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The Plague

The Plague


by Albert Camus

Father Paneloux Timeline and Summary

  • Father Paneloux gives an arm to support the hotel concierge M. Michel as he stumbles about in his illness.
  • Paneloux gives a series of sermons on what the narrator informs us is "individualism." In other words, he’s trying to instruct the citizens of Oran to be self-reliant.
  • Apparently that didn’t work, because Paneloux gives a big honkin’ sermon about how the plague is everyone’s fault. All they need to do now is focus on "the radiant eternal light of God," whatever that means.
  • Paneloux helps Rieux attend to his patients.
  • He is present for the death of Jacques Othon and cries out, "My God, spare this child!" as they all watch the poor boy suffer.
  • Since the death of M. Othon’s son, Paneloux has been a little different. Troubled, even.
  • He is writing a paper called "Is a Priest Justified in Consulting a Doctor?"
  • By the time Paneloux delivers his second sermon, much of Oran has turned from religion to superstition, so the church is only three-quarters full.
  • The most noticeable difference in this sermon as compared to the first, according to the narrator, is that Paneloux says "we" instead of "you" when addressing the congregation.
  • Paneloux admits that his back is to the wall here, especially with the suffering and death of an obviously innocent child.
  • There are good and evil in the world, he says, but we get confused when we examine the nature of evil.
  • Religion, he says, is a package deal – all or nothing. And this right here is go-time.
  • Paneloux then draws a distinction between "fatalism" and what he calls "active fatalism." You have to accept that the current situation is God’s will, but you can’t use that as an excuse to not do anything about it.
  • He recalls a past outbreak of the Black Death at Marseille when many monks died, few fled, and only one stayed behind to live.
  • "My brothers," he announces to the congregation with a slamming of his fist, "each one of us must be the one who stays!"
  • After the sermon, an elderly priest and a younger deacon discuss Paneloux. It seems the institution of the Church is none-too-pleased with his recent activities, which include consulting medical professionals about the current medical crisis.
  • A few days later, Paneloux has to change residences, as many have as a result of the plague.
  • He moves in with an elderly woman; they don’t get along for trivial reasons.
  • Paneloux becomes ill and repeatedly refuses medical help. Finally, however, the elderly woman calls Rieux, who comes by to take a look.
  • Though Paneloux is obviously ill, Rieux doesn’t think it looks like the plague.
  • Paneloux refuses to let Rieux stay and keep him company, as men have no friends but God, he says.
  • Once he’s taken to the hospital, Paneloux won’t talk to anyone and instead stares continuously at a crucifix.
  • When he dies, we are left with the image of the index card bearing his name and diagnosis (or, in this case, lack thereof): "Doubtful case."