How we cite our quotes:
I wandered up one street and down the next. The printer's words haunted me.
I saw Grandfather's empty eyes.
I saw Mother order me to leave her.
I saw people weeping the doorways and did not stop. I heard the death carts rattling in the street and did not look up. (20.78-20.84)
The idea of an epidemic suggests to us that we should be thinking of suffering on both a personal level (like Matilda's loss of her grandfather) and on a large scale. As Matilda mentions, there are "thousands" dead. Can you imagine a thousand stories just like Matilda's? And why does Matilda find the situation so hopeless?
The sights and smells of Eliza's patients were no worse than Bush Hill, but I was not prepared for the heartache. Walking into the homes of strangers, sitting on their furniture, and drying the tears of their children was harder than cleaning up the sick. A dying woman in a cot surrounded by strangers was sorrowful, but a dying woman surrounded by her children, her handiwork, the home where she worked so hard, left me in tears. (24.1)
Again, Matilda is witnessing suffering, but notice that she has changed her role in the process. Matilda is no longer a victim. She's now an active aid in helping alleviate the suffering of others. Why is it important the Matilda be moved by what she sees? How is empathy (feeling others' emotions) an important value?
Caring for the children was harder than caring for any other patients we had visited. Just as Robert fell asleep, William would wake crying. As soon as he was made comfortable, enough to drift off, Robert would stiffen and jolt awake with a piercing scream. Nell didn't recognize me. She woke from terrible dreams and looked around the room blindly, crying for her mother.
Night melted into day. Day surrendered to night. (25.26-25.27)
Matilda again has taken on the role of caretaker and nurse, helping not only strangers, but the members of her extended family. Notice how she loses complete track of time as night and day become one and the same.