While reading the book, and throughout the class discussions, in which we touched upon Arthur Mervyn’s strong ‘moral’ guidelines (this is not to imply that he always acts ‘morally’) that influence his decisions, I kept asking myself: what kind of factors or events made Arthur the man we met in the first pages of the book? Though the first part of the narration (Volume I) doesn’t provide much information about Arthur’s (religious) background, we know that from early childhood he was acquainted with the values promoted by the Quakers or the Religious Society of Friends. As additional information, we are aware of the fact that the author of the book, Charles Brockden Brown, also grew up in a Quaker household and was familiar with the customs and philosophies of this religious movement.
Therefore, I believe that in order to fully comprehend the underlying themes of the memoir and the connection between religion and society’s response to diseases (in our case the yellow fever), it is important to gain insight into the Quaker ‘way of life’ and their views on egalitarianism and social hierarchy.
Although our commentators for this week have given us some details in connection with this movement, I think that some extra information wouldn’t hurt our so very ‘absorbtive’ minds. You can find a short overview on the views of Quakers on this link, if you are interested!