The Plague Albert Camus
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The Plague Albert Camus
7 بهمن 1396 ساعت 4:4 | بازدید : 241 | نویسنده : . | ( نظرات )

Characters

Dr. Bernard Rieux  -  Dr. Bernard Rieux is the narrator of The Plague. He is one of the first people in Oran to urge that stringent sanitation measures be taken to fight the rising epidemic. A staunch humanist and atheist, Dr. Rieux has little patience with the authorities' foot-dragging in response to his call for action. His actions and personality imply that he believes in a personal as well as a social code of ethics. When Oran is placed under quarantine, Dr. Rieux continues to doggedly battle the plague despite the signs that his efforts make little or no difference. Although he is separated from his wife, he does not allow his personal distress to distract him from his battle to relieve the collective social suffering wrought on the confused and terrified population of Oran.
Jean Tarrou -  Jean Tarrou is the author of the account that Dr. Rieux uses to give greater texture to his chronicle of the plague. Tarrou is vacationing in Oran when the epidemic requires a total quarantine of the city. As an outsider, his observations on Oran society are more objective than those of a citizen of the city. Tarrou's beliefs about personal and social responsibility are remarkably similar to those of Dr. Rieux, but Tarrou is far more philosophical. He does not believe in God, so he does not believe in the illusion of an intrinsic rational and moral meaning in death, suffering, and human existence. For him, human existence gains meaning only when people choose freely to participate in the losing, but noble struggle against death and suffering. Tarrou contributes to the anti-plague effort in accordance with his code of ethics.
Joseph Grand -  Joseph Grand is an elderly civil servant in Oran. When he accepted his job as a young man, he was promised the opportunity for promotion, but, over the years, he never actively pursued it. Therefore, he remained in the same job for decades. His marriage also settled into a daily humdrum. Eventually, Grand's wife Jeanne tired of the monotonous routine and left him. Over the years, Grand has tried to write her a letter, but he suffers from an intense anxiety over finding the "right words" to express himself. This anxiety also hinders his literary pursuit. Grand is trying to write a book, but he wants to create the perfect manuscript, so he has never gotten beyond the opening line.
Raymond Rambert -  Raymond Rambert is a journalist from Paris. He comes to Oran to research the sanitary conditions in the Arab population, but the sudden, unexpected total quarantine of Oran traps him in the city. He desperately struggles to find some method of escape from Oran to rejoin his wife in Paris.
Cottard -  Cottard is suspicious, paranoid, and mercurial. In the past, he committed a crime that he does not name, so he constantly fears arrest and punishment. When Oran falls under total quarantine, Cottard is happy because he no longer feels alone in his state of constant fear. Moreover, the plague occupies the authorities entirely, so he does not fear arrest. He engages in the profitable smuggling trade during the epidemic and eschews all responsibility to help fight the disease.
Father Paneloux -  Father Paneloux is a Jesuit priest in Oran. Early during the epidemic, he delivers a sermon to his confused, frightened congregation declaring that the plague is a God-sent punishment for their sins. As the plague rages on, he modifies this stance, seeing the Plague as a supreme test of faith.
M. Othon  -  M. Othon is a conservative magistrate in Oran. Because he is a judge, Tarrou considers him "public enemy number one."
Jacques Othon  -  Jacques is M. Othon's small son. After he contracts the plague, he is the first to receive some of Dr. Castel's plague serum.
Dr. Castel  -  Castel, an elderly doctor, is the first person to utter "plague" in reference to the strange, fatal illness that appears after all the rats in Oran die. He and Dr. Rieux struggle with the authorities' denial and foot-dragging when they urge that stringent sanitation measures be taken to combat a possible epidemic.
The asthma patient  -  Dr. Rieux's asthma patient serves as mouthpiece for the changing whims of Oran society during the prolonged epidemic.
Dr. Richard -  Dr. Richard is the chairman of the medical association in Oran. When Rieux and Castel suggest that the strange illness is the bubonic plague, Dr. Richard does not want to believe it. He prefers to adopt a "wait-and-see" attitude instead of "alarming the public" with immediate, decisive action.
The Prefect -  The Prefect drags his feet when Rieux and Castel urge him to enact stringent sanitation measures to combat a possible epidemic of bubonic plague.
M. Michel -  M. Michel is the concierge for the building where Rieux works. He is the first victim of the plague.

Summary

The Plague is a novel about a plague epidemic in the large Algerian city of Oran. In April, thousands of rats stagger into the open and die. When a mild hysteria grips the population, the newspapers begin clamoring for action. The authorities finally arrange for the daily collection and cremation of the rats. Soon thereafter, M. Michel, the concierge for the building where Dr. Rieux works, dies after falling ill with a strange fever. When a cluster of similar cases appears, Dr. Rieux's colleague, Castel, becomes 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 becomes impossible to deny that a serious epidemic is ravaging Oran, do the authorities enact strict sanitation measures, placing the whole city under quarantine.


