Ship Fever Characters

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Ship Fever Summary & Study Guide Description

Ship Fever Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett.

Antonia appears in The Behavior of the Hawkweeds

Antonia is the narrator and protagonist in The Behavior of the Hawkweeds. She is a third-generation immigrant, born and living in the United States, with her parents and her immigrant grandfather. In the story, Antonia relates a fairly complex chronology that focuses on three principle points in her life. The first major event involves an apparent attempt at sexual molestation when Antonia, born in 1921, was but ten years old. Antonia's grandfather intervened, accidentally causing the assailant's death. Antonia's grandfather dies of a heart attack before his trial, sparing her the notoriety of being a victim.

The second major event involves Antonia's marriage to Richard, a biology professor at a typical university. During their courtship, Antonia gives Richard a gift—a draft letter written by Gregor Mendel. Richard treasures the letter but proves fairly uninterested in how Antonia came to possess such an incredible artifact. Antonia's actual marriage to Richard is not much considered in the story—they have children who grow up and move away and he retires from his job.

The third major event describes a period of social upheaval and depression that Antonia experiences in 1970; she is left alone in her house and becomes introspective and isolated. Richard appears either oblivious or uncaring and does not intervene. Antonia then meets one of Richard's graduate students who expresses considerable interest in her early life. Antonia proposes sexual intimacy but is rejected. Richard soon moves to have the graduate student sent to another university. Later, Antonia receives an affirmation letter from the young man. By the time Antonia narrates the story she is approximately seventy years old, recovered from her depression, and looks back on her life with considerable reflection and insight.

Carl Linnaeus appears in The English Pupil

Carl Linnaeus (1707 - January 1778), or Carl von Linné after his ennoblement, is a Swedish botanist and taxonomist who founded the modern discipline of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of taxonomy and is widely recognized for other major contributions to the sciences of biology and ecology. Linnaeus' early education was at Uppsala University, where he eventually lectured in botany. Throughout the mid 1700s, Linnaeus traveled widely through Northern Europe, making collections of animals and plants which he categorized with his taxonomic system. Widely revered within his lifetime, Linnaeus has become recognized as a major contributor to not only biology but natural philosophy.

As Linnaeus' fame grew, he began to recruit other scientists to travel abroad, taking collections, making observations, and spreading Linnaeus' system of taxonomy. These students were collectively referred to as apostles by Linnaeus. Many of these students died of fevers or accidents during their travels—those who did return generally shared their collections with Linnaeus and thus built on his taxonomic system, helping it to receive a global influence. In the story The English Pupil, Linnaeus is aged, nearly paralyzed, and fairly senile. He spends an evening by a fireside thinking about some of his favored apostles and reminiscing about their interests, abilities, voyages, and untimely deaths. The story is set only weeks before Linnaeus' historic death.

Jonathan and Ruby appears in The Littoral Zone

Jonathan and Ruby are the protagonists of The Littoral Zone. They met fifteen years previous to the opening of the story, as scientist-teachers at a summer biology retreat. They were both married with children but dove into an extra-marital affair with each other that lasted for about three years before ending both of their marriages. They then courted and wed, forming a sort of blended family with five children—Jessie, Gordon, Mickey, Cora, and Ryan, in order of descending age. Both of their ex-spouses retained physical custody of the children, leaving Jonathan and Ruby in a sort of littoral zone, or prolonged transition. Though not explicitly stated in the story, it cannot be a coincidence that Jonathan and Ruby do not feel their relationship is resolved until both of their youngest children—Cora and Ryan—are nineteen and thus legal adults. Jonathan and Ruby's life together is typical of many whose relationships started out of infidelity: it is marked by mutually-agreed-upon revisionist history, the avoidance of affixing blame, and pervasive but unspoken guilt. Within the story, the two are treated as almost a single person; the story positions their relationship as the central actor and the point about which the narrative revolves.

Sarah Anne Billopp appears in Rare Bird

Sarah Anne Billopp is the protagonist of the story Rare Bird. She is also closely aligned with the narrative voice, highly sympathetic, and the primary actor in the story. She lives with her brother Christopher, as their parents have died. Following the custom of the time, the parental estate has passed entirely to Christopher, making Sarah Anne his dependent. Both Christopher and Sarah Anne have extensive and excellent education, with a strong focus in natural philosophy. While Christopher is rather an average intellect, Sarah Anne is exceptionally intelligent. This is in a way unfortunate for her, because the mores of the time frown on intelligent and educated women.

