Summary: Chapter 4

[S]he asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so.

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The following Saturday, Meursault goes swimming again with Marie. He is intensely aroused from the first moment he sees her. After the swim, they hurry back to Meursault’s apartment to have sex. Marie spends the night and stays for lunch the following day. Meursault tells her the story of Salamano and his dog, and she laughs. Then Marie asks Meursault if he loves her. He replies that, though “it [doesn’t] mean anything, he [doesn’t] think so.” Meursault’s response makes Marie look sad.

Marie and Meursault can hear an argument in Raymond’s apartment. The tenants of the building gather on the landing and listen outside the door to the sounds of Raymond beating his mistress. A police officer arrives. Raymond’s mistress informs the officer that Raymond beat her and the cop slaps Raymond in the face. He then orders Raymond to wait in his apartment until he is summoned to the police station. Later that afternoon, Raymond visits Meursault in his apartment. He asks Meursault to go to the police station to testify that his mistress had cheated on him. Meursault agrees. After an evening out, the two men return to their apartment building to find Salamano desperately searching for his dog, who ran away from him at the Parade Ground. Meursault says that if the dog is at the pound, he can pay a fee to have it returned. Salamano curses the dog when he hears this, but later that night, Meursault hears Salamano crying in his room.

Summary: Chapter 5

I said that people never change their lives, that in any case one life was as good as another and that I wasn’t dissatisfied with mine here at all.

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Raymond’s friend Masson invites Meursault and Marie to spend the following Sunday at his beach house with him, his wife, and Raymond. Meursault’s boss offers him a position in a new office he plans to open in Paris. Meursault replies that it is all the same to him, and his boss becomes angry at his lack of ambition. Meursault muses that he used to have ambition as a student, but then realized that none of it really mattered.

Marie asks Meursault if he wants to marry her. Meursault replies that it makes no difference to him. When she asks Meursault if he loves her, he again replies that though it does not mean anything, he probably does not love her. Marie thinks he is peculiar, but decides that she wants to marry him nonetheless. She tells Meursault that she cannot have dinner with him that night, and when he does not ask why she laughs. Meursault eats dinner alone at Celeste’s, where he notices a strange woman obsessively checking off radio programs listed in a magazine. He follows her briefly when she leaves.

Meursault returns home and finds Salamano waiting outside his door. Salamano says that he bought his dog in an effort to overcome the loneliness he felt after his wife died, and that he does not want to get a new dog because he is used to the old one. Salamano then expresses his condolences for the death of Madame Meursault. He mentions that some people in the neighborhood thought badly of Meursault for sending her to the home, but he himself knew that Meursault must have loved her very much. He returns to his own loss, saying that he does not know what he will do without his dog. Its loss has changed his life dramatically.

Analysis: Chapters 4–5

On the surface, Meursault appears to be an ordinary, lower middle-class French colonial in Algeria, living a typical day-to-day routine. He eats lunch in small cafés, attends films, and swims during his free time. He is diligent but not exceptional at his perfectly ordinary job. As of yet, he challenges nothing this society hands him, and it challenges nothing in him. Meursault lives his life almost unconsciously, nearly sleepwalking through a ready-made structure that his society provides him.