The Plague

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Dr. Bernard Rieux Character Analysis

The narrator and main character of the novel, a doctor who is the first to notify the authorities of the plague and urge them to take action. Dr. Rieux is an atheist and a humanist, but he focuses on working as a healer more than finding philosophical or religious answers. Rieux struggles ceaselessly against the plague despite his great fatigue and the signs that his efforts are having little effect. Rieux is separated from his wife at the beginning of the novel, but he does not allow his personal suffering – or even individual pity for the plague victims – to distract him from his battle against the plague itself.

Dr. Bernard Rieux Quotes in The Plague

The The Plague quotes below are all either spoken by Dr. Bernard Rieux or refer to Dr. Bernard Rieux. 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 1 Quotes

The word “plague” had just been uttered for the first time. At this stage of the narrative, with Dr. Bernard Rieux standing at his window, the narrator may, perhaps, be allowed to justify the doctor’s uncertainty and surprise – since, with very slight differences, his reaction was the same as that of the majority of the townsfolk. Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux
Page Number: 36-37
Explanation and Analysis:

For the first time in the novel, a character uses the world "plague." It's as if the full measure of the danger to the town of Oran didn't exist until people gave it a name. The doctor, Bernard Rieux (who, we later learn, is the true narrator of the novel), is baffled, along with everybody else, by the arrival of the plague. It's worth understanding why.

History is full of plagues--and yet each new plague surprises humanity. Humans are so desperate for order and unity that they can't accept the basic truth: their lives are always in some kind of danger. As soon as a danger like a plague passes, humans forget all about it, deluding themselves into believing that their civilization will last forever. In short, the plague brings out the deep truths that most people, Bernard included, would prefer not to accept. By the end of the novel, Bernard seems to have reached his own peace with the plague; he realizes that humans have to face directly the chaos and looming death in their lives.

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And this difficulty in finding his words had come to be the bane of his life. “Oh, Doctor,” he would exclaim, “how I’d like to learn to express myself!” He brought the subject up each time he met Rieux.
That evening, as he watched Grand’s receding form… He realized how absurd it was, but he simply couldn’t believe that a pestilence on the great scale could befall a town where people like Grand were to be found, obscure functionaries cultivating harmless eccentricities.

Related Characters: Joseph Grand (speaker), Dr. Bernard Rieux
Page Number: 46-47
Explanation and Analysis:

Here we're introduced to Joseph Grand, a lowly clerk whose life is perhaps the most absurd of anyone in the town of Oran (except for the man who spits on cats). Physically, Grand is a comical figure--he wears clothing that's a little too big for his body. Furthermore, Grand finds it very difficult to express himself--he spends his life trying to write a book, but only ever revises the first sentence constantly. He also wants to justify himself to his ex-wife, who left him, but doesn't because he feels he can never find the right words.

Although it's easy to laugh at Grand, Camus is sympathetic to him, and sees in Grand the strengths and weaknesses of the human race. Humans simply lack the capacity to explain their feelings to other people. Language is our only weapon against chaos--and yet, when we need it most (i.e., when a plague hits), language fails us. But it's crucial that--like Camus, and the farcical Grand--we keep trying to explain the chaos of the universe with language.

On another level, Rieux's thoughts on Grand further show how our human sense of order and civilization serves to distract us from the absurd reality of the universe. Grand is a farcical figure, but also familiar and somehow comforting--his existence is a sign that Oran is the kind of place where such "obscure" and "harmless" men can live out their lives in peace. This small vision of life is then contrasted with the massive, uncaring plague--something that seems to exist in an altogether different universe from Grand and his futile search for the right words. Yet both Grand and the plague exist in the same world--and it's this fact, Camus argues, this clash between the absurd and the human will, that we must constantly be confronting.

Moreover, the epidemic seemed to be on the wane; on some days only ten or so deaths were notified. Then, all of a sudden, the figure shot up again, vertically. On the day when the death-roll touched thirty, Dr. Rieux read an official telegram that the Prefect had just handed him, remarking: “So they’ve got alarmed at last.” The telegram ran: Proclaim a state of plague stop close the town.

