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In the Wake of the Plague


Summary of "The Plague" by Albert Camus


"Albert Camus" novel "The Plague," first published in 1947, is a profound work that intertwines a narrative of a plague-stricken town with deeper philosophical themes. Set in Oran, a coastal town in North Africa, the story is both a gripping tale of survival and a parable reflecting on human nature, suffering, and resilience.


The novel opens with the town of Oran slowly becoming aware of the deadly plague. Initially, the citizens ignore the warning signs, but as the plague becomes an omnipresent reality, life in Oran is dramatically transformed. The town is quarantined, cutting off its inhabitants from the outside world and forcing them to confront the horror within their midst.

Main Characters

  1. Dr. Bernard Rieux: The protagonist of the novel, Dr. Rieux is a physician who tirelessly works to treat plague victims. His character embodies resilience and a commitment to helping others, despite the overwhelming circumstances.
  2. Jean Tarrou: A visitor to Oran who becomes trapped by the quarantine. Tarrou's diaries provide insight into the events in Oran and reveal his philosophical reflections on life and death.
  3. Raymond Rambert: A journalist visiting Oran who desperately tries to escape the town to reunite with his wife. His journey highlights the theme of isolation and longing.
  4. Joseph Grand: A low-level civil servant, Grand is an amateur writer who struggles with perfectionism. His character symbolizes the mundane aspects of life and the struggle for meaning.
  5. Father Paneloux: A Jesuit priest who initially sees the plague as divine punishment but later grapples with the crisis of faith as the epidemic worsens.


  1. The Absurdity of Human Existence: The novel explores the theme of absurdity, a central concept in Camus' philosophy, where human life is seen as meaningless in the face of an indifferent universe.
  2. Suffering and Compassion: The plague brings immense suffering, but it also brings out compassion and solidarity among the people of Oran.
  3. Resistance and Revolt: The characters in the novel each show different ways of resisting the despair brought by the plague, embodying Camus' idea of revolt against the absurd.
  4. Isolation and Connection: Quarantine isolates the citizens of Oran, but it also creates new forms of community and understanding.

Plot Development

  • The Onset of the Plague: The story begins with mysterious deaths of rats, an ominous sign which is initially ignored by the town's people.
  • The Escalation: As the plague spreads, the town is sealed off. The initial response is one of disbelief and confusion, but the reality of the situation soon sinks in.
  • The Struggle: Life in Oran becomes a daily struggle against the disease. Dr. Rieux and his colleagues set up sanitary squads to combat the plague, while others like Rambert seek ways to escape.
  • The Height of the Epidemic: As the death toll rises, the town's social order begins to break down. People respond with either defiance, resignation, or despair.
  • The End of the Plague: Eventually, the plague begins to recede. The town celebrates the end of the ordeal, but there's a sense of loss and the recognition that life will never be the same.


"The Plague" is a powerful examination of human resilience in the face of inexplicable suffering. Camus uses the metaphor of the plague to explore themes of absurdity, despair, and revolt, offering a poignant commentary on the human condition.