Albert Camus Story of a Bubonic Plague Epidemic

But here is something much more important, because under this appearance of narrative novel, is the exposure of problems of a tremendous ideological density, and we understand that the form of novel has been used only to express the attitude that Camus adopts in the face of great questions of man and life. It is likely that Camus chose the plague as the ideal setting to place his characters directly and inevitably before the tormented questions that he suggested life itself (a childhood without a father, a tuberculosis, the loss of faith, a brief militancy in the communist party, war and resistance), perhaps because of their desire to find the meaning of existence and not to renounce a moral instinct hardened in their Christian heritage, which survived the loss of the God who sustains everything and everything he explains it out of devotion or surrender.

This novel involves a certain change in his thinking: the idea of solidarity and the ability of human resistance to the tragedy of living is imposed on the notion of the absurd.

The plague is both a realistic and allegorical work, a mythical reconstruction of the feelings of the European post-war man, of his most oppressive terrors. Camus oriented his morality of rebellion towards an ideal that would save the highest moral and spiritual values, whose need seems all the more evident to him the greater his conviction of the absurdity of the world.

It is very interesting the masterful way in which the writer tells us the evolution of the epidemy in the city, prisoner, since naturally the doors are closed, an insurmountable barrier is established to prevent the spread of the plague beyond this barrier, taking away people’s rights, and justifying it by simply saying that “it was for the good of others.

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” And inside the city all the habitants remain prisoners, subject to the whim and to the will of the death. Within this situation we see moving characters of very different characters. The main character is Dr. Rieux, who, because of his profession as a doctor, is in contact with all kinds of people, and is closer to the plague. That might be the reason why Camus has chosen him as the narrator because he personifies the man who does not believe in God neither in an afterlife, but in human values.

He does not pretend to be any hero, but the honest man, without hope, symbol of that hopeless honesty that is one of the constants in Camus, of that honesty that translates, according to him, into fulfilling his obligation. Looking at it from a utilitarian perspective, we see how the doctor surrenders completely to his obligation, fighting hard against the ravages of the plague, setting in motion all the human resources available to defeat death. Decidedly installed in the relative and practical, he does not aspire to be a hero or a saint, but simply someone who does his job well and who, in doing so, helps men to be relatively happy sometimes. Rieux suggests the incarnation of Duhamel’s humanism in Laurent Pasquier: biologist, as doctor Rieux, Laurent Pasquier is persuaded, like the former, that the world is disorder, that life is a miraculous and fragile possibility, and that wisdom, in this empire of chance and misfortune consists in carrying out around us as much order as possible. Save man through love and reason; protect it against natural evil and social oppression; trust in their nature, which is good, fighting against their destiny, which is bad; and never resorting to their only human forces: that is, clarified by the consciousness of an absurdity that has singularly narrowed its field, the humanism of Camus.

It is important to mention that Camus publishes The Plague in 1947, just after the Second World War. This affected him in a way that we can look at this novel as his cry of solidarity with those who suffer, highlighting the analogy of the plague with war, they both arrive without reason and thus disappear but without removing their sinister nightmare. They are the absurd calamity that kills humanity. In Oran, Algeria, while the life of the city takes place in the stillness and in the futile pleasures of every day, the plague is suddenly unleashed. The first reaction of citizens is that of unbelief: evil is disproportionate to its moral force.

They feel annoyed in their selfish and frivolous pleasures by the threatening and absurd shadow of death. Then the certainty, the amazement, the panic. But as soon as the reality of the plague is officially recognized and the city is closed to avoid contagion, the pain awakens in some inhabitants a feeling of new solidarity. In this atmosphere of tragedy the writer gives life to creatures opposed to the protagonist of the foreigner, the selfish Meursault, although they are placed in an absurd world. They are well defined: on one side Rieux, Rambert, Tarrou and Grand, all more or less consciously atheists, on the other Father Paneloux, a Catholic priest. Everyone has their own way of reacting to the scourge. Doctor Rieux, struggles with tenacity but without illusions against the plague and renounces to meet with his wife who is in delicate health conditions outside the city, to be at the service of his fellow citizens.

Dr. Rieux finds in him his realization: he does not accept evil, he faces death and he fights coldly incessantly so as not to be a plague and that alone can make us wait for peace or a good death in the absence of it. On the other hand, Cottard, only focused on him, in a certain way closed to his thoughts, so he did not care if they manage to get out of the plague or not, he only sake for his freedom. He was a former criminal who was happy about what was going on because he was afraid to be found and when the plague and quarantine happened, everyone was focused on the plague. He smuggled business to make money off other people’s hardship.

He is a man who only concentrates on the right way of his thoughts, so it does not matter if he tries to get out of the plague or not, he just looks for his way of freedom. He wants the plague to last as long as possible because when it ends, he’ll be condemned to death. Cottard appears in the story after his unsuccessful attempt at suicide, Joseph Grand the employee was the person who prevented the tragedy after seeing the poster made by Cottard on the door. Here’s where one of the themes of the story starts taking place. The reason why Cottard tried to commit suicide is unknown, in his testimony to the police he declared that he needed peace. We can also assume that Cottard feels isolated simply by the fear of being arrested, and he feels less isolated when the plague is causing fear. Peace and isolation are two important themes that are seen throughout the novel.