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux (speaker), The Prefect
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

Even after the plague has arrived in Oran, the people try to deny its existence for as long as possible. People are dying all around them--and yet nobody seems particularly concerned, unless someone they know is dead. It's only at the very last moment, when the death roll shoots up enormously, that the town gets its act together. The political leadership (represented by the Prefect of the town) makes the decision to close off the town, and by the same token, the people seem to be taking the plague more seriously, too.

The passage is a good example of how law and order function in civilization. The main business of law and order, we could conclude from the passage, is to distract people from the chaos of the world, and to ignore chaos for as long as possible. The Prefect, quite aside from attending to his people's needs (as a good Prefect should, you'd think), drags his feet for as long as humanly possible before doing anything about his community's problems. Society's highest priority, we can see, isn't safety at all--it's order.

Part 2 Quotes

Thus the first thing that plague brought to our town was exile.

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux (speaker)
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the situation in Oran has gotten more serious. The plague has killed many of the town's citizens, and the town's gates have been shut to the outside world. We're told that the true result of the plague, at least at first, is exile. What does Camus mean by "exile?"

Literally, of course, the plague exiles the town from the rest of the world, and vice versa. People in Oran can't leave their community, for fear that they'd spread the plague to the rest of human society. Such a plot device allows Oran to stand in for all of civilization--the town is a microcosm for the world itself. Furthermore, Camus may mean "exile" in the sense of alienation. The people are isolated from each other, since they're often forced to stay in their homes, and fear that their neighbors may infect them with the plague. But they're also alienated from themselves--deprived of communities, they're forced to recognize the void inside each one of them.

Grand, too, had suffered. And he, too, might – as Rieux pointed out – have made a fresh start. But no, he had lost faith. Only, he couldn’t stop thinking about her. What he’d have liked to do was to write her a letter justifying himself.
“But it’s not easy,” he told Rieux. “I’ve been thinking it over for years. While we loved each other we didn’t need words to make ourselves understood. But people don’t love forever. A time came when I should have found the words to keep her with me – only I couldn’t.”

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux (speaker), Joseph Grand (speaker)
Page Number: 82-83
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn a little about Grand's past. As a younger man, Grand fell in love with and married a woman named Jeanne. Eventually, though, their love fell apart, and Jeanne abandoned Grand. Grand continues to look back on his time with Jeanne fondly--furthermore, he seems to recognize the role of language in the deterioration of their marriage.

Nietzsche said, "That for which we have words is already dead in our hearts." Camus seems to agree: the things that we have the power to talk about are somehow lifeless and meaningless. Language is supposed to be a tool for expressing our inner feelings, yet here Grand suggests that his and Jeanne's inner feelings can never be put into words. Thus Grand's farcical attempt to always "finds the right words" is actually heroic and very human.

One grows out of pity when it’s useless. And in this feeling that his heart had slowly closed in on itself, the doctor found a solace, his only solace, for the almost unendurable burden of his days… To fight abstraction you must have something of it in your own make-up.

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux (speaker)
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point in the novel, Dr. Rieux has begun treating the plague, only to realize that there's really nothing he can do to fight it--all his medicine and education is powerless to defeat the sheer destructive force of the disease. And yet the doctor doesn't give up. He devotes all his time to fighting the plague. He's so intent on defeating the plague that it occupies his entire consciousness, to the point where he doesn't even show pity or compassion for his patients.

The simple reason why the doctor doesn't pity his victims is that pity is useless in such a situation--it's a mere distraction from medicine. Rieux's explanation might seem pretty callous and even cruel (surely his patients would benefit from getting a little comfort or kindness from their doctor, if only to ease their final moments of life). But perhaps Rieux sees something disingenuous about pity itself. By showing pity for his victims, he would be accepting defeat--thus, it's because he continues to fight the plague that he doesn't show emotions of any kind. Furthermore, we're told that Rieux behaves abstractly--that is, he treats the plague as an entity itself, something that he is battling on an ideological as well as physical level. Rieux's idea is somewhat like that of a vaccination: in order to fight the enormous, indifferent forces of destruction, he has to become a little indifferent himself.

