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Renown novelists plan their works and often have a vision of how the readers would react to certain characters they encounter in the readings. For instance, Jean Tarrou in Camus Albert’s book The Plague happens to be a mysterious visitor who finds himself caught up in the town of Oran during the time of the plague.
The role of Jean as a character stands out throughout the story. He helps to enhance the themes such as suffering, expressing the author’s view regarding certain controversial moral aspects related to human suffering and capital punishment, all of which contribute towards the plot development. Besides, the character boasts of upholding societal virtues as presented by the author; for instance, he stands out as a caring person.
The character of Tarrou
In elaborating the theme of suffering, Camus develops Tarrou’s caring character. Tarrou demonstrates his caring ability through the support he gives Rieux as they hustle to curb the plague. Tarrou’s desire for a simple and direct approach towards salvaging the situation in the town of Oran drives this point home. He is the first to note that there is a problem in Oran when he notices the mysterious deaths of rats in their hundreds.
Caxton confirms, “Tarrou…battled with all his strength…as he helped Rieux battle for the lives of others” (Para.1), which shows how compassionate Tarrou is through his helping hand. In addition, he acts as a mentor, always advising the protagonist on the right ways to follow as well as how to make the right decisions.
He goes ahead and equates the plague to the death penalty that his father used to fight against as a lawyer. His emotional reaction to the events following the plague clearly shows that Camus Albert uses him to challenge capital punishment and the associated lack of respect for human life. This aspect enhances the development of the plot in “The Plague”.
Role of Tarrou
Camus Albert uses Tarrou right from the beginning of the novel to develop the plot of the story. Rather than giving his account through narration as it is with Rieux, the hero, Tarrou does this through giving a moral personal account of what is happening in the town of Oran during the time of the plague. He makes his opinions on things clearly understood by the other characters rather than giving an impartial explication. For instance, the death of Tarrou gives the author a chance to reveal his hero’s weak character.
Cuizon exposits, “Rieux’s flaws including his exhaustion and tears when Tarrou dies are necessary…” (Para.3). However, the reader cannot overlook the importance of this character; for instance, his presence in almost all happenings in the novel actually helps to shape the direction that the story takes. There are major incidences in the story that are very important where Tarrou appears and which could have altered the whole flow of the story once left out in case of the absence of such a character.
This involves incidences such as the initiative that Tarrou takes to organize the volunteer sanitary teams. He initiates such a noble project because he believes in the premise that people should act out the moral call of duty. This initiative is quite remarkable considering that he is a visitor and not a permanent resident of Oran.
As an outsider Tarrou’s perspective of the events happening in the town of Oran gives the reader a more objective account of the happenings in the story compared to those of other characters who are citizens of Oran. Camus Albert uses this character to bring in a more sense of credibility and authenticity of his story. This move creates a sense of attachment between the readers and the sentiments expressed in this novel.
Tarrou is a pagan who does not support the illusions expressed by religion such as that of the priest father Paneloux (Judt 47). He believes that the meaning of life is expressed when an individual is free to choose what to believe. His code of ethics inspires him to participate actively in the fight against the suffering inflicted on the people of Oran by the plague.
Camus expresses his sentiments against the justification of human suffering using Tarrou amongst others. According to him, there is no inherent rational and considerably moral attachment to death and human suffering. He states clearly through this character that human life is precious and that people need to avoid suffering and death if possible.
Tarrou in the story gives a personal story, which clearly makes the reader understand the motives behind his actions. This occurs through a story inside the main plot where he clarifies his dislike of capital punishment using his words. His story gives Rieux the thesis he uses to give more insight to his chronicle of the plague.
He says, “All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it’s up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences (Camus 34). This emphasizes his role as the main character’s source of inspiration to fight the plague.
When trying to understand Camus Albert’s book, through a character such as Tarrou a reader gets the objective understanding of the explored situations. Importantly, it is not by luck that this character exists in Camus Albert’s book The Plague; because, considering the fact that the town in which the book is set was quarantined during the time of the plague; therefore, readers rely greatly on objective characters such as Tarrou to understand what was happening behind the scenes (Lebesque Para. 3).
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Tarrou’s good sense of humor helps the reader to create a personal relationship with him and as a result, understand the novel with much ease. If he were absent, the piece would not be as informative as it is.
Camus, Albert. The Plague. France: Librairie Gallimard, 1948.
Caxton, Geoffrey. The Plague-Novel Analysis, 2004. Web.
Cuizon, Gwendolyn. Albert Camus’ ‘The Plague’ and the Philosophy of Suffering, 2007. Web.
Judt, Tony. The Plague (Penguin Classics). New York: Penguin Classics, 2006.
Lebesque, Richard. Characterization in Albert Camus’ ‘The Plague’ and Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot.’ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979.