by Albert Camus
The Plague Freedom and Confinement Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Stuart Gilbert's translation.
One of the most striking consequences of closing the gates was, in fact, this sudden deprivation befalling people who were completely unprepared for it. Mothers and children, lovers, husbands and wives, who had a few days previously taken it for granted that their parting would be a short one, who had kissed one another good-bye on the platform and exchanged a few trivial remarks, sure as they were of seeing one another again after a few days or, at most, a few weeks, duped by out blind human faith in the near future and little if at all diverted from their normal interests by this leave-taking—all these people found themselves, without the least warning, hopelessly cut off, prevented from seeing one another again, or even communicating with one another. (2.1.2)
The narrator repeatedly stresses this personal element to the citizens’ confinement. To him, this is the most striking effect of the plague.
It was undoubtedly a feeling of exile […], that irrational longing to hark back to the past or else to speed up the march of time […]. In short, we returned to our prison-house, we had nothing left us but the past, and even if some were tempted to live in the future, they had to speedily abandon the idea. (2.1.8)
This is an incredible image. The narrator describes Oran’s state of exile, but does so in terms of time, not in terms of space. After all, the citizens can’t really be in geographical exile – they’re stuck in their homes. Instead, they are temporally exiled from both the past and the future, stuck in a state of the forever-present. The use of the word "exile" suggests that this is a foreign state; clearly, people are used to living anywhere but the present moment. (This is also consistent with the description we received of Oran in the opening chapter.)