At first the fact of being cut off from the outside world was accepted with a more or less good grace, much as people would have put up with any other temporary inconvenience that interfered with only a few of their habits. But, now they had abruptly become aware that they were undergoing a sort of incarceration under that blue dome of sky, already beginning to sizzle in the fires of summer…

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux (speaker)
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're told how the people of the community respond to their forced exile. The people of Oran are unable to leave their community for any reason--yet it's not until Father Paneloux's sermon that they realize how trapped they really are.

The passage could be considered a critique of religion, as articulated in Father Paneloux's sermon (see quote above). Paneloux has told his followers that they're been imprisoned by God himself as a kind of ambiguous punishment. The knowledge that there's some logic to the plague--God is using disease to make his children into better people--is comforting in a narrow, limited sense. But it's also horrifying: the people have been told that they're being punished, but nobody knows what, exactly, the punishment is for. (As Camus later says, in being treated like criminals, they start to act like criminals.) In other words, religion does some good by providing a sense of order and meaning to the universe; and yet it also causes problems by filling people with an irrational sense of guilt and culpability.

Notice also that the passage mentions the "blue dome of the sky," as if life itself is just a big prison. In such a way, Camus emphasizes the microcosmic nature of the town of Oran--like it or not, we're all just trapped in our own mortality, at once totally free and totally imprisoned.

Grand went on talking, but Rieux failed to follow all the worthy man was saying. All he gathered was that the work he was engaged on ran to a great many pages, and he was at almost excruciating pains to bring it to perfection. “Evenings, whole weeks, spent on one word, just think! Sometimes on a mere conjunction!”

Related Characters: Joseph Grand (speaker), Dr. Bernard Rieux
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to Joseph's Grand's quixotic project: a book that expresses itself perfectly, in which every word is ideal. Grand puts so much time into his book that, so far, he's only on the first sentence. He struggles with his book all the time, often spending hours on a single word--which he often crosses out in the end. Grand's struggle for literary immortality is slow, and also comically futile. (And the sentence itself isn't even very good.) And yet he keeps writing.

Camus seems to see something both heroic and absurd in Grand's actions. Much as the other characters embark on folly-filled projects of their own (like Dr. Rieux's practically-useless attempts to cure the plague), Grand has the courage to aim for something impossible, and never give up. (The fact that Camus himself is a writer, and often spent long amounts of time on a few sentences, is another sign that he admires Grand's fortitude, and even sees something of himself in Grand.)

A system of patrols was instituted and often in the empty, sweltering streets, heralded by a clatter of horse hoofs on the cobbles, a detachment of mounted police would make its way between the parallel lines of close-shut windows. Now and again a gunshot was heard; the special brigade recently detailed to destroy cats and dogs, as possible carriers of infection, was at work. And these whipcrack sounds startling the silence increased the nervous tension already existing in the town.

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux (speaker)
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Camus's novel is at its most political. As the plague gets worse, the leaders of the community form patrol groups, whose duty is to round up the cats and dogs in the town and kill them. It's believed that cats and dogs spread the plague (through their fleas)--therefore, the patrol sees itself as saving the town by murdering the animals.

Camus gives no indication that the patrol groups' actions prevent or slow the spread of the plague in any way. And yet the patrol groups continue with their actions, perhaps just to have something to do. In times of crisis, human societies often turn to a scapegoat, whom they can blame for all of society's evil. Here, cats and dogs are the scapegoat--and we can tell that the patrols enjoy taking action in a helpless situation, getting their "revenge" on the animals by shooting them. (The passage is full of Holocaust imagery, possibly associating the patrol's actions with those of the German Gestapo, which rounded up and murdered millions of Jews, the convenient scapegoats for Germany's problems.)

“My question’s this,” said Tarrou. “Why do you yourself show such devotion, considering you don’t believe in God? I suspect your answer may help me to mine.”
His face still in shadow, Rieux said that he’d already answered: that if he believed in an all-powerful God he would cease curing the sick and leave that to Him… in this respect Rieux believed himself to be on the right road – in fighting against creation as he found it.

