| Quote #1
"Matilda?" Mother's voice called up the stairs. "Now!"
I made a face at the doorway. I had just saved her precious quilt from disaster, but would she appreciate it? Of course not.
No more dawdling. I had to get dressed.
I fastened my stays and a badly embroidered pocket over the white shift I slept in. Then I stepped into my blue linen skirt. It nearly showed my ankles. Along with the ceiling getting lower, my clothes were shrinking, too. (1.23-1.26)
When the novel opens, we learn that Mattie is fourteen years old, and is a teenager in every conceivable way: she likes to sleep late, hates the sound of her mother's voice, and has an attitude that won't quit. She's also in the middle of a growth spurt. Her clothes obviously don't fit here, signaling a definite physical transformation underway. But what else is changing? She's in the in-between stage in life when she's definitely not a kid, but she's sure as heck not an adult either.
| Quote #2
He looked much more a man and less a boy than he had a few months earlier. He had sprouted up over my head and grown broad in the chest. Stop, I cautioned myself. You shouldn't look at him as if he were a racehorse for sale. But his hair was a beautiful chestnut color... (5.58)
Mattie isn't the only one growing up – looks like Nathaniel Benson is turning into quite the heartthrob. Here Mattie is dealing with the effect of others' transformation as well. She's in the stage of adolescence in which she's asking herself what it means to be an adult.
| Quote #3
How could the city have changed so much? Yellow fever was wrestling the life out of Philadelphia, infecting the cobblestones, the trees, the nature of the people. Was I living through another nightmare? (16.41)
While people change, so do cities. Mattie is appalled by the way in which the fever has drastically transformed the city she loves so much: Philadelphia. Not only is the city changing physically but the character of its citizens seems to be morphing as well. How is the fever epidemic bringing out the worst in people? Is it transforming them into a nightmare?