Study Guide

The Plague Part 4, Chapter 2

By Albert Camus

Part 4, Chapter 2

  • Rambert, clearly a man not easily discouraged, is still trying to escape.
  • This time Gonzales actually keeps his appointment. He takes Rambert to Marcel and Louis’s pad at the outskirts of the dockyard, where everyone decides they need to wait two weeks to make their move.
  • During these two weeks, Rambert works his little tail off (guilty conscience much?). The work, we are told, leaves him with little energy for thoughts at all, even of his upcoming escape.
  • Rambert does confess to Rieux a particular incident: feeling the pain of drunken stupor one night, Rambert thought for a moment he had the plague. He ran towards the walls of the town, calling out to his "wife."
  • When he realized he didn’t have the plague so much as a drunkard’s aches and pains, he felt like a doofus.
  • Rieux says his actions were understandable, and by the way, if he’s going to escape he'd better get on it already, as scheming constantly for months at a time has started to attract attention.
  • Rambert wants to know why Rieux doesn’t stop him from escaping; Rieux feels incapable of deciding what is correct (he doesn’t say this, so we’re wondering how the narrator knows what Rieux is feeling, in this case and others).
  • The doctor does reply, however, that he would like to "do [his] bit for happiness."
  • In the meantime, Rambert is camping out at Marcel and Louis’s place and waiting for the big night. He chills with their mother, who is a "little whisp of a woman, always dressed in black."
  • She wants to know why Rambert is so eager to get back to his wife. On hearing that 1) his wife is pretty and 2) Rambert doesn’t believe in God, she thinks that pretty much explains it. She makes the point that Rambert doesn’t have much else beside this woman.
  • Much like Dr. Rieux’s mother, this woman doesn’t seem bothered by the plague. She serenely comments on the deaths, but admits calmly that there is "much wickedness in the world" without seeming fazed by it at all.
  • Finally, the day comes. Marcel warns Rambert to be ready at "midnight sharp."
  • Rambert heads to Rieux’s office and there encounters Tarrou, who is glad to hear that he’s finally going to be off. He’s not lying, Tarrou says – at his age, lying takes too much effort.
  • Rambert is all, "That’s great, but can I see the doctor already?"
  • Tarrou leads Rambert through the sick ward (which we think is a remarkably bad idea, given that Rambert is about to skip town, but OK).
  • At last Rambert gets Rieux alone. He reveals that, actually, he doesn’t want to leave; he wants to stay and help fight the plague. If he leaves, he’ll feel ashamed.
  • Until now, he says, he felt like a "stranger" in this town (indeed, that was his key argument for escaping). But now, he says, the plague is "everybody’s business," including his.
  • It seems like Rambert wants a medal, or at least a slap on the back from Rieux. But the doctor doesn’t humor him.
  • Instead, Rieux offers that "nothing in the world is […] worth turning one’s back on what one loves." He adds that he is committing that very act himself (presumably referring to his own wife), but he doesn’t know why.
  • The conclusion, Rieux continues, is that man cannot cure and know at the same time. At this point, curing is the more urgent job.
  • The journalist confesses that he cancelled his escape – before he came to talk to Rieux.