The Plague Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- At the end of his narration, Dr. Rieux states his various purposes for writing the account, among them that we may conclude "there are more things to admire in men than to despise." Does he achieve this end? Does The Plague attempt to argue for the goodness of man, or is this statement intentionally ironic? If Camus does intend to prove Rieux’s sentiment, does he succeed?
- Many of the major characters in the novel – Rambert, Rieux, Tarrou – have varying philosophies. Which, if any, does Camus seem to side with?
- When speaking of the plague in the last line of the novel, Rieux remarks that the disease will some day again gather up its rats and "send them forth to die in a happy city." What could he possibly mean by using the word "happy" here? Does he mean the city is happy before the plague business starts? Or is the city somehow blessed (and therefore made "happy") by receiving the pestilence? How could this be?
- What is the effect of the novel’s structure of four parts? How does Camus begin and end parts? What are the differences in tension and action between the four sections?
- What if Rieux hadn’t revealed himself to be the narrator at the end of the novel? Would that have changed things? Why do we need to know who told the story?
- What is the effect of having two sources of information, the narrator and Tarrou’s journal? It seems as though this is part of the narrator’s grand scheme for objectivity – does it work? Is the narration, in fact, truly objective? Can a narration ever be truly objective?
- If Camus was just trying to promote one or more pet philosophies, why did he write a fictional allegory instead of a philosophical treatise?