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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES
PART V, SECTION 4
The gates of Oran are reopened, and the joyful reunion of loved ones takes place. Rambert, however, feels nervous. He knows that the struggle against the plague has given him an attitude of detachment and abstraction. He is even worried about his response to his wife’s physical presence.
As the plague’s "reign of terror" ends, Rieux ruminates on concepts like fate, exile, suffering, hope, and love. The section ends with his affirmation of the value of human love, which makes happiness possible.
In this section, Rieux’s ruminations form a retrospective and brief commentary on all the issues dealt with in the novel, including fate, exile, suffering, hope, and love. He indicates the futility of giving the struggle against suffering greater importance than the building of emotional relationships. His battle with the plague has taught him that only love makes happiness possible.
PART V, SECTION 5
Rieux finally reveals himself as the narrator of the book and defends his credibility as one who has access to the widest view on the situation surrounding the plague. He claims that he has tried to tell the story as an impartial observer who gives evidence for his claims.
The book ends by giving the fate of several of the characters. For Cottard, the end of the plague has ironically meant a return of the fear of being arrested. He is finally driven crazy by his fear and starts firing a gun at nothing in particular. While he is being arrested, he is handled roughly by the police. Grand decides to make a fresh start on his proposed literary masterpiece and promises eliminate all the unnecessary adjectives. The asthmatic patient continues to suffer. When Rieux visits him, the old man comments that the plague has taken away the best people. He also wonders why they should raise a monument commemorating the plague, for he feels it has just been an example of "life, no more than that."
In conclusion, Dr. Rieux explains that he has written his chronicle of the plague in order to "bear witness in favor of those plague-stricken people," so that the injustice and outrage done to them might endure and the lessons of plague which assert the human spirit might be learned even if the tale had no final victory. Since he knows that the plague bacillus may lie dormant for long periods and then resurface, he hopes that his book will teach a valuable lesson.
The final futility of Cottard’s life is expressed in his senseless action of firing the gun at nothing in particular and being arrested and roughed up by the police. The senseless nature of his action and its consequences are equally repugnant to Rieux and Camus. In contrast, Grand is strong enough to pick up the pieces and go forward with his dreams. He plans to start his literary masterpiece anew and strive to eliminate the unnecessary adjectives from his writing.
The old asthmatic patient of Dr. Rieux almost serves as a Greek Chorus as he gives his assessment of the plague. His cynical view of the world is reflected in his attitude toward the disease; he simply feels that the plague is part of life and believes that what Oran has suffered will make no lasting difference. In opposition, Rieux admits that he has written his chronicle of the Oran plague in hopes that future generations can learn a lesson from it. As a medical doctor, he knows all too well that the plague bacillus can lie dormant for long periods and then resurface. Although man may never be the victor over the plague and the death it inflicts, it can be managed better in the future than it was in Oran.
In the end, the message of the novel is to die resisting death until the end, just as Tarrou had done.