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Free Study Guide-The Plague by Albert Camus-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

PART II, SECTION 1

Summary

The closing of the town gates, isolating Oran, brings home to all the citizens the reality of the plague. Many people, who had casually left town or had come in for a visit, are now separated from their loved ones for an unspecified time. Additionally, almost all communication and transport from and to Oran are stopped; only telegraphic messages are allowed.

A feeling of exile is experienced by all. The inactivity caused by the isolation creates a sense of aimlessness, futility, and fear. Ironically, the people are more concerned about their exile and depravations than they are about the disease itself. They are at such loose ends that they have no will to fight or endure.

Notes

The existentialist believes that a person cannot really understand or sympathize with another personís problems. As a result, people feel exiled from their fellowmen. The theme of exile and the suffering it causes is found in many of Camusí works. It is clearly present in The Plague.


In this chapter, Camus captures the sense of exile of the citizens of Oran on two levels. First, they are literally exiled from the world when the city gates are closed to prevent the spread of the plague. The only communication with the outside world is through telegraphic messages. Visitors to Oran, like Rambert, have a particular sense of exile since they are separated from loved ones and cannot go home. On a second level, the people feel exiled from one another. Since the citizens of Oran have been creatures of habit who were preoccupied with their work and making money, they do not know what to do with themselves now that commerce with the outside has been cut off. Each person suffers his/her own sense of deprivation and fear and makes no attempt to reach out to or understand the misery of the other citizens around them. The fact that they cut themselves off from each other is more painful than being cut off by the closing of the city gates.

PART II, SECTION 2

Summary

With all trade and commerce cut off from Oran, supplies quickly dwindle. It is impossible to find many items on store shelves, especially luxury goods. When the cinemas and restaurants are forced to close, the citizens grow more restless and irritable, for they have nothing to do to entertain themselves. Still they are convinced that the shortages will not last for long. They have not faced the truth about the plague and are certain that it will soon pass.

During the chapter, Grand confides in Rieux about his personal life. His failed marriage resulted mostly from his working too much, not making enough money, and not offering hope for a better future. He also admits that he could not find the right words to make his wife feel loved. When she leaves him, Rieux admits that he loses faith in himself and the future.

Rambert also talks to Rieux. About three weeks after the closing of the gates, he asks the doctor to help him get out of town, for he wants to see his girlfriend. He suggests that the doctor certify that he is free of the plague. Rieux says that he cannot help him, for there is no way of knowing that Rambert is free of the plague; he may already be infected, even though he has none of the symptoms. Rambert accuses Rieux of lacking human feeling and living in a world of "abstraction". Rieux replies that he lives in a world of facts, and the fact is that the plague is a killer.

As Rieuxís patients begin to show symptoms of the disease, they resist going to the hospital, for they do not want to be separated from their families. At first he feels sympathetic towards their plight; but as time passes he admits that he develops a shell of bleak indifference. He has seen so much suffering and dying that he becomes immune to it.

Notes

This chapter deals with the pain of separation and exile caused by the plague in Oran. In particular, the isolation of Grand and Rambert are described. Every since Grandís wife left him, he has been lonely and miserable, feeling like a failure. Now the plague isolates him even more. Rambert is also miserable in Oran and misses his girlfriend terribly. Feeling trapped behind the city gates, he begs Rieux to certify that he is free of the plague and can safely leave Oran. When Rieux refuses, he sees him as an adversary and accuses the doctor of being devoid of human feeling. In actuality, Rieux has seen so much suffering, pain, and death that he has become less sensitive.

Grand and Rambert represent two different ideologies. Grand simply accepts life as it comes. His poverty does not upset him, and he does nothing to try and improve his status. When Jeanne leaves him, he blames himself and does not fight to get her back. As a contrast to Grand, Rambert is the rebel. He cannot accept that he has been imprisoned in a town in which he does not belong. He pleads to be made a special case, and when Rieux turns him down, he sees the doctor as the adversary, rather than the plague. The figure of the rebel, against the order of the world, is a common character in Camusís works.

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