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux (speaker), Jean Tarrou (speaker)
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Camus offers an eloquent defense of absurdism as the ultimate humanistic doctrine, using Dr. Rieux as something of a mouthpiece for his own beliefs. Tarrou asks the doctor why he spends so much time trying to cure patients and risking his life, when he doesn't even believe in God (and therefore, presumably, doesn't believe in any divinely-ordained morality or duty). Rieux's answer is that it's only because he doesn't believe in God--or any other order in the universe--that he devotes so much time to helping other people. Religion, Rieux suggests is a distraction from true human freedom. To believe in God is to put one's trust in another being--an omnipotent being. Religious people don't truly put their full energy into changing the world, because they believe that God can always change it on their behalf. The only truly heroic people are those who accept the terrifying truth about life--and still struggle onward.

“After all,” the doctor repeated, then hesitated again, fixing his eyes on Tarrou, “it’s something that a man of your sort can understand most likely, but, since the order of the world is shaped by death, mightn’t it be better for God if we refuse to believe in Him and struggle with all our might against death, without raising our eyes toward the heaven where He sits in silence?”
Tarrou nodded.
“Yes. But your victories will never be lasting; that’s all.”
Rieux’s face darkened.
“Yes, I know that. But it’s no reason for giving up the struggle.”

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux (speaker), Jean Tarrou (speaker)
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

In this crucial passage, Dr. Rieux continues to explain his philosophy to Jean Tarrou. Tarrou is still having trouble understanding how anyone could deny the existence of God and yet not deny the importance of life. (It's suggested that Tarrou shares a similar worldview to Rieux, but wants Rieux to clarify things so that Tarrou himself can figure out his own beliefs). Rieux explains that those who deny God, such as himself, deny him only to struggle harder against death and suffering. Furthermore, Rieux suggests that even if God does exist, it might be more moral to still live out Rieux's philosophy, rather than taking the easy way out and "giving up" by putting things in God's hands--particularly when any God who rules over such a universe of suffering must be sitting in inexplicable "silence."

The major problem with Rieux's belief, as he admits, is that any victories against death, pain, and injustice will always be short-lived. If you don't believe in an eternal Heaven, Tarrou notes, then you can't believe that anything you do really matters--your achievements die along with you. Rieux admits that Tarrou is right, but doesn't see the fact that victories are "never lasting" as a problem in and of itself. the transient nature of success and happiness, on the contrary, is a mandate to keep trying to create happiness and success--a struggle that's equal parts heroic and futile.

Those who enrolled in the “sanitary squads,” as they were called, had, indeed, no such great merit in doing as they did, since they knew it was the only thing to do, and the unthinkable thing would then have been not to have brought themselves to do it. These groups enabled our townsfolk to come to grips with the disease and convinced them that, now that plague was among us, it was up to them to do whatever could be done to fight it. Since plague became in this way some men’s duty, it revealed itself as what it really was; that is, the concern of all.

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux (speaker)
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

As the plague continues to ravage the town, a group of men puts together a sanitation squad whose duty is to fight the plague by keeping the town clean. Camus has no illusions about such a group: he admits that they don't necessarily accomplish anything concrete by trying to fight the plague. And yet the squad accomplishes one very useful thing; it spreads the message that all human beings in the community should be concerned with the plague--it's everybody's responsibility. There's nothing "heroic" about struggling to protect others from plague. Rather, it's just common decency.

The passage is indicative of Camus's absurdist, abstract thinking. Even if there's no way to ward off death or chaos itself--i.e., no way to fight off the plague--it's worthwhile to acknowledge death and continue to struggle against it. By accepting the role of death in the universe, people create a community for themselves, defined by a mutual acceptance of destruction. In a way, everybody in the town of Oran already knows, albeit deep down, that the plague is going to kill them. The sanitation squad, then, isn't giving out any new information--it's just helping people come to terms with the truth about the disease, and (hopefully) encouraging them to do the most human thing possible and fight against it.

Part 3 Quotes

No longer were there individual destinies; only a collective destiny, made of plague and the emotions shared by all. Strongest of these emotions was the sense of exile and of deprivation, with all the crosscurrents of revolt and fear set up by these.

