The Plague

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
A man who committed an unknown crime in the past and so lives in a constant state of paranoia and fear of arrest, though he also craves human contact. Dr. Rieux meets him when Cottard tries to kill himself, fearing external punishment. Cottard is the only citizen of Oran who welcomes the plague, as it reduces the rest of the population to his natural state of fear and loneliness, and distracts the authorities from potentially arresting him. Cottard also runs a profitable smuggling business during the epidemic. When the plague retreats he goes mad and is arrested for firing a gun at passersby in the street.

Cottard Quotes in The Plague

The The Plague quotes below are all either spoken by Cottard or refer to Cottard. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Absurdism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of The Plague published in 1991.
Part 4 Quotes

“In short, this epidemic has done him proud. Of a lonely man who hated loneliness it has made an accomplice… He is happily at one with all around him, with their superstitions, their groundless panics, the susceptibilities of people whose nerves are always on the stretch; with their fixed idea of talking the least possible about plague and nevertheless talking of it all the time…”

Related Characters: Jean Tarrou (speaker), Cottard
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:

Ironically, the plague is good for one resident of the town: Cottard. Cottard is a criminal who committed a serious, unknown crime a long time ago. He's used to being ignored and shunned for his differences--and thus, when the plague hits, he's delighted. Suddenly, everybody is equal, and nobody is trying to arrest him. Furthermore, everybody has become a threat--i.e., a potential carrier of disease. Cottard is no longer so "lonely" then.

The passage reinforces how the plague dissolves all social boundaries. Hierarchy of any kind is just a human illusion--confronted by the harsh facts of death and chaos, the community of Oran abandons almost all hierarchies altogether, and thus Cottard is no longer such an outcast. 

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Plague quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Get the entire The Plague LitChart as a printable PDF.
The plague.pdf.medium

Cottard Character Timeline in The Plague

The timeline below shows where the character Cottard appears in The Plague. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Absurdism Theme Icon
...that his neighbor has had an accident. When Rieux arrives, he discovers that the neighbor, Cottard, has tried to hang himself. Rieux examines Cottard and says that he will have to... (full context)
Absurdism Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...Spanish patient, who welcomes it for his asthma. Rieux returns to check on Grand and Cottard, and he waits in Grand’s room for the police inspector to show up. While they... (full context)
Absurdism Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...inspector arrives and Grand grows very anxious choosing the right words for his statement about Cottard. He settles on the phrase “a secret grief” to describe Cottard’s troubles. The inspector then... (full context)
Absurdism Theme Icon
Heroism and Defiance Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...(as a Municipal clerk) to count up the daily deaths, and he is accompanied by Cottard. Grand tells Rieux that the numbers of deaths are going up. Rieux offers that they... (full context)
Absurdism Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Dr. Rieux visits Grand again and asks him about Cottard. Grand says that Cottard has been acting strangely gregarious lately, as if trying to make... (full context)
Absurdism Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Exile and Imprisonment Theme Icon
...has not come, and Dr. Rieux finally realizes that he himself is feeling afraid. Like Cottard, he feels the need for random human contact. He then visits Cottard, who acts strangely... (full context)
Part 2
Absurdism Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Cottard is the only person who seems in a better mood because of the plague. He... (full context)
Absurdism Theme Icon
Heroism and Defiance Theme Icon
Exile and Imprisonment Theme Icon
...Rambert grows frustrated with the government and starts looking for illegal means of escaping Oran. Cottard offers to help him, as since the plague began Cottard has been smuggling in contraband... (full context)
Exile and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Garcia walks with Rambert and Cottard and then puts Rambert in touch with a man named Raoul, who he will have... (full context)
Absurdism Theme Icon
Heroism and Defiance Theme Icon
Exile and Imprisonment Theme Icon
...Gonzales, Marcel, or Louis. He decides to start all over again, and goes back to Cottard, who is meeting Rieux the next day. Cottard remarks that the sanitation leagues don’t seem... (full context)
Absurdism Theme Icon
Suffering and Death Theme Icon
Exile and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Tarrou asks Cottard why he doesn’t join the anti-plague league, and Cottard, offended, says it isn’t his job,... (full context)
Absurdism Theme Icon
Exile and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Rambert gets Cottard to help him again, and they make contact with Garcia, who suggests that Gonzales and... (full context)
Part 4
Absurdism Theme Icon
Suffering and Death Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Exile and Imprisonment Theme Icon
The only man in town who seems content is Cottard. Tarrou offers a sympathetic ear, so Cottard spends time with him and Tarrou takes notes... (full context)
Absurdism Theme Icon
Suffering and Death Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Tarrou records an incident at the Municipal Opera House, where he and Cottard attended a performance of Gluck’s Orpheus. People have still been seeking out lavish pleasures and... (full context)
Part 5
Exile and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Cottard is the only person upset by the retreat of the plague. He fears that as... (full context)
Absurdism Theme Icon
Exile and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Dr. Rieux feels he must end with Cottard, the only man he cannot understand, but whose only real crime was approving of something... (full context)
Suffering and Death Theme Icon
Exile and Imprisonment Theme Icon
A policeman explains that Cottard has shut himself in his apartment with a gun, and he has been yelling and... (full context)