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Themes

The narrator of The Plague is obsessed with reaching objective truth. So much so, in fact, that he describes himself in the third person and won’t even tell us which character he is until the narration is complete. He uses "facts" and "data" that he’s obtained from various persons to keep things in perspective, and is convinced by his conclusion that he’s done just that. Camus’s intent here is that of irony; along with many existentialist thinkers, Camus believed there was no objective truth, or at the least, that we could never be certain of anything as objectively true. This, of course, means the narrator’s endeavor is doomed from the start, as is any attempt at "truth" in the world of The Plague.

Questions About Truth

  1. Why does the narrator care so much about being objective? What techniques does he use to give the impression of objectivity?
  2. The Plague makes the argument that objective truth is actually impossible. This comments on the narrative technique, sure, but what does it have to do with the plague and the other big lessons we take away from the novel?
  3. Is The Plague a universal story or an individual one?
  4. If there is in fact no objective truth, as The Plague argues, how can we learn anything all from Rieux’s tale?

Chew on This

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

That the narrator of The Plague cannot establish objective truth is a fact made irrelevant by the story he tells.

That the narrator of The Plague cannot establish objective truth renders this entire novel irrelevant.

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