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux (speaker)
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

As the history of the plague drags on, people come to realize a few things about their community. There's no sense in celebrating hierarchy or social status anymore, since sooner or later everybody is going to be "equal"--i.e., equally dead. The implication seems to be that there was never any point to a social hierarchy--all hierarchy is just a fragile illusion, designed to distract people from their common mortality.

The plague is a great social equalizer, and yet it creates some new feelings of tension and revolt in the town. The people have a hard time accepting that they're all going to die soon--as a result, they lash out, both against the plague itself and against each other. Humans have a hard time accepting the harsh truth about themselves, and they compensate with prejudices and delusions.

Part 4 Quotes

“I understand,” Paneloux said in a low voice. “That sort of thing is revolting because it passes our human understanding. But perhaps we should love what we cannot understand.”
Rieux straightened up slowly…
“No, Father. I’ve a very different idea of love. And until my dying day I shall refuse to love a scheme of things in which children are put to torture.”

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux (speaker), Father Paneloux (speaker)
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:

How should human beings react when evil things happen to good people--when, for instance, innocent children die of a horrible disease? For Camus, there are a couple different responses. One potential response is represented in the character of Father Paneloux, the priest who urges his followers to accept the plague as God's punishment. Paneloux's ideas are characteristic of many organized religions, which accept that evil and suffering are just part of God's plan--i.e., pain is, in the long term, "good."

Camus--and the character whose beliefs are closest to his own, Dr. Rieux--refuses to celebrate or love a God who allows children to die in pain. Camus has some respect for Paneloux, because--just like everybody else in the novel--he tries to find meaning in a meaningless world. And yet Paneloux seems rather cowardly in the way he accepts pain, rather than fighting back against it. Rieux tries to fight the plague, rather than accept it, as Paneloux seems to do.

Tarrou, when told by Rieux what Paneloux had said, remarked that he’d known a priest who had lost his faith during the war, as the result of seeing a young man’s face with both eyes destroyed.
“Paneloux is right,” Tarrou continued. “When an innocent youth can have his eyes destroyed, a Christian should either lose his faith or consent to having his eyes destroyed. Paneloux declines to lose his faith, and he will go through with it to end. That’s what he meant to say.”

Related Characters: Jean Tarrou (speaker), Dr. Bernard Rieux, Father Paneloux
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:

As Father Paneloux spends more time among the plague-ridden community he finds it harder and harder to continue being religious. Paneloux tells his followers that they must embrace the plague as a part of God's plan. But as Paneloux sees untold horrors--particularly the death of M. Othon's young son--he finds it increasingly difficult to accept this worldview, and he seems to have doubts about the very existence of God. Yet Paneloux continues to believe in God, or at least praise him in public.

Here, Tarrou and Rieux discuss Paneloux's faith, and agree that he has come to an impasse. In the face of such meaningless suffering, the Christian can only deny nothing or deny everything--and Paneloux is afraid to deny everything. Thus he clings ever harder to his desperate trust in God, choosing to believe that even the plague is part of a larger "plan." Paneloux even refuses to call a doctor when he gets sick, sticking to his principles in the face of reality. Tarrou and Rieux actually admire this stubbornness, even though it leads to Paneloux's death, and he may have led others "astray" with his sermons, because Paneloux at least stuck with his beliefs "to the end."

“I’m afraid I did not make myself clear. I’m told there are some voluntary workers from government offices in that camp… It would keep me busy, you see. And also – I know it may sound absurd, but I’d feel less separated from my little boy.”
Rieux stared at him. Could it be that a sudden gentleness showed in those hard, inexpressive eyes?

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux (speaker), M. Othon (speaker)
Page Number: 259
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, M. Othon, a judge and a symbol of order and tyranny, is released from his mandatory quarantine period. Surprisingly, Othon asks to be sent back into the quarantine facilities, despite the fact that he could be risking his life to do so. Othon wants to be close to his son, Jacques, who has recently died from the plague. The passage is interesting for a couple reasons. Othon, who'd always been perceived as a hard, cruel figure, seems to have softened in the face of the plague and his son's loss--he just wants to feel a connection with his lost family. Suffering, if nothing else, brings new humanity and compassion to even the cruelest and harshest human beings.

