Visions of America Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Mrs. Bowles was a straight-backed woman dressed in Quaker gray. She was older than Mother, with kind eyes and laughter lines that curled around the sides of her mouth. As we drove away from the hospital, she picked up the smallest crying child and sat him in her lap. The child's sobs kept time with the rhythm of the rose hooves on the road. He wiped his nose on the front of her dress and snuggled closer in her arms. (16.7)
Mrs. Bowles is a Quaker, a religious denomination important in Philadelphia in the eighteenth century. William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, was a Quaker. The Quaker religion stresses pacifism and is anti-slavery, even back in the 1700s. Why is it significant that Mrs. Bowles runs the orphanage?
"It is good you have each other," said Mrs. Bowles in the same placid voice. "But you should not leave your house once you arrive. The streets of Philadelphia are more dangerous than your darkest nightmare. Fever victims lay in the gutters, thieves and wild men lurk on every corner. The markets have little food. You can't wander. If you are determined to return home with your grandfather, then you must stay there until the fever abates." (16.23)
The streets of Philadelphia are no longer the bustling scene we heard about earlier in the novel. They have become a nightmarish version.
"In the beginning of August, this was the largest city in the United States. Forty thousand people lived here. Near as I can tell, "he pointed to the jumble of notes and letters on the desk before him, "more than half the city has fled, twenty thousand people."
"How many dead, Sir?"
"More than three thousand, enough to fill house after house, street after street." (20.55-20.57)
The enormity of the epidemic is important to register, as the death toll rises higher and higher.