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Themes

Love is tricky business – especially in The Plague. Love for mankind drives some to sacrifice their own well-being in fighting for the good of society, while love for individuals threatens to do just the opposite. Part of the novel’s conclusion is that man may hope for love but nothing more if he doesn’t want to be sorely disappointed. A priest tries to say that the plague is the result of God’s loving them all too much. If you want to keep it simple…look elsewhere.

Questions About Love

  1. Rambert and Dr. Rieux both struggle with the same decision: fight the plague, or be with the woman they love. How do Rambert’s feeling about the matter differ from Dr. Rieux’s? Do they have different reasons for making the same choice?
  2. Why doesn’t Rieux pass judgment on Rambert for wanting to be with his wife?
  3. The narrator seems to argue that parted lovers have it the worst, yet seems rather distant from his own parted love (his wife) both at the beginning of the novel when we see them together, and later in the novel when he receives telegrams from her. Is he just a stoic guy who doesn’t talk about that kind of stuff, or does he not really care about his wife that much after all?
  4. What does love mean to Dr. Rieux? How does his love for his wife compare to his love for his job? Does he even have a love for his job, or is he simply fulfilling a sense of obligation, as he claims to be?
  5. Grand has a hard time expressing everything, but particularly love. What is it about this one emotion that’s just so difficult to express? Would conversation hearts have solved the problem?

Chew on This

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

Dr. Rieux doesn’t actually love his wife; this explains his strange actions toward Rambert and his attempted escape.

In The Plague, love doesn’t spare people from suffering, but it gives them a reason to endure it.

In The Plague, love makes suffering worse, as it makes a person suffer both for himself and for his loved ones.

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