Gardens in Confessions and Decameron

She told him sounds and country smells and of how fresh and clean everything in the country is. She said that heought to live there and that if he did, he would find that all his troubles were city troubles.

-Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts (1933)

Rural areas in Western literature are pure and good, going back the to the Garden of Eden in Genesis. They represent spirituality, beauty, and often an escape from the troubles of a sinful world. In Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron, citizens of Florence escape their plague-ridden city for the solitude and safety of the countryside. In Saint Augustine's Confessions, the narrator has his most significant spiritual awakening in a garden in Milan.

At the beginning of The Decameron, Boccaccio describes the plague occurring in Florence:

Large quantities of refuse were cleared out of the city byofficials specially appointed for the purpose, all sick personswere forbidden entry, and numerous instructions were issued forsafeguarding the people's health, but all to no avail. (I. Intro)

This passage describes the vast presence of sin in the city. "Officials" can be interpreted to mean clergymen, "sick persons" can mean criminals, and "numerous...

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