Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Plague (continued)

We have reached the first sermon of Father Paneloux in our close reading of The Plague. Father Paneloux, who is introduced ironically as a messenger of "truth", "a stalwart champion of Christian doctrine at its most precise and purist." (p 92)
He is presented by the narrator as almost a caricature of Catholic (Jesuit) Priest with his puritanical sermon that blames the congregation for the plague due to their indifference and turning away from god (among other things). The sermon is strikingly traditional and quite unbelievable and we will have further comments about it following Father Paneloux's second sermon, later in the novel. The narrator's description of the effect of the sermon at the beginning of the following chapter is telling in its Kafkaesque description:

"To some the sermon simply brought home the fact that they had been sentenced, for an unknown crime, to an indeterminate period of punishment." (p 100)

This is the absurdity of the world in which the Father issues his didactic message and which the residents of Oran are experiencing a recrudescence of plague with the real effect of "widespread panic". This reality is not ameliorated by the Priest or the doctors in the prison-like environment in which they are confined.

The Plague by Albert Camus. Trans. by Stuart Gilbert. Vintage Books, New York. 1991 (1948)

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