Sample Questions

1. To what extent does "The Plague" adhere to the idea of 'engagement'?

You should begin by defining the term "engagement". The term is Sartrean in origin ("Qu'est-ce que la literature?", 1948) and refers to the writer's duty to society and the need to "engage" in contemporary historical and social issues. The French Resistance and the Algerian War gave writers of the 1940s plenty of opportunities for "engagement".

You should then go on to consider how Camus refers to the historical and social situation of the 1940s and its relation (metaphorical or otherwise) to the plague. Discuss the parallels between the effects of the plague and life under Occupied France. You should also discuss how effective this symbolism is.

You could then go on to discuss any or all of the following: The role of Dr Rieux and Father Paneloux. How does Dr Rieux's position as a doctor actively involved in the treatment of the plague contrast with the passive, preaching stance of the priest. Camus promotes action in an attack on Christianity as a doctrine that provides no solutions - how does this relate to his theory of the absurd?

How do other characters in the novel adhere to "engagement"? One distinguishing trait between all the characters in the novel is the degree of their awareness of the deeper implications of what is going on among them. Cottard and his activity in the "black market" appears to represent a kind of moral abdication. Rambert, on the other hand who was at first so keen to escape, remains in the plague-stricken town, actively involved with the sick and dying.

Consider the author's compassion for humanity, portraying noble attitudes of courage and endurance, emphasizing the links that bind men to one another and the extent that they depend on one another.

You should conclude by discussing how a reading of the plague has affected your understanding/knowledge of the Second World War and the French Resistance. To what extent is Camus concerned with a writer's social duty or does the plague signify something beyond itself. How does the idea of engagement work within the idea of the absurd.

To what extent does "The Plague" adhere to the idea of "engagement"?

"Literature prevents man from being indifferent" (Ionesco). Discuss.

How does "The Plague" convey Camus' idea of the hero / anti-hero in society?

Examine the relationship between creative and moral action in "The Plague".

Examine the role of the individual versus society in "The Plague".

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