Essay on Existentialism and Albert Camus' The Plague

Essay on Existentialism and Albert Camus' The Plague

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Existentialism and The Plague 
 

In the mid 1940s, a man by the name of Albert Camus began to write a story. This story he called La Pesté. Written in French, the novel became extremely popular and has since been translated numerous times into many languages. This story has been read over and over, yet it tells more than it seems to. This story tells the tale of a city gripped by a deadly disease. This is true enough, but this is not what the novel is about. The Plague can be read as an allegory of World War II, of the French Resistance against German Occupation. "To simplify things, one can say that The Plague is an allegorical novel" (Picon 146). This however, is indeed an oversimplification, and so this only tells part of the story. Camus is often considered to have been an Existentialist. "That Existentialist philosophies offered him a vocabulary from which he occasionally borrowed is of secondary importance in his case" (Brée, Camus 74). Perhaps this, Existentialism, is the focus of the novel? Not, it is not quite that simple. The Plague tells the story of a fight: not a fight against a disease, not a fight against German soldiers, but a fight against the indifference in the face of human suffering. Every man responds to this in his own manner, and this reaches to the heart of the Existential philosophy -- it is actions that truly define a man.

"No, I am not an existentialist" (Doubrovsky 345). These words come from Albert Camus himself. It is true; Camus was not an Existentialist. Yes, he embraced much of existentialism, but not all. What, then, do Existentialists believe, and of this, what does Camus reject and what does he accept? To the existentialist, life is meaningless in and of itself. Therefore, "Since lif...


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McMullen, Laura Elizabeth. "Albert Camus." Internet document. http://www.wwc.edu/student/mcmula/camus.htm. size 2K. 11 Apr 96.

Parker, Emmitt. Albert Camus: The Artist in the Arena. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1965.

Picon, Gaëtan. "Notes on The Plague." Trans. Ellen Conroy Kennedy. L'Usage de la lechire. Paris: Mercure de France. 1960. 79-87.

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