| Quote #1
The house was silent for a moment, except for the sound of Matthew down the block still hammering away at his forge. Had anyone told him that Polly was gone? (4.26)
The serving girl Polly is the first casualty of the fever among Matilda's acquaintances. The pain of the loss, though, is still very much at a distance. Matilda can only imagine the effect on Polly's beau, Matthew. Suffering means something in the background.
| Quote #2
Mother shivered so hard, her teeth rattled. Even with all the blankets in the house on her, she could not warm. She lay under the faded bedding like a rag doll losing its stuffing, her hair a wild collection of snakes on the pillow, her cornflower blue eyes poisoned with streaks of yellow and red. It hurt to look at her. (9.37)
Matilda's relationship to pain and suffering draws nearer, coming into the foreground. She witnesses first-hand the effects of the fever on her mother's body and relates the scene in the language of childhood nightmares: her mother looks like a "rag doll" come apart, like her hair is filled with snakes, her eyes are poisoned.
| Quote #3
Wives were deserted by husbands, and children by parents. The chambers of diseases were deserted, and the sick left to die of negligence. None could be found to remove the lifeless bodies. Their remains, suffered to decay by piecemeal, filled the air with deadly exhalations, and added tenfold to the devastation. – Charles Brockden Brown, Arthur Mervyn; or Memoirs of the Year 1793 (15.epigraph)
Laurie Halse Anderson inserts short epigraphs before each chapter, and this one is taken from the novel Arthur Mervyn by Charles Brockden Brown. The inclusion suggests that the kind of suffering Matilda is witnessing is experienced not just by her, but by many. It is represented not just in this book, but in several. In the quote, we get a sense of the scale of the fever, the devastation becoming "tenfold."