A Journal of the Plague Year

Autonomy and the Physical Body: Defoe's "A Journal of the Plague Year" and Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" College

Independence and personal freedom are fundamental values of both entire societies and individual life stories. However, within Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year and Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, contrasting physical representations of the body reign wherein characters are stripped of their autonomy. Defoe's text offers its reader insight into the tense atmosphere of disease-infested London. Through vivid depictions of suffering and the outbreak’s effect on the physical body, Defoe demonstrates the ways in which the afflicted were not only robbed of their health, but also of their autonomy. Pope, on the other hand, paints a misogynistic portrait of the female body that has been deprived of her independence due to the constraints of seventeenth century gender ideologies.

Published fifty-seven years after the outbreak, Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year recounts the events of the Great Plague of London in 1665. The text’s vigilant narrator, known only as H.F., chronicles the disease as it spreads across the city. Panicked residents flee from the capital, while courageous public officials, servants and poverty-stricken families remain behind. As the death toll rises, victims are continuously transported...

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