Musa’s oppression by the colonial regime to Mama’s determination for revenge. However, he’s also a capable adult who is responsible for his own decisions.
Harun remarks that the interlocutor seems surprised by his articulate French. Harun says that he learned at school, by teaching himself, and through Meriem. She was the one who introduced him to French literature and Meursault’s book. For Harun, French became “the main tool” of all his investigations into Meursault.
While formal mechanisms like courts and government prove inadequate to address the problem of Musa’s death, language is the one “tool” that is effective.
Harun knows that the only trial he’ll ever have is the one he performs in this bar, so he wants to return to the story of his murder. After he kills Joseph, he doesn’t wish for his lost innocence but rather misses “the border that had existed until then between my life and crime.” Now that he has killed once, it feels increasingly possible to kill again. He imagines killing everyone from his neighbor, who pretends to be a resistance fighter but is really a crook, to an old uncle who never pays Mama the debt he owes her.
For Harun, true punishment for his crimes doesn’t come from any external source but from his own changed and deteriorated relationship to the world. Even though Harun evades formal punishment as does Meursault, becoming a murderer still warps the rest of his life.
Moreover, the crime forever alters Harun’s ability to love. After talking one man’s life, life itself is “no longer sacred” to him. He can never again appreciate the sensuality of the female body. Every time he desires a woman, he also remembers that “life reposes on nothing solid.” He says that there’s one verse in the Koran he likes, which states that “if you kill a single person, it is as if you have killed the whole of mankind.”
This morning, Harun read an article about an Indian man who has kept his right hand raised for the last thirty years, after receiving a commandment from God to do so. Harun feels that his arm is still raised to shoot. His whole body has shriveled and stiffened just like the man in the article, and Mama’s has as well. Now, she’s more like a statue than a person. Now that she has compelled Harun to execute Joseph, she has no more reason for existence.
Harun and Mama both feel that the murder has ended their desire to exist. However, while Mama feels that she can die because she’s accomplished everything she needed to, Harun feels so aware of the proximity of death that it feels useless to go on living.