Part 5 Quotes

“Rieux,” he said at last, “you must tell me the whole truth. I count on that.”

“I promise it.”
Tarrou’s heavy face relaxed in a brief smile.
“Thanks. I don’t want to die, and I shall put up a fight. But if I lose the match, I want to make a good end of it.”

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux (speaker), Jean Tarrou (speaker)
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final Part of his novel, Camus faces the overwhelming question--how to die? How, knowing to a certainty that our lives are going to end, do we behave in the years or days or hours leading up to the end? Tarrou offers us one model of how to behave: with dignity, with a fierce struggle, never submitting to the inevitable. Tarrou insists that he will keep fighting, up to the end, despite the fact that his fighting seems to be in vain.

Notice also that Tarrou requires the complete truth from Rieux--he wants Rieux to tell him how much longer he's got, and how bad his condition is. Tarrou celebrates truth, even if it's harsh truth, at all times. Only by accepting the truth about the human condition can people attain a measure of dignity and heroism for themselves.

…Dr. Rieux resolved to compile this chronicle, so that he should not be one of those who hold their peace but should bear witness in favor of those plague-stricken people; so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure; and to state quite simply what we learn in time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.

Related Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:

As the novel draws to an end, we're told that the book we've just finished was written by Dr. Rieux himself. Rieux has witnessed some horrifying things; people have tried to fight against the plague, and lost. And yet, at the last minute the plague retreats, as suddenly and meaninglessly as it arrived.

Rieux is faced with a challenge: what sort of book should he write about the plague? Should it be happy or sad? Should there be an optimistic ending or not? In the end, Rieux seems to opt for a heroic account of the plague--an account that inspires people to keep struggling in the hopes that their example will inspire others to even greater acts of heroism and dignity. Rieux, if nothing else, is an admirer of human beings--he thinks that for all humans' faults, they're good, noble creatures, capable of almost anything. Rather than allow the plague to retreat into history (like to many other plagues), Rieux will use literature and language to communicate the story of the plague to others. Rieux wants humans to accept their own mortality and fight against it, rather than try to escape it or distract themselves from it.

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Dr. Bernard Rieux Character Timeline in The Plague

