A Marie Cardona
Formerly a typist in the same office as Meursault, Marie Cardona happens to be swimming where Meursault goes swimming the day after his mother’s funeral. She likes Meursault and their meeting sparks off a relationship. She asks if he loves her but he tells her, honestly, that he doesn’t think so. Still, he agrees to marry her, but then he is arrested.
Marie represents the happy life Meursault desires to live. In fact, she is the only reason he even considers regretting his crime. Meursault sees Marie’s face in the prison wall-but the image fades after a time. Marie, for Meursault, was a comfort representing a life of “normality” that might have been lived. However, it did not happen. Instead he becomes certain only of life and death and is executed.
The caretaker takes a keen interest in Meursault. He stays by him throughout the vigil and provides him with explanations and Introductions. He also tries to justify his life to Meursault. He explains that he has been to Paris and only became a caretaker when fate made him destitute.
It is the caretaker who provides the most damaging testimony at the trial. The caretaker testified that Meursault “hadn’t wanted to see Maman, that [he] had smoked and slept some, and that [he] had had some coffee.” The prosecutor dwells on the caretaker’s testimony and asks him to repeat the part about having a coffee and a cigarette with Meursault. It is during this testimony that Meursault “for the first time … realized that [he] was guilty.”
Celeste owns the cafe at which Meursault customarily dines. He is called as a witness at Meursault’s trial. His theory on Meursault’s crime is that it was bad luck. He seems to be a fatalist, believing that one is more the victim of chance than a free agent.
D Defense Counsel lawyer
The lawyer represents Meursault to the best of his ability. He seems to be the only person who understands the silliness of the trial and the difficulties for someone like Meursault. After the examination of Perez on the witness stand, he says, “Here we have a perfect reflection of this entire trial: everything is true, and nothing is true!” Unconsciously, the lawyer has just sided with Meursault-the truth of the court is arbitrary and meaningless.
E Director of Home
The director of the nursing home where Meursault’s mother lived is a very matter-of-fact man. Death in his community means taking care of ceremony and preventing, as much as possible, the other patients from being too much on edge. Consequently, everything is done “as usual” so that while a funeral is a stress to the community, it is a habitual ritual. The director accompanies the funeral procession to the gravesite and offers Meursault information about his mother’s life at the home, but Meursault is not very interested.
F Examining Magistrate
The magistrate, as an investigator, is interested in what other people think. This makes him the exact opposite of Meursault in psychological make-up. He examines Meursault’s testimony for the insights they might provide about Meursault’s mind rather than making an effort to establish the facts of the murder. He tells Meursault that with God’s help, he will try to “do something” for him. The magistrate asks Meursault if he loved his mother before asking about the five shots. Thus, the connection between Meursault’s behavior at his mother’s funeral and his act of murder is made concrete.
The magistrate then presents Meursault with a Bible and crucifix, hoping to save Meursault’s soul. The ruse backfires because Meursault refuses to see the validity of religion in the state’s case against him. Having failed to “do something for him” the magistrate never brings up the matter again.
The magistrate is an important character in the story as the representative of society’s law. He fails in his attempt to make Meursault acknowledge either the authority of law or that of religion. The magistrate is entirely unable to understand Meursault, and after a few sessions speaks only to his lawyer.
Masson is the owner of the beach house to which Raymond takes Meursault and Marie for the day. Masson is an obese, carefree fellow who wants them all to live there in the vacation month of August and share expenses. He believes that lunch is when one is hungry and that it is good to do things when one wants and not according to schedule. Thus he is simply a man who likes to live well and to be happy.
H Arthur Meursault
Meursault is a French Algerian clerk who learns that his mother has died. He attends the funeral and, on the following day, goes to the beach. There, he meets Marie, with whom he begins a relationship. A neighbor invites him to the beach where they encounter some Arabs. Meursault shoots one of the Arabs for no apparent reason. He is arrested, tried, and executed. Until the moment when the judge pronounces him guilty, Meursault is annoyingly indifferent to the activities of the real world. The judgment jars him into an examination of life, at the end of which he concludes that life is absurd. He finds peace and happiness in this acknowledgment. This conclusion of his analysis, Meursault discovers, is liberating.
The Stranger is Camus’s manifestation or incarnation of his theory of the “absurd” man. Meursault is a case study who reveals Camus’s theory through his actions. That is, the protagonist Meursault possesses a curious psychology whose activity is of more interest than the fact of his crime. Meursault is an “outsider”-a person who lives in his own private world and maintains no interest in anyone else, especially how they view him. However, he is not unaware of others. Several crucial moments demonstrate this: at the opening, Meursault is aware that his boss offers him no sympathy upon hearing of his mother’s death. Next, he is aware that one is expected to mourn the dead, which he refuses to do. He knows he could say he loved Marie and that she would accept his love, but he does not. Lastly, he is aware, throughout his own trial, that he ought to say certain things, but he does not.
Finally, as Camus himself said, Meursault is a Christ figure who dies for everyone who misunderstands him. Meursault becomes aware of the meaninglessness with which society pursues its notions of propriety, and, in the case of the prison chaplain, its dogmas. Meursault is convicted as much for his psychological indifference, his selfish and asocial behavior, and his lack of mourning for his mother, as for his crime. His position is not without logic. For example, when the magistrate tries to persuade him to believe in God so that he might be forgiven, Meursault asks what difference that makes when it is the state that will find him guilty and then execute him-not God.
It is before the priest, however, that he finally explodes: “none of [the priest’s] certainties was worth one strand of a woman’s hair. Living as he did, like a corpse, he couldn’t even be sure of being alive. It might look as if my hands were empty. Actually, I was sure of myself, sure about everything, far surer than he; sure of my present life and of the death that was coming. That, no doubt, was all I had.” Meursault dies because he knows this truth-he is killed because the others cling to their illusions.
I Monsieur Thomas Perez
Perez is an old man who was a friend of Meursault’s mother at the nursing home. He insists on attending the burial. Because of a limp and his age, Perez falls behind the procession but still manages to attend. He is called as a witness at the trial and is unable to say whether or not he had seen Meursault cry.
Raymond is a neighbor who asks Meursault to write a letter for him. Meursault agrees to do so because it is easier than saying no. Consequently, they become friends and Meursault even testifies to the police that Raymond’s girlfriend was cheating on him. In response, the police let Raymond off (for beating her) with a warning. However, the girlfriend’s brother is not so generous, and, along with a group of Arabs, starts following Raymond. A showdown takes place when Raymond and Meursault visit Masson’s beach house. A fight ensues, and Raymond is cut. Shortly after this, Meursault shoots one of the Arabs.
Raymond represents the small-minded man who views things in terms of possession-he beats a woman for not being solely his; he insists that Meursault is now his friend because he agreed to write the letter. Relationships, for Raymond, are his certainties and life fills in around them. It is Raymond, contrary to the evidence, who unquestioningly believes that Salamano’s dog will return.
Salamano is a disgusting older man who beats his dog. His routine walk with his mutt and his muttering gives Meursault daily amusement. This routine is part of the general rhythm of tedium that is Meursault’s universe. Sadly, the dog goes missing, and Salamano comes to Meursault for help. Meursault offers him none and Salamano acknowledges that his whole life has changed. The disruption of routine caused by the loss of the dog is one of many signs that Meursault’s tedious universe has collapsed.