Part 2, Chapter 3 Notes from The Stranger

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The Stranger Part 2, Chapter 3

As the summers pass, Meursault's case eventually comes up for judgment at the end of the period of the Court of Assizes. Still nonchalant, Meursault wonders how it will turn out. His lawyer assures him that the case will take no longer than two to three days. As the court is filled with people and lawyers, Meursault looks around. He observes the jury staring at him. He thinks that the legal process is silly, and furthermore that his presence in court is all part of a game. Meursault reminds himself that he did, in fact, commit a crime, and that these people are present to hear his case and decide his fate.

Meursault is surprised at the large crowd that is present in court. A reporter tells him that because the summer season is slow, the media has overtaken his case. Many people are anxious to see how it turns out. The reporter longs for him to be acquitted. The lawyers enter the courtroom, shake hands, and then the three judges walk in, dressed in red and black. The proceedings begin as the judges ask the lawyers to call their witnesses. Meursault feels everyone looking at him, and occasionally forgets why he is there. He remembers and looks at the list of witnesses. He recognizes the names on the list: Raymond, Celeste, Marie, Salamano.

Topic Tracking: Observation 7
Topic Tracking: Detachment 9

The judge begins immediately with having the prosecutor question Meursualt. He begins by asking him his name, date of birth, etc. This line of questioning irritates Meursault, for he thinks it would be silly of the French legal system to try the wrong man. He is irritated by pretty much everything in the courtroom proceedings. The lawyer dwells on Maman's funeral and livelihood. Meursault responds that he put her in a home because he could not look after her. They had separate lives and were both ok with it. The judges want the prosecutor to move on from this line of questioning. The lawyer then asks him if, when he went to the spring at the beach, he had returned to the exact same place with the intention of killing the Arab. After Meursault responds vehemently in the negative, the judge announces that the hearing is adjourned till later that afternoon.

When he returns to court, Meursault sees the exact same faces - same environment. This time, however, he feels the heat stronger than before. He looks around at the rest of the people provided with straw fans and feels jealous. The director of the home, the caretaker is called next to question and repeatedly discusses Meursault's "calmness" about his mother's death and funeral. Meursault realizes, after the prosecutor accomplishes his goal in the examination, that he is in trouble. "...for the first time in years, I had this stupid urge to cry, because I could feel how much all these people hated me" Part 2, Chapter 3, pg. 90.

Topic Tracking: Observation 8

The caretaker is then called up to the podium for questioning. He is asked the same questions that the director was asked: about Maman, Meursault's indifference, and the offering of a cigarette and coffee by Meursault upon learning of his mother's death. The case seems to be working against Meursault, as each witness illustrates his cold nature and uncaring attitude about death and Maman. Monsieur Perez is brought to the stand and asked about Meursault's attitude at the funeral. He claims that he was so distraught and sad that day, that he cannot remember Meursault's actions or attitude. He also mentions that he never knew Meursault very well - only Maman. The prosecutor asks him if he saw him cry that day. Perez responds that he did not. However, when the defense attorney cross-examines him, he asks if he saw Meursault not cry. Perez also responds negatively, giving the jury a moment to laugh.

"The spectators laughed. And my lawyer, rolling up one of his sleeves, said with finality, 'Here we have a perfect reflection of this entire trial: everything is true and nothing is true!'" Part 2, Chapter 3, pg. 91

The next witness called by the defense is Celeste. Again, Meursault realizes at this point that he is the defense and consequently listens to the testimony. Celeste comments that Meursault is a customer of his and also a friend. He also states that there are no problems with his bills and that he is just going through a time with lots of bad luck. Celeste calls the entire crime 'bad luck,' vouching for Meursault with every word. When he steps down, Meursault feels that for the first time in his life, he wants to kiss another man in gratification.

When Marie is called up to the stand next, the tone of the court changes. The prosecutor inquires as to her relationship with Meursault. She first calls herself a friend and soon after admits to a future marriage possibility. The prosecutor calls her relationship with Meursault a liaison and wonders how long they have known one another and when they first began dating. She tells him the specific date and everything that they did, including swimming at the beach, the movies (a comedy), and the lovemaking. The enraged prosecutor presents the situation, once again to the jury, illustrating Meursault's mentality. He claims that the day after his mother dies, Meursault starts, what he calls, a dubious liaison and goes to see a movie for pure laughs. When Marie steps down, she realizes the damage that has been done to Meursault's case.

Topic Tracking: Detachment 10

After Marie's testimony, nobody listens to the rest of the witnesses with consideration. Masson says that Meursault is a good man, while Salamano explains how kind he was with his ill dog. They try to convince the jury of Meursault's strong character; but by this point nobody listens or cares. They seem to already be convinced of his guilt.

Raymond is the next and final witness to take the stand for the defense. He explains that the two are friends, that the man murdered was truly angry with him for hitting his sister, and that Meursault is innocent. The prosecutor does not see everything Raymond states as pure coincidence. Instead, he sees Raymond's testimony as illustrating Meursault's actions as pure premeditated murder. Furthermore, he claims that Meursault was Raymond's accomplice throughout the entire debacle. "They [the jury] had before them the basest of crimes, a crime made worse than sordid by the fact that they were dealing with a monster, a man without morals" Part 2, Chapter 3, pp. 95-96.

The two lawyers explode, with the prosecutor claiming Meursault's obvious guilt and the defender overtly illustrating his innocence. After Raymond is told to step down, the court is adjourned. Meursault sees and feels the sun, the summer breeze, and knows he must return to his prison cell. He is exhausted and thinks back to a time when he was truly happy.

"Yes, it was the hour when, a long time ago, I was perfectly content. What awaited me back then was always a night of easy, dreamless sleep. And yet something has changed, since it was back to my cell that I went to wait for the next day...as if familiar paths traced in summer skies could lead as easily to prison as to the sleep of the innocent." Part 2, Chapter 3, pg. 97

Topic Tracking: Observation 9

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