A young Frenchman, Meursault, lives on his own, working a trivial job. The story opens with news of his mother’s passing. She lived nearly 80 Kilometers away, at the elderly home he had sent her to live as he had little income to support her living at home with him. He was disconnected from his mother, the time they spent when they lived together was uneventful, each having nothing to say and wishing to be elsewhere. At the viewing and funeral, Meursault had not wished to see his mothers body, and had not cried, giving the appearance of indifference. Upon returning home, he began an affair with Marie, a woman who used to be his coworker. He thought she was incredibly beautiful, but as she asked him for marriage, he again showed indifference to their future.
Meursault’s friend Raymond lived across the hall in their building. He was involved with a woman who cheated him and asked Meursault for help in writing a letter to her to have some cathartic revenge. The woman returned to Raymond’s apartment and he beat her. The woman’s brother was an Arab who began keeping a threatening eye on Raymond.
One day Meursault, Marie, and Raymond went to Raymond’s friend’s beach house. After a day of swimming and eating, the men went for a walk on the beach and ran into the Arabic brother and his friend, a fight ensued. Raymond was cut with a knife and went to the doctor. Later that day, Meursault was still on the beach and was suffering from the heat. He considered going up the stairs to the beach home, or back to a cold spring (where they last saw the Arabs) to cool off. He started walking to the spring and found the Arab there. The blistering heat got to Meursault and as the Arab’s knife flashed a ray of the sun into his eyes, Meursault began shooting him.
The second half of the book relates the time leading up to Meursault’s trial for killing the Arab. He was seemingly indifferent the entire time. His lack of desire to fight for himself and prove his innocence led Meursualt to being charged with the crime and sentenced to the guillotine.
The book had a sense of indifference throughout. Meursault did not care much that his mother died. He did not care whether he married Marie or not. He did not really seem to care whether he was found guilty of murder or not. In the end, he was resigned to the fact that we are all born, we all live a meaningless life, and we all must die. The melancholy of triviality that lasted throughout the book ended in his final realization. Meursault was finally happy.