Year of Wonders
The Summary of Year of Wonders
Year of Wonders is a book about religion, medicine, and how a small village of Eyam, England overcome a dreadful plague. This novel, written by Geraldine Brooks is based on true events, lasting from 1665-1666, a bubonic plague occurred in England. Anna Firth, along with the villagers try to survive the plague by isolating themselves from other villages in England.
The village is very small therefore; the people are very warm, welcoming and they take care of each other and go out of their own way to help. Anna Firth, the central character, is a single widowed mother of two little boys Jamie and Tom. She works as a house maiden for Michael Mompellion and his wife Elinor Mompellion. Michael is a rector at the village church and is a sensible man to give Anna work when she lost her husband Sam in a mining accident.
The plague had started in London first, but the first signs of plague showed up in Eyam was when George Viccars, a tailor from London came to live at Anna’s house as a paying guest. Mr. Viccars was the first one to fall sick and passed away in a matter of days after he had a fever. Soon after, the elderly and the children started getting sick, they passed away along with Anna’s both sons. “Soon you will be with your father, he’ll still be able to hold you like that. You’ll be so comfortable in his strong arms (Brooks, 2001)”, Anna whispered in Tom’s ears on his last breath. With the loss of a brother, Jamie had fallen sick as well. Anna was strong and determined, so she tried some remedies recommended by Mr. Mompellion’s friend from University of Cambridge. Even with the strong efforts, Anna had lost her son after suffering for five days.
As the village was dying from the plague, Michael Mompellion tried to have a positive attitude and kept the people calm through this dreadful time. Mem and Anys Gowdie were herb experts and had a garden full of different exquisite herbs that they used to treat the villagers. The villagers called Gowdies “witch (Brooks, 2001) pg.88” along with “whore, jade, and fornicator (Brooks, 2001) pg. 91” and took their lives.
After Gowdies death, Michael Mompellion took it upon him to bring the village together and help them bring more closer to God. “Dear brothers and sisters, we know that God sometimes has spoken to his people in a terrible voice, by visiting dread things upon them. There are some who would say that God sends us this thing not in love, but in rage. But I do not think God sends us this plague in anger. I do not think we here in this village are Pharaoh in his eyes” (Brooks, 2001) pg. 100-101. The rector wanted the village to stay together instead of fleeing and finding some other place of residence outside of the village. The Bradfords, one of the wealthiest family in the village, had fled to Oxford as soon as they realized that the plague is out of control. Even after Rector plead to Colonel Bradford, they did not listen one bit and left the village leaving all of their employees jobless.
Over the course of the next year, Anna Firth and Elinor Mompellion used Gowdie’s garden and herbs to find cure for the ill families in the village. Both went from helping the ill to bringing new babies in this plague world. Anna and Elinor found a purpose and a friendship as a result of this plague. They discovered a book of medicine and remedies that they used to cure the common cold, and eventually tried to cure the plague. Even with all the remedies, there were still deaths in the villages. Day by day, there were less people at the church hall on Sundays. Some villagers had disbelief in God, where some had found dark magic to confront the sickness. Aphra, Anna’s stepmother, had turned toward the madness of dark magic and accused the rector of being the enemy of the village. She came to attack the rector and in the fight, killed herself and Elinor Mompellion.
Michael Mompellion, the rector, had lost all hope after the death of his beloved wife, who made her purpose to help people in the village in every way possible. Anna had lost her best friend and partner in science. Anna had no reason to live in the village after Elinor’s death, but Michael( elaborate). Instead of finding a friend in Michael, Anna was attracted to him and they fell in bed together before Anna came to realize that Michael is not a good man. He does not care for human emotions and only care for his belief. It was this moment where Anna had lost her faith in God.
Anna found a chance to flee the village when she gave birth to Mrs. Branford’s illegitimate child. Anna took the little girl because the Branford’s wanted to kill her as she was a bastard child. Anna traveled far and made her way to “port of Oran, home of Andalus Arabs (Brooks, 2001) pg. 300”. Anna met a famous doctor Ahmed Bey, who gave a her home, made her his wife and had given her a respectable name. Together, Ahmed and Anna practiced medicine, healing and studying new diseases. At the end of the novel, Anna Firth was happy with her two daughters; Maryam (Bradford’s daughter) and Elinor (Ahmed and Anna’s daughter). She had come a long way and learned so much in these two years. She had made a commitment with Ahmed about faith “I cannot say that I have faith anymore. Hope, perhaps. We have agreed that it will do, for now” (Brooks, 2001) pg. 300.
