The Plague Duty Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
From this angle, the narrator holds that, more than Rieux or Tarrou, Grand was the true embodiment of the quiet courage that inspired the sanitary groups. He had said yes without a moment’s hesitation and with the large-heartedness that was a second nature with him. […] When Rieux thanked him with some warmth, he seemed surprised. "Why, that’s not difficult! Plague is here and we’ve got to make a stand, that’s obvious. Ah, I only wish everything were so simple!" (2.8.4)
Grand sees duty the same way the other men do; not a something heroic or grand, but simply as part of being a man in the world.
"Look here, Monsieur Cottard, why don’t you join us?" Picking up his derby hat, Cottard rose from his chair with an offended expression. "It’s not my job," he said. Then, with an air of bravado, he added: "What’s more, the plague suits me quite well and I see no reason why I should bother about trying to stop it." (2.9.174-6)
Cottard uses the same logic to refute his duty that Rieux, Grand, and Tarrou use to justify and interpret it. The problem may come, yet again, to a simple problem of terminology. What does it mean for something to be someone’s "job?" Does this refer to profession? To obligation? And what defines those very terms? The ambiguity of language once more has serious repercussions in The Plague.
"You’re right, Rambert, quite right, and for nothing in the world would I try to dissuade you from what you’re going to do; it seems to be absolutely right and proper. However, there’s one thing I must tell you: there’s no question of heroism in all this. It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is—common decency." (2.9.241)
Rieux is honest in his dealings with Rambert. Rather than glamorize his work to convince the journalist to help, he gives him the straight answer.