Epidemics of viral and infectious diseases are fairly common, although not many of them reach global proportions like the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite many difficulties, most countries’ leaders took measures relatively quickly to avoid the spread of the virus and the death of many people. However, a comparison of the current pandemic with those of the past shows that people face similar challenges despite significant progress in the health care system, albeit overcoming them in different ways. This paper analyses ways of overcoming the typhus epidemic in Bronte’s Jane Eyre novel and current approaches to dealing with the pandemic to highlight the healthcare system’s progress and its weaknesses.
The main difference between the COVID-19 and typhus epidemics in the novel is their cause and ways of its managing it. Bronte described a typhus epidemic at Lowood School, where Jane Eyre spent part of her childhood (116). Typhus is an infectious disease associated with dirt and laziness as it is transmitted through the bites of lice, bed bugs, and fleas. At Lowood School, many girls died of this disease, even though they and their teachers did their best to keep their bodies and rooms clean and have enough food. For example, once, Miss Temple treated the girls with toast and cakes from her store (Bronte 108-109). However, the school administration neglected the children’s health, since they cooked food with infected water, poorly fed the children, heated the school, and rarely gave them new clothes (Bronte 116). Consequently, the epidemic brought devastating consequences and attracted public attention, making it possible to provide normal conditions for children, significantly improving their health (Bronte 126). In fact, sending some of the children homes was the only way to stop the epidemic.
At the same time, the spread of the coronavirus is more complex because it is transmitted through common interactions of people. The virus spread over several months globally, since many people did not know about the virus’s presence and became its carriers (“Archived”). However, unlike the novel, the modern healthcare system has more knowledge about the transmission of infectious diseases, so measures for its prevention, such as masks, gloves, antiseptics, and then lockdown, were taken a short time after the virus was discovered. At the same time, in the novel, preventive measures were ignored for a long time, since the administration did not associate the spread of the disease with the conditions at school (Bronte 115). Thus, the main difference between the typhus epidemic in the novel and the coronavirus pandemic is that in the first case, the spread of the disease could have been avoided by healthy living conditions for children at school.
However, a common thread between the novel and the current pandemic is that people did not have enough information to find a cure and were not prepared for it in both cases. In the book, the administration did not know about the reasons for the spread of typhus, as there was no information available about it, and at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people did not know about the transmission, symptoms, and consequences of a new type of virus (“Archived”). In addition, Lowood School did not have proper conditions to promote children’s health, and, in 2020, many countries were not prepared for a sharp increase in the number of patients, which also led to negative consequences (Connolly). However, the school administration in the novel and national governments have invested significant funds after the outbreak to improve their facilities, which is a similar feature of the book and the real world.
In conclusion, an analysis of the epidemic in Charlotte Bronte’s novel and the current coronavirus pandemic demonstrates similar features. First, the inaccessibility of information about the new disease has led to outbreaks. Secondly, the Lowood school, as well as most modern countries, were not ready for epidemics, which ultimately forced them to invest in improving conditions and promoting health. However, the main differences are that the living conditions of children at Lowood School were neglected by the administration, while the emergence of COVID-19 was probably an unexpected event.
“Archived: WHO Timeline – COVID-19.” World Health Organization, 2020, Web.
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Planet EBook.com, Web.
Connolly, Kevin. “Coronavirus: How to Tell Which Countries Are Coping Best With Covid.” BBC, 2020, Web.