Greetings from death’s door. Apologies for the loss of a day’s discussion, but my hope is that putting some of your thoughts down here will allow us to still get some closure on this novel.
Last time we finished by reading several paragraphs surrounding the death of M. Othon’s son. Our first task today was going to be a close examination of the language of that scene. You’re welcome to offer your thoughts about that specifically, but I’m also interested in posing some questions that would situate this as one in a series of death scenes, including Paneloux’s and Tarrou’s, and some off-stage deaths, including Rieux’s wife and M. Othon. Why does each of these characters die? (“We’re all going to die” isn’t an adequate answer, at least not without some elaboration.)
I also intended for us to discuss two further sections in detail: the swimming scene near the close of Part Four, and the conclusion, beginning with Rieux’s confession of authorship on p. 301. These two moments are linked by the ghost of Tarrou, we could say. How do you read the swimming scene (consider specific details)? And how do you read Rieux’s confession. Earlier in our discussion I referred to the “problem of the narrator” and Kefa suggested we might actually think of it as a solution instead. Either way, how do you read Camus’ choice here to to have the narrator wait until the last minute to disclose his identity? Or to draw, for so much of his narrative, on another character’s plague diaries?
Finally, I want to return to an issue Diana raised in class last time — the question of relativism. Is that a fair description of this novel’s ethics? If not, how else would you describe the kind of living this text seems to advocate? Are all the characters’ responses to the plague equally valid? I’d like to hear what you make of Grand’s closing comments, especially this: “But what does that mean — ‘plague’? Just life, no more that that.”