- Brooks, G. (2001). Year of Wonders. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
The Plague in the Year of Wonders
Negativity brings sorrow, grief, hostility, and fear. The outlook that is held can hinder the way that you decide to go about handling the situation. The plague, a serious illness with terrible effects on a society, causes fear, uproar, damage, pain, and grief.
Plague as a Test, and Despair
The view on the plague throughout the novel had drastically changed for a few people. “It is a trial for us, I am sure of it. Because of His great love for us, He is giving us here an opportunity that He offers to very few upon this Earth.” In the beginning, Michael Mompellion, the village pastor, believed that the plague was given to them as a test. As a result of that conclusion, he believed that the village goes under quarantine in order to take on what God has given them and not affect others. However, as the plague continued to get worse, the villagers began to believe in other things that they believed would save them rather than God, which disheartened Mompellion. “Anna, I don’t know what shocks me more in all this: that someone preys upon their desperate fellows, or that they besmirch the memory of Anys Gowdie in passing themselves off as her shade, or that people here are so desperate and credulous that they listen to these midnight whisperings and pay their last mite for these worthless amulets.”
Although there were many negative outlooks on the plague, Anna used her suffering from the plague, the loss of her husband and two sons, to help others in this time of need. To do so, she used scientific remedies that would be effective in healing others. But her faith had diminished through her losses and suffering. “Why, I wondered, did we, all of us, both the rector in his pulpit and simple Lottie in her croft, seek to put the Plague in unseen hands? Why should this thing be either a test of faith sent by God, or the evil working of the Devil in the world? One of these beliefs we embrace, the other we scorned as superstition. But perhaps each was false, equally. Perhaps the Plague was neither of God nor the Devil, but simply a thing in Nature, as the stone on which we stub a toe.” Her ‘faith’ was not the reason for helping everyone else’s suffering, but she accepted that she has lost so much and she must put that behind her to allow herself to move on and make something out of her current lifestyle. One way that she tried to help was to have everyone burn the infected cloth, but people were too selfish to do so, and the plague, that could have been stopped, continued to flourish.
Lose of Faith
More and more villagers are dying. More and more loved ones are lost. More and more faith is lost. There seems to barely be hope, if not any, in humanity to surpass this ‘test from God’. Mompellion’s wife Elinor passed away from the terrible sickness. Thus, resulting in Mompellion’s change of heart upon upholding his faith. “I thought I spoke for God. Fool. My whole life, all I have done, all I have said, all I have felt, has been based upon a lie. Untrue in everything. So now… I have learned at last to do as I please!” This change brings two things in perspective. This preacher was ‘fine’ as all the pain and suffering was happening to other people while he just spread the word and tried to spiritually encourage. But once the pain and suffering begin to happen to you and your loved one, the whole perspective changes. Now he does not even believe in God because his wife has passed away.
In conclusion, the plague brought death, grief, damage, fear, and plenty of pain. The faith in the community depleted as the plague continued to get worse. Everyone trying to survive for themselves while losing friends and family left and right. This ‘God sent’ plague caused the community to battle emotional, physical, and mental struggles. The way that people decided to deal with this was different in a plenty of ways. Surviving this type of event would leave you emotionally and mentally drained because the life has literally been sucked out of you. Through sickness and death. However, if Anne can do it, and use it as motivation to help others in need. So, can someone else.
The Transformation of the Characters in Year of Wonders
Geraldine Brook’s novel ‘Year of Wonders’ highlights the extensive ways in which Transformation occurred to those who survived the plague in the small village of Eyam. As a result of the plague many of those whom survived all experienced dramatic changes. Many of these changes were highlighted in characters such as Anna Firth, Michael Mompellion and Elinor Mompellion. Anna was pushed to extreme lengths in which her character evolved into a much more sympathetic and caring person who loved to help those in dire need of support regardless of the danger of the situation. Michael Mompellion shows change due to the loss of his beloved wife Elinor as he loses his faith and his love for god. Elinor also experiences change as her trust and compassion grows for others. These all highlight that due to the terrors brought about by the plague there are those who change whether it be for good or bad.
