Literature Study GuidesThe PlaguePart 4 Chapter 19 Summary

The Plague | Study Guide

Albert Camus

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The Plague | Part 4, Chapter 19 | Summary

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Summary

Weeks pass and the people of Oran are becoming apathetic about the plague. Dr. Rieux is still treating patients, and Rambert's hotel is under quarantine. Hope has almost died in the town. It is certainly taking a toll on many of the novel's characters. Joseph Grand encourages himself by thinking about working on his novel or only the one sentence of the novel. Dr. Rieux worries that his wife is lonely without him. Tarrou is bored by everyone except Cottard, who is strangely cheerful now that fear of the plague is the only fear that matters, and everyone shares it. Dr. Castel tries his new, improved serum on M. Othon's young son. Everyone is tired.

Cottard and Tarrou visit the Opera House together for the opera Orpheus. In the midst of the performance, the actor playing Orpheus dies of the plague. Everyone panics.

Analysis

Tarrou, evidently bored by most of the people in town but intrigued by Cottard, spends time with the smuggler to try to better comprehend him (as Tarrou stated, his moral code is "comprehension"). Cottard is a fascinating case because for the first time, he feels like part of the community. He is no longer alone in a fearful existence, constantly worrying that at any moment he will be caught and his life taken; now all people are in a perpetual state of fear.

The fact that Tarrou and Cottard go to see Orpheus reflects the situation in Oran and the narrator's concern about "parted lovers." The opera is based on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice from Greek mythology. In the myth, when Eurydice is bitten by a snake and dies, Orpheus cannot bear to be parted from her, and so travels to the underworld to get her back. He is ultimately unsuccessful and returns to the world of the living, alone.

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