Daniel Defoe's A Journal of Plague Year deals with the 1665 Great Plague of London, personal and collective trauma. This paper treats Defoe's novel as testimony and its narrator as a witness and explores the efficacy of such testimony. This paper examines the representation of the sufferings caused by the plague and discusses the plague from the perspective of the social class. It also examines the effect of the narrative strategy of using vivid imagery rather than the didactic narrative form. Regarding the narrator's treatment of the social class, the paper argues that H.F. has keen social consciousness and sympathy for the poor and his testimony shows that the poor suffer more from the plague because of their poverty.
This testimony of suffering using vivid imagery renders the realistic picture of the past plague year of 1665, foretelling the reader about the imminent catastrophe of the plague in 1772. What Defoe intends using H.F. as the witness of the trauma is two-fold; first, he suggests that healthy people be quarantined separately from the sick people in case the plague spreads and increase the number of the plague houses.
Second, he suggests people repent their sins to prevent another plague which is the sign of God's wrath. Ultimately, this paper argues that his testimony creates collective memory and functions as a memorial for the nameless plague victims, while warning against future calamity. The witness-narrator acquires partial healing from his trauma through his talking while the listener-reader partially participates in the vicarious experience with horror and sympathy, thus 'working through' their trauma.