Journal of the Plague Year and Frankenstein

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The Plague and Frankenstein
The quest for knowledge is eternal and almost never-ending. People devote their lives to studying and advancing their knowledge, but their advancement is always held in check by society and the people who studied before them. Several novels have been written which explore the effect knowledge and its limitations can have on society. This paper will focus on Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. Even though these two novels were written about 100 years apart, they still exemplify many aspects as to why knowledge has limitations. While Defoe’s Journal centers on how to prevent and cure the plague, with a heavy emphasis on religion, Shelley’s Frankenstein has little to no religious affiliation, and focuses on how science and knowledge can potentially lead to evil and misfortune.

The plague was a severe and devastating disease which affected Europe multiple times throughout history; each time killing every person who came down with the disease. People are fortunate enough today to have a cure for this disease, but during the 1700s, there was no cure and very little knowledge about proper medical practices. Defoe mentions how signs were posted throughout London, claiming of people who knew of a cure or treatment for the plague, however some of these treatments “prepared their bodies for the plague, instead of preserving them against it.”1 Thieves and pick-pockets robbed and cheated poor people out of their money with scams, sometimes even poisoning their victims with tonics or “physicks” that could include such poisons as Mercury in them.2 These scammers were all throughout the city, appealing to the desires and abundance of the poor. There was no regulation of such business practices and advertisements made ridiculous claims of free help, only to deceive the poor once they got there, forcing them to pay for what may (or may not) help them. These practices were quite...
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