by Albert Camus
Rats! Lots of rats! Sick and dying and dead rats, all as disgusting as can be, were everywhere! Their appearance was sudden, unexpected, unexplained. Soon the townsfolk were sick, first this one, then that one, then more and more. It was first whispered and then affirmed that it was the plague.
The ill were quarantined. Hospitals were not equipped to care for so many. Temporary hospitals were set up. People were moved from here to there and from there to here. Families were separated. New laws were enacted as the epidemic raged in an attempt to contain the sickness and stop the spread of disease. Walls were built and guards patrolled the perimeter, allowing no one to enter or leave the city.
As a platform for observing and describing the human condition, the narrator takes every opportunity to expound on behavior under the circumstances of uncontrollable destiny. The narrator expresses such thoughts, conjecture, and philosophy.
As an allegory, the German occupation during World War II and the systematic extermination of the Jews and other “undesirables,” The Plague is an outstanding literary work. It began with the emergence of rats carrying disease in rapidly increasing numbers. The townsfolk were tortured and brutally killed. Laws were created to restrict life in “the camp.” Unable to bury such large numbers of dead, a transport system was developed around the periphery of the gated town, transporting the corpses to a crematorium which was kept busier and busier.
As a novel, however, the development of individual characters did not capture my heart. There was little emotional connection. The story (of the German occupation) is so well known to me, that there was no pull to find out what happens next, there was no pull to finish the book, although finish it I did.
The Plague is an interesting study of human behavior. The literary style works well in the classroom for in-depth study. As a novel, I need a bit more mystery and more of an emotional tug at the heartstrings. Given the subject matter, it is hard to come to terms with the emotional disconnect between the reader and the victims.