Study Guide

The Plague

by Albert Camus

The Plague Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Oran

*Oran. Algerian port city on the Mediterranean Sea. From its opening paragraphs, The Plague calls attention to the banality, even the ugliness, of the Algerian city in which the events that Rieux chronicles take place. Though the real Oran, where Camus, a native of Algeria, lived from 1941-1942, was not nearly so bleak, Rieux’s city is an ugly, soulless place devoid of trees, pigeons, and gardens and grimly devoted to commerce. Unlike the historical Oran, Rieux’s version is secured by municipal gates, and the official opening of the ramparts at the end of the novel is celebrated by the inhabitants as a kind of liberation.

In the 1940’s, before an anticolonial insurrection brought it independence in 1962, Algeria still constituted part of France, and the relatively large percentage of Oranians of European descent regarded their town as a provincial outpost of French culture. Yet Raymond Rambert, a journalist on assignment from a Parisian newspaper, feels particularly frustrated at being stranded by the local epidemic in distant Oran.

Almost all Camus’s writing accentuates the presence of the sea, the sun, and the sky. Yet, in The Plague, Oran is described as having been built with its back to the sea, without easy access to the cleansing Mediterranean, even under ordinary circumstances. The city’s segregation from the sea is reinforced when, as part of the quarantine, residents are prohibited from wandering to the harbor, and it is a particularly dramatic moment of release when,...

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The Plague Historical Context

Absurdism
The term absurdism is applied to plays and novels that express the idea that there is no inherent value or...

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The Plague Literary Style

Point of View
Point of view refers to the method of narration, the character through whose consciousness the story is told. In...

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The Plague Literary Techniques

The Plague is written in the form of a journal, a dry, monotonous chronicle, intended to express the stifling atmosphere of the...

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The Plague Compare and Contrast

1940s: World War II pits the major European powers against each other, with axis powers Germany and Italy, and later Japan, on one...

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The Plague Topics for Further Study

What is the story told in the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice? What is the significance of the episode in which Tarrou and Rambert...

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The Plague Literary Precedents

Camus's account of the plague recalls classical and modern sources, among them Thucydides' History of Peloponnesian Wars (c.431-400...

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The Plague What Do I Read Next?

Camus’s widely known first novel, The Stranger (1942), is about an alienated, aimless young Algerian man who gets caught up in bad...

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The Plague Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Abrams, M. H., A Glossary of Literary Terms, 4th ed., Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981, p. 1.

Camus,...

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The Plague Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Amoia, Alba. Albert Camus. New York: Continuum, 1989. An introduction to Camus as an important “Mediterranean” literary figure. In a chapter on The Plague entitled “A Holograph,” the author is particularly attentive to the novel’s coordinates in North Africa.

Fitch, Brian T. The Narcissistic Text: A Reading of Camus’ Fiction. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982. A sophisticated study of Camus as a metafictionalist. The chapter on The Plague examines how, through the use of several writer figures and by calling attention to its own narrative design, the novel makes its own artifice overt....

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