The Plague is a novel describing the plague epidemic in the large Algerian city of Oran in the 1940s. In April, numerous rats staggered into the open to die. Once a mild hysteria gripped the population, the newspapers began searching for any action they could take. Finally, the authorities arranged for the daily collection and cremation of the rats, but by mid-afternoon they were already pilling up again. When a cluster of cases of a strange fever appeared, Dr. Rieux’s partner, Castel, became certain that the illness is the bubonic plague. He and Dr. Rieux are forced to confront the indifference and denial of the authorities and other doctors in their attempts to urge quick, decisive action. Only after it became impossible to deny that a serious epidemic was ravaging Oran, the authorities did enforce strict sanitation measures, placing the entire city under quarantine.
The public went into shock due to their sudden imprisonment and intense longing for absent loved ones. Many people indulged in selfish personal distress, convinced that their pain was unique in comparison to the rest of the towns. Father Paneloux delivered a stern sermon, declaring that the plague is God’s punishment for Oran’s sins. Raymond Rambert attempted to escape Oran in hopes of rejoining with his wife in Paris. He tried to escape with the help of Cottard’s criminal buddies. In the mean time, Meanwhile, Rieux, Tarrou, and Grand relentlessly battled the death and suffering of the plague. Rambert eventually finalized his escape plan, but, upon learning that Pieux was separated from his wife, Rambert became ashamed to flee. He chose to stay behind and continue to fight the epidemic. Cottard committed an unknown crime in the past, so he has lived in constant fear of arrest and punishment. He found the plague to be a sign of relief because he was no longer alone in his fearful suffering. He accumulated a great deal of wealth as a smuggler during the epidemic.
Since the exile lasted for so long, the people lost their selfish obsession with personal suffering. They came to view the plague as a disaster that was everybodys concern, and many confronted their social responsibility and joined the anti-plague efforts. When M. Othon’s son suffered a prolonged, excruciating death from the plague, Dr. Rieux shouts at Paneloux that he was an innocent victim. Paneloux, deeply shaken by the boy’s death, delivered a second sermon that modified the first. He declared that the inexplicable deaths of innocent people forced the Christian people to choose between believing everything or believing nothing at all about God. When he fell ill, he refused to consult a doctor, leaving his fate entirely in the hands of divine Power. He died clutching his crucifix, but the symptoms of his illness did not truly match those of the plague.
When the epidemic ended, Cottard could not go on. He began randomly firing his gun into the street until he was captured by the police. Grand, having recovered from the plague, vows to make a fresh start in life. Tarrou dies just as the epidemic was ending, but he battled with all his strength for his life, just as he helped Rieux battle for the lives of others. Rambert’s wife joined him in Oran right after the city gates were opened.Dr. Rieux’s own wife died of a prolonged illness before she and her husband could be reunited and the public quickly returned to its old routine.
Once I finally finished reading this novel, I was overjoyed. I was interest in the bubonic plague and that was the only reason I chose this novel. Camus could have very easily increased the enjoyment of reading by correcting a few problems, but there were some aspects that I loved about it.
If I am reading any type of writing and I stumble upon a word that I cannot say, I improvise with something that to anyone else would sound like a sigh of relief but it sounds as it looks. The Plague, due to my limited ability to pronounce French names, was filled with characters that practically had no names. I find it difficult to keep track of each character anyway, and this made it virtually impossible. All of the time I was reading, I was wondering who it was talking or trying to save a life. If Camus could have only used names that started with different letters it would have been easier, but many of the names started with the same letter such as: Rambert and Rieux. The name issue really bothered me while I was reading this novel.
I enjoy books that do no veer away from the main plot of the story. When Camus mentioned things about the characters child hoods or an insignificant happening of their lives, I felt as though I was watching a really good show on television, and it was paused for a commercial. The subplots in some books are relevant and almost necessary to allow them to make sense, but the ones in this book only served as page-fillers.
Even though when this happened the rats really did spread the plague, I enjoyed that aspect of the novel the most. The rats symbolized filth and disease at the beginning, but before it was over the rats had been reborn into a symbol of life and a chance to start over.
In Albert Camuss novel The Plague, there are three main cases of symbolism. All of these cases portray the different stages that the plague went through. There are different stages all of which are brought on by different occurrences that have a much deeper meaning than what is printed on the pages.