The timeline below shows where the character Dr. Bernard Rieux appears in The Plague. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
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...narrator then launches into the events themselves, beginning with a morning in April. Dr. Bernard Rieux steps out of surgery and finds a dead rat on the landing of his apartment.... (full context)
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That evening Dr. Rieux sees another rat in front of his apartment, this one still alive but with blood... (full context)
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...walk by in the hopes that the pranksters will give themselves away by smiling. Dr. Rieux goes to visit his asthma patient, an old Spaniard who stays in bed all day... (full context)
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More people are talking about the dead rats around town, but Dr. Rieux is distracted by his wife, who is leaving. Rieux tries to apologize for not looking... (full context)
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That afternoon, a young journalist named Raymond Rambert calls on Dr. Rieux. Rambert wants to discuss his latest report on the sanitary conditions among the Arab population... (full context)
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Later that day Dr. Rieux passes Jean Tarrou, a man who he has seen before visiting the Spanish dancers who... (full context)
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The next day Dr. Rieux’s mother comes to stay with him to look after the house while his wife is... (full context)
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...8,000 rat bodies are gathered up the situation abruptly disappears. That same day, however, Dr. Rieux sees M. Michel looking very sickly and being escorted home by Father Paneloux, a Jesuit... (full context)
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Later that day Dr. Rieux gets a call from a former patient of his, Joseph Grand, saying that his neighbor... (full context)
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Dr. Rieux visits M. Michel again to find that his condition has worsened. He is now vomiting... (full context)
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...his chambermaids has it, but he is certain it isn’t contagious. Tarrou then describes Dr. Rieux, which the narrator includes to add accuracy to the narrative. (full context)
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The narrator returns to his own account, and describes Dr. Rieux’s calls to Dr. Richard, who is also head of the local medical association, and to... (full context)
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...weather grows rainy and damp and the whole town feels feverish and exhausted, except for Rieux’s Spanish patient, who welcomes it for his asthma. Rieux returns to check on Grand and... (full context)
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More people come down with the mysterious illness, and Dr. Rieux visits them to lance the swellings on their necks, groins, and armpits. A mixture of... (full context)
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Dr. Castel, one of Dr. Rieux’s older colleagues, visits him and they discuss the illness. They both think it is bubonic... (full context)
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...humans, yet we manage to be surprised every time a new one comes. Even though Rieux has seen several people die already, he is still caught unawares just like most of... (full context)
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Dr. Rieux recalls what he has read about the disease, and tries to make sense of the... (full context)
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Joseph Grand visits Dr. Rieux, as it is his job (as a Municipal clerk) to count up the daily deaths,... (full context)
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...properly express himself. He brings up his struggle with words every time he sees Dr. Rieux. Back in the present, Rieux watches Grand leave and intuits that Grand is writing a... (full context)
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The next day Dr. Rieux convinces the government to call a meeting about the health situation, and he wires to... (full context)
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Dr. Rieux visits Grand again and asks him about Cottard. Grand says that Cottard has been acting... (full context)
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The plague serum still has not come, and Dr. Rieux finally realizes that he himself is feeling afraid. Like Cottard, he feels the need for... (full context)
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All day Dr. Rieux visits patients who seem almost hostile to his presence, and he feels more weighed down... (full context)
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Dr. Rieux keeps pressing Richard and the Prefect to take more drastic measures in dealing with the... (full context)
Part 2
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...who seems in a better mood because of the plague. He talks excitedly to Dr. Rieux about how long the epidemic might last. Grand also confesses his past to Rieux, explaining... (full context)
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...But as usual he cannot find the right words. Grand weeps as he tells Dr. Rieux all this. That night Rieux sends a telegram to his wife explaining the plague situation. (full context)
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One evening the journalist Rambert reintroduces himself to Dr. Rieux. He says he is determined to escape Oran to rejoin the woman he loves in... (full context)
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Dr. Rieux acknowledges that Rambert is in an absurd situation, but there is nothing he can do.... (full context)
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Dr. Rieux muses on the conversation and whether he really is living in a “world of abstractions”... (full context)
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...and there is a swift system for cleansing and isolating plague patients. At night Dr. Rieux goes out to make house calls, and there is always a tragic, emotional scene when... (full context)
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Rieux and Grand go to a café to discuss the situation, and Grand explains the nature... (full context)
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...and the manager says Othon is “under suspicion.” Tarrou also describes the kindness of Dr. Rieux’s mother, declaring that such goodness will “always triumph over plague.” (full context)
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Tarrou goes with Dr. Rieux to visit his asthma patient. The old man gleefully explains that the world is “topsy-turvy”... (full context)
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One evening Dr. Rieux watches his mother, who seems so tranquil and resigned, and he thinks about the routine... (full context)
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...volunteers for an anti-plague effort, a group of sanitation workers dealing directly with plague victims. Rieux is grateful for the offer, but asks Tarrou if he has considered the dangers of... (full context)
