The Plague Study Guide

The Plague Study Guide

Original title:
La peste

The Plague by Albert Camus may be called a great-grandparent of an “apocalyptic log” genre. The main storyline is simple and horrifying: there is a plague outbreak in the city, soon the city is put to quarantine and all the communication with the rest of the world stops.

The narrative style is often called similar to Kafka’s: the characters are shown facing something incomprehensible and terrifying, they can do nothing against this overwhelming force and all that is left for them is trying to adjust their lives to the incoming disaster.

We see how people react to the imminent danger. Our characters are very different people: doctors, actors, simply sick people without any prominent features. We learn about some of them only through short telegrams that the dwellers of the quarantined town are allowed to send to their dearest ones.

Some characters, who were kind-hearted and compassionate at the beginning, have to grow cynicism and cold rationality just to preserve their mind intact and continue helping those who still can be helped. Some other, on the contrary, achieve a kind of enlightenment in the suffering: their epiphany is that suffering together unites people and allows them love each other sincerely, knowing that any of them could pass away next day.

We see how some lives are disrupted and ideals shaken by the plague, how some eagerly volunteer to fight the disease and burn out both emotionally and physically, because of the illness. Some even manage to prosper, using the desperate state of the town to their own benefit, even knowing that they are as vulnerable to the plague as everyone else.

The opening of the gates, when the plague is no more is a moment of sincere joy and celebration for those who survived the disease. But who knows how much they have changed during that time of isolation and how much the rest of the world moved on. Will the survivors be able to return to the society and will their experience be understood by their luckier friends and relatives?

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