The Stranger Part 2, Chapter 5
Meursault refuses to speak with the prison chaplain three times. He sits in his cell, thinking, looking at the ceiling, and wondering why he never paid attention earlier in his life to records of public executions. He thinks of how much must be written on those accounts and how they - the prisoners - seem to owe so much to society. He thinks of escaping in his mind, leaping bounds from the ordinary life. Then he returns to his normal thoughts about his current life in prison. He thinks of the verdict as difficult to believe. How could such words be spoken on behalf of such an arbitrary group of people as the French? He begins to realize how consequences of actions are, in fact, as real as his flesh and blood.
Meursault recollects a story Maman told him about his father. It is the only story about his father that he knows. When he was little, his father went to see a public execution and threw up afterwards. He said that executions are the most important thing to see and that it is more important that the human emotions still exist, and that all men should attend murders and throw up afterwards. "How had I not seen that there was nothing more important than an execution, and that when you come right down to it, it was the only thing a man could truly be interested in?" Part 2, Chapter 5, pg. 110 He puts such ideas out of his mind, for fear of getting carried away and frightened.
Meursault tries to think logically and reasonably. He pictures his own execution and the modern guillotine. He had always pictured his execution as the traditional slicing from the French Revolution. However, the guillotine of his time is much more precise, much less personable, and looks like a perfectly gleaming, beautiful instrument. He thinks that someone could walk up to it as if it were another person, instead of a tall, foreboding podium of historic days.
Meursault thinks perpetually about two things: the dawn and his appeal. He listens to his heartbeat and contemplates a life in which he did not feel or hear it inside his head. He remarks that dawn is the best time for him, for he only expects and likes things to happen when the red sky creeps into his cell. He also thinks of living life another twenty years. At the same time, he knows that everyone must die at some point and wonders if he would make much of a difference anyway if he were to live longer. When he accepts his life as being over, his personality changes in his mind. He sporadically thinks of the possibility of a pardon. When he imagines such a gift, it takes all his strength to calm himself down and rationalize the situation. When such a feeling occurs, Meursault feels calm for a brief moment.
During one of these moments of calamity, Meursault thinks of Marie and her soft touch. It has been a long time since last she wrote. He wonders if she no longer desires to be the girlfriend of a condemned man, if she is with someone else, or if she is even alive. He realizes that he does not care for her and especially does not care for her, if she were dead. He can understand such a sentiment, for he would not expect anyone to care about him once he was dead.
Suddenly the chaplain enters Meursault's cell, much to his surprise. It is not his usual calling. He sits Meursault down and inquires as to why he has not seen him. Meursault tells him that he does not believe in God. The two embark upon a long conversation, in which they both agree that everyone is condemned to death. The only difference is that Meursault's is imminent. The chaplain refers to Meursault as his friend instead of as a subject. The chaplain stands up in the middle of the conversation, gazes at Meursault with penetrating eyes, and speaks.
"The chaplain knew the game well too, I could tell right away: his gaze never faltered. And his voice didn't falter, either, when he said, 'Have you no hope at all? And do you really live with the thought that when you die, you die, and nothing remains?' 'Yes,' I said." Part 2, Chapter 5, pg. 117
The chaplain lowers his head, sits down, and tells Meursault that he pities him. Meursault can think of nothing else except annoyance and walks away, turning his back to the chaplain.
The chaplain urges him to continue on a quest for redemption. He claims that human justice is nothing, while divine justice is everything. He believes Meursault has a chance for an appeal. Meursault simply accepts his fate as is, without understanding what sin is. He knows he is guilty and that everyone believes him to be guilty. The chaplain continues to approach him longer and farther, more and more, begging him to see more of the situation. Meursault sees nothing else. And, as soon as he believes the chaplain has given up on him, he turns around and cries out wondering if Meursault ever wished for another life - one that is not so earthly, one more divine! Meursault responds that, of course, he wishes for another life. But that life is nothing more than one of greater materialism, with money, time, and a better smile. Meursault is frustrated with the chaplain and wonders why he fights him continually. He does not believe that the chaplain is on his side. The chaplain responds that, of course he is there to help Meursault. "'I am on your side. But you have no way of knowing it, because your heart is blind" Part 2, Chapter 5, pg. 120.
At that moment, Meursault becomes irate and furious. He grabs the chaplain and yells at him at the top of his lungs, about all his feelings, everything that has happened in his life, his futile relationships, all relationships being futile by nature, and ultimately the significance (or lack thereof) of God. Guards are forced to restrain him and help the chaplain. They fear for his safety, for Meursault, after all, is a cold-blooded killer in their eyes. After Meursault's eruption, most of his anger, his hatred, his indifference, and confusion melt away. He feels strangely exhausted and at peace. He understands now, at the point near her death, why Maman took a fiancé. He sees the end of his life and accepts it.
The execution approaches as he looks back on his life and his relationship with his mother. He is ready to live his life all again because he just let go of his past hurt and frustration. He sees the end of his life and wants to re-live it.
"As if that blind rage has washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, I that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much life myself - so like a brother, really - I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate." Part 2, Chapter 5, pg. 122-3