The Plague: General Reading Questions

  1. After you’ve read each part of the novel, give it a title. Once you’ve finished reading the novel, you’ll be invited to reflect on the titles you gave.
  2. As you read, notice the main characters. What stands out to you about how the narrator describes them? What does the narrator choose to tell his readers about their lives? What strikes you about those decisions? How do their stories unfold throughout the novel? How do they reveal aspects of the novel’s big ideas?
  3. Notice the various reactions of those living within the walls of Oran to the events that unfold throughout the novel. How do they respond during the various phases of the plague? As their responses change, notice what causes the change. How do their reactions to the events affect others? Are you surprised by any of their responses? Are there any other possible responses not mentioned by the narrator?
  4. Notice who has a voice in the novel and who doesn’t. Does the novel reflect on why this is the case? What is the effect of these silences and speeches? 
  5. The narrative is interspersed with descriptions of the city, the weather, the seasons, the daily activity of its inhabitants, the different neighborhoods. The sea, the sun, and the sky are also present throughout the novel. As you read, notice where Camus mentions them in his text. What role might setting have in crafting the meanings that arise in the book they play?
  6. Notice how the narrator describes the plague – nouns, adjectives, verbs. What images are conjured up for you? How might you illustrate those images using color, texture, pictures?    
  7. The narrator says that he seeks to be objective. Where do you notice that he strays from his position as chronicler? What effect does this have?
  8. How does the narrator influence you as a reader?
  9. What are some quotes that draw you in or push you away?  Why do you think they do that?
  10. In the original version of The Plague, there is an epigraph from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe: “It is reasonable to represent one kind of imprisonment by another, as it is to represent anything that really exists by that which exists not.”   [“Il est aussi raisonnable de représenter une espèce d’emprisonnement par une autre que de représenter n’importe quelle chose qui existe réellement par quelque chose qui n’existe pas. »] How might that epigraph allow you to understand the major ideas or workings of the novel?
Next: Part One