As Christopher ages, he begins to find Sarah Anne's capabilities socially embarrassing. He routinely hosts gatherings of scientists and Sarah Anne is respected among them—until Christopher makes it known that her appearances in the gatherings is not proper. In this, Christopher is supported by his new bride Juliet. Thus, Sarah Anne finds herself beyond typically marriageable age, cut off from meaningful contact, and isolated in her brother's house where she is only nominally welcome. When Sarah Anne meets Catherine, she finds an older woman much of the same determination and intellect. The two become fast friends, though their relationship remains somewhat secretive or furtive, because of Sarah Anne's social situation. Catherine is not only older, but also less restricted by society. The two women carry out a series of scientific experiments and investigations. Meanwhile, Juliet dies in childbirth, leaving Christopher a desolate and angry man. As Sarah Anne's situation deteriorates, her friendship with Catherine becomes closer. Eventually the two women emigrate to America, secretly, about 1765. Sarah Anne apparently is successful in America, though the story does not discuss her fate. She does not return and eventually Christopher also emigrates to America in search of her, though he never does find her.

Zaga appears in Soroche

Zaga is the protagonist of the story Soroche. The story presents a complex chronology of Zaga's life—she is probably born in 1947, to a poor family. She is an excellent cook but lacks advanced social graces. In 1971, at twenty-four, she marries Joel, who is forty-two. Joel, divorced from a previous marriage in 1956, is upper class and has lots of money. Although his friends look down on Zaga, he appears to put her forward as an equal. Joel has two children from a previous marriage—Alicia, fourteen in 1971; and Rob, twelve in 1971. For their honeymoon, Joel and Zaga travel to Chile, accompanied by Joel's two children. During the trip, Zaga is pregnant and suffers greatly from altitude sickness, or soroche. Alicia and Rob find Zaga's presence irritating, and after a few days of tentative care, Joel abandons Zaga to the hotel while he goes skiing with his children. Sometime after the trip, Zaga loses her baby through miscarriage. After eighteen years of marriage Joel dies in 1989. He leaves his considerable fortune from pharmaceuticals to Zaga. After Joel's death, Zaga's sister Marianna appears looking tentatively for money, which is not forthcoming.

Alec Carrière appears in Birds With No Feet

Alec Carrière is born in Pennsylvania to a poor family in1834. Without prospects, he is yet very intelligent and highly motivated. He spends his early youth self-training and self-educating in the sciences and reads widely about scientific adventure and expedition. In 1851, he decides to embark upon his own voyage of scientific discovery and collection. His plan is to travel to South America and amass a collection of specimens to sell to the scientific market in the New England area. He successfully voyages to the Amazon rainforest and learns his trade by experience. In 1853, Carrière has amassed a large collection that will make him wealthy and famous, and he returns to New England to sell it. Unfortunately, Carrière's ship catches fire in the galley and he loses all of his collections to the sea. Destitute, Carrière returns to a life of collecting and this time travels to the Malay Archipelago where he enjoys some successes before succumbing to fever—probably malaria. In an ironic twist, Carrière's father manages to intercept most of the monies generated from the sale of shipped specimens and Carrière is thus left still destitute. In 1862, Carrière manages to collect several rare specimens of the so-called footless bird of paradise and returns home with many collections intact. At home, however, he finds the country embroiled in the Civil War. With no immediate marked for scientific curiosa, Carrière is once again stymied. This time he enlists in the Northern military forces and looks forward to trying his luck at war.

Rose Marburg appears in The Marburg Sisters

Rose Marburg is born probably in 1950, though the story is light on dates—by 1980 she is a university professor with a well-established position and apparently is respected. She is the narrator and one of the principle protagonists of the story. Rose is the daughter of Theo and Suky Marburg and the granddaughter of Leo Marburg. Rose grows up at the family winery in Hammondsport, New York, near the shore of Keuka Lake. Rose has a younger sister, Bianca, who is one year younger. Both sisters are named after aspects of wine. Rose's mother Suky dies when Rose is only ten years old. After her mother's death, her father becomes focused on the winery business and thus the girls grow up without much parental influence. They become wild; the exact nature of their wildness is not described in detail, but based on their later lives, it probably involved the usual teenage problems of promiscuous sex, binge drinking, and the illicit use of various drugs.