Anna Firth, the main protagonist in Year of wonders is one of the many whom are lucky to survive the plague. Anna is pushed to outrageous lengths because of melancholy, confidence and dread that she develops, which are ultimately the source that lead to her change. Anna’s fear and grief cause selflessly her to help others who are in need and put their well-being before her own. Anna’s caring nature also acted as a distraction do the devastation that she had encountered, and therefore did not need to mourn for those who she had lost. Unlike the ordinary house servant of the 17th century, Anna learns how to write and read providing her with the knowledge that many others did not have. Throughout the novel Anna experiences the death and catastrophe brought about by the plague, “it seemed as if the flesh inside of him was dying while he yet breathed, the putrefying meat pushing and bursting its way out of his failing body.” Although most whom had faced such terrors as Anna did throughout the novel, would isolate themselves as they feared the effects of the plague. However, Anna’s new defying warrior like demeanour allowed her to act courageously and selflessly when she was faced with the plague as she helped others, ultimately bettering herself as she learns that even little signs of hope can bring those who are in dire need of help happiness and Appreciation. Anna ultimately changes for the better as she is impacted by the plague.
Michael Mompellion the towns rector is another individual who shows significant change as a result of the plague. Throughout the novel, Mompellion preaches about god and spreads his faith to the community, making him the main religious figure in the novel. However, due to the terrors brought about by the plague, in this case Elinor’s death. Mompellion breaks down questioning god ultimately losing faith and any love for god. Mompellion questions if the plague was truly “a test of faith sent by god, or evil working of the devil in the world?” ultimately showing the resentment towards god that he develops. After the death of his wife, Mompellion falls into a melancholic state as he mourns for the loss of his wife. As his life continues, Mompellion is left lonely without the affection and companionship of a women, to which he begins an intimate relationship with Anna, as she had long been drawn to the preacher, and together with his partner gone, she could no longer resist. Due to the terrors that Mompellion had faced, ultimately resulted in a negative change and lead to the abandonment of his puritan beliefs and his beloved god.
Elinor is another protagonist whom was lucky enough to survive the plague. However, her life is cut short as she is brutally murdered by Aphra the “gibbering, broken thing.” Elinor was murdered out of jealousy as Aphra believed that the Mompellion’s had stolen her late husband’s daughter Anna away from them. Elinor changes on many personal levels as she is faced with the plague. Like Anna Elinor develops a caring nature and therefore her “motherly concern” influence her to feel compassionate for those who are in dire need of support as they are either very ill as result of the plague or are struggling with the loss of a loved one. Elinor changes for the better as she shows sympathy for those who are not at their best however, this ultimately leads to her demise as there are those overwhelmed with jealousy whom take her life.
In conclusion, throughout the novel Year of wonders it is evident that the characters within the novel who manage to survive the plague all show signs of drastic change. Anna, Michael and Elinor are all prime examples of this as they have all survived the terrors and clearly show signs of transformation.
The Societal Constraints and the Development of Individuals in Burial Rites and Year of Wonders
Both texts explore the causal effects and relationship between individuals’ agency and their respective societal constraints by focusing on the oppressive social norms and the character development of individuals produced from the vicissitudes that emerge from their condemning, judgmental societies. In order to challenge the ubiquitous social structures, both Kent and Brooks invite readers to consider how the oppressive experiences that individuals’ undergo force themselves to consider their own choices in order to subvert traditional values.
Individuals gaining strength through the means of enforced power stemming from traditional, patriarchal stability and security influences one’s choices to either conform to their societal norms or resist being manipulated by an intolerant community.
