Oran: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Oran, peaceful and unprepared, is overcome by Bubonic plague.
Separation, isolation and indigence become the common lot of distinct characters
whose actions, thoughts and feelings constitute a dynamic story of man
imprisoned. Prior to the closing, people went about their business as usual,
almost oblivious to the plague. When Oran was shut off from the world, its
residents had to adapt to the new conditions of life. Men reacted to the
terrible visitation in different ways, according to their beliefs and characters.
I believe their reactions were based on their personality and their experience
during the plague. Each react to the circumstances of the plague in a unique way,
and emerge from the plague with his own new perspective of life and its values.
The residents of Oran are as travelers on a long, straight, boring road.
They came upon the plague as a traveler comes upon an unexpected fork in the
road. Some veer left, some right. A few are unaffected by (or unaware of) the
fork in the road, and proceed straight ahead with their lives with very little
change in habit. These persons lift themselves above the desperation and focus
their actions on the grueling responsibility of making life better for
themselves and others.
The greatest affliction the citizens of Oran suffer when visited by the
plague is not fear but the sense of separation, the loneliness of exile, the
pain of imprisonment. The plague has an affect on most everyone in Oran. Some
become better people, some worse. Grand, Rambert and Paneloux are all markedly
changed afterward. Dr. Rieux and Tarrou are virtually unaffected. Cottard
undergoes but a temporary metamorphosis.
Monsieur Cottard is a criminal hunted by the law. A silent, secretive,
plump little man, he comes to Oran to hide from prosecution. M. Cottard is
basically a man lacking in morals, drive and direction, a, " a traveling
salesman in wines and spirits."
He tries unsuccessfully to hang himself when life seems hopeless. Prior
to the plague, he had an aloofness and mistrusted everyone. When the plague
descends upon the city, he develops an altruistic side. He sets out to help
people. He becomes more amiable as the plague progressed through the population.
He tries to take control of his life but becomes discouraged by circumstances.
Rather than dealing with the circumstances effectively, he allows them to
dominate his life. When the plague passes, and his philanthropic efforts are
outmoded, he looses his humanitarian side and starts randomly shooting. The
plague gave him only a temporary suspension from prosecution and the plague had
only a temporary affect on his behavior. Cottard\'s true self is basically
unchanged by the plague. He is the same moral-less, direction-less, undriven man
he was following the plague as he was going into the plague.
Joseph Grand is a petty official. He is not motivated by ambition, and
therefore never achieved success in life. Rieux said of Grand, "He had all the
attributes of insignificance." In spite of his lack of success, he persists in
his search for perfection, the perfection of an insignificant aspect of life --
the first sentence of his book. His motive for writing the book seems to be his
difficulty in expressing himself, he "couldn\'t find his words." He leads a
dreary, quiet life until the plague seals off the city from the outside world.
He is odd and eccentric, but is among the first to volunteer to help with the
plague. During the plague, he does his best to assist his fellow man, doing
this out of a heartfelt responsibility. During this period of trial, he gains
an insight into his writing project and into the reasons why his marriage failed.
Grand succumbs to the plague, but recovers. Rieux sees Grand as having a weak
constitution, and believes he will therefore probably survive the plague. I
would rather believe he survives because he heard his calling in helping the
plague victims for the sake of humanity. Grand is an aging man with little to
show for his many years. He is still searching vainly for a purpose in life. The
plague gives him this purpose. He gains an understanding of his life from his
volunteer work. He emerges from the plague a better man, a man with a better
understanding of his life\'s purpose.
Father Paneloux, a learned and militant Jesuit priest, interprets the
sudden plague as just punishment for the sins of the city. He lectures his
congregation on the ills of sin and exhorts his belief that they deserve this
affliction. His sermon