Second Part

With the town closed, the inhabitants feel the pain of separation; they communicate with their loved ones by conventional words. They live through memory or the regret of never having known love, in an interior exile. Incapable of active existence, they cannot summon up the courage to overcome despair. Rambert, stranger to Oran, is the most exiled of them all. Life is led almost unconsciously; cinemas and cafes are packed. Cottard seems happy. Grand confides in Rieux that his wife left him because their life together was average. Rambert tries to obtain Rieux's help in leaving the city. He reproaches him for being distracted by his work; he doesn't understand that he needs to re-find his wife.

Father Paneloux gives a sermon at the Cathedral. The plague is a scourge from God. Each time he has appeared, the angel of the plague has come to announce that suffering was the beginning of eternity, of salvation. Fear spreads. One evening, Grand reveals to Rieux that he is writing a novel that he wants to be perfect, only he is stuck on the first sentence. Several people try to climb over the gates to flee the town. Rambert spends hours at the station. The heat from the sun is oppressive. Tarrou observes that everyone carries the plague inside him or her. A newspaper, "le courier de l'epidemie" gives out information. During the day, the sun and the plague ensure the streets are empty. In the evening anguish diminishes; the idea of God and salvation is less urgent than the pursuit of more immediate pleasures.

The epidemic spreads and takes on a pulmonary form. Tarrou suggests to Rieux that he organises volunteer health training. Rieux agrees; misery must be overcome and not by demonstrating excellence. A worker's son, he chose a career in medicine and he knows that his work is now a transient victory against death. No one believes in God enough to let him save the sick. This is a moral understanding that makes Tarrou act. The narrator does not want to portray him as a hero, but more to speak of hearts made firm and demanding. He must preserve human dignity against the temptation of fear. Castel prepares some sebum. Grand establishes statistics. His literary work absorbs him; he corrects his first sentence without stopping. He is, according to the narrator, the model of a hero, insignificant and devout. Rieux is irritated by the emphatic tone of the news from the outside world.

Having tried every possible way of escaping town, Rambert resorts to illegal means. Cottard introduces him to men willing to help: Garcia, Raoul, Gonzales. For 10, 000 francs he can bribe guards who will let him through. Cottard is troubled by the views of Judge Othon. Rambert assures Rieux that he is not acting out of cowardice. Tarrou has convinced Paneloux to participate in the health training. Rambert's meeting with Garcia does not take place. He declares to Rieux and Tarrou that he would not be useful to them at all. Nobody goes to the following meeting. They must begin all over again. A first cure is discovered. An incredulous Cottard confesses to being happy with the plague; it prevents him being arrested. Rambert reproaches Rieux for acting in the name of an idea, whilst he himself is capable of dying for love. For Rieux, the best fight against evil is honesty. Tarrou explains to Rambert that the doctor is also separated from his wife. Overwhelmed, the journalist offers his help to Rieux.

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