With a small group of men–all from one ward–taking over the distribution of food and demanding payment of all valuables (and, they have a gun), there naturally comes about a societal structure different from the outside world as well as different from what little had been established within the wards.
But the valuables have run out. So the thugs are asking for women.
Saramago gives us no intimate reaction to this, just reports the discussion as the battle of the sexes comes into play and how much male ego can stand, feminine proprieties are offended, and the overwhelming dedication to survival and the cause. All understandable, and Saramago sort of loses me on the thin line of sociology as it is a rather cold display of what I would assume to be a more dramactic situation, but this sort of got to me more, the doctor's wife once more awake while others in the ward are (supposedly) asleep:
There has been some kind of arrangement made that certain wards will serve their women up first. There has also been some kind of agreement that the men in the wards that send out the women will be taken care of first rather than all the women going off to serve the one horny ward. And, of course, there have been some folks that have coupled out of need for comfort.
But the doctor? I don't know exactly how long these people have been sequestered together, whether a matter of days, weeks, or months, but why is the doctor racing over to "the girl with dark glasses" when he has a truly terrific and loving wife by his side? He knows she can see. He must have known she wasn't beside him in bed when he got up. What the hell's wrong with him? Yes, he knows that his wife will eventually be going off to service one of the thugs, but he claimed that even though his ego was damaged, he understood the necessity.
I don't know. When even the good go bad, and frankly, I don't see why they've let it get to this point, I wonder if Saramago's message on human nature is more negative than reality.