He doesn’t know… or does he?

12 Oct

The Stranger Vintage

In Chapter 1 of Book 2 the magistrate is questioning Mersault.

Again without any apparent logic, the magistrate then asked if I had fired all five shots at once.  I thought for a minute and explained that at first I had fired a single shot and then, a few seconds later, the other four.  Then he said, “Why did you pause between the first and second shot?”

In his mind Mersault flashes back to the heat of the moment.

Once again I could see the red sand and feel the burning of the sun on my forehead.  But this time I didn’t answer.

Does he not answer because he thinks his response is incriminating?  Is he following Native Son’s lead and going behind “the wall” to protect himself from his dismal future?

Why did Mersault pause between the first and following shots?

The prisoner’s silence doesn’t deter the magistrate from questioning him..

In the silence that followed, the magistrate seemed to be getting fidgety.  He sat down, ran his fingers through his hair, put his elbows on his desk, and leaned toward me slightly with a strange look on his face.  “Why why did you shoot at a body that was on the ground?”

This time there’s something slightly different in Mersault’s internal dialogue.

Once again I didn’t know how to answer.

Is not knowing how to answer different from not knowing the answer?

I think so.

1 Comment

Posted by on October 12, 2013 in The Stranger


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One response to “He doesn’t know… or does he?

  1. An Experiment with the Well-Educated Mind

    October 12, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    I agree, Christine. He did not know how to answer the question b/c (I think) he knew no one would understand him. It did not matter to him that there was an already dead body lying on the beach, and so it did not matter to shoot him once more, twice, whatever. He is detached from it. And he knows that they won’t understand that it doesn’t matter, nor does it matter to him if they understand at all.


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