| Quote #16
This misfortune which had come from outside and befallen a whole town did more than inflict on us an unmerited distress with which we might well be indignant. It also incited us to create our own suffering and thus to accept frustration as a natural state. This was one of the tricks the pestilence had of diverting attention and confounding issues. (2.1. 13)
The narrator repeatedly gives the plague the agency of action, as though it has the motives and strategy of an individual.
| Quote #17
Probably Jeanne had suffered. And yet she’d stayed; of course one may often suffer a long time without knowing it. Thus years went by. Then, on day, she left him. Naturally she hadn’t gone alone. "I was very fond of you, but now I’m so tired. I’m not happy to go, but one needn’t be happy to make another start." That, more or less, was what she’d said in her letter. (2.2.16)
Here we are reminded of the wide range of suffering in the world. There is pestilence, there are diseases and death, but there is also the suffering of isolation, of dissatisfaction, of loveless relationships.
| Quote #18
To some the sermon simply brought home the fact that they had been sentenced, for an unknown crime, to an indeterminate period of punishment. (2.4.1)
Part of what makes the plague so difficult for the citizens of Oran is that they don’t know why they are being forced to suffer. Father Paneloux tries to give them a rational explanation, but Camus makes the point that there is no rational explanation – that’s just how the world works. Suffering is senseless.