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Tarrou then asks Dr. Rieux if he believes in God, and Rieux answers by saying that Paneloux is a man... (full context)
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Rieux suggests that it might be better to keep struggling against death, regardless of whether a... (full context)
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...his simple goodness and absurd ideal of expression, as an “insignificant and obscure hero.” Dr. Rieux muses on the difference between this kind of heroism – the small, necessary kind –... (full context)
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...While he waits for his escape to be arranged, Rambert discusses the plague with Dr. Rieux, who is exhausted and short of equipment and manpower. Rambert feels guilty for leaving, but... (full context)
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...They arrange another meeting, and while he waits Rambert goes with Tarrou to see Dr. Rieux. Late that night they go to a bar and Rambert drinks heavily. Tarrou suggests that... (full context)
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...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 to be making much... (full context)
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...They begin to start the whole process over again, which depresses Rambert. Tarrou and Dr. Rieux visit him that night, and he says that the plague is essentially “the same thing... (full context)
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Rambert muses to Dr. Rieux and Tarrou that he stopped believing in heroism during the Spanish Civil War, where he... (full context)
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Dr. Rieux insists that fighting the plague is not an attempt at heroism, but simply “common decency.”... (full context)
Part 4
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September and October come and the weeks drag on. Dr. Rieux and his friends realize how tired they are, as they ceaselessly work against the plague.... (full context)
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Dr. Rieux is forced to harden himself against the desperate families of the plague victims, as he... (full context)
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...that he will escape at midnight the next night. The next day Rambert finds Dr. Rieux in the middle of his work and tells him that he has decided to stay... (full context)
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Dr. Castel finishes his anti-plague serum, and he and Dr. Rieux are present to give the first injection to M. Othon’s small son, Jacques, whose case... (full context)
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...out to God to save the child, but in vain. As he leaves the room, Rieux lashes out angrily at Paneloux, saying that the child was innocent. (full context)
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Outside the hospital Paneloux talks to Dr. Rieux, who apologizes for his outburst. Paneloux understands that Rieux’s anger is directed at his sermon... (full context)
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...on an essay about whether a priest should consult a doctor, and he invites Dr. Rieux to come hear him preach another sermon about the plague. Since the epidemic has worsened,... (full context)
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Afterward Rieux and Tarrou discuss the sermon, and they overhear a priest and deacon talking about Paneloux’s... (full context)
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...his principles and refuses to call a doctor. The woman he is staying with calls Rieux nonetheless, as she fears Paneloux has the plague. Rieux examines him and Paneloux does not... (full context)
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November ends and the weather grows colder. Tarrou and Rieux visit the doctor’s asthma patient, and after listening to his chatter for a while they... (full context)
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...third category, which he associates with peace. Tarrou pauses for a while and then tells Rieux that what most interests him is how to become a saint without God. Rieux says... (full context)
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...ocean “for friendship’s sake,” as they have passes that will allow them onto the pier. Rieux agrees, and they swim silently out into the starlit ocean, feeling a rare moment of... (full context)
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...volunteer for the anti-plague squad, as it would help him feel “less separated” from Jacques. Rieux is amazed to see a sudden gentleness appear in the severe man’s eyes. (full context)
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Christmas approaches, and Rieux tries to write a letter to his wife but struggles greatly with his words. The... (full context)
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As his condition declines, Grand asks Dr. Rieux to read through his papers. Most of them are variations of the first sentence of... (full context)
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Rieux then has another patient whose case seems hopeless but makes a similar recovery. Rieux visits... (full context)
Part 5
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...the houses still grieving lost loved ones, who feel exiled by the joy of others. Rieux and his friends join the festivities, and Tarrou sees a cat run across the road... (full context)
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...wonders if he is dead, and whether he was a saint. Tarrou writes more about Rieux’s mother and her gentle kindness, and how she reminds Tarrou of his own mother. (full context)
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Dr. Rieux’s days are no less busy than before, but he has a new hopefulness that makes... (full context)
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...(which is strangely of both pneumonic and bubonic varieties) for several long, painful days as Rieux and his mother tend to him. Finally Tarrou rolls over to face the wall and... (full context)
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The next morning Dr. Rieux gets a telegram reporting that his wife has died. He takes it with composure, as... (full context)
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Rieux walks through the streets and thinks about all the isolated, exiled people who are now... (full context)
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Dr. Rieux reveals himself as the narrator of the chronicle, and explains that he chose the role... (full context)
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Dr. Rieux feels he must end with Cottard, the only man he cannot understand, but whose only... (full context)
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Shaken by this incident, Rieux and Grand part ways, and Grand explains that he has written Jeanne a letter and... (full context)
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Rieux visits his asthma patient that night, who is transferring peas from one pot to another... (full context)
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Rieux goes up onto the terrace where Tarrou had told his life story. Rieux listens to... (full context)
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Even so, Rieux knows that he is not recording a “final victory” by any means, as the bacillus... (full context)