The author through this work, poses a reflection that makes us think about the way in which human beings in our daily lives can reach situations of extreme monotony, where life is transformed into an infinite repetition of habits and behaviors, where there are more reflections and there is a kind of apathy and conformity with this way of being. It was interesting to see how Camus, through this work, makes a questioning of the religious, political and scientific through different characters: the priest Father Paneloux represents a world-view centered on religion, for him plague that affects them is a divine punishment, because God looks away and ceases to be merciful to this people and only repentance can allow salvation. However, he says that this salvation will not be for everyone, it will only be for the ‘selected ones’.

This vision of the world, I believe represents in some way that the life of human beings is governed by God and therefore, does not assign any value to the science developed by human beings. For his part, Dr. Rieux, is the representative of scientific knowledge, a more reflective and questioning character in front of life and coincidentally when in the text he is asked if he believes in God, he answers no. In the political sphere, the text shows that all the measures implemented by the authorities, such as their calls for calm, the removal of dead rats from the streets were somewhat insufficient, because they did not give it the importance it required, and, in spite of these measures, one passes from the plague of rats to the plague that almost annihilates the habitants.

I drew attention in this novel to the descriptions that are made of rats that leave the earth to die to the surface, in general one associates the exit of the earth as birth, fertility, life and, in this case, this results in death. The rats come out as an announcement of what would come next, I think you could even say that these are a clear representation of the citizens of Oran. Another topic that I would like to present is the solitude that marks the lives of the main characters and how this allows them to reach an inner ‘clarity’, that is, they better understand the attitudes and reasoning of both, them and the society. Going back a bit to the previous, Camus, presents a vision of the world through seemingly simple stories, focusing on usual things or of little importance to society, however, through the novel, he shows us that these things are very important and it makes us see the relapse of the human being, it shows us daily attitudes and how they are a clear reflection of our personality, our way of being and also our projections (if we have) and our sense and future.

Prudence was essential in the health authorities, never need to be alarmed unnecessarily, but citizens have the “right” to be informed. The attitude of the head of public health is an example of what should never be done and less in the relationships between professionals. When it is officially declared that there is an epidemic of bubonic plague there are many repercussions. One of them is the implementation of a series of preventive measures, such as the isolation of the city to prevent its expansion to other territories. Looking at this from a psychological perspective, when harmful conduct is committed through moral justification, it ultimately breaks moral control. This made me think about Bandura’s chapter and how he calls mechanisms of moral disengagement to those thoughts and judgments that people use to justify their behavior.

The authorities did this to keep the plague within boundaries. The plague cut off any type of communication, leaving the town isolated from the rest of the world. Everyone was isolated into quarantine camps, and even at their own homes. Authorities thought it was the best thing to do. Taking away people’s rights. In the novel the authorities thought it was okay to isolate the people from the rest of the world, taking away their right and simply justifying such action by saying it was for the good of others. The terrific things that people had to go through when fumigant workers appeared in an attempt to end infection-spotting events. The houses in which there have been sick are marked with a red cross. The contacts are concentrated in a stadium to be subjected to a quarantine. The health personnel uses a mask and sometimes gloves for greater safety. This mask could be useful to avoid pneumonic plague infections, which are not found in the film. You can get information about how to work with a contagion focus. The port cities are the most susceptible to the epidemics of vehicular traffic of the boats, as well as the atmosphere observed in the film in Oran.

When the doors of the city were closed, so many families were separated. While the citizens adapt to the unexpected exile, the plague puts guards on the borders of Oran and makes change the route to the ships that went there.This also refers back to the idea of utilitarianism. For obvious reasons, the plague becomes more bitter with those who lived in groups, such as soldiers or prisoners. The prefecture installs the curfew. On the other hand, the burials are transformed into a quick ceremony. In early September, it is decided to transport the dead to the crematorium. Until January 25, the population lived in a secret agitation, because the cases of death were less and less. Finally the plague goes way: the last victim is Tarrou. This might not completely refer to Bandura’s Disregard or Distortion of Consequences, in which the authorities were aware of the suffering of the citizens, and they were dehumanising them, by not treating them as a citizen anymore, there were seen as a threat to the rest of the world.

Probably the most important message that Camus brings in ‘The Plague’ is that in the midst of the plagues something is learned: that there are things in men that are more worthy of admiration than contempt. Despite the fact that the whole city is thrown into the pain of facing death, isolation and more, there remains the possibility of a deep solidarity; this is the supreme test for the human being, that if in opportunities similar to those of Rieux and Tarrou, behaves like them, it is possible to affirm that he will overcome it. In addition, being supportive is not a simple task as it seems, since it is an unconditional commitment to oneself and to others, where everything is given and nothing is expected to be received in return. This takes back the idea of utilitarianism, the moral worth of an action is solely determined by its contribution to overall.The outcome was what matter the most, regardless of the suffering of the others.

On the other hand, the author recognizes the essential individuality of each person, since it is not justifiable to live in abstraction. Life is the concrete: it is composed of small battles and passing successes, it is not eternal. That is why people have to learn to look at themselves and to respect in creation what in humans is exclusive and non-transferable as experience and as an answer. The plague not only symbolized the war, but also to the evil that expands every day more in the hearts and that does not allow the man to leave of a side to the selfishness, to the own benefit and to the hypocrisy that so much they hurt him and his like . There is no one who has emerged victorious when he has acted in that way. For this reason, it is a good opportunity for young people to reflect on what truly represents a ‘good life’, since it is not built in total individualism or materialism, because things do not completely satisfy the human being; because it also needs the collaboration of people who can offer their friendship, their affection, and their respect, expecting reciprocity.

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Albert Camus Story of a Bubonic Plague Epidemic. (2022, Feb 25). Retrieved from

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