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Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Quotes

Quote #16

"Please answer me quite frankly. Are you absolutely convinced it’s plague?"

"You’re stating the problem wrongly. It’s not a question of the term I use; it’s a question of the time."

"Your view, as I take it," the Prefect put in, "is this. Even if it isn’t plague, the prophylactic measures enjoined by law for coping with a state of plague should be put into force immediately?"

"If you insist on my having a ‘view,’ that conveys it accurately enough." (1.7.28-31)

Though Rieux would seem action-oriented, he does spend time discussing the nature of their argument: what is the right way to "state the problem," etc.

Quote #17

"It doesn’t matter to me," Rieux said, "how you phrase it. My point is that we should not act as if there were no likelihood that half the population would be wiped out; for then it would be." (1.7.34)

Rieux’s belief that the terminology is irrelevant stems from the fact that terms are always subjective. Just as Tarrou later defines the word "saintliness," so these men must define the term "plague." Since the terms are flexible, why worry about using them at all?

Quote #18

Grand seemed at a loss. He couldn’t say that Cottard used to be unamiable; the term wouldn’t have been correct. But Cottard was a silent, secretive man, with something about him that made Grand think of a wild boar. (1.8.9)

While Grand can’t find his words, the narrator seems more than happy to help. What happens when we apply the lesson that language is inadequate or incorrect to The Plague itself?

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