Chapter 1.6 of The Stranger by Albert Camus

Yeah, duh, there’s gonna be spoilers below. This one is sort of long, but I hope you can read it through. Or don’t, I’m not trying to pressure you. The 1.6 is for Part One, Chapter 6. 

This is the moment I had been waiting for. FINALLY IT HAPPENED.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. So they-Meursault, Marie and Raymond-are on their way to Raymond’s friend Masson’s beach house, They see the Arabs that have been following Raymond around, but the Arabs are seemingly not interested in seeking revenge on this particular Sunday. They ride the bus and cross “…a small plateau that overlooks the sea and then drops steeply down to the beach” (Camus 49).

Honestly, with the following descriptions, I was having a tough time visualizing the beach.

Okay, so no lie, when it said “Masson wanted to go for a swim, but his wife and Raymond didn’t want to come” (Camus 50) I got all excited cause I thought Raymond was going to hit on his wife or coerce her into the pimp business, and then they’d come back and Masson would try to kill Raymond or the other way around.

But nah, nothing of that sort. More couple-ey swimming hoopla, and notice the lack of importance for Masson’s wife-we don’t even know her name. But, yanno, women. When the three men take their walk on the beach, they meet the Arabs walking toward them. As they’re fighting, Raymond tries to be all macho and idiotically turns from his victim to Meursault to tell him he’s “..gonna let him have it now” (Camus 54) and subsequently gets slashed with a knife.

So then the Arabs back away and leave, and Masson takes Raymond to a doctor nearby. When they get back to the house, Raymond is acting funny and says he is going down to the beach to get some air. Despite being swore at and told not to follow, Meursault accompanies him, like any friend trying to keep another friend out of trouble would.

They find the Arabs by a spring (again, I had trouble visualizing this setting), and Raymond asks if he should “…let him have it” (Camus 56). Meursault, in a way, calms the situation by telling Raymond that shooting the Arab when he doesn’t even say anything would be lousy. When Raymond wants to call him something and if he answers, to shoot, Meursault puts meaningless restrictions on the event, first saying that he can’t shoot if he doesn’t draw his knife, then informing Raymond that he should take him on man to man.

For some reason-I suppose he wants to uphold his manly honor-Raymond submits to Meursault’s restrictions and hands Meursault his gun when he asks for it. They have a little moment as Raymond hands him the gun, and simply stare at each other.

“It was then that I realized that you could either shoot or not shoot” (Camus 56). I noted it as an interesting observation, a very black and white type of comment. In context and referring to a gun, of course it’s true. However, there are minutiae that make a difference. Do you shoot at the head, the heart, the stomach, a foot, a limb? What damage do you intend to do?

Then again, in the eyes of the law, it comes down to if you shot the person or not. BUT then again, court does take into consideration premeditated hoopla, and there is a difference between murder and injuring someone, unless malicious intent is found.

Honestly, this argument is only valid if you’re efficient at shooting a gun and can actually aim.

They go back to the bungalow, but Meursault stops short of the steps, and he is….”unable to face the effort it would take to climb the wooden staircase and face the women again. But the heat was so intense that it was just as bad as standing still in the blinding stream falling from the sky. To stay or go, it amounted to the same thing” (Camus 57).

So he goes for a walk in the blistering heat. He heads toward the relief of the spring to find that Raymond’s man (singular, so there’s only one there) had come back, and he”s just sunbathing. They see each other and each grab the weapons in their pockets, though the Arab lays back down with his hand in his pocket, glancing at Meursault every now and then.

So Meursault just stands there in the scorching sun. He begins to think about how this day is a lot like the one he buried Maman in, which makes me wonder if he had any sudden pang of shock or grief or something related to Maman’s death that triggered this unreasonable event.

Anyway, he keeps saying how hot it is, and he starts to move forward for no apparent reason-“I knew that it was stupid, that I wouldn’t get the sun off me by stepping forward” (Camus 59). But he keeps advancing, and the Arab draws his knife and slashes Meursault across the forehead and over his eyes. It’s a very descriptive, well written paragraph describing the heat and sweat and blood over his eyes (which I will rewrite, despite how excessive it is).

The light shot off the steel and it was like a long flashing blade cutting at my forehead. At the same instant the sweat in my eyebrows dripped down over my eyelids all at once and covered them with a warm, thick film. My eyes were blinded behind the curtain of tears and salt. All I could feel were the cymbals of sunlight crashing on my forehead and, indistinctly, the dazzling spear flying up from my eyelashes and stabbed at my stinging eyes. That’s when everything began to reel. The sea carried up a thick, fiery breath. It seemed to me as if the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire. My whole being tensed and I squeezed my hand around the revolver. The trigger gave; I felt the smooth underside of the butt; and there, in that noise, sharp and deafening at the same time, is where it all started. I shook off the sweat and sun. I knew that I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I’d been happy. Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness. (Camus 59)

…So he shot the guy because it was hot. That is what I gathered from this. This was the moment I threw down the book on the table where I had been taking my break so some of my friends could stare at me.

That bold part is my favorite part of the whole spiel. I’m still lurking on the edge of the whole juxtaposing the heat of Maman’s funeral with the heat of the day of the murder. There’s something important there. When he says that he shook off the sweat and the sun, was he shaking off grief and insensibility, finally coming out of his daze? I think so.

Then there is the big question-why did he shoot the Arab four times after he had killed him? I will do some literary research on this whole murder scene and hopefully be back with more answers!

Thanks for reading, if you’ve gotten to this point-it was pretty bulky. Part 2 is next!

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