Albert Camus’s novel The Plague is about an epidemic of bubonic plague that takes place in the Algerian port city of Oran. When the plague first arrives, the residents are slow to recognize the mortal danger they are in. Once they do become aware of it, they must decide what measures they will take to fight the deadly disease.
The Plague was first published in France in 1948, three years after the end of World War II. Early readers were quick to note that it was in part an allegory of the German occupation of France from 1940 to 1944, which cut France off from the outside world, just as in the novel the town of Oran must close its gates to isolate the plague. But the novel has more than one level of meaning. The plague may also be understood as the presence of moral evil or simply as a symbol of the nature of the human condition. Whatever the plague signifies, the various characters must face up to the situation and decide what their attitude to it will be. Should they accept their condition with a kind of religious resignation? Should they continue to seek their own personal happiness, ignoring what is going on around them? Should they deliberately exploit the situation in order to profit from it themselves? Or should they band together out of a sense of obligation to the community to do whatever is necessary to fight the plague? As the plague rages on, at its peak taking hundreds of victims every week, each of the major characters has his own unique approach to the situation.