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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
PART II, SECTION 8
As sympathy pours into Oran from the outside world, Rieux tries to make sure that any heroism in the town is not overrated. He believes that the efforts of volunteers, such as the group that Tarrou has organized, are only logical, for they are fighting the plague rather than resigning themselves to its onslaught.
Tarrou’s volunteers are involved in making vaccine, disinfecting, shifting infected persons, and disposing of the corpses. Grand volunteers for two hours after his normal day’s work in order to keep records, registers, and statistics. Rieux and Tarrou find it relaxing after a hard day to help Grand with his search for the perfect word for his masterpiece. As a result, he becomes more obsessed with his literary work, but he wills himself to fulfill all his commitments. Rieux believes that Grand is a true hero with his "goodness of heart and a seemingly absurd ideal."
In the allegorical scheme of the novel, Tarrou’s team of volunteers corresponds to the Resistance movement against the Occupation in World War II. Rieux refuses to call the volunteers heroes, for he feels they are merely doing what it would be unthinkable not to do. In Oran, those who have escaped the plague must fight against it, just as those in World War II who have escaped imprisonment and death must fight against the scourge of Nazi Occupation.
Rieux suggests that Grand is the closest thing to a hero in Oran. He works a full day in his meaningless job and then volunteers for two hours as part of Tarrou’s group. He next turns his attention to his literary endeavors, never giving up hope of creating his masterpiece.
PART II, SECTION 9
Rambert refuses to give up his attempts to escape from Oran. He enlists that help of Cottard, who has contacts with a smuggling organization. Rieux believes that Rambert’s refusal to be "imprisoned" without a fight is virtuous.
Tarrou, who has just enlisted Father Paneloux as a volunteer, asks Rambert to join his group. But Rambert, who fought in the Spanish Civil War on the losing Republican side, is afraid to risk his neck again. He prefers to live and die for love. Rieux tells him that the fight against the plague is a matter of "common decency." Rambert says that Tarrou and Rieux have no emotional commitments and, therefore, nothing to lose by risking their lives to fight the plague. Rieux does not reply, but Tarrou informs Rambert that Rieux is a victim of separation. Shocked at the news, Rambert joins the volunteers, promising his help until he succeeds in escaping from Oran.
At the end of Part II, two unexpected volunteers are recruited by Tarrou. Father Paneloux proves he is a better man than his sermon suggested by joining Tarrou’s group. Rambert, who resists joining for a long time, finally agrees to help until he succeeds in escaping from Oran. He has still not given up hope of returning to Paris and his beloved, even seeking the help of a smuggling organization.