Study Guide

The Plague Part 2, Chapter 6

By Albert Camus

Part 2, Chapter 6

  • Just after Father Paneloux’s sermon, the really hot weather set in. In other words, spring is ending and summer setting in.
  • Also, lots more people died (700 a week, roughly speaking). Is it just us, or was Paneloux's sermon not so effective?
  • Everyone stays in their houses with the blinds shut. Meanwhile, the authorities have set up all these rules and patrols and so forth, but mostly they just shoot random cats that may be infected.
  • Tarrou’s journals report the goings-on as summer sets in: death tolls are now reported daily, not weekly.
  • He (Tarrou) watches the old cat-spitting man, who very sadly has no more cats to spit on, and the old patrolman who tries to everyone "I told you so" even though the disaster he predicted was an earthquake, not a plague.
  • Turns out, Tarrou is actually one of the few people left staying in the hotel. (Others moved out "to stay with friends," although we can’t rule out that they just died.)
  • Remember that odd family that Tarrou has previously observed, with the owl father and the poodle children? Right, that was M. Othon, the police magistrate, and his family. They’re not doing so well. The mother (Mme. Othon) is in quarantine for having cared for her own plague-ridden mother.
  • The manager thinks she’s "under suspicion" (presumably of having the plague), but Tarrou counters that, in this case, everyone in the town is "under suspicion" as well.
  • Even so, M. Othon continues to dress well and appear for a dignified dinner every night.
  • Tarrou comments on Paneloux’s sermon: he says there’s always such powerful rhetoric at the beginning of a crisis (which this is) and at the end, but he wants to stick around and wait for the silence that comes in the middle, as that’s where you get "hardened to the truth."
  • He also recalls having spoken with Rieux and his mother, who has a gaze of so much kindness it will surely triumph over the plague.
  • Tarrou went with Rieux to see his Spanish asthma patient, and later went by himself to visit the old man.
  • Tarrou’s journals record that the old man isn’t so much bed-ridden by his asthma as he is by his desire to be bed-ridden.
  • The old man also hates watches, so he starts off the day with two pans: one full of peas, one empty. All day long he transfers them over, one pea at a time, to the empty pan; then he transfers them back.
  • Fifteen moves between pans means it is time to eat. He doesn’t get out much.
  • The old man’s defense is this: the second half of life is all downhill, God doesn’t exist, and he wants above all to die at a very old age.
  • Tarrou thinks he is a saint, but only if "saintliness" means "the aggregation of habits."
  • Meanwhile, Tarrou has been observing the town. Shops are closed, all the newspapers can talk about is plague, streetcars have trouble making their way down crowded roads, and people generally have nothing to do all day.
  • People spend money very freely, like on expensive wines and such. In fact, with the reality of the plague set in, people have turned away from religion and towards pleasure.
  • Tarrou’s journal records that he is no different – "death means nothing to men like [him]." It’s the event (meaning death), he says, that proves these men right. What he’s getting at is, once you die, it’s obvious that death doesn’t mean anything.