Notes on The Plague Themes

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The Plague Topic Tracking: Suffering

Part 1

Suffering 1: The people of Oran are not accustomed to suffering prior to the arrival of the plague. They live a comfortable life, with very few high or low extremes.

Suffering 2: The descriptions of the deaths of both M. Michel and the rats--bloody and painful--show that the plague is a source of great physical suffering for those who are infected.

Suffering 3: Cottard's behavior, and his comment that "secret grief" led him to attempt suicide, indicates that something is making him suffer inside.

Suffering 4: Numbers, stories, and facts only make Dr. Rieux think about the plague; he cannot feel the pain of those who have suffered.

Part 2

Suffering 5: The separation from loved ones who are locked outside of Oran is a great source of suffering for the townspeople.

Suffering 6: Father Paneloux's first sermon expresses very little sympathy or understanding for the townspeople's suffering. He claims the plague is what they deserved, and that earthly suffering is God's way of punishing sinners.

Suffering 7: Dr. Rieux's belief is that anyone who has dealt with human beings in pain will want to get in there and relieve their suffering, not sit back and preach about it.

Part 4

Suffering 8: After watching an innocent child die, Dr. Rieux tells Paneloux he cannot reconcile himself to a God or a theory of love in which children are allowed to suffer like this.

Suffering 9: Tarrou believes that killing another human being, even a criminal, shows a complete lack of sympathy for other people's suffering and that the death penalty must be fought at all costs.

Suffering 10: Rieux and Tarrou, when they take their swim in the sea, are able to escape the suffering of the plague for a few minutes.

Part 5

Suffering 11: Upon the death of his friend Tarrou, Dr. Rieux realizes that knowledge and memories are what people get from suffering the death of loved ones.

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