The Plague

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In “This is the End of the World’ The Black Death” by historian Barbara Tuchman, provides readers with detailed images of the plague that completely eliminated one third of the population in Europe. Tuchman illustrates the symptoms of the victims in a colorful dynamic manner. She also talks about the different aspects in which the poor and rich were affected by disease (555-557). The plague affected the whole population and the massive numbers of deaths changed the life of the citizens in Europe. The essay portrays the plague with its pandemic destruction as a chaotic troubled and afflicted society with no hope for a future. Tuchman meticulously details the muck and filth [people seldom bathed] in which the diseases’ symptoms affected the body. Symptoms such as: black markings on the skin indicated internal bleeding; swellings oozing blood and pus were common among the infected ones (548). Tuchman writes “As the disease spread, other symptoms of continuous fever and spitting of blood appeared instead of swellings or buboes” (549). The plague had two forms in which it manifested. One spread by contact and the other was spread by air (549). If both forms of the plague attacked the body at once, the result was a speedy death, sometimes within hours. The “Black Death” spared those who could afford its treatment. Tuchman states, “Flight was the chief recourse of those who could afford it” (555). As in modern society the wealthier can afford more privileges, thus the elite fled to their far away secluded country homes. On the other hand, the poor lived in urban close quarters [like a burrow], which made them more vulnerable to infection (555) Therefore, the ignorance and poverty level caused the lower class to suffer the greatest in deaths. Oblivious of a solution to the plague, hopelessness and despair ruled the life of most citizens. In some towns more than half of its inhabitants died of the disease. Almost everyone accepted death. . . . (Tuchman 552). Not knowing where to turn for guidance, some people turned to anarchy. Others just abandoned work sites and their usual responsibilities. Tuchman excerpts writings of Agnolo Di Tura, “A Chronicler of Sienna”, ‘“father abandoned child, wife, husband, one brother another”’ (553). Pope Clement VI reported the total plague deaths at 23,840,000 (549). The large death numbers within cities makes the reader question how we survive as a society today. Tuchman writes colorful and accountable facts of “The Black Death” tragedy. She also captures the readers’ attention in an animated writing style to explain the graphic symptoms of the plague. Tuchman cleverly merges together the disorder and high mortality rates within European cities to instill a sense of fear that “the end of the world was near”. Her essay takes the reader in a journey through a period of plague marked by confusion and heartless treatment of its victims. Works Cited Tuchman, Barbara. “This is the End of the World”: The Black Death. The Writer’s Presence. Ed. Donald McQuade and Robert Atwan. Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2009. 552-557. Print.

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