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Necessary dispassion or a cold recount?

rachelr's picture

"That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed."

- Albert Einstein

In my reading so far of The Plague, I was struck by several different outstanding features of the writing, the foremost being the detached, almost emotionless stance that the primary characters in the novel take concerning all happenings in and surrounding Oran. Dead rats litter the street and Rieux kicks them out of the way. The death toll climbs and Rieux, Tarrou, Castel, Grand, and Rambert simply sigh and go about their duties or private lives. While it is understandable that as doctors, several of these characters would have to abandon much of their emotion inorder to get through the day, I fail to see even a flicker of emotion behind their masks of duty. Is this a narration tool employed to give us the most "accurate" and "factual" account of events and happenings by the narrator? I am also curious as to whether the text has the same emotional current in its original French, or if anything was lost in translation...

The method of narration interested me. At times it seemed as if there were two narrators- there are sections referring to "the narrator" and reporting that "the narrator knows this because…" or something of the like. So are there two narrators or is perhaps another tool being used in an attempt to give the story greater validity?

Also- why weren't people more concerned initially when the entire population of rats came out of their holes to die a gruesome and bloody death? Personally I like to believe that I would be a little more with it, even as just an average citizen. Was this "oh well rats die, whatever" attitude common at the onslaught of all plague outbreaks back in the day??? It seems like at least a few more people should have put 2 and 10,000 dead rats together.

Despite my slight annoyance with the lack of emotion or empathy shown by the main characters I am enjoying the read and the flow of the story is easy to float along with. We will see what happens downstream...



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