Albert Camus, writer of both novels;The Stranger and The Plague, made it very clear that all humans are going to dieeventually and that there is not anything they can do to avoid it. In The Stranger lied Meursault an observerwho handled his mother’s death in a rather careless manner as if nothing had occurred.While, The Plague featured a Doctorby the name of Rieux who ignored addressing the situation of his decaying spousein order to treat his patients. The character Meursault went onto illustratethe theme of mortality by taking the life of another person, not for selfdefense, yet for a frivolous reason surrounding the weather conditions. The Plague consisted of a character bythe name of Dr.
Rieux who contrasts Meursault as he was a man dedicated to hiscraft, trying to do his best to postpone his patient’s deaths. Furthermore, The Stranger detailed Salamano and moreimportantly his decaying dog which bridged a connection between human livesbeing equal to animals. This parallelswith Dr. Rieux in The Plague, as he madeconnections between the deaths of humans and pets. Moreover, Meursault had aunique outlook on mortality as he admitted to be fearless of dying. To thecontrary in The Plague, Dr.
Rieux didnot accept the idea of dying as he tried his best to save his own colleagueswho feared death. In The Stranger andThe Plague, the theme of mortality wasclearly developed through reactions to death, treatment of lives as well asconnections to animals and acceptances of death which are all definingcomponents to mortality. TheStranger exhibits the theme of mortality as Meursault was unfazed to thedeath that occurred around him. His lack of fear towards death was clear as hedid not mourn the death of his own mother but took it as an inconvenience. Meursault’s carelessness towards others isevident in the quote “Maman died today.
Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I gota telegram from the home: ‘Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.’That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday” (Camus 1).
This declared howout of the loop he was, as he did not recall the day his own mother died, emphasizingthe little he care had for the significant people around him who perished.Furthermore, Meursault’s reaction to his mother’s death was seen as aninconvenience to him when stating, “That way I can be there for the vigil andcome back tomorrow night. I asked my boss for two days off and there was no wayhe was going to refuse me with an excuse like that. But he wasn’t too happyabout it. I even said, ‘It’s not my fault” (Camus 3). This showed how detachedhe was from the idea of mortality. He went onto point out how furious his boss wouldbe at news of him needing just enough time off to participate in his mother’sfuneral, which should not have been a major concern. In the novel The Plague, Dr.
Rieux dealt with mortality as his wife’s health declinedto the point of eventual death. It came to a point where he was more focused ontreating patients, instead of his decaying wife which was clear as he said”Then hurriedly he begged her to forgive him; he felt he should have lookedafter her better, he’d been most remiss.” (Camus 10). His dying wife showedthat death did not target only seniors, yet people of all walks of life such ashis very own young wife. Dr. Rieux made reference to his wife’s poor shape ashe said, “His wife was thirty, and the long illness had left its mark on herface. Yet the thought that came to Rieux’s mind as he gazed at her was ‘Howyoung she looks, almost like a little girl!'” (Camus 8)The Stranger featuredMeursault who committed the horrific act of murder, of which he claimed thelife of an Arab over no good reason but the heat.
This showed the theme ofmortality as he had no concern for the well being of people as he commuted senselessmurder. Meursault claimed “The sun glinted off Raymond’s gun as he handed it tome” (Camus 56). Which the reader can interpret as Meursault not accepting hisaction of killing an Arab as his fault, but the fault of the sun. He even wentonto say “Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bulletslodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times onthe door of unhappiness” (Camus 59). It is unclear as to why Meursault felt theneed to shoot the Arab an additional four times. It is evident that Meursaultwas in a rush to take the life from the Arab, and he would stop at nothing tocomplete this task.
ThePlague showed Dr. Rieux in his typical state trying to do everything he couldto postpone the death of his patients but it was no help. He felt the deathoccurring around him was no coincidence and surely had a connection to theexcruciating heat from the sun.
As Dr. Rieux said “Since this first onslaughtof the heat synchronized with a startling increase in the number of victims—therewere now nearly seven hundred deaths a week—a mood of profound discouragementsettled on the town” (Camus 64).”The incessant sunlight and those brighthours associated with siesta or with holiday no longer invited, as in the past,to frolics and flirtation on the beaches.
Now they rang hollow in the silenceof the closed town, they had lost the golden spell of happier summers. Plaguehad killed all colors, vetoed pleasure.” (Camus 113) Dr. Rieux reclaimed the plague brought deathand was related to the heat of the summer.
The deeper meaning behind Dr.Rieux’s words was that the heat broke down the citizens of Oran spirits offighting causing them to be defeated mentally and physically. There is a clear connection betweenSalamano and his dog as they both fell victim to mortality as they faceddwindling health. Meursault could not realize this as he stated, “After livingtogether for so long, the two of them alone in one tiny room, they’ve ended uplooking like each other.
… They look as if they belong to the same species,and yet they hate each other” (Camus 26). The thing that made Salamano look sosimilar to his dog was that they where both slowly decaying and there wasnothing they could to do stop it. Translating to Meursault who could not understandthat all creations where made equal and that they all would face death.
Salamano’s dog continued to reveal the truth of how equal all creatures are equalas they decay as the dog is comparable to Salamano’s deceased wife.”Justfor something to say, I asked him about his dog. He told me he’d gotten itafter his wife died …. He hadn’t been happy with his wife, but he’d prettymuch gotten used to her. When she died he had been very lonely … Salamanorubbed him with ointment.
But according to him, the dog’s real sickness was oldage, and there’s no cure for old age.” (Camus 44) In The Plague, Dr. Rieux made it clear that the death of animals andhumans was there to represent how they where both equal as creatures and alldie eventually. As Dr.
Rieux stated, “Asystem of patrols was instituted and often in the empty, sweltering streets,heralded by a clatter of horse hoofs on the cobbles, a detachment of mountedpolice would make its way between the parallel lines of close-shut windows. Nowand again a gunshot was heard; the special brigade recently detailed to destroycats and dogs, as possible carriers of infection, was at work. And these whipcrack sounds startling the silence increased the nervous tension alreadyexisting in the town” (Camus 112). Whichwas there to prove great relevance as the animals roaming the streets wherekilled on sight. While the people where taken in and quarantined which showed nosign of actually helping them get better. This further bridged the gap betweenhumans and animals being equal as the quarantine was useless as the humans thathad the plague would soon end up dead regardless.
The only thing thatdifferentiates humans from animals is that our deaths are marked and recordedwhile the deaths of animals where not. “Inthe period we are now concerned with, the separation of the sexes was still inforce and the authorities set great store by it. At the bottom of each pit adeep layer of quicklime steamed and seethed.
… The naked, somewhat contortedbodies were slid off into the pit almost side by side, then covered with alayer of quicklime and another of earth, the latter only a few inches deep, soas to leave space for subsequent consignments. On the following day the next ofkin were asked to sign the register of burials, which showed the distinctionthat can be made between me and, for example, dogs; men’s deaths are checkedand entered up” (Camus 159). Meursault was very ingrained in the themeof mortality as he welcomed his own death with open arms. He had a unique viewrelated to death, clear through his conversations with the chaplain.
Moreover,he clearly displayed his acceptance of death as he stated, “… the way he sawit, we were all condemned to die. But I interrupted him by saying that itwasn’t the same thing and that besides, it wouldn’t be a consolation anyway”(Camus 117). This can be interpreted as him not associating his death to thewill of God but it being a natural thing to accept. In the same conversationthe chaplain went onto express towards Meursault that he should fear death. “Then,I don’t know why, but something inside me snapped. I started yelling at the topof my lungs, and I insulted him and told him not to waste his prayers on me.
Igrabbed him by the collar of his cassock. I was pouring out on him everythingthat was in my heart …. He seemed so certain about everything, didn’t he? Andyet none of his certainties was worth one hair of a woman’s head. He wasn’teven sure he was alive, because he was living like a dead man …. But I wassure about me, about everything, surer than he could ever be, sure of my lifeand sure of the death I had waiting for me.
Yes, that was all I had. But atleast I had as much of a hold on it as it had on me” (Camus 120). Meursaultwent on and explain to the chaplain that he was living like a man who hadalready died as he could not accept death without relating it to God. Inopposition to Meursault who approached the thought of dying with acceptance wasDr. Rieux who would not accept the people around him to die without him tryinghis best to save their lives.
As for Dr. Rieux’s colleague Tarrou, the thoughtof death terrified him. Although, he was unable to avoid it as he became avictim of the plague. His fear of the plague is vivid as he said “Fromthat day on … I took a horrified interest in legal proceedings, deathsentences, executions, and I realized with dismay that my father must haveoften witnessed those brutal murders.” (Camus 129) Granted, there was goodreason for Tarrou to fear death as the officials of Oran where hiding deadbodies in the night. “Thefirst step taken was to bury the dead by night, which obviously permitted amore summary procedure. The bodies were piled into ambulances in larger andlarger numbers.
And the few belated wayfarers who, in defiance of the regulations,were abroad in the outlying districts after curfew hour, or whose duties tookthem there, often saw the long white ambulances hurtling past, making the nightbound streets reverberate with the dull clangor of their bells. The corpseswere tipped pell-mell into the pits and had hardly settled into place whenspadesful of quicklime began to sear their faces and the earth covered themindistinctively, in holes dug steadily deeper as time went on” (Camus 177). Asthe death count of Oran continued to grow exponentially, it caused fear totranspire.Mortalitywas developed through the novels ThePlague and The Stranger through theindividual having to put up with losing their mother or wife, living withmurder in turn trying to save everybody, seeing that animals along with humansare quite similar and trying to accept death. Meursault reacted nonchalant tohis mother’s death unaware of what day she had died. In comparison, Dr.
Rieuxparalleled Meursault as he neglected his wife who was dying to try and savepatients from the plague. There was also Meursault’s murder which resulted fromthe heat getting to him. This contrasts with Dr. Rieux as he would never hurt asoul, but instead go out of his way to treat it. There were also connectionsMeursault was blind to see between Salamano and his dog that revealed howhumans and animals where equal as they both die, while Dr. Rieux was able torecognize that humans and animals are equal.
In The Stranger Meursault also felt comfortable in accepting death,unlike Dr. Rieux in The Stranger whodid not want to fail any of his patients and his colleague who didn’t want toend up in a coffin. Essentially, mortality is a variable in life none of uswill be able to control and one we need to learn to be comfortable with.