by Albert Camus
The Plague Philosophical Viewpoints: The Absurd, Existentialism, Humanism Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Stuart Gilbert's translation.
Oh, I know it’s an absurd situation, but we’re all involved in it, and we’ve got to accept it as it is." (2.2.46)
This is a central tenet of Camus’s philosophy: acceptance of suffering and absurdity. However, acceptance doesn’t mean passivity – we can still fight, as Rieux does, against the horrors of the world.
"No," Rambert said bitterly, "You can’t understand. You’re using the language of reason, not of the heart; you live in a world of abstractions." (2.2.51)
Rambert accuses Rieux of making cold realities into grand ideas, suggesting that it’s easier to deal with an abstract notion of "suffering" than it is to look at four movie theaters’ worth of dead bodies (of people that you knew) piled up on your doorstep. When you seek to protect "society" over the individual, Rambert argues, you sacrifice the real for the ideal.
Yes, the journalist was right in refusing to be balked of happiness. But was he right in reproaching him, Rieux, with living in a world of abstractions? Could the term "abstraction" really apply to these days he spent in his hospital while the plague was battening on the town, raising its death toll to five-hundred victims a week? Yes, an element of abstraction, of a divorce from reality, entered into such calamities. Still when abstraction sets to killing you, you’ve got to get busy with it. (2.2.66)
Rieux does admit in the plague that his heart has been hardened to the suffering he witnesses. The question is, is abstraction a tool to fight the plague, or is it the enemy, as seems to be suggested here?