Andrea Barret "Ship Fever". An Analysis of the Development of the Main Characters

Term Paper, 2005

10 Pages, Grade: 3



1. Introduction

2. Summary of the story

3. The characters
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Susanna Rowley
3.3. Nora Kynd
3.4. Arthur Adam Rowley
3.5. Dr. Jaques and Dr.Douglas

4. The development of Dr. Lauchlin Grant

5. Conclusion

1. Introduction

The story “Ship Fever” was written by Andrea Barrett and deals with the worst epidemic Ireland had to suffer from, The Great Famine.

In 1845 the potato harvests were affected and destroyed by the blight. Since the potato was the major food for the poor population of Ireland, many had to suffer from hunger and finally about 1.5 Million died.[1]

One way to escape from the disease was to emigrate and start a new live in America. So did about 1.3 Million[2], mainly they stayed in the cities of the United States the ships arrived at, like Boston, New York City and Philadelphia.

Many people fell ill because of the bad conditions on the ships that were, for that reason, also called “coffin ships”. A main disease was typhus; also know as the ship fever, the passengers carried. Because the Americans were afraid, the fever could be brought into the country and affect the American population, a lot of ships were redirected to Canada. So a big part of the immigrants arrived at Grosse Isle where the inscription of a memorial tablet reminds of the dead: “Thousands of the children of the Gael were lost on this island while fleeing from foreign tyrannical laws and an artificial famine in the years 1847-8. God bless them. God save Ireland. “[3]

“Ship Fever” describes the incidents that happen on “Grosse Isle”, it shows the suffering of the thousands of people arriving, already sick or even dead. Many of the immigrants were sick of fever, most of them died already on the ships, some died in the hospitals and a few could be saved. The story describes the fight of the doctors against the disease and shows the development of a Doctor from the city who became an emergency physician.

In this work I’m going to take a deeper look at the main character Lauchlin Grant and his development. I’ll give an overview of the story “Ship fever” by telling you something about the main events. In addition I’m going to introduce the characters and show how they influence Lauchlin Grant in his character and behaviour. In the end, I will show the development of Lauchlin Grant during the epidemic.

2. Summary of the story

The young doctor Lauchlin Grant lives in Quebec and spends his evenings with his childhood friend Susannah. Her husband Arthur Adam Rowley travelled to Europe to report about the potato famine in Ireland. One evening, when Lauchlin reads a letter from Arthur Adam to Susannah, they find themselves in an argument about his work. In the end, Lauchlin feels like Susannah told him that his work in Quebec is not as important as the things Arthur Adam does in Europe. Lauchlin leaves and does not talk to Susannah for a while.

When he gets home, he reads his letters and finds one from Grosse Isle asking for help, he decides to travel to there to care for the immigrants that arrive on the ships every day.

At his arrival he is welcomed by Dr. Jaques who directly takes him to the ships to see, how many people are already sick and need to go to the hospital. Because there are not as much beds in the hospitals as patients, they can not take everyone that is sick to the hospitals, so they sort out the worst cases. On one ship Lauchlin finds a woman, who was thought to be dead, but when Lauchlin touches her, he finds out that she was still alive.

Her name was Nora Kynd and she had been on the ship with her two brothers. When Lauchlin tries to get the to brother with her into the hospital, Dr. Jaques argues that they are not sick enough and that they will be send to another city, but Nora is brought to the hospital .

Nora recovers and tells Lauchlin how she had experienced the epidemic at home in Ireland. She tells him about her family, her relatives she had lost and how her grandmother had cared for the sick.

When Nora is completely recovered, she helps to care for the patients, because she can not get sick again.

As days go by more and more ships arrive and more patients are brought into the hospitals. Finally it seems like Lauchlin does not sleep at nights at all.

One day he is send to Quebec for one day. Nora asks him to announce a message from her, with which she is searching for her two brothers.

When he arrives he does not go home at once, but wants to visit Susannah. He has to wait for her, because she cares for victims of the fever in the city. Her house maid Anna does not want the sickness to be brought into the house, so she leads Lauchlin into a chamber where he has to take off his clothes and wash himself. Anna rushes to his house to get him new, clean clothes. While Lauchlin is waiting he falls asleep in the library.

Suddenly he awakes when Susannah enters, only dressed in her dressing gown. They share a very intimate moment.

They have dinner and finally, he tells her how he feels about her in an indirect way and finds out that she feels love for him, too.

