Just an ordinary day...

elly's picture

In my section on Thursday we discussed whether we felt the characters in The Plague were more cartoon-ish than those in Generosity, or the reverse. Most of the class listed the characters in Generosity higher on this scale. I found myself doing the same thing, but now I wonder whether I really did get more of a glimpse into the emotions and reality of the characters in The Plague than in Generosity. I have come to the conclusion that I felt the reality of Camus' characters more-so because of his creation of the ordinary. The language he uses is such that even the most ghastly things can be happening in this town, and yet the characters continue on about their business in this strange, almost cold way. But rather than having this coldness turn me away from the characters, it strengthened my connection to them because it seemed like just an ordinary day in an ordinary town, even when all of this plague business was going on in the background. It was definitely unnerving, but at the same time allowed me to put myself into the story because the situation of the characters and the town was not made so specific, but rather left open in order to serve as a representation for many other towns, places or people. This openness and lack of specifics did not bother me like it did some of my classmates, and I found myself really appreciating his ability to create such an interesting allegory for so many different situations. As was discussed in my section, most of our copies did not have the epigraph that the french version has, which I think speaks strongly to the goals of Camus in this book and should not be disregarded. ""It is as reasonable to represent one kind of imprisonment by another, as it is to represent anything that really exists by that which exists not." –Daniel Defoe. This town cannot be said to exist specifically, because there is no record of a plague in a similar place at this time, and yet this epigraph points out that there is nothing wrong with that fact, but rather the imprisonment felt by the characters in this book can be felt by anyone who has experienced this sense of imprisonment, and in one case could be representative of the Nazi presence in France which I believe was pointed out in class.

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Cremisi's picture

Cartoonish Characters

 I have forgotten who, but someone in our class once said something along the lines, " I don't feel as though the characters in generosity are flat per se, but just average people." I think I would like to elaborate on this idea a little bit. When I see people, anyone at all--in the dining hall, the library, sitting across from me in class, I suppose they are all flat and undynamic. I don't have an omniscient author speaking in my head. I know nothing about their inner thoughts or workings, nothing about their pasts, their aspirations, and heartaches. I just take people for face value. There is such a massive amount of information flooding us each second, that we quickly make "flat" assumptions about people. Even people I know, quite a few I could simply list off one word that epitomizes the schema I have created in my mind for them. The thing about real life is that all the characters in it are flat--I assign a trait or personality to that person to help me identify them. Then, when I think of them again, I think of that simple trait. 

The absolutely wonderful thing about the novel...or any writing, at that, is it allows us to break free of that--it allows us to delve deep into individuals' minds, to feel their thoughts and taste their sense that would otherwise be unknown to us. I forgot who said it or how is goes, but someone once said something like, the great thing about books is that for a second, it tricks us into believing that we are not alone. Novels make us feel warm, I think, because we never imagined that we could connect with someone else so intimately--that someone else could possibly share the same feelings toward something. 

Camus has a great writing style, but I feel as though many peoples' frustrations with it lie in the fact that it I told as though someone as common as the person sitting next to you is telling it. They don't know the inner workings of every human being--they, like you, have to take other people at face value. In a way, it's like reading about everyday life. We arent granted that intoxicating treat of being able to absorb another human being's entire emotional, complex, inner working. With Camus, we are left simply feeling, "well I could have told you that" This narrator, sadly, doesnt have access int the depths of the human soul--and that is what is perhaps disappointing to some people. It's not that the character are flat..it's simply that we are made to see them like we would see any other person in our real lives. And I think, because we are reading a novel, we feel a little shafted. 

mgz24's picture

 After class Thursday I was

 After class Thursday I was thinking about the same cartoon-ness idea, but I had taken it in another direction.  We said in class that the majority of us had thought of our friends as the least cartoon-like because we knew them the best and felt close to them.  I was thinking that maybe it isn't all how the author writes the characters, but that it is also dependent on how we feel for the book.  I said that the characters in Generosity are more cartoon-like for me than the characters in The Plague are.  I think that this has a lot more to do with the fact that I've been enjoying reading The Plague, and have allowed myself to get close to the characters.  I feel like even if an author has written cold and distant characters, if the reader really wants to they can find a way to become close to the character (which can be the same as getting close to a friend who is often cold and distant).  

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