Character Analysis Jean Tarrou


A wanderer who comes innocuously to Oran, he stays to help Rieux battle the plague and becomes its last victim. Deeply convinced that his lawyer-father was wrong to demand the death sentence for a criminal, and later disillusioned when his revolutionary party guns down former heads of state, Tarrou believes man is too frequently a party to murder. He rejects rationalizations that include frequent execution of men in the name of justice. To Tarrou, murder is the supreme evil in the world. He refuses to be a party to it and thus is rather aloof. In Oran, he keeps notebooks about ironic curiosities which he observes.

So serious about life, he is not middle-aged, but a stocky young fellow with a deeply furrowed face. Like Camus, he is a chain smoker and greatly enjoys swimming in the sea, also a pleasure of Rieux's. He and Rieux do not essentially change during the siege. Grand, Rambert, and Paneloux are all different men afterward. Tarrou, however, dies with a strangely smiling courage, still a strongly ironic man. He sought inner peace by becoming his own moral sentry so as not to bring harm to others. During the chronicle his goal was to become, although he was an atheist, a saint. He sought an innocence impossible to achieve, quite a different kind of impossible absurdity than Rieux sought. Rieux's struggle, which he realizes will be finally futile, is not impossible. He lives ever-sympathetic with men, always aware of his human duty to heal. Tarrou's search is highly personal, highly spiritual.

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