Camus: Style and Use of Motifs in The Plague

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Style Dictated by Themes:

      Camus' style in The Plague largely conforms to the themes that he has chosen to highlight in the novel. Through the use of highly effective and appropriate images, metaphors and symbols in the novel, he is able to capture the political nuances of style.

Allegorical Style:

      The Plague is an allegorical attempt to capture the suffering, injustice, and ravages of a society during its occupation in World War I Using images, metaphors and symbols, Camus likens the pain of the plague in Oran to the pain of Nazi occupation. The reference to the period of the plague as "a reign of terror" clearly refers to Hitler's reign and the atrocities he sanctioned during the war. The sheer lack of preparation on the part of the populace and the laxity of the regulations in the early stages of the Oranian plague apply to the conditions in France and other European countries when Hitler began his ravages.

Camus' style in The Plague largely conforms to the themes that he has chosen to highlight in the novel. Through the use of highly effective and appropriate images, metaphors and symbols in the novel, he is able to capture the political nuances of style.
The Plague

Pattern of Alternation:

      The style of the novel alternates between graphic descriptions of the physical horrors of the plague and the attendant psychological havoc created by the disease. The best illustration of this pattern of alternation is found in Part III, where details about the arrangements for disposing of dead bodies are followed by a discussion of the pain endured by the surviving exiles. During the Nazi occupation of Europe, the Jews also suffered both physical and emotional pain.

Variation in Style:

      Another variation in style is achieved through interspersing Tarrou's observations in his journals with the narration of Dr. Rieux, Tarrou's style is often ironic and occasionally tongue-in-cheek with a penchant for understatement. The lightness of Tarrou is a stark contrast to the scriousness of Dr. Rieux, who tends to give every detail of the unpleasantness associated with the plague. His long descriptions are most obvious.

Motifs - Weather and the Seasons:

      Camus effectively employs weather and the changing seasons to correspond to the action of the plot and to heighten his Themes. Early in the book, it is mentioned that the seasons in Oran seem to change only in the sky; however, when the plague is rampant, the weather is noticed and felt. In the early stages of the Oranian plague, the weather turns bad, and there is a downpour.

      When M. Michel, the porter, dies the weather is very hot and steamy. In fact, the hot wind and the sun seem to be in league to advance the plague. It is noted that during Father Paneloux's second sermon, the wind is so high that he can barely keep his headdress on. As the year advances and the plague grows worse, the iciness of the winter is felt by all. Only when the plague retreats does the sun reappear to dispel the cold.

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