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Themes

Hope evolves throughout the course of The Plague. At first, the hope that the plague will quickly dissipate on its own is injurious, as the citizens rely on their wishful thinking instead of taking the necessary preventative measures. Later, as the plague worsens, hope vanishes from the town altogether as the citizens give up on the town’s recovery. Finally, a distinction is made between different types of hope. If man hopes for that which is possible – the humble love of another human being – he will be rewarded. However, if he hopes for anything more, he will surely be disappointed.

Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

  1. Is hope ultimately beneficial or destructive in The Plague?
  2. How does Dr. Rieux’s (the character) opinion of hope change throughout the course of the outbreak? How does Dr. Rieux (the narrator) change his opinion during the course of telling us his story?
  3. The narrator comments at the end of the novel that men who hope for love can be satisfied, while men who hope for anything more cannot. What is this "something more" that men like Tarrou hoped for? Why was it impossible for them to attain?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In The Plague, hope does more good than it does harm.

In The Plague, hope does more harm than it does good.

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