The above quote could apply to a plethora of illnesses that exist now or, have existed over the course of history. However, the scourge that the quoted material refers to is the disease formerly known as 'consumption' and now called by its medical name: Tuberculosis. The disease was rampant during the Victorian era in both America and Europe and still runs roughshod over many countries today. In fact, "the magnitude of the global TB problem is enormous" with a projected 11.9 million cases worldwide by the year 2005 (Frequently Asked, 6).
In the modern day, Tuberculosis is almost exclusively a threat to third-world and developing nations. It is hard, as members of a modern, industrialized nation, to understand TB's force and its worldwide ramifications without having done research of some sort on the disease. As Americans, the people of this country are almost absolved from feeling any affects of the disease whatsoever. It was not always this way.
In the mid to late nineteenth century America and Europe were both experiencing what has come to be called the 'Industrial Revolution'. Factories were replacing farmland in both countries, and with this came cramped conditions, backbreaking labor, and ultimately disease. That disease was Tuberculosis. "With poverty, malnutrition, overcrowding, vice, crime, and moral degradation it became not just a cause or consequence but part of the landscape of the Ind...
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... rooted very much in his own life and times, becomes timeless because of his ability to transcend the predetermined, and write fiction that acts as a study of humankind that is rivaled by few others. He did not compromise his art by inserting easily misinterpreted meanings into his writing, but rather, let the reader use his work as a vehicle for original thought and reflection.
Dormandy, Thomas. White Death: A History of Tuberculosis. New York, NY, New York University Press, 2000.
Gilman, Richard. Chekhov's Plays: And Opening into Eternity. Conn.: Yale University Press. 1995.
Jackson, Robert Louis. Chekhov: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. 1967.
Reminiscences of Anton Chekhov by Maxim Gorky, Alexander Kuprin, and I. A. Bunin, trans. by S. S. Koteliansky and Leonard Woolf
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