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Themes

Matilda Cook is a dreamer, just like that darn Jean-Pierre Blanchard she keeps mentioning (1.28). (You know, the guy who floated into the sky in a big yellow hot air balloon?) Like the visionary Blanchard, Matilda has plenty of plans for the future. She dreams of going to Paris, of opening her own shop, and of selling the finest French fripperies right in the heart of Philadelphia. In some ways we could say that what Matilda wants is the American Dream – life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and all that kind of thing. But all of that changes when the fever epidemic hits. Instead of dreaming about foreign travel and shop keeping, Matilda is simply trying to survive from one day to the next. The fever epidemic doesn't mean, though, that the intrepid Matilda has to put all of her hopes and dreams on hold. She simply starts making new plans for the future – and moving in new directions. (We know she'll get to Paris. Some day.)

Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

  1. What are Matilda's plans for her future before the fever epidemic? After? Who else does she begin to include in her plans?
  2. What is the significance of France for Matilda?
  3. Why does Matilda have such a negative opinion about marriage?
  4. Do we know what Eliza's dreams are? Why or why not? How about Matilda's mother?
  5. What will the future be like for Matilda's mother after the end of the book?
  6. How is Nathaniel Benson a part of Matilda's future at the end of the novel?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Matilda must learn to stop her daydreaming and face the situation in front of her.

Dreams and plans are an important part of our interior life. They allow us to hope for the future.

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