Some of us in the process of reading the novel “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” couldn’t help, but wonder (and have expressed their inquiries during the class discussion as well) that what happened to Adam in the end of the story? His death is only explained in a rush with a couple of sentences “Adam had died of influenza in the camp hospital” (p.206), and Miranda merely refers to him once in her feverish dream or vision of his ghost “At one he was there beside her, invisible but urgently present, a ghost but more alive than she was.” (p.208)
Even though Adam is not the most significant character of the story, and Miranda only had a ‘whirlwind’ romance with the young soldier, I believe that by giving thought to his possible fate we can gain a valuable insight into the events of the influenza epidemic (as many refer to it the ‘Spanish Influenza’) of 1918.
Let’s just start this little ‘game’ by imagining how the telegraph that informed Adam’s family of his death could have looked like:
This telegraph is a copy of a real message sent by a squadron official regarding the death of a private in the October of 1918
And how the letter carrier, who brought the tragic news to Adam’s family, could have dressed up:
This man, who used a mask to protect hismelf against the influenza, was a letter carrier in New York in 1918
And how Adam’s funeral could have been prohibited, due to the cancellation of public events in the US:
This is a real telegram from a county administrator in Oklahoma city regarding the cancellation of public meetings in the October of 1918
And how the police, who have made sure that the ‘mob’ behaved accordingly to the laws (e.g.: avoided public events), could have looked like:
This is a picture taken of the police of Seattle (1918)
I hope that this little time travelling, and exploration of the ‘ifs’ in Adam’s fate helped you to understand more about the historical context of Pale Horse, Pale Rider and the global cosnequences of the influenza epidemic of 1918. If you think that your knowledge of the era needs to be slightly updated, feel free to visit this website that I used to find these resources.
And remember: ‘avoid’ the seasonal flu at all costs!