The Stranger


Albert Camus

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The Stranger: Book 1, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Before Monday's lunch break at the office, Meursault enjoys washing his hands, as always. He recalls mentioning to his boss once how unpleasant the bathroom's roller towel got by the end of the day and his boss saying "it was really a minor detail." Outside for their lunch break, Meursault races joyously with Emmanuel through the streets to Céleste's, leaping on the back of a truck. Meursault tells Céleste everything is "all right now," drinks too much and naps before going back to work.
His boss may think the state of the bathroom's roller towel is only "a minor detail" but physical details are of highest importance to Meursault.
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Home in the evening, Meursault runs into his scabby old neighbor, Salamano, and his scabby, hairless dog. The two look like one another, have shared the same routine for years, and hate one another. Salamano curses at the dog and often beats it. Tonight, when Meursault asks the livid Salamano what the dog has done wrong, Salamano answers, "He's always there."
Salamano's comment conveys intense intimacy. This intimacy, though, is double-edged – though Salamano and his dog must be profoundly attached to each other, they also resent one another deeply.
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Another neighbor, Raymond Sintès, appears and invites Meursault to dinner. Though Raymond is unpopular with others and has a reputation for living "off women," Meursault finds him interesting and sees no reason to avoid him. Upstairs, Raymond bandages his hand, explaining he's been in a fight with a troublemaker. Then he explains the fight was with his mistress' brother. He says he suspected her of infidelity (she had not been able to explain a lottery ticket and had pawned items that he didn't recognize) and so he beat her up. She subsequently left him.
Meursault's perspective doesn't match society's: though others steer clear of Raymond, Meursault sees nothing wrong with him. Raymond's stories are shifty – the random troublemaker turns out to be his mistress' brother; he beats his mistress for cheating but has scant evidence that she's actually been unfaithful. Raymond might not be telling the whole story, especially if the rumor that he's a pimp is true.
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Raymond wants further revenge on his mistress, even though he still has "sexual feelings for her." He asks Meursault's opinion of the situation, and Meursault, now thoroughly drunk, agrees she must be cheating on him. He agrees to write a letter for Raymond that will lure the mistress back so that Raymond can spit in her face, shaming her. Raymond is "very pleased" with the letter and starts to call Meursault his "pal." Meursault doesn't mind and lets him.
Raymond calls Meursault his "pal" but the only seed of friendship that's been planted between them is Meursault doing him a favor. Moreover, Raymond knows hardly anything about Meursault as an individual - he's been talking about himself the whole time. Is Raymond being disingenuous? There's something fishy about this "pal." And Meursault doesn't seem to care one way or the other. Relationships just don't mean that much to him.
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