The main character faces the conflicts of the mind and of the unpredictable future. Love, exile, suffering, religion; to one these may simple be nouns, “things”, but they all have one thing in common. They all inspire deep thought in mankind, causing us to stumble over the correct words to describe the emotions felt when discussing them. Rieux struggles between juggling patience with his job of fighting to relieve the suffering of the plague victims and his own personal distress. He becomes so caught up in his clashing conflicts that he barely realizes his own emotions. “Throughout the day the doctor was conscious the slightly dazed feeling that came over him whenever he thought about the plague was growing more pronounced. Finally he realized that he was afraid!” (56). Rieux also fights with remaining stoic during his job of dealing with giving worrisome family members the dreaded news that their loved one has bubonic plague. Eventually he finds that he doesn’t even have to struggle with this tiresome demon because he grows indifferent to pity. “One grows out of pity when it’s useless….This, he knew, would make his job easier, and therefore he was glad of it.” (91). This novacaine of the mind is the only way for Rieux to protect himself from snapping and losing his reserve. Even though his efforts in the battle against the plague seem to make very little, if not any, difference, Rieux believes that simply fighting brings meaning to his life and meaning to even bothering to fight. For Rieux, since he does not believe in God and religion brings no meaning to his life, this is the most meaningful thing one can do. This conflict is never resolved as long as people are living. It is a never-ending battle as long as one remains breathing and their heart still beating. Only in death can one find true peace from this battle, and Rieux realizes this at the end of the chronicle: “He knew that the tale he had to tell could not be one of final victory. It could only be the record of what had had to be done….” (308).
2.What is the setting of the novel (time and place), and how does it impinge on the story?
The Plague takes place in a coastal region of North Africa called Oran in or around 1849, shortly after French colonization. The town’s description foreshadows the ugliness of the event that is to come. Even the narrator finds the town tactless and tasteless. “The town itself, let us admit, is ugly” (3). Oran is a town without any style or originality. It is without gardens, trees, pigeons, or excitement; in short it lacks everything that the people of today would say a town needs to be a town. The people of Oran are consumed and enslaved by their daily habits. They seem to live only for making money and doing business, with only Saturdays or Sundays to enjoy such pastimes as “love-making, sea-bathing, going to the pictures” (4). The setting impinges on the novel because of its irony. The narrator claims “everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits” (4). This is ironic because the very thing that is horrid and dreaded, the plague, is what brings spark to Oran. It teaches the people not to take what they have for granted, especially their loved ones. Also, the plague ends in February, which causes the reader to stop and grin when he or she thinks back to what the narrator said at the start of the chronicle: “Only winter brings really pleasant weather” (4).
3.List the main characters and give a description of each. What individual character are you most like and why? Give an example from your life that proves this.
*Doctor Bernard Rieux- the main character and narrator; he comes from a poor background but worked his way up to becoming a doctor. He is an atheist and an unfaltering humanist. Being the one of the first to urge that strict measures are taken against...