‘Journal of the plague year’ contains very little, if no description on the medical treatment and cure of the dreadful plague that raged the city, which is understandable given the underdeveloped health system of London in the year 1655 compared with modern days’. However, during our time, the discourse of plague and its treatment has changed into something very much resembling war-fare, with US President Donald Trump talking about how he ‘fights’ the COVID-19 and how the virus cannot ‘defeat’ him.
This article of The Alantic perfectly illustrates this point.
“In the Western world, bouts of illness are regularly described as “battles.” Viruses and other pathogens are “enemies” to be “beaten.” Patients are encouraged to “be strong” and praised for being “fighters.”
This ‘battle’ against the virus, like any ‘battle’ against illiteracy, hunger, poverty, etc. saw a foregone victory belonging to the affluent in our society. Defoe has shown us that since the year 1655, only the rich can afford to flee the city and seek refuge in the country in the times of plague.
And remember what we said in our Severance discussion, about the plague serving to eradicate all social labels, only leaving one with the state of either ‘strong/not sick’ or ‘infected’, no matter what one’s religion, class, and political leaning is? Dafoe affirmed that another matter can have the same effect – death, as he described a burial ritual in ‘Journal of the plague year’:
“[…] seeing they were all dead, and were to be huddled together into the common grave of mankind, as we may call it, for here was no difference made, but poor and rich went together; there was no other way of burials”