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The Plague

The Plague

by Albert Camus

Analysis: Booker’s Seven Basic Plots Analysis: Overcoming the Monster

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type :

Anticipation Stage and ‘Call’

The rats come to town and die; Rieux declares that something must be done.

Booker says the anticipation stage is where we become aware of the monster from a great distance. The rats fit the bill, since we get a hint of the plague’s (plague = monster) destructive capabilities without yet being consumed by the horror of it actually infecting people. A hero, in this case Dr. Rieux (though Camus would take issue with the term "hero"), is called to take on the threat.

Dream Stage

A few people get sick, Michel dies; the town enacts a few precautionary measures and puts up signs detailing them.

Hrm…Booker says that in the dream stage, all appears momentarily to be going well. There are a few cases of patients starting to get better, or the plague seeming to recede, but these are momentary and don’t really last long enough to constitute this stage. So The Plague deviates here a bit. (Although, if you really wanted to, you could argue that the lack of dead rats seems like a good thing until people start dying. Yes, indeed, that was a fun two paragraphs.)

Frustration Stage

The gates are closed. Lots of people are dying.

The plague is really here. Everyone panics. People die. Lots of people die. It is all a mess. During this stage we’re supposed to "come face to face with the monster in all its awesome power," so, yes, that’s a check. Frustration stage is in full swing.

Nightmare Stage

Castel’s serum doesn’t work; the plague turns into the even deadlier pneumonic strain; Jacques dies.

It seems like the plague is just going to kill every last person in Oran, despite their fight to stop it. Jacques death is horrible not only because of the whole innocent-child-suffering thing, but because it really drives home the message that suffering is indiscriminate and incredibly senseless.

The Thrilling Escape from Death, and Death of the Monster

The rats return, and the gates are opened to Oran

This is supposed to be where the hero deals the monster a fatal blow, just "in the nick of time." In The Plague, not so much. Sure, the plague goes away, but it quickly becomes apparent that the monster isn’t limited to this one pestilence. Human suffering can’t really be defeated; the best we can hope for is to struggle against it and lose. Because of the nature of this novel and the philosophies it promotes, classic good vs. evil-type plot structures are called into question.

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