Written in 1912 by Jack London, The Scarlet Plague is a post-apocalyptic novel that narrates the story of an invincible disease - the Red Death - decimating almost the entire human population. Sixty years after the plague, Granser tells his three grandchildren - Edwin, Hare-Lip, and Hoo Hoo - the story of how centuries of civilization and prosperity were destroyed when the Scarlet Plague claimed the lives of all but a few in the United States. He attempts to portray his struggle to survive in a riot-infested world where anarchy reigns and fear takes control of everyone's lives. With many unsettling questions about justice and civilization to consider, the plot undoubtedly keeps readers interested through the only 98 pages.
Imagine a world burning with resentment and echoing the fear of death. That is what Granser had to fight through to survive the tragedy society experienced. Everywhere he went, caravans of dying people attempted to flee to a safe place, but all died on their way, except for him.
Although Granser’s journey across fields of uninhabited wilderness is intricately explained, some details are ambiguous. For instance, Granser repeatedly states that the United States was ruled by a Board of Industrial Magnates composed by 12 of the richest men in the country. He names a couple of them such as Morgan the Fifth and Philip Saxon but doesn’t fully incorporate the governing system put in place. Furthermore, as other details of life in the 1912’s appear realistic, I continuously awaited for him to explain or detail this system, however, I was disappointed to realize that he gives no further clarity to the issue. While other dystopian novels such as 1984 and Brave New World deal with the influence of the government on the population, London’s novel is unique because it raises the issues of general fear and uncertainty about the future. It demonstrates the people’s thoughts about the apocalypse and how they feel that there are diseases mankind will not be fully able to deter. The main question of why and how did the plague come to existence isn’t answered either. For one, this can trigger the reader’s imagination to formulate possible explanations, but on the other hand, it may leave the reader unsatisfied with questions unanswered.
Overall, even with details left in the dark, the novel is worth reading. Its impactful scenes will leave readers wondering for days, and its brilliant descriptions will create a sharp divide between civilization and savagery in readers’ mind, inspiring them to take advantage of the amazing education they are provided at PASB.