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The Plague Theme of Time

Camus and his philosopher buddies were definitely interested in matters of time: how to understand it, how to think about it, and most importantly what to do with it. The Plague urges all of us to be aware, at all times, of time and its passing. It doesn’t so much matter what with do with our time as long as we are conscious of it. If transferring peas one at a time from one plate to another and then back again makes you consciously happy, so be it. Just try not to sleepwalk around while time passes you by.

Questions About Time

  1. How does shutting the gates affect time in Oran?
  2. How do people spend their time before, during, and after the plague hits? Is it different? The same?
  3. Is memory destructive or beneficial to the people of Oran during the outbreak of the plague?
  4. Tarrou in particular is rather interested in the passing of time. He suggests early in the novel that awareness is the key, that meaningless actions are a great way to fill your days as long as you are conscious of time passing. First of all, does The Plague support or refute this claim? Secondly, does Tarrou evolve to change this point of view over the course of the novel?
  5. Tarrou observes both his cat-spitting neighbor and the old Spaniard (along with his pans of peas) with a similar, dare we say, admiration as to how they spend their time. How are these two characters different and how are they the same with regards to their habits?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The past becomes more significant in The Plague once Oran’s gates are closed; the citizens have more time to dwell on regret and they turn to their memories to ease the pain of the present.

The past becomes less significant in The Plague once Oran’s gates are closed; the citizens, consumed with the suffering of the present and the fear of the future have no time for memories of the past.

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