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Though many diseases bring suffering and death, plagues strike the imagination with special awe because they threaten death to whole cities and nations. So it is not surprising that novelists have treated of plagues now and then. A visitation of bubonic plague is the central event in Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year and Albert Camus’s The Plague. In Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed, it is the culminating event, through which all the plot lines are finally resolved. Though much separates these writers, including language, culture, century. and philosophical outlook. each presents the plague accurately according to the scientific knowledge of his time, and despite changes in this knowledge the portraits which emerge of the plague itself are remarkably similar. On the other hand, each author also seeks the human meaning within the disaster. and the human meanings which emerge are rather different, for against the background of a plague which is so similar in each. the three authors create a foreground containing strikingly different images.


Copyright © 1990 Bulletin of West Virginia Association of College English Teachers. Printed with permission. All rights reserved.