The Inherent Good
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Sean Murray
History 408
The Inherent Good
In Albert Camus’ The Plague, Camus uses the onset of plague in the town of Oran to show how people deal with the continuous losing battle between life, death and death, where the only certainty is death. Camus tells this story of “The Plague” in an existentialist viewpoint which sees everything as irrational, but on the other side also shows the optimistic side of existentialist theory, such as a person’s ability to use free will for the benefit of others or of self preservation. Camus makes the case through his characters actions and opinions that human nature is inherently good and there are still people who will use their free will to keep fighting, whether it be for one another or for ones self.

The Main character of the book, Dr Rieux, takes an optimistic view of human nature. When referring to those who do something, instead of nothing Rieux makes comments like, “And, be it said to the credit of mankind, they are more numerous than one would think-such anyhow is the narrator’s conviction.”(132) Dr Rieux tries to find meaning in life through the idea that a human beings reasonability is to help other human beings Rieux states “…I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with the saints. Heroism and sanctity don’t really appeal to me, I imagine. What interests me is being a man” (255). Rieux again shows his altruistic side and this again points to Camus’ larger point in the book that humans still do posses an ability to do “good” just for the sake of the well being of others. Another character in the book that both helped Dr. Rieux and shared a lot of his views of personal and social responsibility is Jean Tarrou.

Tarrou participates in the futile effort against the “plague” alongside of Rieux, but for Tarrou the only way for a human’s existence to gain meaning is for a person to choose freely to fight the losing struggle. The importance though, is not whether or not a person wins the fight, but the importance of trying. Tarrou states “I have realized that we all have plague” (252). By stating this Tarrou is suggesting that there is another type of “plague” that is carried by all and these would be the “plagues” of indifference and denial. Throughout history as well as the book we see examples of this indifference and denial, whether it be the dead rats or the referencing of the holocaust. According to Tarrou, “I only know that one must do what one can to cease being plague-stricken” (252). These metaphorical diseases of indifference and denial which Camus includes in his story point to the fact that although a lot of people can be careless and ignorant, not all are. There are however, some who helped in the anti-plague efforts for reasons either not entirely altruistic or for reasons purely self satisfactory.

Raymond Rambert is a journalist who finds himself stuck in Oran after the quarantine. Rambert tries desperately to escape because his wife is in Paris and he wants to be with her. In a refused attempt to get a note from Dr Rieux for Rambert to be able to leave, Rambert says. “You can’t understand. You are using the language of reason, not of the heart; you live in a world of abstractions” (209). In saying this Rambert confuses Rieux’s motives for indifference. Rambert believes

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Dr Rieux And Jean Tarrou. (April 12, 2021). Retrieved from