The Stranger Plot Summary
The book opens as Meursault recalls his mother's death. Maman dies prior to the opening, yet, Meursault cannot remember exactly when, why, or any information of related significance. He thinks of his mother in a distant emotional state and continues about with his daily life, as if nothing has changed since her death. The only difference in his life is that he must proceed with the normal actions of mourning and funerals.
Meursault visits the home, in which he placed Maman prior to he death (an inexact time ago), speaks with the caretaker about life, his mother, and smokes a cigarette. At the funeral, he looks around at the beautiful sunny day and wishes he were at home in bed in Algiers. He also observes the feeble old man, Monsieur Perez, who loved Maman, struggle to help carry her coffin to its burial plot.
The day after the funeral, Meursault takes a bus to the public beach, where he meets up with Marie Cardona, a beautiful young secretary from his company. They had flirted in the past, and without much delay, jump into bed together. After spending the day splashing around in the ocean and going to a movie (a comedy), Marie returns to Meursault's apartment where they make love. As they soon begin to spend much time together, Marie asks Meursault if he loves her. Meursault likes her, but sees nothing special about her or any woman in general. He will marry her if she wants, but according to him, nothing matters that much.
Meursault returns to work and his mundane life. He is reprimanded by his boss for having little drive and motivation, and passes some time with co-worker and friend, Emmanuel. He speaks with his downstairs neighbor, Salamano, who lives alone with his beloved spaniel dog. The dog suffers from a rare skin disease that covers his and his master's skin in scabs. Salamano eventually loses his dog, leaving him lonely and broken-hearted. Another neighbor, with whom Meursault become friends is Raymond Sintes. A short, stalky man, he condones violent outbursts towards women and openly beats his ex-girlfriend who is an Arab and who he believes to have cheated on him. Raymond and Meursault discuss their lack of emotions and past relationships, understanding the apathetic, cold, and indifferent personalities that they share.
One day, Raymond brings Meursault and Marie to the beach to visit his friend, Masson. They see a group of Arabs following them (including the brother of Raymond's ex-girlfriend). Near a stream at the edge of the beach, the Arabs fight the three men, and run off. After the three men return to Masson's cottage and their respective female companions, Meursault returns to the beach with Raymond's gun. He comes across the same Arab as before, and before much provocation shoots him once. After he falls, Meursault shoots him three more times.
Meursault is arrested and put in jail to await trial. He speaks with a magistrate, several policemen, and his defense attorney. While in trial, he gets to know his surroundings and is forced to contemplate his life, his worth, and his actions. He changes little and still cannot believe that he is on trial for murder. Marie visits him in prison, still hoping to marry him when he is released.
When the case begins months later, it is a media circus. Meursault observes his surroundings and sees every person he knows in court. The prosecuting and defense attorneys call them to testify on his character. Although all express their friendship and connection with Meursault fairly and in a positive light, it is Marie's testimony that ultimately destroys' Meursault's credibility. The prosecuting attorney persistently describes Meursault's indifference towards his mother's death as monstrous and apathetic. So, when Marie explains that they began their relationship immediately after the funeral proceedings, the judges and jury and audience members are convinced that Meursault is truly the unfeeling monster that the prosecutor makes him out to be.
Meursault is convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to public execution by guillotine. While Meursault awaits his doom, he returns to prison and is forced to pass the time and think, again, of his life and actions. He is not changed. The prison chaplain enters to speak with him, to urge him to find God and salvation. Meursault still does not believe in God and finds the man frustrating and annoying. He grabs hold of him and begins to yell until the prison guards restrain him.
When the day of his execution arrives, Meursault understands Maman's actions and feelings prior to her death. He thinks that maybe he could live another life. Regardless, he is excited about the day. He walks out to the guillotine hoping that everyone cheers loudly for his death.