The novel “The Plague” by Albert Camus is composed of 5 parts. The author told us the events happening during the plague in the city Oran on the Algerian coast that counts only 200.000 citizens.
In the beginning we find out that the novel is a chronological diary. Notes by Jean Tarrou, one of the characters, are inserted into the novel. The name of the person will be revealed in the end because the author wanted to stay objective until the very end.
The novel involves questions about life, humans’ inner struggle that starts when situations like diseases come along. In those moments everyone acts differently; some seek religious explanations, some scientific, some runaway and some make peace with the situation.
The author gives us his opinion about the preposterousness of human’s existence if he doesn’t take care of others.
The first part of the novel gives us an insight into the city’s life. The author states some details of a pretty monotonous and ordinary lifestyle of a city placed in a province. Oran is a simple city inhabited by ordinary citizens.
On the 16th of April nothing interesting or remotely exciting happened but that morning became extraordinary for one citizen. That day Dr. Bernard Rieux found a dead rat outside his doors. He called the landlord that claimed there were no rats in the house. After the rat has been taken care of no one gave much attention to this event.
Dr. Rieux’ wife was ill so the doctor took her to a hospital and then went back to his routine of visiting his patients.
Soon the cases of dead rats piled up and the streets became flooded with them.
A young journalist from another city, Raymond Rambert, looked for the doctor because of a survey he was doing and the theme was the life conditions of the Arabs. The two of them also commented on the rats like all of the other citizens that would encounter each other on the streets.
In the meantime, the doctors’ mom came to take care of the household while his wife was absent due to her illness. The dead rats were such a common thing that everyone talked about it, from the people to the local newspaper and radio stations.
One day the doctor realized that his landlord was acting strange and when the symptoms like heavy breathing and swellings on his neck appeared the doctor got worried. Since he was expecting to hear from his wife, he somehow neglected the patient, hoping his state will get better on its own.
Soon after he was visited by Joseph Grand that wanted to tell him how he prevented an attempt of murder. The crime of mister Cottard was revealed, and he tried to hang himself. After the doctor took care of him he decided to check up on his landlord. He was getting worst by the minute and in the end he died.
After that Jean Tarrou is introduced into the plot. He spent his days having a good time with Spanish dancers. Tarrou wrote down his impressions about the town and its people.
With time everyone got more concerned about the rat situation and more people were getting ill. Still no one had the courage to face the illness so the plot continued slowly. They waited for test results for days and only an older doctor Castel talked about the truth. He said that a plague came to the town.
Nobody believed him because the plague was long gone from the civilized world. The city was placed into isolation and the life conditions changed abruptly. The story follows up on a few characters that fought for life in a city were the death ratings have gone up.
In the beginning everything was ordinary but with time people had to adjust to the disease. The funerals weren’t like they used to be and some families were placed into a quarantine. People acted differently about the plague. Some wanted to experience as many nice moments as possible because they felt death coming while some constantly tried to escape and fought the guard.
Raymond Rambert suddenly realized that he was in love with a woman that lived outside town and wanted to go to her. He asked Dr. Reuix for a confirmation about his health so that the guards would let him leave town but doctor wouldn’t give it to him. The journalist thought that, since it wasn’t his town, no one knew how he felt and that he had every right to leave. He did admit to himself that it wasn’t about his big love but his wellbeing. When he saw the doctor being apart from his wife he felt ashamed and decided to stay. He even joined the forces that helped to the ill and they were formed by Tarrou.
Cottard, that tried to kill himself, sees happiness in the plague because it stopped his arrestment.
Many people join Rieux, including Rambert and Tarrou. Everything became different, the values changed and the things no one noticed before became significant.
The misfortune brought people living on the edge of life closer together. Everyone was questioning themselves, their lives and deaths that happened more often. Healthy people avoided the ill and they got into more and more confrontations with the guards. There was even an underground that smuggled people. Rambert asked for their help to leave town as soon as possible but it didn’t work out for him so he stayed there.
Dr. Rieux, ill himself, started to have difficulties in dealing with many assignments and problems so he often forgot about himself. In the unbearable situations people confided more and more to each other. The doctor told Rambert a story about his father that left home and wanted to save every human life.
January, nine months after plague’s arrival, brought news. Rats and cats started appearing and it was the sign of the plague going away. People couldn’t believe it was getting weaker because they learned how to live with it and they even stopped rejoicing about good news.
Soon after, a news came about the death or Rieux’ wife. Even though she was well protected from the plague she couldn’t survive her own illness.
In the last storm of illness Tarrou died which upset Rieux a lot. He lost many people in his life but he won the battle that concerned all of the people of his community.
Grand also died after realizing too late that his life calling was writing because he hopelessly searched for the perfect sentences for his work. Mister Othon’s son also died and he decided to change then and join the community.
When the plague was extinguished Cottard challenged his own faith. He came to a confrontation with the police and got himself killed.
The end of the novel brings us the thoughts of Dr. Rieux. He listened to the joy and happiness on the streets of his city but thought that no one could ever know when the plague will be back to change and take numerous lives.
Time: in the beginning on the novel it is stated that it’s chronological and it’s also mentioned that “everything happened in 194…”
Characters: Dr. Bernard Rieux, Raymond Rambert, Joseph Grand, Rieuxova wife and mother, landlord, Cottard, Jean Tarrou…
Bernard Rieux – the main character of the novel through which the author stated his opinions. The doctor felt great responsibility for the people of the community and he often neglected himself. He faces the disease in a professional way, does what he’s expected to do and shows no emotion for people and the situation they were in. He kept on questioning his ethic and principles. As a doctor he believed in science but in one moment he questioned his faith in God. He believed that faith in God would push him away from his fight for people. His trust in people was huge and in the end it brought him friends and helpers. After he lost his wife and a good friend he still managed to remain calm. He realized the fragility of people’s lives that despite everything keeps on lasting and renewing itself. He doesn’t run away from the plague like some characters because his duty was to take care of the ill. With creating this extremely humane character the author wanted to let us know that he is one of those that are dedicated to his calling to the point where they’re ready to neglect themselves in order to help the society. People like Dr. Reuix are the example of meaningfulness of humanity.