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Quotes

Quote #1

"Hold there, Marks, hold there, I say," interjected the government clerk. His left eye blinked with a nervous twitch. "I've heard stories of a fever among the Santo Domingan refugees. They live close to Ball's Wharf, you know." (4.17)

News of the fever spreads quickly and the coffeehouse, as the center of public life, is one of the places that the epidemic gets discussed. Here, the blame for the outbreak is placed on the shoulders of the refugee community.

Quote #2

The market stalls stretched for three blocks in the center of the street. West Indian women stood by their pepperpot kettles stirring fragrant stews, while the hot corn girls walked up and down the street. The distant call of the charcoal man's horn sounded at the far end of the market. Chickens clucked and geese honked, customers argued about the price of pears, and children ran everywhere. (5.34)

From this description of the marketplace, we can gather that Philadelphia is a city of many cultures – a melting pot, if you will, where many have come to live. Because of its association with trade and its location as a port city (Philadelphia is on a river), the city would have been home to many people of various origins. The diversity of the city is depicted as giving life and vitality, hustle and bustle.

Quote #3

"Philadelphia suffers fevers every August," said Grandfather. "This season it's those cursed refugees. They brought it, just as the ships from Barbados brought it thirty years ago. The mayor should quarantine them on Hog Island for a few weeks and the fever would pass." He lifted his mug to King George. The parrot drank. (6.38)

Is Grandfather simply repeating what he has heard about fever among the refugees in the coffeehouse? The reference to King George, the parrot, suggests this might be the case. Notice how information spreads quickly, like disease.

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