In Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, what moral lessons does the narrator draw from the specific events and/or general behaviour patterns he details throughout his account?

For this assignment, you are asked to choose between two options, both of which require you to examine how an author’s rhetorical appeals in their graphic narrative. You will upload, via Blackboard dropbox, an outline (before midnight on 30 Sep) that shall follow the format found on Blackboard under “Essay #1 – outline” I will be choosing three outlines, erasing all identification, and posting these for our essay workshop. If you especially do not want me to use your outline for this purpose, please advise me by email.

            The essay that you will upload to Blackboard, before midnight on 19 Oct, under “Assignments,” will be 1,000 – 1,250 words long (approximately 4 pages, double spaced, MLA formatted). Your essay will be assessed by SafeAssign for plagiarism. You will be able to read the SafeAssign report.

Assignment Outcomes:

This essay will demonstrate your ability to analyze a graphic narrative and the rhetoric it uses to convey a message.


            NOTE: there are three pages in this assignment. Be sure to read all three.

Choose one of the following:

Option One:

            In Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, what moral lessons does the narrator draw from the specific events and/or general behaviour patterns he details throughout his account? You may want to discuss one or more of the short narratives that demonstrate how people infected with the plague react to the condition, how the healthy deal with their anxieties around the plague, and/or how the citizens of London react to the strategies used by government to contain the spread of the plague.

Option Two:

            Discuss how you would argue that Defoe’s work is a chronicle of history—has more similarities to a book on history as we know it—or a work of fiction.

Option Three:

            It is not clear whether or not Daniel Defoe read Boccaccio’s The Decameron.  There are, however, some similarities between the two: their graphic description of the plague’s affect on the populace, the stories of those who supported the sick and dying and those who fled, and the stories of those who partied despite the threat of the plague and those that lived moderately and isolated. Do you sense that Defoe might have explored, as contrast to the devastation of the plague, “love. . . [as] a sensation of delight” (Boccaccio, The Author’s Preface). What might either author be trying to say about the human condition?

Option Four:

             Critics argue about who the narrator of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Mask of the Red Death,” might be? Using evidence from the story and your own interpretation of that evidence, describe who the narrator is that is telling this story.

Option Five:

            Poe’s short story, “The Mask of the Red Death,” has some similarities to the narrative found in Boccaccio’s Introduction and some of the short narratives embedded in Defoe’s Journal. Compare either Poe and Boccaccio or Poe and Defoe. What might each author be trying to convey about the human condition?

Assignment Specifications:

  1. Your introduction should, at the very least, introduce the authors/artists and their texts. Your thesis statement will appear at the end of your introduction and will include an argument and categories of evidence.
  2. A minimum of three quotations must be used—employing MLA citation style—to support your analysis. NOTE: No long prose quotations (4 lines or more of quotation). Short prose quotations are no longer than four lines of your document.
  3. Recall that your essay should have a formal, academic tone and that your classmates are your audience.
  4. Your conclusion should rephrase your thesis and summarize the points of your analysis.
  5. Your outline is due 30 Sep before midnight. Please see “Assignments: Essay #1 Outline” for the format of the outline.
  6. Essays must be formatted (page setup) according to MLA style. Consult the class presentation (Class #3; Sep 21; slide #5) “Acheson, “Making your essay ‘letter perfect’” for a sample of hour your first page should appear.
  7. A Works Cited page is required and must also follow MLA format. Consult Acheson’s MLA Works Cited (203-5) or consult Purdue OWL’s MLA Sample Essay (See Works cited page in its last pages).
  8. Your essay should be approximately four pages long. This length does not include the Works Cited page.
  9. No title page is required.
  10. Upload your finished essay, with its Works Cited, to Blackboard before midnight on 19 Oct. I will not accept essays as email attachments. As per the format of an MLA Essay, the course and section number will appear on the first page of your essay together with my name as well. Your essay will be analyzed by SafeAssign for plagiarism. You will be able to read the plagiarism report.


Your essay will be assessed on the following, in order of importance:

Persuasion, organization and argument support (see Purdue OWL: Argumentative Essays on Blackboard under “Writing Essays”)

  • Clear thesis statement (argument and categories of evidence) found in your introduction
  • Supporting evidence given in your body paragraphs,
  • Organization of your paragraphs
  • Topic sentences for each paragraph
  • Organization of the sentences in your paragraphs

Writing mechanics (see Purdue OWL: Grammar Introduction and Punctuation Overview on Blackboard under “Writing Essays”)

  • Sentence structure
  • Spelling, punctuation, grammar
  • Complexity of sentences
  • No bold, no font larger than 12 pt., no use of quotation marks for emphasis,
  • Proper demonstration of possession

MLA Formatting (see “Purdue OWL: MLA Formatting and Style Guide” on Blackboard under “Writing Essays”)

  • Essay is properly formatted according to MLA style
  • Quotations are properly integrated and properly cited according to MLA style (with proper MLA citation) (See Purdue OWL: “Formatting Quotations” and “MLA in-text citations” on Blackboard)
  • References are properly formatted in a Works Cited page
  • Titles, both in the body of the essay and in the Works Cited page, are properly formatted