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audreyhawkins

audreyhawkins

The Plague

The Plague - Albert Camus,  Stuart Gilbert For a while, I wasn't very interested in The Plague and it was pretty slow going. Camus isn't a flashy stylist, besides which I was wondering the whole time what I was supposed to make of a town in the 40's struck by plague. He obviously wasn't going for realism, although in a lot of ways, it did remind me of Dafoe's Journal of the Plague Year. But it just built up until I started to get a feel for what he was doing. A slow-motion tragedy befalls a whole town. It separates people from their loved ones, and there's no escape. Over the course of the book, Camus strips away everything that might be a solace: God and religion, the comforts of bourgeois life, companionship, science, even art. In the face of death, loneliness, misery, he can't see that these things can bring any meaning. They might be a distraction for a few moments, but they won't really do any larger good for anyone. But it's not entirely hopeless, or rather, even if it is entirely hopeless, Camus knows how he wants to go out, and it's so sincere and heartfelt, I feel almost corny writing it: helping people. His hero just does the best he can to be kind to people, not out of self-interest, or even any expectation that he can effectively help anyone. I read something about The Plague being an allegory about the Nazis in France, but I think it's more general and could be applied to almost any situation. The plague stalks us all, should we care to look at it that way. It's anything in life that stops you—we might each of us have our own personal plague. If so, Camus' philosophy might start out in a cold universe devoid of meaning, but if we all held to it, we'd end up somewhere else entirely.