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The Plague | Part 2, Chapter 12 | Summary



Anxiety increases to panic in Oran. Joseph Grand and Dr. Rieux talk at a cafe a few days after Father Paneloux's sermon, and Grand describes the book he is writing. The two go to Grand's home where Grand gives Rieux a peek at his work on the book so far. Surprisingly, Grand has only written one sentence: "One fine morning in the month of May an elegant young horsewoman might have been riding a handsome sorrel mare along the flowery avenues of the Bois de Boulogne." Suddenly they hear the noise of people running past outside, and when Dr. Rieux steps outside, he can see that many people are rushing toward the town's gates to attempt an escape.


In the wake of Father Paneloux's sermon, hopelessness and panic reign. Some of the people of Oran feel as if they have been sentenced "for an unknown crime." The injustice of this makes some passive and some rebellious. The sense of injustice, however, is based on an expectation that justice exists, somewhere. This belief in an underlying justice is similar to Grand's belief in the existence of the "right" words. Camus seems to suggest that perfect justice and perfect language are both impossibilities, and appealing to them does more harm than good. In trying to achieve the impossible, Grand is unable to get past his one sentence. In trying to characterize the plague as God's justice, Father Paneloux makes matters worse rather than better.

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