Jean Tarrou: Character in the Novel The Plague

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      A Fighter against Death Penalty and His Ability to Mobilize People : Prior to arriving in Oran. Jean Tarrou had devoted his life to fighting against the death penalty. He considers his own ability to mobilize people and to organize them to fight evil as his greatest asset. He uses this ability to organize a group of volunteers to aid the medical community in their fight against the plague.

As a man, Tarrou is good humored and friendly. He never looks down upon a person and inspires them to confide in him.
Jane Tarrou

      Good Humored and Friendly : As a man, Tarrou is good humored and friendly. He never looks down upon a person and inspires them to confide in him. Cottard feels he can discuss his unclean moral conscience with Tarrou, which he is unable to do with Dr. Bernard Ricux. The doctor himself trusts Tarrou entirely and builds a close friendship with him. When Tarrou dies at the end of the novel, Rieux is devastated.

      Totally Committed to His Ideas : Tarrou is totally committed to his ideas. While his opposition to the death penalty is based upon his belief in the value of human life, his behaviour towards his parents appears ruthless. He never takes the time to tell his family why he abruptly leaves home even though he has said that his father is a harmless and decent family man. Most critics agree that he really hated his father for his marital infidelities and used his imposition of the death penalty as a concrete reason for deserting him. No matter the reason, Tarrou comes across as one of the most complex characters in the novel, and his diaries, which are included in the book, give a clear insight into this interesting man.

      His Obiective Observations as an Outsider : Jean Tarrou is the author of the account that Dr. Rieux uses to give greater texture to his chronicle of the plague. Tarrou is vacationing Oran when the epidemic requires a total quarantine of the city. As an outsider, his observations on Oran society are more objective than those of a citizen of the city. Tarrou's beliefs about personal and social responsibility are remarkably similar to those of Dr. Rieux, but Tarrou is far more philosophical. He does not believe in God, so he does not believe in the illusion of an intrinsic rational and moral meaning in death, suffering, and human existence. For him, human existence gains meaning only when people choose freely to participate in the losing, but noble struggle against death and suffering. Tarrou contributes to the anti-plague effort in accordance with his code of ethics.

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