Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
The protagonists in the story are all of the people who fight against the plague in Oran as they face their "collective destiny." As the narrator of the story, Dr. Rieux is the central figure of the novel and the main doctor to struggle against the disease. He serves as a reliable chronicler and mouthpiece for the citizens of Oran as they struggle against the plague.
The antagonist is the plague, which attacks Oran ruthlessly and strikes indiscriminately. In the beginning, the authorities do not heed its approach and encourage its spread by delaying precautionary measures. Misguided persons, like Father Paneloux, accept the plague as Godís punishment to erring humanity. Opportunists, like Cottard, use the plague to their own financial benefit.
The real confrontation between the protagonists and antagonist begins in Part II when the authorities finally accept the seriousness of the plague and shut the gates of Oran. Part III show the antagonist at work, as the plague becomes a great leveler amongst the citizens. Part IV centers on the protagonistsí fight against the plague, as Rambert refuses to give up his struggle and as the Castel inoculation against the plague is administered. The climax occurs when the gates of Oran are reopened, announcing to the world that the battle against the plague has been won.
The novel ends as a tragic comedy. Although the protagonists finally overcome the plague, many lives, including Tarrou, have been lost to the antagonist. There is also the certainty that the plague will appear again, whether in Oran or some other town. Dr. Rieux, acknowledging that man can never conquer death, has narrated the story of the plague in order to teach others to recognize and fight the disease.