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By Albert Camus
The Plague as Allegory
Attempts to explain an allegorical work are, at best, rarely satisfactory. Allegorical interpretations are as elusive and as tenuous as their interpreters. One critic will charge that the work has been diced into irreparable ruins; another will dismiss the same essay as superficial and general. Camus recognized this difficulty and remarked that only broad outlines should be paralleled in allegorical comment. To attempt a thorough analysis would be to suggest that the work was not art but contrived artifice. It is in this spirit of generalities that The Plague has been considered.
Camus' chronicle had been conceived as early as 1939, but was not begun until after France was defeated and the Germans moved their occupation troops into the country.
During these years Camus kept a series of notebooks and many of the jottings in the notebooks suggest the multitude of ideas that Camus considered before his book was finally completed. Nearly all these early Plague ideas reveal Camus' concern for a truthful realism and a rejection of sensationalism. They also indicate his continuing insistence that his book carry his metaphysical ideas of the absurd. Initially Camus was even wary of the word plague. Late in 1942, he cautions himself not to include the word in the title. He considers The Prisoners. Later and more frequently he mentions the prisoner idea and, especially, the theme of separation.
Several kinds of separation are apparent already in the first part. Within the plot line, many of the characters are separated from one another by their small-time greeds, their lack of human love, and their indifference. There is also the separation of...