Course Hero. "The Plague Study Guide." Course Hero. 2 Dec. 2016. Web. 24 May 2022. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Plague/>.
Course Hero. (2016, December 2). The Plague Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Plague/
(Course Hero, 2016)
Course Hero. "The Plague Study Guide." December 2, 2016. Accessed May 24, 2022. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Plague/.
Course Hero, "The Plague Study Guide," December 2, 2016, accessed May 24, 2022, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Plague/.
As activity in Oran grinds to a halt, the people begin to blame the town authorities for their situation. And although hundreds of people have died, and the number increases each week, people don't really take it all seriously until gas, electricity, and food rationing begins. Businesses close. People entertain themselves by drinking and watching the same movie over and over at the theater.
The chapter shifts back to two days after the quarantine began, when Dr. Rieux meets Cottard on the street. Cottard says he is feeling very well—never better, in fact. He relates several stories of people suffering and dying to Rieux, but he is pleased and "gleeful" about them. Later that same day, Rieux also talks with Joseph Grand, who tells Rieux about his wife—meeting her, marrying her, how he had "failed to keep alive the feeling in his wife that she was loved," and how she has now left him. Grand notes he's been trying to write to her, but he cannot find the right words.
A few weeks later, Rieux meets Rambert, who explains he needs a doctor's note saying he is free of the plague so he can try to get out of the city to his wife, who is in Paris. Rambert's been trying, but the town authorities have denied his request. Rieux refuses to put people at risk by writing such a note. Rambert accuses Rieux of speaking in abstractions, and later Rieux considers this idea. He decides when an abstraction starts killing, something must be done about it. As a doctor, he must treat plague patients, which he does for the remainder of the chapter.
As this chapter begins, the narrator describes the general state of the population. They are unable to wrap their minds around what is happening. As in war, death rates climb to a point where they seem incomprehensible, and people go in and out of despair and denial. It is just too terrible to face, and the death toll becomes an abstraction of numbers and statistics rather than the concrete reality of blood and death.
Yet later in the chapter, Rambert and Rieux assess the conflict between the needs of the community and the needs of an individual. Dr. Rieux comes down on the side of doing what's best for society, while Rambert wants his own interests to be more meaningful. Rambert frames this debate in terms of "abstractions"—saying that Rieux's position is based on the abstraction while his own position is based on something more concrete: the happiness he finds in the love of a woman. An astute reader will notice that happiness and love are abstractions, but death in the form of the plague is a concrete reality.
Joseph Grand reveals that his trouble with words goes back a long way. He reveals his wife left him because, "[w]hile we loved each other we didn't need words to make ourselves understood. But people do not love forever. A time came when I should have found the words to keep her with me—only I couldn't." It is interesting he suggests love can take the place of words and perhaps vice versa.
Cottard's reaction to the plague is the inverse of the majority of the town's citizens. Without the plague he felt fearful and alone. As the plague increases, Cottard feels better and more included, while everyone else feels fearful and separated from each other.