Literature Study GuidesThe PlaguePart 1 Chapter 7 Summary

The Plague | Study Guide

Albert Camus

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The Plague | Part 1, Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

A meeting with the Prefect of Oran has been set, and Dr. Rieux and Dr. Castel ride together to attend. Rieux tells Castel he sent word to Paris asking for anti-plague serum. When they arrive at the meeting, they begin by discussing whether they should publicly acknowledge the illness is the plague. Dr. Castel seems willing to fudge the truth to prevent panic, and Dr. Richard says he is willing to move slowly. But Dr. Rieux explains he has analyzed pus from one of the boils, and it came back positive for bubonic plague, and therefore they need to act quickly. Frustrated, he walks out of the meeting. On his way home, he passes a disturbing sight: a woman "screaming in agony," bleeding, and reaching her arms out to him.

Analysis

In the meeting, Dr. Richard and Dr. Rieux have an exchange that speaks to the theme of language and Joseph Grand's predicament. Dr. Richard wants Dr. Rieux to be absolutely sure that the word plague is correct. But Dr. Rieux has an interesting response. He suggests that it doesn't matter "how you phrase it," actions matter. Rather than searching endlessly for just the right word, he suggests, they should take action: "we should not act as if there were no likelihood that half the population would be wiped out; for then it would be."

On his way home Dr. Rieux encounters a woman whose suffering must reinforce his determination to take action rather than remain passive. The dramatic, visceral image of the bleeding woman stands as a contrast to the distance with which the town leaders had discussed the plague. While endless debates go on behind closed doors, real people are suffering terrible pain and dying in awful ways.

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