The struggle of rational thinking of science versus the fear of superstition and religion are brought to life in Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year. As the Great Plague ravages 1664 London, Defoe's narrator, a middle-aged bachelor, observes the plague and the citizens of London with impressive, rational sight. He stays in London as the wealthy flee, and watches as the poor turn to faith to fight the disease, whole families are locked up for quarantine, carts and pits of bodies are left open in the streets, and city watchmen and officials take advantage of the situation to pillage and loot.
In 1665, the Great Plague swept through London, claiming nearly 100,000 lives. In A Journal of the Plague Year, Defoe vividly chronicles the progress of the epidemic. We follow his fictional narrator through a city transformed-the streets and alleyways deserted, the houses of death with crosses daubed on their doors, the dead-carts on their way to the pits-and encounter the horrified citizens of the city, as fear, isolation, and hysteria take hold. The shocking immediacy of Defoes description of plague-racked London makes this one of the most convincing accounts of the Great Plague ever written.
Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) had a variety of careers including merchant, soldier, secret agent, and political pamphleteer. He wrote economic texts, history, biography, crime, and, most famously, fiction, including Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders and Roxana.
Cynthia Wall is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Virginia.
Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), though best remembered for his fiction, including the novels Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, also wrote on economics, history, biography, and crime and is considered the founder of British journalism. Cynthia Wall is a professor of English literature at the University of Virginia.
"Within the texture of Defoe's prose, London becomes a living and suffering being." (Peter Ackroyd)
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