Literature Study GuidesThe PlaguePart 4 Chapter 22 Summary

The Plague | Study Guide

Albert Camus

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The Plague | Part 4, Chapter 22 | Summary

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Summary

Father Paneloux has been working as part of Dr. Rieux's volunteers and has been "at the forefront of the fight" against the plague. He preaches another sermon—not as well-attended as the first, since the people of Oran are now crazy about old prophesies rather than the Church—about the nature of evil. He seems to suggest that good can come of the plague, even from the suffering of a child. He tells the people they either have faith in God or they do not. He uses the term "active fatalism" to describe the idea that people must accept that God has willed the suffering they endure, but they must also fight it. Suddenly, a strong wind blows the doors open, interrupting the sermon.

The opinion of other clergy of Paneloux's sermon (and the fact that he is consulting a doctor about matters) is that the priest seems uncertain of his faith, even conflicted. Thereafter, Father Paneloux becomes ill and dies, but the symptoms do not resemble the plague symptoms at all. Dr. Rieux records that Father Paneloux's death was a "doubtful case."

Analysis

Father Paneloux's experience watching Jacques Othon die has had a profound effect on his faith. He decides that, for Christians, faith must be 100 percent—you have faith in God and accept the plague as part of His will or you reject faith altogether. In some ways, this seems similar to Dr. Rieux's opinion that he can either attend to his duty to fight the plague or to his own emotions, but not both. Neither have found a good middle way.

The final image of Dr. Rieux recording Father Paneloux's name and cause of death as "doubtful case" underscores Paneloux's spiritual crisis. On the surface, Dr. Rieux is simply recording that Father Paneloux had a "doubtful" case of plague, since his symptoms did not match plague symptoms. A second meaning is that father Paneloux died as a result of his inability to reconcile his experience and his faith; therefore, he had spiritual doubts about God's existence or God's goodness that he could not live with.

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