Released and happy he returns to Grosse Isle, but falls ill a few days later.

Nora cares for him and finds out about Susannah, because Lauchlin cries her name all the time, even when he sees Nora, he thinks, it is Susannah. In the end, Lauchlin dies.

When there are no more ships arriving, there is no work for Nora anymore and she gets paid. Dr. Douglas gives her a satchel and she puts on clothes she had saved from the sick or dead people. With these clothes on, she makes her way to Quebec and is not recognized as an immigrant.

Finally, she finds the house of the Rowleys and wants to talk to Susannah to give her the belongings of Lauchlin Grant. But she only finds Arthur Adam, who tells her that his wife, Susannah, fell ill, too. Both know that she is going to die and Nora thinks about offering help, but she finally decides not to do.

Anna, who was really rough to her when she first saw Nora, invited her to have tea with her.

In the end, Nora tells her that she will leave already and that she will try to find her brothers and if she can not, she wants to go to the United States, especially to Detroit.

3. The characters

3.1. Short introduction

The story features three main characters, Lauchlin Grant, Nora Kynd and Susannah Rowley, but also minor characters like Arthur Adam Rowley, Dr. Jaques and Dr. Douglas, who have no less important function.

Throughout the story Lauchlin has a relation to all of them, to some in and indirect way and to some in a direct way. But in all ways he is influenced by them, even in their absence, like in Arthur Adams case.

3.2. Susannah Rowley

The biggest influence on Lauchlin has Susannah Rowley. She lives in Quebec with her husband Arthur Adam. When they were still children, she had lived next door with Lauchlin and spent most of their time with each other. After her parents had died within a week from each other, she and Lauchlin had been separated. She was brought to a suburb of St.Roch where she grew up with her uncle and aunt. Her relatives were Quaker, so when she is grown up, she still dresses simply. She does not were any jewellery, not even those of her mother, but she likes to look at them. Lauchlin describes her as beautiful and intelligent.

When she talks to Lauchlin, she tells him that she misses her husband and that she wishes she would be with him, to help the people.

While Lauchlin is on Grosse Isle, she helps sick people in the city of Quebec. By this time, her servants, especially Annie, seem to be in the driver’s seat, they make her clean her clothes and wash off the sickness and she does not complain about it.

3.3. Nora Kynd

On Grosse Isle Lauchlin meets Nora Kynd. When Lauchlin found her on one of the ships, she was very ill and almost thought to be dead. She had come from Ireland with her two Brothers Ned and Denis and fell sick on the ship. While she was on board she spent most of her time on the deck sketching the cabin passengers she saw.

Nora is from a rural area in western Ireland, she is about 22 years old and has black, long, straight hair.

Back in Ireland she had helped her grandmother to care for the fever patients. The biggest part of her family had already died in Ireland, her parents, her grandparents, her sister, brothers, aunt, uncle and cousins. She believes that the famine is a punishment from God for the waste of potatoes some years ago.

Within some days, she recovers and works as an attendant to care for the sick. There she does a very good job and Lauchlin appreciates her help a lot. Once he says: “Untrained, uneducated, she has been of more use and shown more dedication than anyone except the Sisters who came this month from Quebec.”[4]

When Lauchlin falls ill, she cares for him as good as she can, she washes him, gives him fresh water and massages. In the end, after he died, she leaves the Island to go to Quebec and bring Lauchlin’s belongings to Susannah Rowley. After that, she wants to search for her brother, but is almost sure that she will not find them.


[1] Kulawik, Norbert: “The Great Famine - Die große Hungersnot 1846-185“ <> (31.07. 2006)

[2] Kulawik, Norbert: “The Great Famine - Die große Hungersnot 1846-185“ <> (31.07. 2006)

[3] (26.August 2006)

[4] Andrea Barrett 1999: 229

Excerpt out of 10 pages


Andrea Barret "Ship Fever". An Analysis of the Development of the Main Characters
Justus-Liebig-University Giessen  (Institut für Englische Landeskunde)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
393 KB
No secondary literature used.
Andrea, Barret, Ship, Fever, Analysis, Development, Main, Characters
Quote paper
Kathl Morgenstern (Author), 2005, Andrea Barret "Ship Fever". An Analysis of the Development of the Main Characters, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Andrea Barret "Ship Fever". An Analysis of the Development of the Main Characters

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free