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Albert Camus was a French Algerian author who had managed to leave his imprint not only in the sphere of fiction but also became a theoretic. Being an existentialist, most of his papers are related to this theory. According to Camus, existentialism can be defined as a life that does not have “God-given purpose but is shaped by man’s choices and struggles” (Surawicz & Jacobson, 2009, p. 74). Based on this theory, Camus tries to define the word “absurd”, referencing the fact that nothing in this universe has meaning. However, there is still something in human life that has meaning and this is absurd (Bronner, 2009).
Foundations of Camus theory
Turning to the discussion of Camus’ The Plague and the relation of people to absurd, it is possible to refer to some quotes from the text and the overview of the whole situation. The central absurd idea is that in the city Oran which is isolated from the whole world has appeared plague disease. People constantly die there without this disaster as the city is ugly and dirty. The only reaction which appears as a human reaction to the disaster is that it is incredible, at the same time, agrees that the reasons for the epidemics can be easily found, like the case which had happened many years ago in a European country (Camus, 1991, p. 34). The absurd of the situation that this cannot be a real explanation, still, even if the problem must be explained, it will be.
The main absurd issues raised in the novel are as follows. The novel points to the irrational world lacking meaning, to the fact that people in the novel state that the current world is indifferent to their problems, that people are good and they are worth fighting for. However, is it so? People lead their lives in the city like in prison, isolated and without valuing the opportunities they had. They lived with lovers, family, and friends, but without the opportunity to leave that city. When epidemics came, people understood that they were not free due to the quarantine. However, the obvious question appears, have those people ever be free? Is the freedom they tried to reach was freedom?
The main changes which appear with the citizens after they got to know about the disease appear not at once, but later. At the beginning of the problem occurrence, people go the same indifferent to each other and selfish. But, when the disaster makes people suffer for months and when they decide to struggle with it, they understand that their lives mean something and become concerned about the problem. Referring to the freedom and desiring it, people do not understand that even when the epidemics are finished, they will not be free, they will remain the hostages of their city and the life they have to lead. This is absurd and the author points to it.
Moreover, having battled the disease and celebrating the recovery, people do not think that their actions are absurd as the disease may return more and more as it was not the end. “it could be only the record of what had had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never-ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, despite their afflictions, by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers” (Camus, 1991, p. 306).
Bronner, S. E. (2009). Camus: Portrait of a Moralist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Camus, A. (1991). The Plague. New York: Vintage.
Surawicz, B. & Jacobson, B. (2009). Doctors in fiction: lessons from literature. Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing.