Historical Fiction Example Paper. Introduction.
2,000 lives lost. A city changed forever. In 1793, a yellow fever epidemic broke out in Philadelphia and claimed these lives in the short time of 5 months. In the novel Fever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson uses a family of characters to illustrate the devastating impact of the yellow fever epidemic on the residents of Philadelphia.
Historical Event Info.
The devastation of the yellow fever was caused by a perfect storm of circumstances in the summer of 1793. A lack of rain and drought-like conditions caused the river and stream levels to remain unusually low, and they became a breeding ground for mosquitos. At the same time, many ships filled with political refugees from the Caribbean Islands docked in Philadelphia. It Is thought that those refugees brought the fever with them, and the mosquitos caused the rapid spread of the disease. Once a person was infected, he/she experienced symptoms like head and back pain, fever, yellow skin, vomiting up blood, and eventual death. Dr. Benjamin Rush, a leading physician in the city, advised people to flee the city, and many people who had the means to leave did so. However, most people in the city could not make those arrangements, and so they were stuck in a death trap. Those left were forced to deal with dangerous living conditions. Ultimately, about 2,000 were killed by the fever before the cold weather came in November.
No one could have predicted the large number of lives taken by
the fever, but there were some doctors who may have
foreseen the impact of the fever.In Fever 1793, Mr. Brown says,
“Some doctors warn we may see a thousand dead before it’s over.
There are forty-thousand people living in Philadelphia, William.
Can you imagine If one in forty were to die?” (Anderson 59) This
Indicates that there probably were some people who had an
Inkling about the devastation that could occur if it turned into an
epidemic. However, the majority of the characters in the book
seemed in denial at the beginning in terms of how serious it could
be. There were people who refused to acknowledge the fever. And
ultimately, those people were among the dead.
Matilda, the main character in Fever 1793, experienced those
Feelings of denial when deep down she knew her grandfather
Was getting sick. She said, “It is just a summer grippe. It had better be a summer grippe, because there is no way to care for him if he is truly ill. I ran my tongue over my dry lips. The first thing we needed was a drink of water.” (Anderson 85) As Matilda and her grandfather
Leave the city, they are abandoned by the driver because of his cough. She is all alone and is now responsible for the care of her
grandfather. This part of the novel shows the impact that the yellow
Fever epidemic had on individual people, young and old. Matilda was forced to grow up sooner than she otherwise would have, and she had to make some tough decisions to survive.
In her quest for survival, Matilda didn’t have time to think
about the emotional toll it had taken on her. She was too busy
doing what needed to be done to help her family and those
around her. Towards the end of the novel when Matilda
reconnects with Eliza, what she has been through finally
sinks in. She said, “It all hit me at once: my fears about Mother; the fever; Bush Hill; watching Grandfather die; being scared, alone, and hungry. I cried. I cried a river and poor Eliza did her best to comfort me.” (Anderson 169) This quote shows the deep emotional impact that the events surrounding the yellow fever caused to Matilda, a young girl who was forced into tremendous responsibility.
The responsibility and independence that Matilda had to learn
is one example of the impact that the yellow fever epidemic
had on the residents of Philadelphia. In Fever 1793, Laurie Halse
Anderson illustrates the personal and emotional effects that the
epidemic had on characters who were just trying to survive. By the
time the yellow fever was done wreaking havoc on the city of
Philadelphia in 1793, an estimated 2,000 lives were lost. This novel
shows the effect that the fever had on even the ones who survived.
Matilda Cooke lost loved ones, endured sickness, and learned in the
end that she was stronger than she thought she was. Someone
once said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”