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Free Study Guide-The Plague by Albert Camus-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

PART IV, SECTION 4

Summary

Father Paneloux is shaken by Philippeís dying agony. As a result, he preaches a second sermon in which his tone is much more gentle. While he maintains his earlier stance that the plague is Godís way of teaching men to be better, he states that suffering itself is evil and must be fought against. He acknowledges that running away from the problem or not taking precautionary measures against it is giving in to the enemy. In spite of this concession, Paneloux emphasizes that mankind is called to total self-surrender to Godís will. If man is aligned with God, he can reconcile suffering and death, even of children. During the sermon, the church is only seventy-five percent full. Because of the plague, many people in Oran have turned to superstitions, talismans, and prophecies, turning their backs on religion.

A few days after the sermon, the priest is asked to move out of his house. He moves in with a pious old lady whom he antagonizes by belittling her praise of St. Odullaís prophecies. It is clear that the epidemic in Oran has exhausted Father Paneloux. Although he is physically not well, he refuses to see the doctor, for he questions whether priests should seek medical advice or accept their conditions as Godís will. When he finally decides to seek help, his chest congestion is so serious that he is hospitalized. Clutching a crucifix, he tells Rieux that "priests can have no friends. They have given all to God." Rieux and his colleagues are unable to diagnose and successfully treat the priestís illness, and he soon passes away.


Notes

This section centers on Father Paneloux, who is clearly shaken by the death of Philippe. When he preaches another sermon about the plague and the suffering of the people, his tone is much softer. Although he still claims that the plague is Godís way of testing people and making them better, he states that suffering is evil, which borders on blasphemy to Jesuit belief. Shaken by his own doubt, Paneloux displaces his inner uneasiness by challenging the validity of the doctorís vocation. This psychological displacement of doubt, combined with his physical displacement from his home into the uncongenial company of a narrow-minded "pious lady," unhinges him completely. Camus presents Panelouxís guilt-ridden situation dramatically through the priestís sermon.

The irony of Panelouxís situation is that with his staunch temperament and his unwillingness to compromise, he would have been invaluable in the struggle against death, a true fellow combatant with Rieux. Unfortunately, his death is a waste, affirming nothing.

PART IV, SECTION 5

Summary

The disaster reaches a high water mark when the pneumonic plague, which is more fatal, begins to spread rapidly. Dr. Richard is among the casualties. Food shortages become more widespread and lead to profiteering, and the poor, who suffer greater injustices, grow upset. In spite of the worsening conditions, the newspapers continue to project optimism, as ordered by the authorities, but no one believes the stories. The truth is to be found in the isolation camps where quarantined persons live in misery, even though the camps are run efficiently and the residents have adequate food.

Notes

The false optimism of the authorities, as reported in the newspaper, is no longer credible, for things have worsened in Oran. The pneumonic plague, which is more fatal, is spreading rapidly, and food shortages are becoming more widespread. There is now a general unrest amongst the people, especially amongst the poor who suffer greater injustices.

Once again, the picture that is painted in Oran corresponds to the situation of the war when the military officials tried to convince the population that everything was well. Similarly, the quarantine camps symbolized the prisoner-of-war camps.

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