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The Plague

The Plague


by Albert Camus

Cottard Timeline and Summary

  • Cottard apologizes for causing fuss with his suicide attempt after Grand reveals the chalk on the wall ("Come in, I’ve hanged myself") and details that he saved the man just in time.
  • When the police inspector and Rieux interrogate him about his suicide, Cottard isn’t exactly forthcoming. He wishes to be left alone and promises not to do it again.
  • Grand comments that Cottard seems to have a "secret grief."
  • Cottard meets with Grand and Rieux and thanks the doctor for his help with that whole suicide thing.
  • Grand and Rieux discuss Cottard: Grand says that he’s particularly amiable and has been trying to make friends in important places. Actually, in unimportant places, too.
  • In fact, he’s quite the mysterious fellow, Grand reports. He seems to be some sort of a traveling wine salesman, and strange men (customers?) visit at various times of the day.
  • However, Grand adds, since Cottard's suicide attempt, there haven’t been any visitors at all.
  • Grand reports the Cottard-related incident at the tobacconist: the sales clerk reported that a man in Algiers had shot an Arab on the beach. When she says that they ought to throw the man in jail, Cottard stutters and runs away. Smooth.
  • Also, he used to be a clear raging liberal, but lately he’s been reading conservative publications in intentionally conspicuous places.
  • Cottard thinks that Grand’s literary ambitions are a good idea, since the public is willing to put up with more from writers than from average folk.
  • Grand declares that Cottard obviously has something weighing on his conscience.
  • Cottard is visited by Rieux, but he’s reading a detective story and wants to be left alone.
  • When Rieux makes it clear he’s not just going to leave, Cottard asks him if it’s fair for everyone to be talking about a condemned man, as is the case in his detective story.
  • He asks if a man can be arrested when he’s in the hospital; Rieux says "it depends."
  • When the doctor gives him a ride into town, Cottard comments that what this place really needs is a good earthquake.
  • Cottard is totally pumped about the plague when he bumps into Dr. Rieux on the street. Could things get any better? Surely not! It’s like a black-market shady smuggler’s dream come true.
  • Cottard overhears Rambert discussing his "I wish I could get out of Oran already" plight with Rieux.
  • He approaches the journalist the next day and offers to help, mostly so he can have yet another "friend" willing to testify in his favor.
  • Cottard introduces Rambert to Garcia.
  • Days later, he brings Rambert to meet Raoul. On the way, Tarrou and Rieux drive up.
  • Everyone stands around wondering if everyone else knows that Cottard and Rambert are up to no good. M. Othon showing up doesn’t help, either.
  • Cottard meets with Tarrou and Rieux and is none-too-happy to hear of a man’s recovery from the plague.
  • When Tarrou suggests that he help fight the pestilence, he responds that that simply isn’t his job. Besides, he says, the plague has been treating him well – why would he want to fight it?
  • When Tarrou suggests that Cottard could be arrested for his actions, he flips out. Publicly. This guy does not have a check for his emotional volatility.
  • Cottard reveals that he did something illegal years ago. He won’t say what, but he does explain that it wasn’t murder. This supposedly explains his paranoia – he’s afraid of getting caught.
  • Cottard can’t help Rambert after his first escape attempt fails, since he doesn’t know where Gonzales lives.
  • The next morning, Cottard goes with Rieux to find Garcia again.
  • Tarrou develops an intense interest in Cottard. He (Cottard that is) seems to be the only person not exhausted by the plague (probably because he’s profiting from it in an ethically abominable manner).
  • In fact, Cottard has been Big Man around Oran, making friends with everyone.
  • Mostly, he’s cheery that police investigations into non-plague-related matters have been halted.
  • Cottard thinks people should realize how good they’ve got it with the plague around.
  • Tarrou notes that Cottard, because he was somewhat on the run from the law, was used to always living as if his life might be snatched from him at any moment. Now, he says, everyone is living as Cottard always has. This, he imagines, is nice for Cottard. He finally has company.
  • Cottard goes to the opera with Tarrou and witnesses the actor playing Orpheus collapse on stage from the plague.
  • As the plague worsens, Cottard continues to make money "hand over fist."
  • When the plague’s recession begins, Cottard is resident party pooper in Oran.
  • Cottard has been visiting Dr. Rieux frequently to ask whether or not the plague is actually receding. Because really, he’d rather it not.
  • Tarrou’s journal entries now focus on Cottard: he’s stopped trying to make friends with everyone and has become somewhat of a recluse.
  • He asks Tarrou what it would mean for the plague to be over and for things to go back to normal; Cottard is clearly concerned with the whole police thing.
  • Speaking of, two men that come off suspiciously as agents of the law approach Cottard while he’s with Tarrou.
  • Ever the calm and suave, Cottard squeaks and runs off like a ninny.
  • With the plague over and the gates opened, Cottard cracks and starts shooting people from his apartment window.
  • Cottard is arrested, as he always feared he would be. Funny how these things work out.