by Albert Camus
The Plague Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Stuart Gilbert's translation.
But it could be expressed only in the conventional language with which men try to express what unites them with mankind in general; a vocabulary quite unsuited, for example, to Grand’s small daily effort, and incapable of describing what Grand stood for under plague conditions. (2.8.33)
Language, the narrator argues, is often an exercise in connecting with others. People use language to try to make their experiences universal. But the plague in Oran cannot be expressed this way – it is an individual experience of suffering.
"I’d come to realize that all our troubles sprang from our failures to use plain, clear-cut language. So I resolved always to speak—and to act—quite clearly, as this was the only way of setting myself on the right track. That’s why I say there are pestilence and there are victims; no more than that." (4.6.33)
Tarrou identifies what The Plague has been hinting at thus far in the narrative – that language is the real problem here. However Tarrou confuses simplicity of language with simplicity of thought. In trying to make clear his language, Tarrou tries to narrow the world into two very simple words: "pestilence" and "victims." This is an impossibly narrow-minded interpretation, even if the language is clear.
"He was a man who knew what he wanted."
"Well, he never talked just for talking’s sake." (5.5.30-32)
The Spaniard recognizes Tarrou’s control over his own expression; this suggests that Tarrou was successful in his attempt to "always speak clearly," and in fact he may be the only character in The Plague who communicates successfully.