Project of Albert Camus’ The Plague

Above is our masterpiece!

(We received the project assignment at the right beginning of the new semester. This project instructed students to interpret one of the four levels operated in Albert Camus’ The Plague: Literal, political, metaphysical, and existential. We chose metaphysical. Through a week’s work for it, we accomplished an artwork. Here’s our project reflection, and two corresponding quotes that help us create our painting.)

Part 1: Reflection of The Plague Abstraction Project

Literary ideas could be simply expressed using abstract objects, such as the different levels of thoughts made in The Plague. This book operates on four lens: literal, political, metaphysical, and existential, each of which could be interpreted using different viewpoints. We selected metaphysical level to create our abstract work through the project.

This process took us about half a day to accomplish our goals. First, we brainstormed about the structure of this artwork and its corresponding properties, like colors, shapes, and some highlighted objects. Then we bought the required materials: a piece of A3 paper, pigments, water, and a paint brush. While three other students of our group have done the purchasing or explaining the ideas behind our creation, Blake worked for painting and finished it before school.

The artwork we created so far was revolved around the metaphysical lens that generally emphasizes the presence of evilness and people’s reactions toward it. Therefore, through this understanding, we attempted to create a scene that there was a red bloody background – symbolizing the deaths in The Plague – and a bar that represents Oran’s isolation. Within the bar exists a black solid circle, which is the plague itself, accompanied by various things that stretch out of the circle symbolizing different people’s reactions.

In my opinion, our portrait of this lens was successful in capturing the metaphysical lens through the coloring, shaping, and highlighting of this artwork. We could envision many different reactions in respect to the plague simply through the objects themselves. Besides the red background and the bars, the gloomy color tone also makes the audience aware that the plague puts the entire town into distress. However, since most of our objects that are attached to the black circle were based upon the main characters, our work could also be misinterpreted as portraying literal lens of the novel.

Nevertheless, I gained deeper understanding about different ways to view the novel The Plague. Instead of focusing on the written texts, I tried to convert the main ideas expressed in this novel into a simpler, abstract painting. Through the project, therefore, I knew to make what seemed complex into a vivid imagery. Moreover, I got to appreciate other groups’ works, and understood that there were other lens successfully portrayed in their paintings. Their works gave me insights about expressing different levels of meanings through abstraction.

Part 2: Analysis of quotes from The Plague in metaphysical level

Quote: Generally speaking, they did not lack courage, bandied more jokes than lamentations, and made a show of accepting cheerfully unpleasantnesses that obviously could be only passing. In short, they kept up appearances. (Part 2, Chapter 10)

Analysis: While the plague is expected to put the whole town into silence and fear, there are certain citizens who, surprisingly, would express their feelings in an extreme way. Instead of focusing on the plague, they seem to be indifferent toward its existence, pretend to continue normal lifestyles, and even accept the truth. This absurdity of actions makes us aware that different people conceptualize the world in different aspects, and thus behave distinctively to the society they perceive. They surely are the observers of this entire catastrophe, but they have different perspectives about it.

Quote: Rambert said he’d thought it over very carefully, and his views hadn’t changed, but if he went away, he would feel ashamed of himself, and that would embarrass his relations with the woman he loved. Showing more animation, Rieux told him that was sheer nonsense; there was nothing shameful in preferring happiness. (Part 4, Chapter 20)

Analysis: Confronting this plague, people may differ in their reactions throughout the passage of time. Rambert, though occasionally attempts to escape the town to seek his wife, changes his decisions through the impact of Rieux. The dynamism of his changing actions imply the transformation of his original viewpoints about the plague and the isolation of Oran. The interaction between the two characters also illustrates that in the face of evilness, they both decide to fight against the plague, though Rieux regards it as a necessary duty, while Rambert does this job through a moral conflict between rightness and wrongness.


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