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Free Study Guide-The Plague by Albert Camus-Free Online Book Notes
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The narratorís eyewitness account of the events in Oran is complemented in this section by the record found in Jean Tarrouís notebook. Tarrou, Rieuxís friend, enjoys life, living each day to its fullest and enjoying music, dance, and swimming. As a visitor in Oran, he is interested in everything he sees, including the rats. He writes his impressions in his journal with humor and understatement, which show he has an eye for the unusual and eccentric.

Tarrouís notebook entries show that he is fascinated by Oranís ugliness, both the lack of physical beauty and the dullness of its citizens. He mentions the lack of trees and birds in the town and talks about the unattractive houses. He also describes some of Oranís inhabitants, such as the old man who regularly calls his cats and then spits on them and the musician who continues to play his trombone even though he is suffering from a lung disease. Tarrou also criticizes the people for being creatures of habit, like M. Othon and his family, who regularly dine in the hotel where Tarrou is staying. He also criticizes the people for being too concerned about making money, which he believes is a waste of time. Tarrou feels a person must be fully aware of time in order not to waste it and to find peace of mind.

Tarrouís notebook also gives a further picture of Dr. Rieux and mentions the dead rats about which he does not seem to be concerned.


It is clear that Tarrou is a man who lives life to the fullest; but he is also a bit of a mystery. His appearance in Oran is sudden and inexplicable, almost like the appearance of the plague itself. He seems to have no occupation or known past. Camus says that he is "not engaged in business . . . no one knew where he hailed from or what brought him to Oran."

While he visits Oran, staying in the hotel, Tarrou becomes a keen observer of the people and events around him, which he records in a journal. Since he is an outsider, he has an objective perspective on Oran and its citizens. His observations should be trusted, for he has no involvement with the people, like Dr. Rieux, who speaks of the townsfolk as my "fellow citizens." Tarrouís descriptions serve to confirm the authenticity of the narratorís descriptions.

Tarrouís descriptions of some of Oranís inhabitants confirm the earlier description of them as creatures of habit. The musician continues to play his trombone, the old man continues to spit on his cats, and the Othons continue to take their meals in the hotel dining room. Additionally, Tarrou reports that most of the citizens are preoccupied with their work and making money, which he feels is a waste of time. Tarrouís belief that a person should be aware of each minute of the day in order not to waste time is very existential. Since the existentialist believes there is no afterlife, it is important to seize every moment and live it to the fullest. In Oran, the citizens are too preoccupied and regulated to enjoy life.

Although both Rieux and Tarrou will fight the same enemy in the course of the novel, Camus has intentionally developed them with different temperaments. Tarrou is more extroverted and good-humored than Rieux; but Rieux has the gift of helping people to open their hearts to him and share their suffering. During the book, Rambert, Grand, and Tarrou are attracted by the doctorís quiet sympathy.

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