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Mersault is the protagonist and narrator of the novel. He is a young shipping clerk living in Algiers. Because he befriends his neighbor, Raymond Sintes, he is drawn into a conflict with a group of Arabs.
Mersaultís greatest antagonist is himself. He lives life with detachment and lack of emotion. When he shoots an Arab, partially in self-defense, he condemns himself by refusing to show emotion or remorse.
On another level, Raymond and the Arabs are also antagonists, for they draw Mersault into the conflict that leads to his downfall and execution.
The climax of the book is reached when the jury delivers its verdict: Mersault is to be decapitated by guillotine in a public place. Although the reader realizes in the sixth chapter of Part I that Mersault is certain to be found guilty, since he killed an Arab and then fired four bullets into the dead body, the suspense builds until his sentence is pronounced in the fourth chapter of Part II.
The Stranger ends in tragedy when Mersault is sentenced to die by the guillotine. His lack of emotion and his detachment about life convince the jury that his life should not be spared.