Literature Study GuidesThe PlaguePart 1 Chapter 6 Summary

The Plague | Study Guide

Albert Camus

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The Plague | Part 1, Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

Joseph Grand, Cottard, and Dr. Rieux are discussing the plague, though no one wants to say the word plague. Joseph Grand, who works for the town, has the unpleasant duty of counting the number of dead. So far, in the first two days of the plague, 11 people have died. After Cottard and Grand have gone their separate ways, Dr. Rieux considers Joseph Grand, revealing that Grand has been passed over for promotion at work for the entire 20 years at his position, and that the man has a difficult time expressing himself in words but is still attempting to write a book. Overall, Rieux seems to think Grand is a good sort.

Analysis

The fact that no one wants to say plague aloud suggests there is some power in using language to name something. One of the book's themes is the inadequacy of language, or the difficulty of finding the correct language, and this reluctance to use the right word contributes to the theme by suggesting that to say a thing aloud is a way of acknowledging it. No one wants to acknowledge the plague, so they do not say the word.

This difficulty with the word plague segues into a more lengthy description of Joseph Grand, whose main characteristic throughout the book is his inability to arrive at the right words to say what he means. His attempt to write a novel despite this limitation echoes the efforts of Dr. Rieux and others to fight the plague. In both cases, they must continue to work at what seems to be an overwhelming task, with no certainty the end result will matter. Both of their efforts are intended to improve the human condition, and neither has any certainty of success.

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