| Quote #4
"They've taken over Rickett's Circus building on Twelfth Street to house the poor," said Mr. Brown.
"Isn't that why we have an almshouse?" asked Grandfather.
"The almshouse is closed. They want to protect their residents from the disease. So the fever victims lie on the floor of Rickett's with little water and no care. Once a day they remove the bodies for burial. A neighbor threatened to burn the place down if the sick are not removed," explained Mr. Carris." (8.44-8.47)
Conditions in Philadelphia – along with the treatment of the sick – are beginning to deteriorate. Also notice that this conversation is taking place in the coffeehouse, a site where public opinions are often formed, debated, and disputed.
| Quote #5
"Myself, I straddle a fence. One foot stays here in Philadelphia. The other foot is in the country. We know the air there is pure and the people safer. I say safer, mind, not safe. There are reports of fever in Bucks County and Delaware." (8.63)
The city is often juxtaposed with the country in this novel. The country is portrayed as a place of relative safety and with fresher air, though, as noted here, nowhere is entirely safe. Why does Matilda dislike the country?
| Quote #6
The man hoeing a field of potatoes took one look at me and ran off. I followed him to a farmhouse, but the door was locked.
"Go away!" shouted a voice inside. "We have children in here. We can't help you if you have the fever."
What was wrong with the world? Would I next see birds flying backwards, or cows crocheting doilies? I walked on, stopping now and then to cough or rest my legs. (13.51-13.53)
Stranded in the country, Matilda can't find any help. What's happening to people as the epidemic rages?