The Plague Truth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Stuart Gilbert's translation.
His face still in shadow, Rieux said that he’d already answered: that if he believed in an all-powerful God he would cease curing the sick and leave that to Him. But no one in the world believed in a God of that sort; no, not even Paneloux, who believed that he believed in such a God. And this was proved by the fact that no one ever threw himself on Providence completely. (2.7.56)
This comment makes more sense in light of Paneloux’s second sermon, when he discusses the difference between fatalism and active fatalism. Rieux is right that the priest refuses to "thr[o]w himself on Providence completely," but while Paneloux uses active fatalism to justify fighting the plague, Rieux uses it to undermine the man’s faith. It looks like any one school of thought can be put to use to varying ends.
"I’ve no more than the pride that’s needed to keep me going. I have no idea what’s awaiting me, or what will happen when all this ends. For the moment I know this; there are sick people and they need curing." (2.7.60)
Rieux oversimplifies everything in his quest for truth. There are only three basic actions, there are only three basic types of people, all he has to do is his job, etc. Simplifying the truth may make it easier to attain, but is this a wise course of action?
But the narrator is inclined to think that by attributing over importance to praiseworthy actions one may, by implication, be paying indirect but potent homage to the worse side of human nature. For this attitude implies that such actions shine out as rare exceptions, while callousness and apathy are the general rule. The narrator does not share that view. The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. The soul of the murderer is blind; and there can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clear-sightedness. (2.8.2)
Good can only come through knowledge, and despite good intentions, people are made monsters by their ignorance.