Fever 1793

The Blame Game College

As we encounter obstacles over the course of our lives, we often turn to external sources to justify internal conflict. This tendency to assign responsibility is evident in Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793, in which refugees fleeing Santo Domingo are accused of spreading the yellow fever epidemic across Philadelphia. Similarly, in Charles Burns’ Black Hole, teenagers are shamed for having contracted “the Bug”, a sexually transmitted disease that turns them into social outcasts. In both cases, human carriers are shunned and used as scapegoats for the outbreaks. By appointing an “otherness” to the infected characters, they are dehumanized.

Set in the post-Revolutionary era, Anderson’s Fever 1793 depicts the life of a 14-year-old girl living in Philadelphia during the outbreak of the yellow fever. A work of historical fiction, the novel is a first-person account of the epidemic from the perspective of the young protagonist, Mattie Cook. Mattie’s voice offers readers a fresh and engaging outlook on her experience with the fever and the suffering that she endured.

As the plague started to take over the city, the citizens of Philadelphia searched for someone to blame. Rumours, much like the virus itself, quickly began to spread:

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