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Extra resources for A Defoe Companion
30 A Defoe Companion If either of these accounts had been simply a factual summary, one doubts whether they would be read today. What brings each vividly to the imagination is the fusion of the general and the particular, the evident fascination with the occupations and attitudes of ordinary folk. ' 22 He feels this very strongly, he says, with Swift, Defoe, Fielding and Dickens. It is significant that he singles out Defoe for special mention as a writer possessing an individual voice whose personality animates his fiction.
His passionate interest in people - their occupations, homes and attitudes enabled him to depict a rich variety of individuals and place them in a realistic and recognisable setting. Secondly, his concern for facts. As a tradesman he was deeply interested in facts and statistics and he understood the realities that lay behind them; as a writer he possessed the gift of presenting those facts in human terms. A Journal of the Plague Year and A Tour Defoe's Literary Achievement 39 through the Whole Island are interwoven with facts on all manner of topics presented in a way which enriches rather than deadens the narrative.
At the same time we are conscious of a detachment which enables the narrator to view the action of the story from the outside: 'London might well be said to be all in Tears', 'the Voice of Mourning was truly heard in the Streets', 'the fear and empire of man had passed away'. What the two passages have in common is a feeling of alienation, of being a witness to events beyond the normal experience of man. When the narrator of the Journal remarks that 'Mens Hearts were hardned, and Death was so always before their Eyes' and goes on to describe the desolation of the streets, he is struggling to convey sights and sounds beyond everyday experience.