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H. F.'s Meditations: A Journal of the Plague Year

Everett Zimmerman
PMLA
Vol. 87, No. 3 (May, 1972), pp. 417-423
DOI: 10.2307/460900
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/460900
Page Count: 7
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H. F.'s Meditations: A Journal of the Plague Year
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Abstract

Much of the detail in Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year is derived from historical sources, but the focus of the book is on the internal conflicts of the narrator. This focus is achieved by several means: (1) H.F. structures his account around his repentance of the decision to remain in London; (2) he frequently comments on his not entirely successful attempts to comprehend the nature of morality in a time of plague; (3) he uses many biblical references to suggest spiritual interpretations of physical reality. Instead of directing the spiritual meanings of his narrative primarily outward toward the reader for a didactic purpose, Defoe used these meanings to create a psychologically complex and interesting central character. The morally disorienting forces of the plague expose the tensions within the narrator, and we see his conflicts and mounting anxiety. This focus on the narrator makes A Journal of the Plague Year something more like a novel than like either history or the seventeenth-century pious writings that lie in its background.

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