Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
PART V, SECTION 1
The loosening of the grip of the plague induces a false optimism in Oran. Plans are made to end the power cuts on January 25, and a date is set for the reopening of the gates. Even though the rules are still in force, there is a laxity in enforcing them. The plague, however, has not been conquered. Ironically, it is in this period of lull that M. Othon dies.
With the death rate going down, a false optimism invades Oran. The authorities, eager to return things to normal, set premature dates for ending the power cut and reopening the city gates. Proof that the plague has not yet been defeated comes when M. Othon dies during this quieter period. Many claim it is his due punishment for his earlier support of Father Paneloux.
PART V, SECTION 2
Tarrou’s diaries reveal a change of tone, foreshadowing his end. He admits that he is tired and cannot write much more. His entries now lack objectivity and consistency. He describes at length Rieux mother’s warmth, kindness, and self-effacement, which remind him of his own mother. He records his attempts to reassure Cottard and encourage him to make a fresh start as the crisis recedes. Cottard, however, grows more fearful as two officials accost him at the entrance to his home. Tarrou, feeling overcome by exhaustion, ends his record.
Several interesting facts are brought forward in this section. Cottard is troubled by the nemesis of having thrived during the crisis. Tarrou realizes that the solace found in Madame Rieux’s company is worth more than his devotion to work.
It is significant that the whole struggle against the plague has been an all-male affair. Camus’ appreciation for women seems to be limited to their loving natures and their supportive, unassertive attitude during the struggle against the disease. Only the wife of M. Othon has been presented as an agitator when she ineffectively fought for her husband’s release from the quarantine camp.
PART V, SECTION 3
Looking forward to a reunion with his wife, Rieux feels a new zest for living. His happiness, however, is diminished when Tarrou falls ill. Infected with both types of the plague, his prognosis is very negative, but he is determined to fight the disease.
Unfortunately, Rieux can do little to help in Tarrou’s valiant struggle against the disease; as a result, he feels helpless, much like he felt at the beginning of the novel.
When Tarrou passes away, Rieux thinks of his death as the last decisive battle that will end the war; but the thought gives him no comfort. The doctor is haunted by his memories of Tarrou and misses his friendship and affection. He is also troubled by his belief that Tarrou led a sterile existence and a life without hope, even though he dedicated himself to the quest of peace and to the service of his fellow man.
While Rieux still mourns for the loss of his friend, he receives a telegram announcing the death of his wife. Suffering, therefore, continues to be the central motif of the novel.
Tarrou, struggling valiantly against the plague, becomes the symbol of an elemental force; he represents mankind fighting the ravages of inhuman forces. Unfortunately, he is fated to be the loser. As he watches his friend struggle, Rieux feels totally helpless. Then when Tarrou passes away, Rieux feels great grief and loneliness. He misses Tarrou’s friendship and affection.
In an unexpected assessment of Tarrou’s life, Rieux judges it to be sterile since he was not a dreamer. Even though Tarrou dedicated himself to the causes of peace and serving his fellow man, he had no hope for his future. In contrast, Rieux judged Grand to be a hero because he was filled with hope and dreams about writing a masterpiece.
Before he recovers from the loss of Tarrou, Rieux learns that his own wife has passed away. It is one more struggle for the suffering doctor to face.