Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University

Camus, The Plague


Part I

Consider Oran before the plague. "ugly," "smug," "placid" (3).
commerce valued, habits of leisure, "banality" (5).
"in other words, completely modern" (4).
aesthma patient (56). Consider the narrator's concealed identity (6) and his concern with marking "periods" (e.g., 21-22).

Notice all the rat reactions and denials:
(7-8) (9) (12) (14) (16) (20-21?) (23) (27) (32) (33) (36) (45) (58).

Rieux's reaction to Rambert's Arab article is important (11-12):
"Would you be allowed to publish an unqualified condemnation of the present state of things?"
"Unqualified? Well, no, I couldn't go that far. But surely things aren't quite so bad as that?"
"No," Rieux said quietly. . . "I've no use for statements in which something is kept back" (Camus 11).

Tarrou's contribution (22).

Stupidity and war (34).

Anything to explain or anticipate the break with Sartre? (35).

Part II

"duped by our blind human faith in the near future" (61).

"after a certain time the living words . . . were drained of any meaning" (63).

"A never ending defeat" (118).

"Well, personally, I've seen enough of people who die for an idea. I don't believe in heroism; I know it's easy and I've learned it can be murderous. What interests me is living and dying for what one loves" (149).

Part III

"Indeed, to some, this precisely was the most disheartening thing: that the habit of despair is worse than despair itself" (164).

Part IV

"Then why don't you stop my going? You could easily manage it."
Rieux shook his head with his usual deliberateness. It was none of his business, he said. (183)

"Rambert said he'd thought it over very carefully, and his views hadn't changed, but if he went away, he would feel ashamed of himself, and that would embarrass his relations with the woman he loved" (188).

"Finding that the public appetite for this type of literature was still unsated, they had researches made in the municipal libraries for all the mental pabulum of the kind available in old chronicles, memoirs, and the like. And when this source ran dry, they commissioned journalists" (199).

"Indeed, the one thing these prophecies had in common was that, ultimately, all were reassuring. Unfortunately, though, the plague was not" (200).

"At these moments he seemed to be vainly struggling to force up from his lungs a clot of some semi-solid substance that was choking him" (209).

"I must isolate you."
The Father smiled queerly, as if for politeness' sake, but said nothing. (210)

"Against his name the index card recorded: 'Doubtful case'" (211).

"Thus, whereas plague by its impartial ministrations should have promoted equality among our townsfolk, it now had the opposite effect and, thanks to the habitual conflict of cupidities, exacerbated the sense of injustice rankling in men's hearts" (214).

"And those they love have forgotten them because all their energies are devoted to making schemes and taking steps to get them out of the camp. . . . In fact, it comes to this: nobody is capable of really thinking about anyone, even in the worst calamity" (217).

"what would be better called murder in its most despicable form" (225).

"I learned that I had had an indirect hand in the deaths of thousands of people; that I'd even brought about their deaths by approving of acts and principles which could only end that way" (227).

"All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it's up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences" (229).

"Heroism and sanctity don't really appeal to me, I imagine. What interests me is being a man" (231).

Part V

"But what had he, Rieux, won? No more than the experience of having known plague and remembering it, of having known friendship and remembering it, of knowing affection and being destined one day to remember it. So all a man could win in the conflict between plague and life was knowledge and memories" (262).

"In short, they denied that we had ever been that hag-ridden populace a part of which was daily fed into a furnace and went up in oily flames, while the rest, in shackled impotence, waited their turn" (268).

"They knew now that if there is one thing one can always yearn for and sometimes attain, it is human love. But for those others who aspired beyond and above the human individual toward something they could not even imagine, there had been no answer" (271).

"This chronicle is drawing to an end, and this seems to be the moment for Dr. Bernard Rieux to confess that he is the narrator" (271).

"Also he'd made a fresh start with his phrase. 'I've cut out all the adjectives'" (276).

"Is it a fact they're going to put up a memorial to the people who died of the plague? . . . And there'll be speeches." He chuckled throatily. "I can almost hear them saying: 'Our dear departed. . .' And then they'll go off and have a good snack" (277).

"Dr. Rieux resolved to compile this chronicle, so that he should not be one of those who held their peace but should bear witness in favor of those plague-stricken people; so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure; and to state quite simply what we learn in a time of pestilence; that there are more things to admire in men than to despise" (278).

"And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperiled" (278).


Works Consulted

Camus, Albert. The Plague. 1947. NY: McGraw Hill, 1965.

Stoner, Jonathan. "The Plague, by Albert Camus." http://teach.beavton.k12.or.us/~jonathan_stoner/eng12/camus.html. (28 January 2003).


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