AP English 12 Reading Guide for The Plague I. As you read the novel, complete the chart by adding details and noting any changes in the characters. Description Beliefs Key quotes Dr. Rieux Rambert Tarrou Father Paneloux Joseph Grand Monsieur Cottard II. Notice that the novel is structured by five parts. Complete the chart as you read each part. Plot Structure Beginning Middle End Part I Introductory (3-7) First days: “Proclaim a state of Story labeled a Description of town: --Wrapped up in plague…” “chronicle.” --Ugly selves; refusal to Narrator -- accept seriousness unidentified but a Boredom/banality --Cottard changes member of the town --People love w.o. toward friendliness knowing much about love --lack of empathy Part II Part III Part IV Part V --Plague declined Cottard’s mood Rieux’s final Rieux identified as “as if cornered”--“in changes toward thoughts: “one thing narrator retreat” but “no negative behavior men can always immediate impact Tarrou dies yearn for and on men’s lives” Dr. Rieux’ wife dies sometimes --growing optimism Opening of gates attain…is human and reuniting of love”--the one thing lovers (e.g. Rambert that depended on and his wife) them solely. “…real life would No answer for those begin again who aspired beyond and above the human individual to something they could not imagine. Only certitudes are love, exile, suffering Rieux bears witness “there are more things to admire in men than to despise.” Plague never dies or disappears for good… III. Thematic issues The novel operates on four levels: 1-- Literal-- the effects of an epidemic of bubonic plague (You may wish to research the historical episodes of bubonic plague.) 2--Political--the plague as metaphor for oppression as exemplified by the German occupation of France from 1941-1944 (You may wish to research the German occupation of France and the role of the French Resistance in combating it.) 3--Metaphysical--the plague as a metaphor for the problem of evil in the world and its cause, human indifference. 4--Existential--the plague as a metaphor for death to explore the meaning of life in face of human mortality However you peel this onion, Camus’ novel focuses on the human condition as he sees it. He both criticizes 20th century man and presents his view of life’s certainties, the uncertainties, and how man should behave. What are the follies of man’s behaviors as exemplified by townspeople of Oran before the plague, during the plague, and after the plague? Reread pp. 3-7 (Rieux as unidentified narrator) and p. 308 (Rieux as narrator revealed). What differences do you notice in the tone and content of the two? Review your character chart. Which characters display characteristics and beliefs that Camus endorses? Make a list of these beliefs. IV. Literary device: Irony Irony is frequently used in works dealing with social commentary or in ones exploring human frailty. It is a device quite effective for revealing the disparity between reality and illusion, for uncovering hypocrisy, or for exposing man’s limitations. As you read this novel, look for ironic statements, situations, and expectations. Usually, Camus uses irony to comment on how the townspeople respond to their situation, a plague. Additionally, his irony suggests an absurdity in their responses.
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