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A Journal of the Plague Year
Transcript of A Journal of the Plague Year
DeFoe's set his fictional characters in the mid 1300's, during the beginnings of the bubonic plague. Socioeconomic standards are nonexistant in the eyes of a nondiscriminating disease.
People aren't viewed in the individualistic sense in disease, but rather, as another death count. The speaker talks about his looking at the giant pit made for dead bodies before the Black Plague had hit his parish of Aldgate (one of the towns the Plague had hit the hardest) and how it has in dimension to accomodate the masses of dead people accumulating since the outbreak had started in August.
The speaker outlines tensions caused by the burial of the dead people.
Citizens had been panicked by churchwardens digging graves in advance, signifying that the whole parish would be buried, which highlighted the hysteria of the time. The speaker makes special note that the churchwardens knew when the plague was going to hit, without telling the rest of the parish.
He notes the unceremonious way all the dead are buried: they are not given proper burial service, family and friends are strictly prohibited from entering the graveyard for viewings (due to the spread of infection and the mad throwing themselves into the pits), and the dead are merely dumped as a burial.
Through connections, he was able to enter the graveyard. He found a man who was left alone and shocked when his dead wife and children were merely dumped into the pit, dealing with conflicting feelings of wanting for them to have a proper burial while understanding that performing a funeral service for each body would be impractical.
The speaker ends the selection with a sad reflection: that poor and rich share a common grave - status not playing a role in widespread disaster. Defoe exemplifies Enlightment principles in this selection by having his speaker question if any Biblical figure could justify the callousness in the churchwarden's withholding of Plague information to the public.
The speaker's reasoning for wanting to view the pit despite the hazard of infection exemplies a strong Neoclassical value on reasoning.
Defoe portrays religion to be very imperfect and not out to serve the betterment of the people through the actions of the churchwardens.