As Anne K. Mellor points out (in her introduction to the novel, p. xxiv), it may be significant that "Verney succumbs to the plague when, heearing a moan, he compassionately but incautiously enters a dark room where he is 'clasped' by a 'negro half clad, writhing under the agony of the disease' who convulsively embraces Verney. . . . From this unwilling but powerful embrace of the racial other (significantly, this is the only time that a 'negro' is specifically mentioned in the novel), Verney both contracts and, recovering, becomes immune to the plague."
Mellor goes on to ask: "Can we see in this episode a suggestion that if one were forced to embrace the Other rather than permitted to define it exclusively as 'foreign' and 'diseased,' one might escape this socially constructed plague?"