Rose and her sister are both quite intelligent and do well in school. Rose graduates with degrees in biochemistry and proves successful as a professor at a university, running a biochemistry lab. Rose remains somewhat close to her sister throughout her adult life, though the closeness appears to be a little lopsided and overemphasized in Rose's estimation. Bianca does not seem as interested in keeping in contact as does Rose. As an adult, Rose is not adverse to using hallucinogenic drugs, marijuana, and binge drinking, though she seldom does these things. When the sisters' father dies, they meet, but only lightly participate in his memorial services, instead leaving the details to his few friends. Afterward they share a sort of mystical bonding experience where they believe they contact their mother from beyond the grave to discuss their father's life. After this, Rose predictably returns to her life at the university, though she does start a relationship. Just as predictably, Bianca pursues a Bohemian lifestyle by posing nude for her lover-artist.

Dr. Lauchlin Grantappears in Ship Fever

Dr.Lauchlin Grant is a youngish man of privilege, born to a very wealthy family, and educated in contemporaneous medical trends in Paris. He is born in 1820 and raised in Quebec. His father is absent the city for unknown reasons, apparently for an extended period of time. Lauchlin is in charge of the estate but ignores it almost entirely. He has a strong romantic yearning for Mrs. Susannah Rowley, his childhood friend. He feels himself inadequate for her for reasons unspecified. Lauchlin is said to be pale-skinned and red-headed; otherwise, his physical description indicates he is of normal height, weight, and build. Women apparently do not find him physically overly attractive. He has a keen intellect and an excellent medical training. He has spent a year or so in Quebec as a private physician, but his practice is not doing well. Lauchlin is invited to become a physician at the quarantine station on Grosse Isle during a typhus outbreak among Irish immigrants. He accepts the position, though he finds it, at first, to be quite distasteful. Over the next several weeks, he keeps a nearly daily journal and offers medical assistance to the sick. His opinions change markedly during his service. Lauchlin saves one young woman—Nora Kynd—and then recruits her as a nursing assistant at the station. Lauchlin eventually contracts typhus and dies at the station itself.

Mrs.Susannah Rowleyappears in Ship Fever

Mrs. Susannah Rowley grew up as a childhood friend with Lauchlin Grant and probably was born in 1820. Her family's social situation is not described in the novella, but she probably comes from a privileged family as her marriage to Arthur Adam Rowley, a wealthy and influential newspaperman, does not excite undue attention. Susannah finds Lauchlin somewhat irritating in his refusal to grow up, but still holds him in high esteem as a friend. She encourages him to make more of himself. Susannah's husband spends much of his time away from home pursuing news stories. During the period of time discussed in the novella, her husband is in Ireland covering the famine of 1847. When the Irish immigrants begin to arrive in Quebec, Susannah begins to offer aid by personally visiting them and caring for them. This is highly unusual among the women of her social strata and invites criticism from them as well as from her servants. Throughout the period of the novella, Susannah is a gracious host, a patient friend, and a humanitarian. At the end of the novella, she is sick with typhus and not expected to survive.

Nora Kyndappears in Ship Fever

Nora Kynd is a poor Irish immigrant. Her parents were victims of the famine—in particular, her father was shot dead in the street for demanding work to earn money to buy food to feed his children, an early type of labor protest. Nora thereafter managed to secure passage for herself and her two younger brothers to Canada. At the time, America was not allowing immigrants from Ireland, but as part of the United Kingdom, Canada was. On the voyage to Canada, Nora became sick with typhus. The captain of the ship ordered all with "ship fever" to be confined to the hold. Nora's brothers were kept away from her. Nora was stacked with other sick people in the hold and became trapped under the corpse of victim of disease. Nora was rescued by Lauchlin Grant, who carried her ashore to the quarantine station against the orders of a senior physician. At the station, she recovered her health, though her brothers continued on to Quebec and then parts unknown. Nora never meets her brothers again. After regaining her health, Nora worked as a nursing assistant until the quarantine station closed down for the year. As the last part of her service, Nora tended Lauchlin in his final days before death from fever. Nora is outfitted in nice clothing and equipage from the stores of the dead. She travels to Quebec to communicate with Arthur Adam, and then looks toward America as her ultimate destination.

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