Before any people fell ill, rats began to be found dead in numerous unexpecting places. Dr. Rieux found a dead rat in his building to which his concierge replied, There werent no rats in the building, so someone must have brought this one from outside. (page 7) These dead rats truly symbolize the plague being spread from one unexpecting place to another before the people had even begun to worry.
As the death number continued to rise, a telegram was sent from the Prefect that read, Proclaim a state of plague stop close town. (page 61) Even though this was the only means to be taken by the authorities, it shows that the people are giving up the battle against the plague and they are trying to fence in the disease and the people. One could read into this that the authorities have decided to sacrifice the unlucky people of Oran. This state of emergency symbolizes that a few deaths really do not matter in the over-all scheme of things.
The townspeople paraded the brilliantly lighted streets in boisterous groups, laughing and singing. (page 253) The people not giving up and returning to their regular lives symbolizes how even though they have gone through months of torture, the plague is over.
The symbolism throughout this novel depicts all of the stages the plague went through before life in Oran could return to normal.
I did not have to read far into this novel, before Camuss imagery had painted a vivid picture of Oran in my mind. In the second paragraph a few sentences describe the feel of the dark, dead city. It almost led me to believe the town was asking for an epidemic of the plague by the way it let all of the seasons pass it by.
The town itself is ugly, gives me the image of an old town with colonial style buildings packed along streets so tight that there is not room for a diseased rat to filter between them in search of food. When seeing Oran, I do not see a greasy, cluttered town, but I see a dried-up-town that has a layer of undisturbed dust form the lack of wind through the town.
Camus described the town as a town without pigeons, without any pigeons, without any trees or gardens. This expresses that there are not enough rays of sunlight or breezes of fresh air for anyone that does not have to stay to keep them happy. The pigeons have chosen to leave this desolate town in search of greener grass. The idea of no trees or gardens gives the image of dusty, barren fields that have not bared any life in many years.
The main imagery in this novel is established from the very start. This tries to prevent the reader from establishing an image in their mind, and it makes Camuss job easier because he doesnt have to persuade the reader to see things his way. He tells them what to see.
Dr. Bernard Rieux was the main character throughout this novel. He devoted all of his energy for many months to try to find a cure for the plague. He also continued to see his regular patients during this stressful time. Once the plague was over, Rieux could not return to his normal life due to circumstances beyond his control.
Rieux had to send his wife away to stay in a sanitarium in the mountains due to a year long illness. (page 8) This was the first character-building-step he went through. Being forced to live without his wife toughened his heart. He did not even have enough time to write her letters because there were so many people falling ill with the plague. Rieux did not know how many changes he would go through before the ordeal was over.
All during the plague epidemic, Rieux was forced to face innocent deaths day after day. Being a doctor, he felt somewhat to blame for the numerous deaths. A person cannot fail so many times without beginning to wonder if they are truly a failure. Fighting to not sink into depression, Rieux worked even harder to battle the plague. He worked so many hours a day that there was not any time left for sleep or certainly not any time left for a personal life. Rieux forgot how to be a person throughout the months of the epidemic.
Dr. Bernard Rieux was the main character throughout this novel, therefore, he took the blunt of many of its blows. Losing his wife and worrying about everyones well being truly took a toll on him. At the beginning he was an average doctor whos wife was sick. By the end, he had lost his wife and had practically worked himself to death.
*The Plague takes place in a large Algerian city of Oran in the 1940s. The main epidemic lasted from April until February.
The town has a dead look about it. It seems that nobody new has moved her for many years, and the people that live here are literally dying to get out. The children do not play in the streets together anymore.
The movie theater played the same movie all during the epidemic, and all of the people still came to watch it once a week. After a while, they became scared that setting so close they could possibly get infected, and the theater became a deserted place as well.
Since only a few people were out after dark, the town authorities decided to only turn on half of the streetlights. The town was almost completely dark during the night hours. This made it very difficult for the people who were to find their way.
The people became numb to the idea of death and dying. Nothing really seemed to matter to them anymore, as long as they did not contract the plague.
Due to all of the deaths, the cemeteries were running over. The authorities had resorted to have two large pits to bury the bodies in– one for men and one for women. After each new load was dumped in they were dusted with lime to keep the odor to a minimal. Family plots had ceased to matter anymore.
The setting of this novel shows how so many regular occurrences can change when such a horrible thing happens in a community.
This is a seven page novel analysis. It devotes 2 pgs to plot, 1 pg to personal reaction, 1 page to symbolism, 1 page to imagery, 1 page to main character, and 1 page to setting.