Freshman English II
29 May 2014
The Black Death
In Barbara Tuchman’s work titled “This is the End of the World: The Black Death”, she describes the devastating impact the bubonic plague had on mid-fourteenth century society, economy, and religion. The bubonic plague was a vicious fast spreading terminal disease for which there was no known prevention or cure. The author graphically describes the symptoms of the plague, the most characteristic being the foul odor, severe pain and necrotic swollen lymph nodes (1). Contracted either by contact or airborne transmission, once acquired the victim would die within a very short time period (1). Tuchman depicts how the bubonic plague ravaged entire towns and countries all across Asia and Europe. Populations became so diminished that the living were unable to keep up with the remains of the victims. At one point Pope Clement VI of Avignon had reported that over 23 million people had perished from this disease (2). An accurate death toll could never possibly be calculated, however, it is said that “a third of the world died” (3). Tuchman is able to accurately portray the profound psychological effects caused by the plague. This disease seemed to bring out the worst in human nature. Death became such a common occurrence that the disposal of human remains became careless. The disease tested the faith of many. Aside from a recorded handful of Parisian nuns and priests (6), many religious figures neglected their duties such as performing last rites out of fear of contracting the fatal disease (3). Homes and towns were deserted. People abandoned their spouses and children (6). Crops were left unattended and livestock left to die, causing great damage to the economy of an already afflicted society. People became filled with hopelessness and despair. Tuchman describes how the death toll amongst the poor was greater mostly due to the closer housing quarters, poor sanitation and hard labor of...
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