The first time I read The Plague, I guess it was around my middle school years, my heroes were Rieux and Tarrou, and so it was that for quite some time. And both for the same reason: that serene clarity in oppose to the plague, to know what is what to do combined with the clear awareness that the victory is not only not guaranteed, but it is-ultimately – impossible. But, as Tarrou says -and it is one of the most beautiful phrases in a book that is almost impossible for their beauty:
That’s why I’ve decided to reject everything that, near or far, for good or bad reasons, right to die or justify that it is right to die
The morality of the book is complete in that election. Not for nothing Rieux, who tells the story, he is the doctor, and the idea of the medicine (in the fight against the plague, against death, in favor of the victims) is crucial in the text. And not for nothing the following text at the end of the book
But I knew that, however, this chronicle may not be the story of the final victory. There can be more than the testimony of what was necessary to do, and that certainly should continue to do against the terror and his gun indefatigable, in spite of their tears personal, all the men, not being able to be saints, refuse to admit the pests and strive, however, to be doctors
Are traits commendable, and achieve to have such clarity, and such will not cease to be something to look for. And yet, as I reread a few days ago of the novel I found that the true hero of the story is another -one that, in my first readings, it had gone rather high (and that, ashamed of my taste, had been treated more as part of the comedic element of the story, to lighten the tone rather tragic narration): Grand, the municipal officer. And had overlooked that, in fact, Rieux -the narrator – is the one who declares him the hero of the story.
Grand appears at the beginning in the story simply as an official poor, who ‘always seemed to be rummaging through the words but to speak the language more simple’. Subsequently, and this is repeated on several occasions, as someone obsessed in the novel that he writes endlessly, and his obsession about the exact words for the description of the ride in the Bois de Boulogne, his obsession with creating the editors when you read his novel ‘take off the hat” (chapeau bas in the original French), his inability to ask for a promotion in the municipality for not finding the right words. All this leaves him as a character is slightly ridiculous. A character also has a personal history very minor. The story of his love for Jeanne, their subsequent separation when she leaves, and that Grand includes and apology so completely (people who ‘work so much that you forget to love yourself’) leaves him in addition as a character is something sad and mediocre. When Rieux wants to think, at the beginning, that the plague will not come to your town, think about this ‘official modest, cultivated hobbies honourable’.
If it is true that men are involved in proposed examples and models that they call heroes, and if it is absolutely necessary that there is a hero in this story, the chronicler intends precisely to this hero insignificant and fuzzy that there was more than a little bit of goodness in the heart and an ideal seemingly ridiculous. This will give you the truth what belongs to him, to the sum of two and two total four, and to heroism the secondary place that you must occupy immediately after and never before the generous requirement of happiness. This will also give this chronicle its true character, which should be that of a narrative made with good feelings, that is to say, with feelings that are neither demonstrably bad nor exalt the way to awkward of a show
During the plague, Grand what that does is simply take statistics, and apologizes for his age to do other things. But it is not the work in particular which leads to Rieux to its conclusion. It is the attitude: in the Face of the plague Grand doesn’t oppose more than their permanent and unwavering good will, and in a way that does not call attention to itself, that just does it for obvious (‘there is plague, there is to defend, it is clear’). And it is the kindness that characterizes Grand, and what Rieux also emphasizes to introduce the character: In his willingness to declare, without any major problem or shame, that he wants his family, in all their references to Jeanne, at your disposal (and happy) to write a letter simply ‘so that you can be happy with no regrets’, and so on.
In Life and Fate, one of the great novels of the TWENTIETH century, in the middle of the various situations that happen to the characters in the middle of the battle of Stalingrad, there is a series of chapters in a German concentration camp. The point of view of those chapters is Mostovskói, staunch communist; and the contrast between him and Ikkónikov, a kind of holy man (who does not cease to be a character common in novels Russian) one of the axes of these chapters. In one of the phrases most famous novel, and one that defines the latter declares that ‘I don’t believe in good, believe in goodness’ (part 1, 4)
Later, Ikkónikov gives you a manuscript with his thoughts on the good and goodness:
So, in addition to such large and threatening, there is also the goodness of everyday men (…)
It is the goodness of a particular individual to another is a goodness without witnesses, without ideology. We could call it goodness without sense, The goodness of men outside the religious and social. (2nd part, 16)
The reaction of Mostovskói is negative. The idea that you can fight evil (i.and nazism) with that goodness appears to him like, ‘what garbage!’ and there will be more to recognize that this is true. And, by the way, the recognition that this goodness is impotent is something that appears in the manuscript of Ikkónikov, that if it transforms into a force ‘languishes, fades, is lost, go away’. The goodness can not be transformed into the well, will be good with the other in both organized (transforms into a search reflexive for the good) is transformed into something that ends up justifying death and murder (to retrieve the initial reflection of Tarrou).
In both cases, and it is relevant that both novels have as a backdrop the 2nd World War, when the problem of evil is again crucial, and when to speak ‘problem of evil’ for once it was not bombastic but accurate, in any case, the taking of sides is common: in The end, it is goodness, pure and simple kindness, the only thing that can be salvaged.
And in both cases, also, it is a decision of party by kindness, by the goodness of the common. By the kindness of the old ladies (that Mostovskói, the representative of the well, it deserves as much contempt). Or how he says Rieux at the end to explain his decision to write such a chronicle: ‘and to simply say something that can be learned in the midst of the plagues: that there are in men more things worthy of admiration than contempt’.
The kindness is not something that requires special virtues, and it is for this reason that the pursuit of holiness on the part of Tarrou does not cease to be wrong. Because goodness does not cease to be something deeply everyday. In some sense, the mediocrity of goodness, the banality of goodness, no longer a hope.
And perhaps aspire to be an ‘official modest, cultivated hobbies honorable’, or it be Grand, to be one of the highest aspirations possible.