Close Reading of the Plague

A Dog’s Life: The Importance of the Dog’s Death in The Plague
Animals have held an important role in literature for thousands of years. Before written language people drew animals on cave walls to help tell stories. These animals carried both a religious and allegorical meaning. Aesop’s Fables, composed around sixth century B.C., use various animals as examples for humans to follow or avoid. For example, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Fox and the Lion, and The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing all teach important morals that humans should follow but does so without using humans as characters. This theme of the importance of animals is also present in more modern literature such as Albert Camus’ The Plague. In the closing chapter of the book, Cottard locks himself in his room and starts shooting out his window spontaneously. Rieux then spots a dog on the opposite side of the street, the first one he has seen since the plague began. After the dog wanders around the street for a little, Cottard shoots at it from his third floor window and kills it. Up to this point, death had only consumed people but this time we encounter the death of an animal other than the rats in the beginning of the book. Camus' rejection of the image of dogs in the Bible as well as the biblical significance of the scene and the dog's death help to highlight the existentialism views of Camus.
Camus uses a dog in this scene because the dog carries a biblical significance and a specific image that helps explain his existentialistic views. The portrayal of dogs in The Plague parallel that of the Bible. In The Plague, the dog is described as a “draggled-looking spaniel…that ambled along the wall, stopped in the doorway, sat down, and began to dig at its fleas” (304). Similar to the description in The Plague, the Bible considers dogs cowardly, filthy, undomesticated creatures. Often pictured as scavengers, dogs haunt streets and dumps. Jewish people referred to the Gentiles as dogs because of their...