Summary Of Fever 1793 By Laurie Halse Anderson

1526 Words7 Pages

Fever 1793 is a novel by the young adult author Laurie Halse Anderson that tells the tragic story of a young American city that becomes devastated by a deadly epidemic of yellow fever. Published in 2000, this book was Anderson’s second young adult novel and came after her first and most well-known novel, Speak, which was selected as a finalist for the National Book Award. The popularity of Speak worked to establish Anderson’s reputation as a writer, and non-fiction works such as Fever 1793 and Catalyst would only go on to solidify her status as a talented novelist. Anderson first came across information about the catastrophic outbreak of yellow fever that occurred in 1793 when she came across an article in a Philadelphia newspaper that described …show more content…

Matilda “Mattie” Cook, her mother, and her grandfather all live in and operate a coffee house in the nation’s capital, Philadelphia. Mattie is a young girl who is in the midst of the typical rebellious streak that commonly strikes girls during their teenage years and spends her days trying to find ways to get out of doing her chores. That all changes though when the fever strikes. The spread is slow at first, starting from the docks of the port yard before gradually moving into the city itself. It takes time before people begin to realize that an epidemic is upon them, and by then it is too late for many. Mattie and her family are not immediately affected, but that all changes when Mattie’s mother returns home after checking on their serving girl, Polly, and relays the a gruesome bit of news: ““Matilda, Polly’s dead.”(11) Unlike many residents of Philadelphia, the Cooks do not decide to flee the city immediately, but wait it out until inevitably Mattie’s mother falls ill with the fever. At the insistence of her mother, Mattie and her grandfather leave the city for the country where the illness has not spread; yet things take a nasty turn when their plans are foiled when they are rejected passage through a town that believes that grandfather is infected. That turns out not to be the case, but vice versa when Mattie herself falls ill with yellow fever. It seems all is lost with …show more content…

Her depiction of the symptoms of yellow fever were very straightforward and easy to understand. First, victims are struck with some very common fever signs, but as the disease progresses victims begin to vomit profusely a black, vile substance such as in the case of Mattie’s mother when, “Mother flew off the pillows and was violently ill, vomiting blood all over the bed and floor.”(34) Victims’ eyes also take on a yellowish tint – thus giving it the name yellow fever. Yellow fever also does not strike certain populations, but those of all ages, genders, and races. Anderson also reflects on the methods used by the doctors quite well and explains the tactics of doctors such as Rush and the French physician Jean Deveze in depth and the effectiveness of them. In my reading of the novel, I found it very easy to understand the occurrence and seriousness of the disease that struck the Philadelphia population. The horror that the people endured during this terrifying time of death is made very clear from, not just a personal perspective in the form of Mattie Cook and her family, but also from the realistic perspective of quotes taken from firsthand accounts of those who were present during the plague. At the beginning of every chapter Anderson would open with quotes such as, “I cannot anticipate nor limit the period, when the devastation and horror

Open Document