How does love contribute to the dominate theme of survival in being exiled in The Plague?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In The Plague, we learn that the whole city of Oran in Algeria is in the midst of an outbreak of bubonic plague. Dr. Bernard Rieux and another doctor, Dr. Castel, both warn the authorities that immediate and decisive action is the only recourse in saving the lives of the rest of the inhabitants of Oran. In contrast, Dr. Richard, the chairman of the medical association in Oran, wants to wait until he is sure what manner of disease the city is plagued with; he is afraid that moving too quickly will further alarm everyone and cause unnecessary upheaval.

We see the contrast between Dr. Rieux's immediate care and concern for his fellow citizens and Dr. Richard's reluctance to rock the boat. The same care and concern Dr. Rieux has for his fellow humans is apparent in how he is willing to send his ailing wife to a sanitarium where she can receive better care and where the odds of her recovery may be better. He does not think of himself in both situations; his concern is always for the other party. As a doctor, his first duty is ensuring the survival and well-being of those under his care, first his wife and then eventually the whole city of Oran, under attack by a pitiless plague. This love for humanity is the driving force propelling Dr. Rieux forward in his quest for an antidote.

The quarantine, although a difficult imposition on the citizens of Oran, is an act of love; while the surviving citizenry of Oran are kept in and visitors are kept out, the plague is less likely to infect those outside of the quarantine areas. At the end of the novel, we see the citizens of Oran finally reuniting with their loved ones. The exile as an act of love has kept many safe who would otherwise have been in danger of succumbing to the disease.

Another example of love as a dominant force for the good of those in exile is the case of Raymond Rambert, who is a journalist from Paris. Desperate to rejoin his wife in Paris, he plots to escape the dire situation in the city: he makes plans to leave with some illicit smugglers, but has a change of heart when he realizes that Dr. Rieux is also without his wife. After he observes the focused and driven Dr. Rieux working against all odds to alleviate the suffering of the terrified citizens of Oran, he is convinced of his selfishness and stays to help Dr. Rieux and the sanitation teams in their quest to eradicate the plague.

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