The Plague

By Albert Camus

Fourth Part

In the town forced back on itself, the volunteers are exhausted and indifferent. Rieux's wife becomes more ill. Tarrou becomes interested in Cottard's case - the only person whom the plague makes happy; he has lived it before the others. At a showing of Gluck's Orphee, the main singer falls down exhausted (this is an interesting echo of the players in the Macbeth performance put on in Mary Shelley's The Last Man where plague is also rife). Rambert is still hoping to flee. Rieux approves of his desire to be happy. Several days spent with the smugglers convince the journalist to stay with the volunteers. Rieux confesses to not knowing why he prefers action to happiness.

Castel's serum is ready. It is tested on Judge Othon's son whose situation is desperate. The child is suffering a great deal and cries out in his agony. Paneloux falls to his knees; Rieux cannot bear this suffering. A violent dispute breaks out between the doctor and the priest; a creation where children are tortured cannot be loved. Paneloux tries to convince Rieux that the man's health requires undergoing such horrors. Overcoming his revulsion, the doctor recognises that the fight between evil reunites opposed thoughts.

He goes to the second Jesuit preaching; the suffering of an innocent is an unsupportable evil, but it comes from God, and one must accept everything from him or deny him totally. The priest has been in the front row of the fighters. He is struck down with fever, on the way to the hospital he dies under Rieux's very eyes. The feast day of All Saints is not celebrated. The epidemic is becoming stabilised. The increase in the optimism of the authorities is put down by a visit to an isolation camp. The crowd there is inactive, silent, and desperate. Tarrou confides in Rieux. At 17, son of a lawyer, happy and loving his father, he saw him ask for the head of an accused. He fled his home, got involved in revolutionary movements but having to be responsible for the deaths of millions of men made him indignant about the death penalty. Killing others is to be plague-stricken. It is like trying to become a saint without God. A swim in the sea with Rieux consolidates this moment of friendship - "cet instant d'amitie".

Judge Othon asks to work in the camp so he may be closer to his son. Rambert communicates with his wife. Rieux writes to his yet receives no reply. Cottard earns some money. On Christmas Eve, Grand, overwhelmed by loneliness, collapses and is burning with fever. In hospital he asks Rieux to burn his manuscript. In the morning he is cured. Other cures are meanwhile being heralded. The rats come back, and this time they are alive.