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The Plague

.. meter. The suburbs have continually felt its growth and have become part of “a tightening belt of death that draws together toward the center of the city”(Knapp142). Moreover, the disease is no longer merely “plague.” It begins to have a diversity and an adaptability belonging to the philosophy of adapting and surviving. The plague has separated Oran from the outside and many of the Oranians from their loved ones, but it has begun to unite men of different temperaments and philosophies and to create a feeling of common humanity among them.

In this third section, no isolated actions are described. The individual revolt of the first week of the plague is replaced with a vast despondency in which nothing is left “but a series of present moments.” Riley states that “In this third part of the novel the citizens of Oran are crushed both physically and psychologically; their bodies die, and so do their minds and hearts; they are ready to surrender, and their hearts are emptied of love”(Riley 93). Rhein agrees when he says “Whereas in the early days of the plague the people of Oran had been struck by the host of small details that had ment so much to them personally and had made their lives unique, they now took an interest only in what interested everyone else; they had only general ideas, and even their tenderest affections now seemed abstract, items of the common stock”(Rhein 52). Part three is a short, intense chronicle of the crisis weeks in Oran, “the time when two natural powers-the plague’s rising fever and the midsummer sun-incinerate the city’s prisoners. No longer is there active revolt. The panic-generated energy of part two is gone”(Knapp 156).

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Depression has struck the population. Oranians now have the task of withstanding the fever and the summer heat. There are mass burials of all that the plague has struck. Plague makes direct kills on some citizens; but on others it is more devious. Spritzen suggests that “The latter must battle on several fronts: fear, panic, and a feeling of exile and separation drain love from the heart; the senses are physically assaulted; the mind suffers major losses of hope and logic”(Spritzen 286). Even imagination fails finally to recall separated loved ones, just as a memory eventually succumbs. There is a trance-like adaptation to the plague.

Horror reaches a point that fails to horrify any longer; it becomes a kind of monotonous norm, a habit. The Oranians live for the present, but are so sad and spiritless that they cannot inject their living with meaning. The changes within the people and within the city are important elements in this section. The plague, for example, is no longer concentrated in the outer districts. Suddenly it strikes the center of Oran, at its heart.

Rhein comments that “We see Irony when we realize that plague initially isolated Oran from the outside world. Then, once inside the city, after it had given the town if not a responsible solidarity, at least a united sense of common trouble, it viciously attacked not individuals, but groups and caused members to be individual quarantined isolation”(Rhein 76). We see many more burials and then the worst is over. When the city can withstand no more, the plague begins to level off. The deadening immobility described in part three lies in violent contrast to the vibrant descriptions of individual actions that make part four the most moving and significant section of the book. Riley comments that “In part four the Oranians learn how to fight; they learn that their resistance must be organized; they learn that only by fighting beside and for one another do they have any hope of surviving themselves”(Riley 93).

The lethargy refuses to lift itself from Oran. The townspeople continue to exist for the moment at hand, but see their present without a context. When a new serum, to treat the plague, is brought out to be tested on Othon’s boy, there is a sense of hope for the citizens of Oran. However, if the serum is not effective, it is possible that the plague will prove to be victor. After the boy dies, there is a general blank depression, but there is also a bit of optimism.

In this section we see another change when Paneloux delivers his second sermon. Bloom states that “The second sermon affirms that the plague is not sent by God; it is part of an evil which is present in the universe and which the Christian must confront. This sermon is filtered through the scepticism of Rieux who is sitting in the Church”(Bloom 109). When All Souls’ day comes up for the Oranians we see a lack of men and women carrying flowers. Remembrance of death is no longer a once-a-year day.

Dying has assumed such major proportions that one can almost say that life seems the exception. When winter approaches the plague still does not abate. Riley comments that “Winter fails to freeze the plague germs but not the city’s walls. Chinks begin to appear, metaphorically”(Riley 141). Part four closes with the ambiguity of the rats’ return, but the implications are clear: rats are able to live again in Oran.

The plague has begun its retreat. The brief fifth section of the novel deals with the end of the plague, the reunion of lovers, and the complete return to the individual feelings and actions that made up the introductory section. Riley adds that “When in part five the plague leaves, the survivors, despite their tendency to isolate themselves once again, are keenly alive; and they have learned how to live better”(Riley 93). While Oran has successfully defeated the plague there is no immediate rejoicing for the citizens. Rhein observes that “Oran does not begin to jubilate immediately at the first signs of the plague’s waning. Hope has become so slender that it cannot bear the weight of sudden happiness. It must be strengthened with caution and a degree of fear”(Rhein 125).

After being held like prisoners, the Oranians, like most would, attempt a number of wild escapes. Their new freedom is almost overwhelming. Spritzen suggests that “Oran had certainly been prison-like and the most escape attempts occur during the last weeks of the sentence; temptation increases until common sense is overpowered”(Spritzen 287). Riley adds, “It is evidence that men are able to once more live without breathing death onto one another. Man is free to once again effect his own exile if he wishes.

The plague has given him a chance for examination of his values; he must now rebuild his future in terms of what he has learned”(Riley 93). Life is being returned to the people and once again they can afford a variety of “silverscreen illusions.” After all, the return to life after the gates are opened will have all the outer aspects of Before. Yet even this will be an illusion. Every person will carry scars of the plague and each Oranian will have somewhat of a new dimension as an individual. Throughout the chronicle Rieux has commented on the townspeople’s failure before the plague to attain a more varied, joyous, appreciative sense of life. Now, he sees lovers wishing to slow their new moments into slow motion so as to savor all of its thrill.

For the present human love is violently rekindled. Throughout The Plague we see both the town of Oran ans its citizens change along with various stages of the Plague. It seems to go through stages of unawareness, awareness, death, commitment and life. This way we see a change that occurs from the beginning of the novel from an unawareness of whats happening about them to a new sense for life. While the plague may have destroyed the town and many lives within it, it offers the Oranians a chance to give meaning back to their lives. English Essays.


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