Study Guide

The Plague Part 1, Chapter 6

By Albert Camus

Part 1, Chapter 6

  • Rieux meets up with Grand and Cottard, who came along to thank the doctor for his help back there with the whole suicide mess. It is Grand’s job (he’s a municipal worker) to figure out the body count every day.
  • At the moment, the total is eleven deaths in forty-eight hours.
  • Grand and Cottard accompany Rieux to the laboratory; Rieux says they should just call this what it is, but then hypocritically refuses to say the word ("plague").
  • Once they arrive at the Place d’Armes, Grand takes off for some mysterious business which is "personal" and which he refuses to discuss.
  • Rieux notes the way Grand always uses corny expressions that he says are from his "part of the world" (Montélimar, in the South of France).
  • Before Cottard departs as well, he and Rieux make plans to meet the next day.
  • Now alone, Rieux thinks some more about this Grand character. He has no upper teeth. He walks like a priest. He comes off as insignificant.
  • Grand is not an ambitious man, which is good, as his work as assured him he won’t be promoted ever. His job started as a "temporary" post, but he was so good at getting honest work done and not being promoted, he’s been there for twenty years or so.
  • Most importantly (and this gets back to why he wants to learn Latin), Grand has a hard time with words and language. Rieux identifies this as the "key" to the man’s personality.
  • In some ways, though, Grand leads an "exemplary life." He has good feelings and he loves his relatives, although his parents died when he was very young.
  • Basically, every time Grand sees Rieux he says he wishes he could learn how to express himself. In fact, the man is trying to write a book.
  • This thought somewhat comforts Rieux as he enters his lab; it’s absurd, but how can a pestilence happen in a place where eccentric men like Grand exist?