Some have already mentioned who Ethel Rosenberg was: a traitor executed along with her husband for sharing American nuclear secrets with the Russians at the beginning of the Cold War. Here’s a short video on the subject, and a web page with more information.
Roy says the following line before passing away on page 247: “I just wanted to see if I could finally, finally make Ethel Rosenberg sing!” Making Ethel sing could be an euphemism for making her confess for treason, a crime that according to other sources she may have not committed but was only accused for being the traitor’s wife. Roy had become so consumed by the idea of persecution and punishment that his sense of justice was completely destroyed.
Can Roy’s attitude be compared to the way homosexuals were associated with this modern plague during the late 1980s? Should we consider this as evidence of how society splits up during times of disease, as we also observed in Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year?