The Plague Essay

1389 words - 6 pages

In the mid 1940's, Albert Camus, began to write the novel The Plague. The story has been read over and over again, yet it tells more than it seems to. It tells the story of a town gripped by a deadly disease, and of how the inhabitants thrive to overcome it. Many consider the inhabitants' fight against the plague to be an allegory to the German Occupation of France, however, as critic Albert Maquet says, "to simplify things …The Plague is an allegorical novel." 1 The true meaning of the story, however, is not an allegory. Albert Camus felt that life was a series of contradictions. He felt that humans sought to explain the world in "human terms," however, Camus says, "the world is thus not explicable." 2 Because of this condition, he referred to human life as "absurd." This absurdity amounts to an emptiness in our lives and makes our very existence meaningless. However, Camus also believed we could find meaning through "purpose action," which means "revolting" against injustices and fighting the "against the plagues that enslave man." 3This belief runs throughout the novel; and the main characters all represent this belief.Camus could not have created a better setting for the novel.The story takes place in the desert town of Oran, Algeria, in northern Africa.The city suffers from extremes of weather conditions; in the summer and the heat forces the inhabitants "to spend those days of fire indoors, behind closed shutters." The people much like the shutters are closed off from their neighbors, and usually devote themselves to "cultivating habits" 4 . For the most part everyone in Oran is an individual; they do not care their fellow man. However, the plague changes all of this. When the plague strikes, at first each person refuses to accept the inhumanity of the situation, and try to continue life as they always have, in their selfish pursuits. However, as the death toll rises the people realize that they cannot fight the plague on their own, and that they must unit together and do so something to fight the plague, or "revolt" against the "absurd."(Cruickshank 174) This reality is best seen in Raymond Rambert.Rambert is a journalist, who finds himself trapped in the city of Oran. The women he loves lives beyond the walls of the city, and rather than remaining with the others, he believes himself to be an outsider, and tries to flee the city by any means. At one point, he tells Tarrou, " I don't believe in heroism…What interests me is living for what one loves."5 Later, when speaking with Rieux, Rambert concludes that he is no longer an individual, and that he is part of the town. He realizes that "'there's nothing shameful in preferring happiness… but it may be shameful to be happy by oneself' ."6 Rambert awakens to the truth, which he had been facing all along. Rambert decides to drop his attempts to escape, and decides to join Tarrou's sanitary squads. Like the others, Rambert gave up his position as an individual; he realized...

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