The Plague

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The Plague Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Albert Camus's The Plague. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Albert Camus
Camus was born to a French family in Algeria, which was then a colony of France. He was raised in poverty, and suffered from tuberculosis while at the University of Algiers. He joined the Communist Party for several years, then wrote for an anti-colonialist Algerian newspaper, joined an anarchist group, and then wrote and fought for the French Resistance against the Nazi occupiers in WWII. He was married to Simone Hié and later Francine Faure, and had two children. Camus is often associated with his contemporary Jean-Paul Sartre, and is best known for his novels The Stranger and The Plague, and his essay The Myth of Sisyphus. He consistently held leftist political views, supported human rights, and vigorously opposed war and capital punishment. He was killed in a car accident at the age of 46.
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Historical Context of The Plague
The Plague was heavily influenced by the Nazi occupation of France during WWII, during which Camus joined the French Resistance and wrote for an underground newspaper. The plague is often considered an allegory for war and military occupation, and Camus drew from his own experience to describe the isolation and struggle of the novel. The plague itself is based on several cholera and plague epidemics that swept through Oran during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The absurdist and existentialist philosophies present in the book began with Søren Kierkegaard in the mid-1800s, and were clarified by Jean-Paul Sartre and Camus himself.
Other Books Related to The Plague
Søren Kierkegaard is considered the first existentialist philosopher, and his books The Sickness Unto Death and Fear and Trembling first confronted the Absurd, from which Camus would take his philosophy. Franz Kafka was another important influence on Camus, especially his novel The Trial. Camus’ most famous contemporary was Jean-Paul Sartre, a French existentialist philosopher and author of Nausea and No Exit.
Key Facts about The Plague
  • Full Title: The Plague (La Peste)
  • Where Written: Paris, France
  • When Published: 1947
  • Literary Period: 20th century philosophy, Absurdism and Existentialism
  • Genre: Philosophical novel, Absurdist fiction
  • Setting: Oran, Algeria
  • Climax: Tarrou struggles against the plague and dies
  • Antagonist: The plague
  • Point of View: First person limited, from an unknown narrator who is revealed to be Dr. Rieux in the last chapter
Extra Credit for The Plague

Nobel. Camus received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. He was the second-youngest recipient of the award, and the first winner to have been born in Africa.

Soccer. Camus was a great lover of soccer, and played as a goalkeeper for several years. He was once asked if he preferred literature or football (soccer), and he replied “Football, without hesitation.”