Pandemic Fear and Literature: Observations from Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, by Michele Augusto Riva, Marta Benedetti, and Giancarlo Cesana
The Scarlet Plague, originally published by Jack London in 1912, was one of the first examples of a postapocalyptic fiction novel in modern literature (1). Set in a ravaged and wild America, the story takes place in 2073, sixty years after the spread of the Red Death, an uncontrollable epidemic that depopulated and nearly destroyed the world in 2013. One of the few survivors, James Howard Smith, alias “Granser,” tells his incredulous and near-savage grandsons how the pandemic spread in the world and about the reactions of the people to contagion and death. Even though it was published more than a century ago, The Scarlet Plague feels contemporary because it allows modern readers to reflect on the worldwide fear of pandemics, a fear that remains very much alive.
Riva M, Benedetti M, Cesana G. Pandemic Fear and Literature: Observations from Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2014;20(10):1753-1757. doi:10.3201/eid2010.130278.