"Have you ever seen a man shot by a firing-squad? […] You’ve gleaned your ideas about it from books and pictures. A post, a blindfolded man, some soldiers in the offing. But the real thing isn’t a bit like that. Do you know the firing-squad stands only a yard and a half from the condemned man? Do you know that if the victim took two steps forward his chest would touch the rifles? Do you know that, at this short range, the soldiers concentrate their fire on the region of the heart and their bullets make a hole into which you could thrust your fist? No, you didn’t know all that; those are the things that are never spoken of. For the plague-stricken their peace of mind is more important than a human life. Decent folks must be allowed to sleep easy o’nights, mustn’t they? Really it would be shockingly bad taste to linger on such details, that’s common knowledge." (4.6.28)
In this rather intense passage, Tarrou accomplishes two tasks. First, he conveys to Rieux (and therefore to the reader) the intensity of his hatred for death of any kind, as well as justifying that hatred with powerful imagery. Second, he condemns those of us who would sweep these images under the rug, who would ignore them because of their sheer intensity. Death, he argues, is something we have to look in the face. If we as a society are going to condemn men to die at our own hands, we must at least be willing to watch the bloody results of our decisions.