Literature Study GuidesThe PlaguePart 1 Chapter 5 Summary

The Plague | Study Guide

Albert Camus

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The Plague | Part 1, Chapter 5 | Summary



The narrator explains a plague is similar to a war: common in all times and places, yet, somehow surprising. Also, people think wars and plagues are stupid, but stupidity persists and often seems to be a dominant force. People treat plagues and wars like nightmares that are scary, but not real, yet they die anyway. This difficulty in facing the reality of the plague is even a problem for Dr. Rieux.

Dr. Rieux reviews the symptoms of plague in his mind and considers the history of its outbreaks in various places. He decides he just needs to do his job, and he'd better get on with it.


In case readers did not make the connection between World War II and the plague, the narrator is making it very clear. Both war and plague are things humans would prefer to ignore, so they do. They are surprised by them when they inevitably come. The narrator suggests war and plague, in fact, are the norm, not the exception. One way people can perhaps stop avoiding the subject of war, plague, or mortality, is to look it in the face. Statistics will not work, says the narrator. People have to see the actual faces of the dead before they will believe in plague and war.

At the end of this chapter, Dr. Rieux makes a decision. He must do what he can do: be a doctor. He decides to take action. This, readers will find, is a defining characteristic of Dr. Rieux.

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