Why I Love The Plague
The characters have the same grandiose Illusions of Life, and the same concerns, faults and strengths as real people. Therefore, I can see aspects of myself and others in the characters. This makes it easier to put myself in their place – to imagine my possible emotions, reactions, thoughts and actions in the same situation. The setting of the story makes it easy to apply the events to real life. Oran is self-absorbed, like a single living individual. The city itself is a metaphor for human, and yet it can also be seen as Every Community, or even as the Human Race in total.
The plague itself is insidiously invisible yet all too horribly obvious. The plague is ever-present and undeniable, yet is always denied. The plague is cruel, unfair and merciless, yet is always supplicated. The plague is the unexpected disaster that is always expected. Therefore, as an Ideal, the plague doesn't have to Be the plague. The plague could simply be Mortality. People die all the time. Many die for no good reason, or in tragedy of one sort or another. That is like the plague, so we can equate the plague with a knowledge that all of us are always under sentence of imminent possible death. There are no guarantees in life except death. If we interpret The Plague this way then Camus' message is that we must wake up to Imminent Death in order to Live. I think he's right about that.
But it doesn't have to be something as grand and unassailable as Life. The plague can also be war, or poverty, or slavery, or government, or dead-end jobs, or drug addiction or anything else that so dominates our lives, singly or in community, in such totalitarian distress as to make us realize how beautiful life is, how much we will miss life, how much life we have wasted and befouled, and how much we could have done with our life. The Plague is Myth writ small, therefore it is Life.