How we cite our quotes:
Now what? I couldn't care for Nell; I could barely care for myself. And her mother needed burying, though I didn't relish another trip back to the public square. I had to find someone to care for her. (21.6)
Though she's initially reluctant, Matilda ends up playing the part of mother to the orphan Nell. Matilda is not legally obligated to care for the child, of course; yet, she does anyhow. Why does Matilda choose to care for Nell and make her a part of the family? Do you think you would you have done the same?
There was no more talk of returning me to the coffeehouse or finding a different home for Nell. Joseph and Eliza agreed that I couldn't live alone, not with the deserted streets as dangerous as the crowded sickrooms. We didn't talk about what would happen after the fever. Eliza promised we would find my mother or learn her fate as soon as the epidemic was over. We didn't talk about Nell, we just loved her. (23.81)
Eliza and Joseph have welcomed both Matilda and Nell into their home, forming an impromptu kind of family. How has the fever brought together people who normally wouldn't find themselves together?
It was Eliza's idea to have a small feast of thanksgiving with Joseph and the boys. I suggested Mother Smith, too. We didn't need to discuss Nathaniel. Of course he would come. (27.14)
As the novel draws to a close, we can see that Matilda's family has been greatly extended. Though not of blood relation, Eliza's brother Joseph, the twins, Mother Smith, Nathaniel Benson, and the orphan Nell are all now a part of Matilda's family. And they're all coming to Thanksgiving dinner! What is it that all of these people have in common? What is it that makes them a family?