When Mrs. Cook gets sick with yellow fever, she experiences all the gruesome symptoms of the disease. She also has to suffer through blood-letting, which was a common medical treatment at the time. Anderson uses graphic imagery to describe what Mattie saw and experienced during this time. The imagery makes clear just how frightening and upsetting the disease was for those who experienced it, as well as for those who had to care for individuals suffering from the disease. The imagery is also very powerful because at this point, Mattie is only a sheltered young girl and it would be very disturbing for her to see her mother in this condition.
The Ogilvie household
Early in the novel, Mattie and her mother go to the Ogilvie house to have tea with Pernilla Ogilvie and her daughters. The Ogilvies are very wealthy and fashionable, and imagery is used to describe their glamorous house. Mattie is struck by everything she can see, smell, touch, and taste during this visit. The use of imagery conveys the impact and impression the visit has on her, making her feel insecure and self-conscious. However, the glamourous imagery is not shown to actually be comfortable or welcoming, and later on, the Ogilvies will be revealed to be an unhappy family hiding many secrets within its ranks.
The garden at frost
Late in the novel, Mattie collapses in the garden when she's become exhausted while nursing the children. At this point, she feels that she cannot go on any longer and that there is no point in even trying. While she is lying there, Mattie realizes that the first frost has come in and that the epidemic is likely now going to lessen. This moment is described with vivid imagery to show how emotional and heightened this experience is for Mattie. She is truly at her breaking point, and the awareness of the frost is an experience of salvation and hope.
When Mattie and her grandfather are stranded in the countryside, Mattie becomes more and more desperate to find food for the two of them. By chance, she finds her way to an orchard where there are ripe and rotting pears. Anderson uses imagery to convey the heat of the summer day, Mattie's increasing panic, and the sensual imagery of the pears. Readers later learn that Mattie is feverish by this point, which likely explains why this experience is so intense for her. The imagery also shows that when her circumstances become challenging, nothing is taken for granted, and even simple things take on new significance.
Fever 1793 Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Fever 1793 is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.