Despite Dr. Rieux's claims of objectivity, his description of pre-plague Oran is heavily laced with irony. Rieux states that the spirit of pre-plague Oran is one of empty commercialism. The lives of Oran's people, he affirms, are entirely circumscribed by their habits: every day, they follow the same routines of work, movies, cafes, and shallow love affairs. Rieux implies that the people of Oran are enslaved to their habits when he observes that Tarrou is
Tarrou posits that one does not waste time only when one is always aware of time. He muses that one can make oneself aware of time by indulging in intricate, frustrating, complicated routines. However, his ideas are too abstract to really address the larger issue of how not to waste one's life. Moreover, his suggestions are far too similar to habitual routines to really make productive use of time. He defines the productive use of time in terms of filling it with frustrating, tedious activities instead of the pleasurable ones that Oran's people use to fill their time. Simply being aware of time via constant frustration does not necessarily mean that one is not wasting time.
Rambert accuses Rieux of being abstract because Rieux refuses to aid him in his attempts to escape Oran by giving him a certificate that declares him plague- free. Rambert comes very close to accusing Rieux of indifference. Rieux disagrees: he does admit that he hardens his heart against the suffering of individual people, but denies that he is