by Albert Camus
The Plague Mortality Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Stuart Gilbert's translation.
It cannot be denied that, anyhow, in the early days, the natural feelings of the family were somewhat outraged by these lightning funerals. But obviously in a time of plague such sentiments can’t be taken into account, and all was sacrificed to efficiency. And though, to start with, the moral of the population was shaken by this summary procedure—for the desire to have a "proper funeral" is more widespread than is generally believed—as time went on, fortunately enough, the food problem became more urgent and the thoughts of our townsfolk were diverted to more instant needs. So much energy was expended on filling up forms, hunting around for supplies, and lining up that people had no time to think of the manner in which others were dying around them and they themselves would die one day. (3.1.13)
The presence of the plague reveals the frivolity of ceremony, ceremony which makes an abstraction of death’s cold reality.
In a patch of open ground dotted with lentiscus trees at the far end of the cemetery, two big pits had been dug. One was reserved for the men, the other for the women. Thus, in this respect, the authorities still gave thought to propriety and it was only later that, by the force of things, this last remnant of decorum went by the board, and men and women were flung into the death-pits indiscriminately. Happily, this ultimate indignity synchronized with the plague’s last ravages. (3.1.16)
The Plague suggests that such an "indignity" is actually frivolous; all men, and in fact all creatures, are made equal by their common mortality; gender has no meaning in death anyway.
In the period we are now concerned with, the separation of the sexes was still in force and the authorities set great store by it. At the bottom of each pit a deep layer of quicklime steamed and seethed. […] The naked, somewhat contorted bodies were slid off into the pit almost side by side, then covered with a layer of quicklime and another of earth, the latter only a few inches deep, so as to leave space for subsequent consignments. On the following day the next of kin were asked to sign the register of burials, which showed the distinction that can be made between me and, for example, dogs; men’s deaths are checked and entered up. (3.1.16)
Unlike dogs, men’s deaths are recorded, but again this is a useless formality. Death renders all creatures equal.