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.
Certainly it "cooked you," but exactly like a fever. Indeed, the whole town was running a temperature; such anyhow was the impression Dr. Rieux could not shake off as he drove to the rue Faidherbe for the inquiry into Cottard’s attempted suicide. (1.4.8)
Cottard’s suicide attempt is remarkably timed. While the town begins to struggle against death with all its might, Cottard tries to walk straight into it.
A pestilence isn’t a thing made to man’s measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they haven’t taken their precautions. (1.5.3)
Given that many label The Plague to be Camus’s humanist work, this is an interesting line. First of all, humanists believe that all people are good and valuable; they seek rational ways of solving problems. The sentiment expressed here is clearly anti-humanist – they are more vulnerable to defeat because they refuse to recognize pestilence and take precaution accordingly. However, this is only anti-humanist if you assume that Camus is on the side of the narrator. If the narrator is held up in ridicule, as a negative example (which we know is true of the narrator’s claim to be objective), then the statement is ironic and in fact a defense of humanism. Our heads hurt.
He recalled that some thirty or so great plagues known to history had accounted for nearly a hundred million deaths. But what are a hundred million deaths? When one has served in a war, one hardly knows what a dead man is, after a while. And since a dead man has no substance unless one has actually seen him dead, a hundred million corpses broadcast throughout history are no more than a puff of smoke in the imagination. (1.5.5)
Here’s where we get into the popular argument that The Plague is an allegory for war. Perhaps Camus is suggesting that we allow wars to occur because we can’t really comprehend what it means for millions of people to die.