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How Does the Plague Help To Inform Our Understanding of the COVID-19 Epidemic?

The Plague by Albert Camus, published in 1947, parallels the present situation with the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic. The epidemic depicted in the novel shows a chillingly fast growth of the illness. In the beginning, the occurrence of rats dying throughout Oran appeared to be a mystery, but it quickly turned into an epidemic. As a result, the city’s citizens were suddenly cut off from their loved ones and the rest of society. The Plague’s quarantine period reflects the current coronavirus pandemic’s worldwide quarantine. The Plague is similar to current social distancing standards and other safety precautions that encourage people to isolate themselves from one another. These two epidemics have striking similarities in terms of how they develop and the emotional, psychological, and social toll they take on people who experience them. The novel’s pandemic is not only a representation of the actual sickness. Instead, it reflects how the Covid-19 epidemic causes disturbance in the normal course of events, such as severe mass suffering.

In his novel, The Plague, Albert Camus explores the transformation of people’s lives in Oran, a small seaside city in Algeria, after the outbreak of the Plague. The COVID-19 epidemic, possibly one of humanity’s biggest crises in recent history, forced the governments to implement various types of social lockdown (Conti, 226). The Plague in the novel served as a chilling prophecy of what people throughout the globe might expect then. The growing number of people infected with and dying from this illness had no apparent end. Therefore, despite the promise of a medical breakthrough to cure Covid-19, the world will have to navigate unknown areas for several years (Basu, 51). Covid 19, a global epidemic likened to Albert Camus’s “The Plague,” triggered worldwide panic. When we heard about The Plague in our global history lesson, we learned of the many fatalities, how unrestrained it was, and how no one, not even the authorities, could stop it from spreading. In our daily lives, both Covid 19 and The Plague have had a profound effect, influencing our future as a society.

According to Albert Camus’s novel, as the population of Oran began to decrease, it became more difficult to find workers to plough fields, harvest crops, and manufacture things. In this novel, compared to Covid-19, many individuals lost their jobs. Besides, it took a while for the Europeans to realize that the church alone could not keep things under control (Conti, 227). Today, in the United States, we are fully dependent on the government to assist us in stopping this. Having a team of medical professionals, they are aware of the actions we may take to prevent the entire population from being swiped away by Covid-19. Like Albert Camus’s “The Plague”, people have been confined to their homes (Franco-Paredes, 899). Therefore, to keep Covid-19 under control, we prevented its spread by avoiding social interactions. Many people spend days or even weeks without seeing their friends and family members that they miss so much. Before Covid-19 was contained through several measures, we had no choice but to remain indoors, even though we were all going nuts from boredom and a sedentary lifestyle.

Moreover, Covid 19 can spread as quickly and with the same negative consequences as in Albert Camus’s “The Plague“. However, ending this epidemic is easier now since we have a broader range of stakeholders with more improved technology than in the novel’s “The Plague“. As a result of advancements in technology and our ability to manage it, we are in a position to do so. It will not spread like “The Plague “because we have a head start on it. Various world governments have drawn on lessons learnt in Albert Camus’s “The Plague” (Bentley, 6). Since the world is familiar with something like this, they have utilized that knowledge to guide them in their approach to containing the spread of Covid-19. COVID 19 has inflicted and will continue to cause many fatalities, but it teaches us how to come together as a community via its actions.

Oran Town, Algeria, is the setting for the story in which the deadly and mysterious illness appears out of nowhere and spreads across the town, killing many people. When it comes to Covid-19, everyone expects that the problem will be resolved. The novel conveys a message of love, healing, and hope (Franco-Paredes, 899). The protagonists’ struggle to control the virus throughout the novel serves as the narrative’s central focus. The tale also depicts how the population’s morale deteriorates as the disease spreads across the city. Regardless of socioeconomic class or age, Oran inhabitants were killed by the disease. As a result, families have been torn apart, and many were forced to flee.

