Fever, 1793 is a historical novel, so it's no surprise that this is a book that has a hankering for the past. This applies to both personal history and the kind of History that gets a capital "H" too. For Matilda's mother and grandfather, the Revolutionary War brought out the best in them. Though it ended years prior, that past event defined them as hard workers and the people they are today. The two reference the war constantly, especially Grandfather who virtually lives in the past with his parrot named King George, his sword over the mantel, and his service to President Washington that he's always mentioning. How does the past present a narrative, or a story, that defines people in the present? How does our relationship to the past define what we do or say in the future?
Questions About Memory and the Past
- Why is the Revolutionary War so important to Grandfather? To Mother?
- Both Eliza and Mother have lost their husbands. How have they coped differently?
- Do you think it's important that Matilda remember her Grandfather and those she lost during the fever? If so, how do you think she'll do this?
- Why is it important for us, as 21st-century readers, to remember or think about people who died in a fever epidemic in 1793? Can we draw any comparisons with epidemics in our own day?
- What can the past teach us about the present?
Chew on This
The past will always come to bear on the present. It's up to us to determine in what way.
Memories can be difficult to deal with, but we must face the past instead of letting it stand in our way.