The public reacts to their sudden imprisonment with intense longing for absent loved ones. They indulge in selfish personal distress, convinced that their pain is unique in comparison to common suffering. Father Paneloux delivers a stern sermon, declaring that the plague is God's punishment for Oran's sins. Raymond Rambert endeavors to escape Oran to rejoin his wife in Paris, but the city's bureaucrats refuse to let him leave. He tries to escape by illegal means with the help of Cottard's criminal associates. Meanwhile, Rieux, Tarrou, and Grand doggedly battle the death and suffering wrought by the plague. Rambert finalizes his escape plan, but, after Tarrou tells him that Rieux is likewise separated from his wife, Rambert is ashamed to flee. He chooses to stay behind and help fight the epidemic. Cottard committed a crime (which he does not name) in the past, so he has lived in constant fear of arrest and punishment. He greets the plague epidemic with open arms because he no longer feels alone in his fearful suffering. He accumulates a great deal of wealth as a smuggler during the epidemic.

After the term of exile lasts several months, many of Oran's citizens lose their selfish obsession with personal suffering. They come to recognize the plague as a collective disaster that is everyone's concern. They confront their social responsibility and join the anti-plague efforts. When M. Othon's small son suffers 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, delivers a second sermon that modifies the first. He declares that the inexplicable deaths of innocents force the Christian to choose between believing everything and believing nothing about God. When he falls ill, he refuses to consult a doctor, leaving his fate entirely in the hands of divine Providence. He dies clutching his crucifix, but the symptoms of his illness do not match those of the plague. Dr. Rieux records him as a "doubtful case."

When the epidemic ends, Cottard cannot cope. He begins randomly firing his gun into the street until he is captured by the police. Grand, having recovered from a bout of plague, vows to make a fresh start in life. Tarrou dies just as the epidemic is waning, but he battles with all his strength for his life, just as he helped Rieux battle for the lives of others. Rambert's wife joins him in Oran after the city gates are finally opened, but Dr. Rieux's own wife dies of a prolonged illness before she and her husband can be reunited. The public quickly returns to its old routine, but Rieux knows that the battle against the plague is never over because the bacillus microbe can lie dormant for years. The Plague is his chronicle of the scene of human suffering that all too many people are willing to forget.

Analysis

The central irony in The Plague lies in Camus' treatment of "freedom." The citizens of Oran become prisoners of the plague when their city falls under total quarantine, but it is questionable whether they were really "free" before the plague. Their lives were strictly regimented by an unconscious enslavement to their habits. Moreover, it is questionable whether they were really alive. It is only when they are separated by quarantine from their friends, lovers and families that they most intensively love them. Before, they simply took their loved ones for granted.

Camus' philosophy is an amalgam of existentialism and humanism. An atheist, Camus did not believe that death, suffering, and human existence had any intrinsic moral or rational meaning. Because he did not believe in God or an afterlife, Camus held that human beings, as mortals, live under an inexplicable, irrational, completely absurd death sentence. Nevertheless, Camus did believe that people are capable of giving their lives meaning. The most meaningful action within the context of Camus' philosophy is to choose to fight death and suffering.

In the early days of the epidemic, the citizens of Oran are indifferent to one another's suffering because each person is selfishly convinced that his or her pain is unique compared to "common" suffering. When the epidemic wears on for months, many of Oran's citizens rise above themselves by joining the anti-plague effort. The recognition of the plague as a collective concern allows them to break the gap of alienation that has characterized their existence. Thus, they give meaning to their lives because they chose to rebel against death. Fleeing the city or otherwise avoiding the anti-plague effort is tantamount to surrendering to the absurd death sentence under which every human being lives.

Just as any rebellion against death and suffering is ultimately futile, so do the anti-plague efforts seem to make little difference in the relentless progress of the epidemic. However, Camus' novel declares that this rebellion is nonetheless a noble, meaningful struggle even if it means facing never-ending defeat. In this way, The Plague is infused with Camus' belief in the value of optimism in times of hopelessness. Everyone who chooses to fight the plague, to rebel against death, knows that their efforts increase their chances of contracting the plague, but they also realize they could contract the plague if they did nothing at all. In the face of such a seemingly meaningless choice, between death and death, the fact that they make a choice to act and fight for themselves and their community becomes even more meaningful; it is a note of defiance thrown against the wind, but that note is the only thing through which someone can define himself.




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