The Plague Part 3
It is now mid-August, and the plague is completely in control of the people of Oran:
"No longer were there individual destinies; only a collective destiny, made of plague and emotions shared by all." Part 3, pg. 167
High winds gust through Oran, and the people close themselves up in their homes. The plague also attacks the central districts of the city. These areas are cordoned off by officials, to help prevent the spread of the disease. The townspeople are getting crazier, and arson, looting, and attempts at escape make the officials declare a state of martial law. A curfew is imposed in the city. Any social hierarchy in the city is being erased--prisoners and guards both have an equal probability of being stricken dead. Though some attempts to distinguish some citizens of rank above the others are tried, like giving a "plague metal" to military guards who die at their posts, these measures don't work to anyone's satisfaction.
The narrator gives a description of the evolution of funerals in Oran, which began as a hasty and official procedure designed to minimize risk of contamination from plague-ridden dead bodies. As coffins became scarcer and the number of deaths rose, the funerals got faster and faster, and less and less personal. For a while, bodies were merely dumped in mass graves and covered with quicklime, and now that there is no more space in the graveyards, the bodies are burned in the crematorium.
Though all of this sounds horrible, the narrator tells us that the plague was in fact very non-dramatic:
"The truth is that nothing is less sensational than pestilence, and by reason of their very duration great misfortunes are monotonous." Part 3, pg. 179
The townspeople's worst distress is the continued pain of separation from those outside the city gates, but even this pain is beginning to dull. The people of Oran are losing their memory, and some, including Dr. Rieux, realize that:
"... the habit of despair is worse than despair itself." Part 3, pg. 181
The people of the town are moving like zombies within a cage now and the city is so lifeless that:
"... evening after evening gave its truest, mournfulest expression to the blind endurance that had outlasted love from all our hearts." Part 3, pg. 185