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The Plague

The Plague


by Albert Camus

Joseph Grand Timeline and Summary

  • Grand, a poor municipal worker, makes a phone call to Dr. Rieux, who has helped him out for free before, about his suicidal neighbor, Cottard.
  • Grand reveals the writing on the wall, "Come in, I’ve hanged myself," and tells Rieux that he took Cottard down from the rope just in time.
  • Later, when Rieux has come back for the police inspection, Grand talks about the chalk that Cottard used to write the message.
  • Grand says that, in order to improve his understanding of French words, he’s undertaken to learn Latin. The chalk was what Grand used to write out the various forms of the Latin words.
  • It becomes apparent that Grand has some "private work," but we don’t yet know what this means.
  • When the plague worsens, Grand meets with Rieux and Cottard and tells them of the number of deaths, which it has now become his job to tally.
  • He leaves suddenly to take care of some "personal business" which he refuses to disclose to Rieux, even when asked.
  • Rieux notes how Grand always uses odd, cornball expressions that are supposedly from "his part of the world," a.k.a. Montélimar, in the South of France.
  • Rieux devotes some time to thinking about Grand, who we discover has no upper teeth, walks like a priest, and appears to be insignificant.
  • He works at a job with no opportunity for advancement, but is too meek or too inept with his words to utter any protest.
  • We discover that Grand’s parents died when he was very young.
  • Despite his inability to speak remotely clearly, the man is trying to write a book.
  • Rieux can not believe the plague could happen in a place where men like Grand – eccentric but harmless – exist.
  • Grand meets with Rieux to discuss the number of deaths. He also discusses Cottard, who lately has become extremely amiable.
  • Grand has some difficulty expressing Cottard’s prior state of non-amiability.
  • He reports to Rieux the scene that went down at the tobacconist’s with Cottard.
  • Grand adds that Cottard told him being a writer was a good idea, since people are always willing to put up with a lot from writers.
  • Grand has concluded that Cottard has something weighing on his conscience.
  • When Rieux one day bumps into Grand, Grand speaks with eloquence – for the first time – about his absent wife Jeanne.
  • We find out that Grand married Jeanne when they were very young, their marriage died in the midst of their poverty, and Jeanne peaced out one day.
  • Grand wanted to write her a letter explaining himself, but couldn’t, being not so hot with language.
  • Grand is with Rieux when they encounter a raving lunatic in the street.
  • This seems like an appropriate time for Grand to reveal that he is writing a book. Or at least trying, as he spends weeks on a "mere conjunction."
  • He takes Rieux back to his place to read the one sentence he has written thus far: "One fine morning in the month of May an elegant young horsewoman might have been riding a handsome sorrel mare along the flowery avenues of the Bois de Boulogne."
  • Hearing a hullabaloo outside, he rushes to the window with Rieux to see the citizens of Oran rushing the gates, trying to escape.
  • In addition to his day job and his writing, Grand becomes a sort of secretary to Rieux and Tarrou’s volunteer teams. Needless to say, the three combined jobs are quite draining in tandem.
  • The narrator decides that, if his novel is to have a hero, Grand is it with his "goodness of heart" and his "absurd ideal."
  • Conditions worsen, and Grand keeps himself going by imagining the week he can take off work once the plague is over.
  • The eventual publication of his book, he says, will result in a "Hats off, gentlemen!" from the publisher.
  • Grand listens to Rieux as the doctor discusses his own wife.
  • Grand is standing in front of a store window crying when Rieux and Tarrou come upon him.
  • He has the plague and is taken to the hospital for treatment.
  • Rieux and Tarrou take a look at his manuscript, which is now fifty pages of the horsewoman sentence written out in endless variation.
  • Grand did, however, finally begin the letter to his wife Jeanne. It’s only one sentence so far, but still…
  • Just when everyone figures Grand is going to die of the plague, he…doesn’t die.
  • Grand recovers and goes back to work.
  • Along with Dr. Rieux, Grand witnesses Cottard’s madman shoot-out and his subsequent apprehension.
  • He reveals that he has finally written to Jeanne, that he is much happier now, and that he’s still plugging away at his horsewoman sentence.