Checking in: plague and social contract

I had hoped to share a quote this morning from a book I read when I first began plotting the syllabus for this course: Barbara Fass Leavy’s To Blight with Plague. Here she contrasts Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider and Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year on the subject of social contract. I think this discussion is useful also as we turn the corner to our consideration of Camus. Leavy writes:

In theory, the [social] contract is an antithesis to chaos and a reference point for civic duty, which is itself a possible antidote to a person’s alienating fear of others in the world. In times of plague … the tensions in the social contract emerge to disclose the separateness of human beings, fear of contagion … literalizing an essential antipathy toward others, or, at best, a drive toward self-preservation that under stress alienates even well-meaning individuals. But whereas works such as Defoe’s Journal affirm the viability of the social contract, Pale Horse, Pale Rider looks at it from the opposite point of view. The collective itself becomes a macroparasite against which the individual needs protection.

How and where can we see these issues playing out in Porter’s novella? And what do you make of the macroparasite analogy?

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