Historical Background

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I thin that one of the reasons that illness appears so often in literature is simply because of how often it appeared in life. Until the later half of the last century, illness was something that was really common. People often died of FLU epidemics. That's unheard of to us. Until the most recent hundred years illnesses such as the flu, cholera, typhus, and tuberculosis, often ravaged through towns and tore families apart.

But it doesn't stop with germ like illnesses. Other ailments such as herniated disks, pinched nerves, arthritis, and many of those other joint related problems could destroy families. When you're family depends on the income that you make from farming and you slip a disk in the lower back, you're done. There wasn't even modern surgery to fix it. Crooked backs or lame hands often appear in literature in the form of ailments that seem very rare to us now.

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