Fever 1793 (2000) is a historical novel by Laurie Halse Anderson. Set during the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic, its protagonist and narrator is a teenage girl named Matilda whose father has died.
Characters in "Fever 1793"
The Cook Family
The main character of the book. A teenage girl nicknamed Mattie,she has a crush on Nathaniel Benson while he has a crush on her too, a painter's assistant, and once watched the first hot air balloon rise with him. She matures throughout the course of the book which forces her to "grab reins" to her own life instead of her mother. Matilda survived the fever herself.
Matilda's mother. She was the leader of the Cook household before the fever epidemic and was rather strict and somewhat demanding, but reasonable. She becomes ill with the fever and sends Matilda away to the Ludington farm in the countryside along with Grandfather, but eventually flees to the farm as well. After nearly dying at the Ludington farm and the passing of the epidemic, she returned to the coffeehouse. However, now she is very weak and incapable. It is assumed that she is a Quaker because of her hard work ethic and intolerance of slavery. Owns the cook coffee house
Captain William Farnsworth Cook
Matilda's grandfather. He was a soldier in the American Revolution
and also taught Matilda how to play chess
. He was most happy working under George Washington. He taught Matilda old soldier's tricks, which was later used to find water. He was killed during a robbery and was buried, upon Matilda's insistence, with a prayer.
A parrot named after the British King George III himself. Grandfather won him in a card game and he is often disliked by Matilda. Matilda realizes she has lost King George after she gets back to the coffeehouse. He was a nasty tempered bird who enjoyed talking back to Matilda.
The coffeehouse cook. Eliza is a free African American and is part of the Free African Society
. According to Mattie, without Eliza's fine food her family would have been out on the streets. Mattie also claims Eliza to be her best friend.
Eliza's brother. He works as a cooper
and has two twin sons: William and Robert. His wife, Betty had recently died and when Mattie first met him he was still recovering. And he is being taken care of by Mother Smith and Eliza.
A member of the Free African Society
. Sent to help take care of Joseph due to his tragic loss, she tries all that she can to help him recover. Mother Smith is very wise and tells Mattie if shes doing wrong. At first Mattie doesn't appreciate her then grows to love her.
William and Robert
Joseph's young twin sons. They become friends with Nell who is about their age when Mattie stays at Eliza's as the yellow fever dies down. They become ill with yellow fever but recover as Nell does.
The Ogilvie Family
A very wealthy family. The names of the family members mentioned are:
- Pernilla Ogilvie (the mother)
- Colette & Jeannine Ogilvie (the Ogilvie sisters)
- Edward Ogilvie (youngest son)
They invite Mattie and her mother over for a tea party (Lucille is inclined to go because she is interested in marrying Mattie off to Edward). But due to the fever, Mattie and her mother are the only ones that arrive. Conflict rises between Mattie and the Ogilvie sisters during the party. When Jeannine calls the Cook Coffeehouse a tavern and a "Grog Shop" (a slang term used in that time for a place where criminals and other dregs of society gather to drink whiskey and fight), Matilda's mother angrily interferes, and the two leave just as Colette collapses with the fever.
Matilda's crush and friend. He is a teenage boy who works for The Peales
as an apprentice who stays alive through the epidemic. Nathaniel often snatches apples from Mattie’s basket when he sees her at the market because he has a crush on her too. In the beginning of the book Mattie’s mother does not like him because she thinks he does not behave like a gentleman. He works for Mr. Peale and stays with the Peale's through the epidemic.Mattie and Nathaniel plan to be together in 3-4 years, when he has enough money to support them.
The coffeehouse servant girl. In the first few chapters the family wonders why she is late. Matilda assumes she is at the forge
, stealing a kiss with Matthew, the blacksmith's
son. Later they discover that she died from the fever.
A nurse at the mansion at Bush Hill who takes care of Matilda. Grandfather charms her and she eventually reveals her given name: Bridget. She soon restores Matilda to full health, overcoming yellow fever. She and the Grandfather liked each other a little bit in the book.
A small, blonde girl whose mother died of yellow fever. Matilda finds her keening at an alley with her dead mother by her side and decides to take care of Nell. They get very close but Matilda soon had to take her to an orphanage. However, as the orphanage had too many children, Matilda happily decided that it was better for Nell to stay with her. Nell eventually catches the fever, along with the twins, but survives!
Awards and nominations
- An ALA Best Book of Young Adults
- A Junior Library Guild Selection
- New York Public Library's 100 Books of Reading and Sharing
- New York Public Library's Best Books for the Teen Age
- An IRA Teacher's Choice
- An ABA Pick of the Lists