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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES
PART IV, SECTION 1
As the plague continues to rage in September and October, the exhaustion of those who try to combat the disease is clearly visible. Totally absorbed in their fight against the killer plague, most become sloppy in their personal lives and develop an indifference to everything not related to their cause. Rieux, in particular, works unceasingly; but most of his time is spent putting infected people into quarantine. Grand, however, grows sentimental, remembering his ex-wife; and Tarrou manage to retain his zest for life and its peculiarities.
The section concludes with a scene at the opera, where Orpheus is being performed. The tenor collapses on stage, attacked by the plague.
Those who unite to fight the plague in Oran are dedicated to their cause, working long hours and ignoring their personal lives. Rieux, in particular, is a tireless worker, but he regrets that he must spend most of his time putting infected citizens in quarantine. Only Tarrou seems to retain a zest for life and takes the time to analyze Cottardís character and motives.
When the exiled citizens of Oran try to break the monotony of life and entertain themselves, they cannot escape the ravages of the epidemic that surrounds them. The section ends at the opera, where the tenor collapses from the plague while performing on stage. It is appropriate that the opera being presented is Orpheus,
for it deals with a separation of lovers and a journey underground in order to be united again. It is symbolic of Rambertís efforts to join his wife through the underground movement.
PART IV, SECTION 2
Rieux is pleased that Rambertís escape is about to materialize. In order to be prepared to depart, he moves into the house of the sentries, where their religiously devout mother understands Rambertís need to escape. She believes that since Rambert has no belief in God, he must rely on another human being to give his life meaning.
On the day set for his departure, Rambert goes to the hospital, where he sees the overworked Tarrou and Rieux. He announces to them his change of heart. He has decided to stay on in Oran, for he would feel ashamed to abandon his friends in a time of great need. He has accepted the fact that the plague is "everyoneís business." Rieux is amazed at his decision, for he states that "nothing in the world is worth turning oneís back on what one loves." Amazingly, both Rambert and Rieux do turn their backs on what they love in order to fight the plague.
At the moment that Rambert is set to depart from Oran, he announces that he cannot leave and abandon his friends. It is ironic that he has fought throughout the novel to escape the town and then chooses to stay. It proves that he is capable of placing the good of the community and the love of his fellowmen above his personal happiness.
It is significant that Rambert makes his announcement with little explanation and without fanfare. This is a stark contrast to the lengthy explanations of the plague and the exhaustion it causes; but the simplicity of Rambertís explanation makes it more moving.
PART IV, SECTION 3
The new Castel vaccine, which is finally ready for trial, is used on Philippe, M. Othonís young son, who is in the last stage of the plague. The vaccine is not effective on him, and he dies after much suffering, as Rieux, Castel, Father Paneloux, and Tarrou watch. Rieux, recalling the priestís earlier sermon, turns upon him and asks how the suffering of such an innocent child could be justified. Paneloux says it is beyond human understanding. Rieux refuses to embrace any order that allows such torture of children. Despite his disagreement with Paneloux, the doctor is happy that the priest and he are allies in the fight against the plague.
The suffering and death of Philippe Othon is described in great detail and makes the reader realize the horrible destruction of the plague. Dr. Rieux reacts strongly to Philippeís death, for he believes that it violates natural justice. In his frustration, he turns on Father Paneloux and asks how the suffering of an innocent child can be justified, as he tried to do in his earlier sermon. Rieuxís inability to control his feelings reveals that he is physically and emotionally drained.
The doctrinal discussion that ensues between Rieux and Paneloux seems superfluous, especially since it is filled with empty rhetoric on metaphysics and morality.