The Plague

by: Albert Camus

Part I: Chapters 4-8

Summary Part I: Chapters 4-8


When Dr. Rieux urges the head of the medical association, Dr. Richard, to order any new cases of the disease into isolation wards, Dr. Richard insists that the Prefect must issue the order. A spate of rainy weather produces a "moody listlessness" in the population with the exception of Dr. Rieux's asthma patient who welcomes it as a curative for his asthma. Dr. Rieux and Grand meet with the police inspector for the inquiry into Cottard's attempted suicide. Grand suffers intense anxiety over his choice of words when giving his deposition. The inspector chastises Cottard for disturbing other people's peace.

Dr. Rieux lances the swellings on the necks, armpits, and groins of the victims of the disease, releasing a thick, bloody pus. Most of the cases are fatal. The newspapers that made such a fuss over the rats are strangely silent regarding the disease. Dr. Rieux and his colleague, Castel, speculate that the disease is probably the bubonic plague. Castel predicts that their colleagues and the city government will try to deny the obvious. Despite periodic outbreaks of the plague, people tend to hold the view that it has disappeared in "temperate climates."

Dr. Rieux notes that wars and plagues have always existed in human populations, yet people are always surprised when they become victims of one or the other. Even though he has personally seen several fatal cases, the events seem unreal even to him. As he recalls vivid, horrifying historical accounts of plague epidemics, Dr. Rieux braces himself for the possibility of another one.

Grand is assigned the daily task of calculating the deaths. Accompanied by Cottard, he reports to Dr. Rieux that the number of deaths is on the rise. Afterwards, he bids the doctor and Cottard goodbye because he must attend to some mysterious, important activity.

Twenty years ago when Grand accepted his job, he was promised advancement to better paying positions. However, the man who promised him the possibility of advancement has long since died, and Grand is unsure of the specifics of his promises. He has a great deal of difficulty expressing himself because he has a fanatical need to find the "right words." Therefore, he has never written a letter of protest demanding that the promises made to him be kept. Dr. Rieux intuits that Grand is trying to write a book.

Dr. Rieux wires to Paris to request plague serum. Meanwhile, his colleagues wage war against the "wait and see" attitude of the city's government. Dr. Rieux urges that immediate measures to deal with problem be taken because he fears the disease could kill off half the city. As the newspapers begin to cautiously discuss the disease, the authorities continue to drag their feet. Meanwhile, the tally of deaths continues to mount.