Character Role Analysis
The plague kills everybody it can. It’s hard to wipe out. It makes life difficult for everyone. No one likes it. It creates obstacles for Dr. Rieux and the other characters. Tarrou says it best when he claims that in the world there are men, and there is pestilence, and you’re either fighting on one side or on the other. You don’t really have to scratch your head over this one.
The Ignorance and Inaction of Mankind
Just when you thought you were done. Actually, Tarrou also argues that many of the problems in the world are the result of men that have the plague and don’t know it, or men that know it but are content to leave things as they are. In a novel that promotes acute awareness, radical freedom, and constant, active choice, passivity and apathy are clear antagonists.
No, we’re not going to say Father Paneloux is the antagonist; according to The Plague, he is as much a victim of religion as anyone else. Religion is antagonistic because it distracts, it blinds. It allows people to wallow in a passive acceptance of God’s plan without acting or fighting against suffering in the world. Religion isn’t necessarily antagonistic to the humanist philosophy, but the form we see in The Plague certainly is.