The Plague Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Stuart Gilbert's translation.
His notebooks comprise a sort of chronicle of those strange days we all lived through. But an unusual type of chronicle, since the writer seems to make a point of understatement, and at first sight we might almost imagine that Tarrou had a habit of observing events and people through the wrong end of the telescope. (1.3.3)
That Tarrou describes people "through the wrong end of the telescope" puts to question the factual integrity of his observations. Since Rieux relies on these journals to write his narrative, that too is put to question. Alternatively, one could argue that Tarrou’s detachment – his wrong-end-of-the-telescope perspective – is what actually allows for his objectivity. He’s not emotionally or otherwise involved, therefore he can be factual.
For example, after describing how the discovery of a dead rat led the hotel cashier to make an error in his bill, Tarrou added: "Query: How contrive not to waste one’s time? Answer: By being fully aware of it all the while. Ways in which this can be done: By spending one’s days on an uneasy chair in the dentist’s waiting room; by remaining on one’s balcony all a Sunday afternoon; by listening to the lectures in a language one doesn’t know; by traveling the longest and least-convenient train routes, and of course by standing all the way; by lining up at the box office of theaters and then not buying a seat; and so forth. (1.3.20)
The irony here is that Tarrou uses a formal, logical rubric of language to come to an absurd and illogical conclusion.
"You see, doctor, I’ve been told that a knowledge of Latin gives one a better understanding of the real meanings of French words." (1.4.14)
This is an ironic statement – a main argument of The Plague is that there are no "real meanings" of words.