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Free Study Guide-The Stranger by Albert Camus-Free Online Chapter Summary
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PART II

Chapter 4

Summary

Since Mersaultís lawyer entered a plea for his client of "guilty under extenuating circumstances," the Prosecutor attempts to disprove any extenuating circumstances. He tries to show that Mersaultís crime was a premeditated homicide. He stresses the fact that Mersault returned to the beach with a gun in his pocket. He also points out that Mersault is an intelligent and educated person, who was quite conscious of the crime he was committing. Mersault wonders why his intelligence, which would have otherwise been considered a positive trait, is being used as a disqualifying factor against him. The Prosecutor further talks of Mersaultís "soul". He says that Mersault has nothing human about him and lacks every decent instinct or moral compunction, which makes him a menace to the society who deserves to die.

After the Prosecutorís argument, Mersault is asked to speak. He states that he had no intention of killing the Arab. He then adds that it was because of the sun that everything happened. As he says these words, he realizes how nonsensical they sound. During his entire short speech, nothing seems to come out correctly.

When Mersaultís lawyer speaks, he describes Mersault as a man who is sympathetic towards other people and their problems, pointing out how his client wanted to help Raymond. He also says that Mersault is a steady and conscientious worker, who does his best for his employer and who is popular with his co- workers. He talks about how Mersault was innocently drawn into the situation with the Arabs. He reminds the jury that Mersault is not a man who would plan a murder; instead, he reacted to a tragic situation and lost self-control. Unfortunately, the Prosecutor has successfully painted a different picture of Mersault as a cold-blooded killer, and the Defender fails to convince the jury that Mersault has acted in self-defense.

After the attorneys present their closing arguments, Mersault must wait for the final verdict. He takes a look around the courtroom and spies Marie, who waves to him and smiles. He finds it impossible to return the smile. His lawyer tries to assure him that he will surely receive a light sentence, requiring a short term of imprisonment or perhaps deportation. Mersault is, therefore, totally unprepared for the final judgement. The jury has sentenced him to be decapitated at some public place in the name of the French people. Mersault has trouble believing what he has heard; but when he looks around the courtroom, he sees that everyone is looking at him sympathetically. When he is asked if he wants to say something, Mersault answers in the negative. The police then lead him away, handling him gently.


Notes

The Prosecutor successfully argues that there are no extenuating circumstances to the homicide that Mersault has committed. He convinces the jury the murder was premeditated. He carefully shows how Mersault returned to the beach with a gun in his pocket, went directly to the stream, spied the Arab, and shot him, firing five bullets into his body. He argues that Mersault, as an intelligent man, was fully conscious of what he was doing and has shown no remorse for his actions. As Mersault listens to the Prosecutorís arguments, he is amazed that he makes intelligence seem like a negative quality, twisted to suit the purpose.

Mersault contemplates the irony of his situation. He became involved with the Arabs because of Raymond. He had the gun in his pocket by accident, because Raymond had given it to him for safekeeping. He was not in control of himself and felt off balance because of the intense sunlight and the heat of the afternoon. He could not clearly see what the Arab was doing because sweat was streaming into his eyes. He knows full well that the murder of the Arab was not premeditated, but when he tries to explain it, his words sound ridiculous and do nothing to help his case. Mersault makes matters worse when he admits to the Prosecutor that he feels no remorse for killing an Arab. The Prosecutor uses the information to further condemn Mersault. Mersault realizes that the Prosecutor speaks well and convincingly, while his own defense attorney is inadequate in his arguments and speech. Mersault views the trial as an absurd stage show about which he is totally impassionate.

As Mersault waits for the jury, he looks around the courtroom and spies Marie, who waves and smiles in encouragement. He also listens to his attorney as he tries to convince Mersault that his sentence will surely be light. As a result, Mersault is totally unprepared for the final judgement. When the verdict is returned, he learns that he is to be decapitated in a public place. The stiff sentence creates a wave of sympathy among the people gathered in the courtroom. It is absurd that they only value Mersault as a human being when he is going to die.

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