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.
"That’s only a rough draft. Once I’ve succeeded in rendering perfectly the picture in my mind’s eye, once my words have the exact tempo of this ride—the horse is trotting, on-two-three, one-two-three, see what I mean?—the rest will come more easily and, what’s even more important, the illusion will be such that from the very first words it will be possible to say: "Hats off!’" (2.4.42)
Grand’s struggle reminds us that words always fail to express what another person is feeling and thinking. Perhaps then, this is the point of Rieux’s striving for objectivity. Since he can’t possible express emotions, he’s going to stick to facts.
"Is he a saint?" Tarrou asked himself, and answered: "Yes, if saintliness is the aggregation of habits." (2.6.22)
Tarrou’s statement seems ridiculous, but not when we remember that most important words have been called into question in The Plague. In fact, the problem with language is that we have to define each term we use – using other ill-defined terms, of course. The result is that any term is rendered meaningless, as demonstrated here. Rieux then is correct to conclude that taking action is the only solution.
"Do you believe in God, doctor?"
Again, the question was put in an ordinary tone. But this time Rieux took longer to find his answer.
"No—but what does that really mean? I’m fumbling in the dark, struggling to make something out. But I’ve long ceased finding that original." (2.7.46-48)
At times it seems as though Rieux uses the whole "language is meaningless" thing as a defense to avoid difficult arguments.