What is the meaning of the last sentence of The Plague, including the statement,"for the bane and enlightening of men"?
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The last sentence of the novel begins with the juxtaposition of the sound of joy "rising from the town" with Rieux's knowledge that their joy will be short-lived. It is a philosophy of despair, one of the tenets of the existentialism Camus is known for, and of the futility of life. He describes how the plague will rise again, and the images contained in this sentence are not only literal. Perhaps this particular plague has passed, but others will certainly follow: plagues of excessive pride, greed, hate, etc. The bane denotes the distress people will feel when plagued by something, although Camus writes that it will enlighten, or illuminate something for them as well. Rieux doesn't share in the town's jubilation, neither is he rejoicing in the destruction he assumes will return. He is simply existing, and quite possibly wishing he no longer was.
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