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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
PART II, SECTION 3
A week of prayers, organized by the religious leaders, culminates in a sermon at the Cathedral, preached by Father Paneloux, who is a conservative Christian with a fiery temperament. He tells his congregation that they deserve the scourge that is upon them and says it is God’s way of separating the wheat from the chaff (or the godly from the evil.) Using historical examples, he shows how God has used the plague to punish people or win them over to His ways. The sermon concludes with a promise of God’s help to all who place their hopes in Him.
Father Paneloux’s sermon is a grim attack against the lax ways of the people of Oran. He interprets the plague as God’s threshing machine used to separate the godly people from the evil ones. It is clear that Camus is criticizing the Father and Christian doctrine.
PART II, SECTION 4
There is a wide range of reactions to Father Paneloux’s sermon. M. Othon, the magistrate, finds the arguments very sound and "irrefutable" and feels certain that he is part of the wheat. Others feel condemned by Father’s Paneloux’s words and are resigned to their fate. Most everyone feels fearful after hearing the sermon.
Rieux encourages Grand to talk about his literary work. Grand reveals that he is still working on the first sentence of a novel, which he feels has to be perfect. He explains that he has had difficulty in deciding on the correct conjunctions to use; but he is optimistic he will manage a masterpiece. As they are talking, scuffles between people who are trying to escape can be heard on the streets.
Father Paneloux’s sermon finally makes the people of Oran accept the gravity of the plague. Many react by accepting their fate; but others try unsuccessfully to escape from the town.
The unassuming Grand has always lived in a metaphorical state of siege. Isolated by his personality, he immerses himself in the solace of his literary activity. Not surprisingly, he does not make much progress in his writing. He admits to Rieux that he is stuck on the first sentence of a novel, as he struggles to choose the correct words. The exhausted and overworked Rieux shows his natural kindness when he takes the time to listen to Grand.
PART II, SECTION 5
Rambert’s persistence in finding a way to leave Oran brings him in contact with a variety of officials. He classifies them according to their response to him as sticklers, counselors, the very-important persons, the triflers, the overworked, the much harassed, and the traditionalists. The authorities all refuse to set a precedent by giving him permission to depart Oran. As a result, Rambert sinks into a nostalgic lethargy, as he dreams of Paris and his beloved.
Camus’ picture of the bureaucrats is humorous as they send Rambert from one desk to another. Rambert correctly classifies in a variety of ways, including sticklers, triflers, and traditionalists. When none of the officials will grant him permission to leave Oran, he feels lost and defeated, "a mere shade amongst the shadows."