There is a parallel between the plot of The Plague and what is happening now with the Covid19 outbreak. By using a particular quarantine method to deal with the Plague, the government of the day could contain it more effectively in the fiction. Despite this, others question if freedom existed before this epidemic. This indicates how Camus was concerned with human characteristics like pain, human life, and death via his technique of conveying the novel’s message. In his story, Rieux foreshadows the gloom of the future and the unexpected reappearance of sickness (Bentley, 2). During the current coronavirus epidemic, Rieux’s message that life is unpredictable and that complacency is dangerous resonates strongly. A prominent theme in The Plague is how individuals are forced to expose their actual natures to themselves and others around them and whether or not this can only be done in a circumstance when life itself is in danger.

Several pandemics throughout history have shown how infectious organisms such as bacteria or a virus may quickly and effectively spread over a large area. Human deaths are only matched by the social disintegration, interruption of business, and general fear that ensues due to a disaster. When an epidemic spreads swiftly and abruptly, disturbing our daily routines, our lives and sorrows become instantaneously worthless (Franco-Paredes, 899). This is what Camus demonstrates in his story. But most importantly, Camus warns us that we can never be entirely prepared for pandemics in our thoughts or bodies. When a pandemic removes our life’s safety bumpers, all of the benefits of Knowledge and civilization’s progress are useless. Everyone aspires to escape the consequences of a terrible destiny because of the random distribution of suffering. When a pandemic like COVID-19 strikes, Albert Camus’s narrative reminds us of the immense respect and appreciation of the human spirit (Conti, 227). Numerous contemporary-day Dr Rieux has treated victims who have succumbed to this new disease with the highest expertise and respect.

As the epidemic wreaks havoc in Oran, the locals’ reaction goes from denial to logic to acceptance of the absurdity they confront. People in the community gradually come to terms with the fact that the disease is genuine and begin to feel a sense of loss and hopelessness. As they reflect on the connections they’ve lost, they find themselves in emotional isolation (Basu, 52). They hesitate to discuss their anguish with one another because they are afraid that it may not be unique to them despite the common nature of their plight. When it came to coronaviruses, people’s reactions evolved from early impatience to dread and alertness before finally succumbing to drowsy fatigue that pervaded the nation’s mind (Bentley, 2). People who felt the need to test death in this way opted to avoid wearing a mask and spend time with huge gatherings of people. Like those in the book who visit restaurants even though they should be staying away from one another, these individuals have an irrational belief that if they get the sickness, they would be less afraid of it.

In conclusion, the similarities between the Oran plague and the coronavirus pandemic demonstrate the commonality of the human reaction to widespread sickness. Covid-19 is an example of how individuals can be self-centered, as seen in the novel’s depiction of an epidemic in which each individual believed their plight was unique. As with Covid-19, countries were slow to act because they were convinced that the epidemic was confined to their borders and could not be contained. It is easy to see how people may be self-centered when they refuse to obey the rules set out by medical organizations. To combat this epidemic, it is necessary to be unselfish and adhere to the procedures set in place by the respective authorities.

Works Cited

Basu, Debasish. “The Plague by Albert Camus, the COVID-19 Pandemic, and the Role of Social Psychiatry – Lessons Shared, Lessons Learned.” World Social Psychiatry, vol. 2, no. 2, 2020, p. 51, 10.4103/wsp.wsp_67_20. Accessed 16 Apr. 2021.

Bentley, Wessel. “Reflections on the Characters of Dr Rieux and Fr Paneloux in Camus’ the Plague in a Consideration of Human Suffering during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies, vol. 76, no. 4, 20 Oct. 2020, p. 7,, 10.4102/hts.v76i4.6087. Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

Conti, Andrea Alberto. “Historical and methodological highlights of quarantine measures: from ancient plague epidemics to current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.” Acta Bio Medica: Atenei Parmensis 91.2 (2020): 226.

Franco-Paredes, Carlos. “Albert Camus’ ‘the COVID-19 Plague’ Revisited.” Clinical Infectious Diseases, 17 Apr. 2020, 10.1093/cid/ciaa454. Accessed 19 May 2020.


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