The Plague

The Plague Irony

Verbal Irony: Cottard

There is certainly very little, or perhaps nothing at all, funny about suicide, yet Cottard's note on his door ("Come in, I've hanged myself" [18]) is actually rather amusing. There is irony in the tone and the words, for casually and politely inviting someone into a space where someone else is now dead is not normal. This note gives us a bit of insight into the clever insouciance of Cottard's character.

Situational Irony: The Newspaper

There is a frustrating irony in that the newspaper formed to give the people with "scrupulous veracity" and the most "authoritative opinions" all the relevant news about the plague ends up becoming a chronicle devoted to "advertisements of new, 'infallible' antidotes against plague" (119).

Verbal Irony: Plague and its Victims

The narrator mentions with a bit of verbal irony that in the prison where guards and inmates die at roughly the same rate, "perhaps, for the first time, impartial justice reigned in the prison" (170). The narrator is not trying to be amusing; rather, he wants to give voice to the sad fact that the plague does not care who is "innocent" or "guilty" in the eyes of the law or in man's opinion, but instead comes for anyone and everyone.

Verbal Irony: Opera Singers

When Tarrou and Cottard visit the opera, the narrator notes of the musicians and singers, "In the soft hum of well-mannered conversation they regained the confidence denied them when they walked the dark streets of the town; evening dress was a sure charm against plague" (200). This is understandable, as people find comfort in normal rituals, yet the narrator knows that there is actually nothing more than psychological protection here—the plague cares not for nice clothing and civilized arenas of culture.