The wonderful thing about Albert Camus' The Plague is that it depicts both the negative and positive of the human condition. The three characters who most depict the human condition are Dr. Bernard Rieux, Joseph Grand, and Cottard. In a sense, each posses characteristics which illustrate both positives and negatives of the human condition.
Dr. Rieux embodies the definition of a hero. In a sense, even though he realizes that the plague he is fighting cannot be stopped, he refuses to quit. Emotionally, he feels for his patients, but he also realizes that he must separate his emotions from his job. This says that some people will continue to do what needs to be done even when they only see failure. When speaking to the human condition, it speaks of the human's ability to endure the inevitable.
Joseph Grand represents the epitome of the idea that even those who are poor are cabale of great wealth. He is a very affectionate man who openly volunteers to help keep the stastics of the plague. A writer, Grand shows a quiet, yet profound, understanding of human plight. Grand shows the importance of courage.
Cottard is the character who shows the most "promise" regarding the human condition. Mostly a recluse, Cottard begins to change his ways after the plague outbreak. Although he begins to make friends, he takes advantage of the fear people are living in. As seen in much of history during tragedies, some people take advantage of others in bad situations. Cottard is this man.
Depending upon what character the reader most aligns with determines if he or she defines the story as hopeful or despairing. If identifies the overall message of the novel as one which highlights the evil in man, then he or she will find the novel despairing. On the other hand, if one identifies the courage and strength which appears in trying times, he or she may identify the novel as hopeful.