The Black Death Essay

1247 words - 5 pages

The Black DeathImagine watching your family die. Now imagine watching your whole town die, followed by your city, and then your country. The Black Death must have been such a horrific event to witness. Those living in that era must have felt so hopeless, so helpless, and so depressed. It must have been difficult to see even the smallest ray of sunshine in an entire world that seemed to be dying.During the Black Death, while thirty to forty percent of the world's populations were busy dying, the ten young adults of Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron were using the art of storytelling to help lighten their moods. In a time of such immense sorrow they were able to find that one thing that brought them a sense of normalcy and joy. It was a therapy of sorts; it was a way of healing emotionally. The distractions the stories brought from their emotional distress were seen as way to possibly patch their world back together again (Enotes Editors). Sometimes I have a difficult time seeing stories as anything more than entertainment, but clearly for the survivors of the plague, storytelling was much more than that.Daniel Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year set out to give the reader a sense of what life was like in London in 1665. The purpose of the journal that is partly fiction, and partly non-fiction, isn't so much to entertain as it is to inform. Defoe wanted the world to have a sense of the despair London felt during the plague, and to give an explanation of how it was dealt with (Spark Notes Editors).Speculation was a way that both books dealt with the unknown that came along with the plague. Some believed it was the wrath of God; others thought maybe it was a corrupt cloud or mist. As a way of repenting for their sins that they thought God was punishing them for, people would flog and beat themselves, or lead mass processions through the streets so that God would see them, but it was to no avail. It also turned out to be the first persecution of the Jews, when a rumor was started that they were responsible for the Black Death. It was an accusation that cost them their lives, punished by being burned at the stake. It took ten years for the pope to step in and end that barbaric practice (Stennett). People went so far as to assume demonic dogs from Scandinavia were the reason for the pestilence. According to Defoe, the University of Paris conducted a study that attributed it to earthquakes and astrological forces. The lack of microscopes made it impossible to discover that rats were the true culprits until many years later (Snell). Not only was the origin of the Black Death a mystery, so was how to tell if someone was suffering from it sometimes. Occasionally folks would just drop dead in the middle of the street without knowing they were inflicted until the hour of their death (Defoe 19).Suffering is a main theme in both The Decameron and A Journal of the Plague Year. Defoe expressed this feeling wonderfully in his book explaining:The misery of those...

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