Study Guide

The Plague Part 1, Chapter 8

By Albert Camus

Part 1, Chapter 8

  • The town posts notices about the spreading illness and the plan to hopefully do something about it. However, the fliers are placed where no one will see them so no one will become alarmed.
  • Basically, the Prefect and his entourage are trying to take preventative measures without scaring everyone. Such precautions include: poisoning the rats, supervising the water supply, and creating special wards in the hospital.
  • Grand and Rieux meet; ten more people died the previous day. They discuss Cottard, who Grand reports as "amiable."
  • Some more about words: Rieux asks if the man wasn’t amiable before; Grand doesn’t know what to say, since "unamiable" wouldn’t be the right term, either. All he knows is that Cottard is one mysterious man (a common theme around this place). Supposedly Cottard is a traveling wine salesman. Sometimes men visit him during the day and he’s oddly aloof.
  • Since his suicide attempt, though, Cottard hasn’t had any more visitors. Instead, he’s been trying to make friends with everyone (hence the "amiable" comment from before).
  • Cottard also drops huge tips, and has hinted that the people he tips could be great character witnesses for him.
  • Grand reports a particularly interesting scene that went down at the tobacconist’s. The woman behind the counter, he says, referenced a man in Algiers that had killed an Arab on the beach.
  • Wait just a minute here. This sounds like Camus’s other novel – The Stranger. Is he allowed to do that?
  • Anyway, the tobacco-selling woman thinks they should throw this guy in jail.
  • Cottard stutters and runs away, or possibly a would-be murderer.
  • Plus, Cottard was always a self-proclaimed liberal, but lately he’s been reading conservative publications in obvious places where others can see him.
  • He and Grand ended up talking about literature; Cottard thinks being an author is a good deal, since people will put up with more from a writer than from others.
  • Grand concludes in his conversation with Rieux, Cottard obviously has something weighing on his conscience.
  • Later that afternoon, Rieux meets with Castel. The anti-plague serum hasn’t arrived yet.
  • Rieux wonders if the serum will even work, since this bacteria is a little different.
  • Alone, Dr. Rieux ponders: what’s this funny feeling that’s been growing inside him? It’s…it’s…ah, he’s got it. It’s fear.
  • That evening, Rieux goes to visit Cottard, who’s reading a detective story and wants to be left in peace.
  • Cottard asks if it’s fair for everyone to be talking about an arrested man, as is the case in his detective book.
  • Rieux responds with a "Maybe you need to get out more," and also, "How ‘bout turning on these here lights?"
  • Cottard wants to know whether Rieux would put him in the hospital ward if he got sick. He also wants to know if a man can be arrested while in the hospital.
  • It depends, replies the doctor.
  • Rieux gives Cottard a lift into town. On the way, they stop to watch some children playing hopscotch. While they watch one small, intense boy, Cottard yells that what they need is an earthquake.
  • Rieux spends the following day making his rounds. His last visit is the old Spaniard asthma patient, who is still chuckling over the whole scenario.
  • Things get worse. Rieux wants to take real actions – not just words – to prevent the spread of disease, but no one seems to be listening to him.
  • Miraculously, the weather gets better; the sun comes out, and all is good with the world.
  • Just kidding! Four days later, everything has gone back to hell again.
  • Rieux calls the Prefect and demands that he do something. The Prefect agrees and has the doctor write up his official recommendations.
  • Now the townspeople are ordered to report infection; burials have to be carried out in a specified manner; infected houses have to be quarantined.
  • The anti-plague serum arrives, but only enough for current cases. Apparently the Paris supplies are running low, and since no one had "prepare for horribly unlikely plague outbreak" at the top of their list, they're taking their sweet time restocking.
  • Meanwhile, it’s spring!
  • We jump momentarily back to Tarrou, who watches the cat-spitting man. What the narrator is saying is that basically, everything goes on as usual; the weather, the seasons, everyone’s habits, everyone’s jobs.
  • Then, the death toll goes way down, and it looks like all will be fine.
  • Just kidding yet again. The death toll goes back up and the town is ordered closed (quarantined), as it is officially suffering an outbreak of the plague.