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Themes

The Plague tells the story of a town in quarantine for an outbreak of the plague. Issues of confinement and exile are hugely important to the tale. But what does it mean to be trapped? This novel reveals that the town in question isn’t really much more confined with its gates closed than it was when the people were free to come and go. Confinement comes in many forms, the least of which is geographical. Confinement spans emotional to spiritual to mental dimensions. Freedom, it seems, is a state of mind more than a physical condition.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. What are some of the different ways the characters in The Plague are exiled?
  2. Were the citizens of Oran really more free before the gates were closed? What about after – does their experience with the plague make them more conscious of their freedom, or do they just go right back to apathy and unawareness?
  3. How does Rieux define freedom? What about Tarrou? Is this a word that can be defined objectively in The Plague?

Chew on This

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

Emotional exile is the most harmful result of the plague for the citizens of Oran.

Although the plague is temporary, exile is a fundamental and permanent aspect of the human condition in The Plague.

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