The Plague By Albert Camus Essay

2763 words - 11 pages

The Plague by Albert Camus


Albert Camus' The Plague, takes place in the desert town of Oran, Algeria, in northern Africa. It is the perfect setting for this story to take place. The ordinariness of Oran is contrasted with the extraordinary business of the plague. Sprintzen points out that "There is a mythic significance of Oran. Given the previous description of the quality of Oranian life, the selection of Oran as the location for the outbreak of plague should not come as a surprise"(Sprintzen 38). In Oran, life for its inhabitants has lost meaning. The plague offers them a chance to give meaning back to their lives. The plot of the story is revealed in five parts, over which we see the characters undergo changes. Through the Oranian's attitudes towards death in The Plague, they go through stages, which leave them with a final hope for life.
As the novel starts, the Oranians are completely unaware of what is happening or what is about to happen around them and therefore cannot possibly be aware of the coming plague. The opening portion describes men's individual actions in a city as yet not officially touched by the plague. Riley believes that "First the people of Oran, and they are not extraordinary in this way, are characterized as making no effort to reach the true nature of each other, and, unaware of the reality of their world and it other inhabitants, they are unfit to become easily aware of the coming plague" (Riley 93). The main focus of every person in Oran is himself. Everyone in Oran wishes to be an individual, to have none of the problems of the rest of the world. Sprintzen observes that "The people don't want to be stuck in the same boat with someone else; each believes one man's problems are his own, while they truly affect everyone"(Sprintzen 84). The emphasis on the habits which have been formed and cultivated by the "soulless" people of Oran are significant. Vital living can be stifled by habits. Todd suggests that "It is at this point that one should revolt against his stultifying pattern of living. Recognition of bottomless death makes a habit-bound life even more absurd"(Todd 165). Considering that they are completely unaware of anything around them, it is easy to see that the disease captures the city completely by surprise; no one is prepared for it. Doctors gather to discuss the matter. They have trouble naming the disease at first, and refuse to accept it for what it is. This reflects the whole attitude of the town, as the citizens do they very same thing. Doctors in particular are the first attempt to combat the disease. The individual efforts are valiant but have a negligible effect. An epidemic is a problem, which belongs not to a person but to people. It becomes apparent, however that it cannot merely be "one" who must oppose the plague. No matter what the doctors do one their own, they cannot stop the dying. The number of victims lost to the plague climbs higher and higher. ...

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