Kent explores how patriarchal values diminish the worth of women’s experiences, identity and autonomy, and how resisting these gender roles causes women to be condemned by society. Through the characterisation of Sigga being “too young and sweet to die”, Kent is able to portray a misogynistic society that favours those who fit an ideal female character – a woman that complies with the intentions of men. She presents connotations of fragility and subservience that implies that those who challenge authority and society’s expectations will be criticised, but those who are “dumb and pretty and young” are supported and will gain public sympathy. The protagonist, Agnes, is mistreated purely because of her own intellect and her curiosity of life outside of the strict boundaries of society. When Agnes mimics the patronising and derogatory judges’ tone when she states “a thinking woman can’t be trusted”, she conveys her own self-awareness to the humiliation and ostracisation she is subject to by society. Her cynical tone critiques her condemning society and expresses her own experience of public denunciation by those who wish to diminish the value of women’s identity and autonomy. This willingness to vocalise her denunciations portrays how the judgmental and oppressive nature of her society has increased her resilient character and taught her to value her own intellect and independence. In this way, Kent criticises the brutal patriarchal society of Iceland where women are valued differently based on how well they conform to these gendered expectations.
Year of Wonders
Similar to Kent’s commentary on the effect of patriarchal values, in Year of Wonders, Brooks explores how oppressive social structures based on puritanical and religious ideals can detrimentally affect an individual’s connection to society. The repetition in Anna Frith’s statement “Dark and light, dark and light…that was how I had been taught to view the world”, places emphasis on the dichotomous view of the world she had been influenced to believe. By depicting a society that only values right and wrong, Brooks investigates the belief of absolute morality and how this view devalues those who are struggling with their personal view on ethics. The diction of Anna when referring to Anys Gowdie stating “her fornication and her blasphemy branded her a sinner in the reckoning of our religions” connotes ideas of condemnation and degradation. Brooks suggests that the inherent systematic prejudices and ignorance of the justice system continually fails to exercise true justice for its participants, thereby condemning the confidence of individuals in the moral quality and authority of the power structures in society. The assertive tone of Kate when she states “because that which I do believe has failed me” conveys how individuals begin to seek alternative ideologies as the solutions to their problems within society and their losses as a result of the flaws of their own society are revealed. Thus, Brooks explores the fundamentally divulsive effect of societal structures, as individuals no longer adhere to a uniform of values. Instead, Brooks challenges the narrow-minded obsession with purity and opens the protagonists up to a larger world that enlightens them to unconventional beliefs and traditions within faith.
The Effect of the Setting in Year of Wonders
“Well, my beloved, I say we shall not flee like the faithless Israelites!” (Brooks, 103) This was the key moment where Michael Mompellion decides for the village to stay in the tiny village of Eyam in the middle of an outbreak of the bubonic plague. In the book Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks describes through the point of view of Anna Frith, a teenage servant for the Mompellions, the horrors of the plague when it comes to the village and infects almost all of the inhabitants. Set in 1666, Brooks describes very intimately the small village that Anna, the Mompellions, and the rest of the inhabitants live in, and very clearly describes the hysteria and the fear that come to the village once the plague comes to Eyam. While this is a work of fiction, the effect that the time period of the novel is set in allows the reader to very clearly understand why key decisions in the plot take place, and we can make many connections to the events of that time period. Even the location of the village allows the reader to step into the shoes of the village people and more easily understand what is going on in the plot. Brooks uses the setting of a small village set in the time period of the bubonic plague to very effectively enhance and thicken the plot of the story, giving readers a clear understanding of the events that happen throughout the novel.
Spanning the years 1665 and 1666, the Great Plague was the last major epidemic of the bubonic plague in England, a plague that had already killed millions of individuals. So naturally, there would quickly be a lot of accusations of each other and a lot of hysteria being created. Brooks shows how quickly hysteria and chaos are created even if there is a single unrelated detail that might suggest evil, especially in the case of Anys Gowdie, one of the townspeople. “I can’t see my reflection in her eyes! Sign of a witch! Sign of a witch!” (Brooks, 91). Especially after considering that back in that time period witchery was a very evil crime, you could see how all of a sudden all trust in the village had gone out the window. This was definitely one of the reasons why Brooks decided on using a tiny village like Eyam to set the story in; because in a small village you have to create strong relationships with the people around you, one misstep could mean the death of you, literally. The village is so disconnected from the rest of the world, so connections within the village need to be very strong because they have no one else that they know well that is trustworthy. Another prime example is between Anna and Mrs. Mompellion. Although Anna is Mrs. Mompellion’s servant, the connection that they have is not one of servant and employer, but almost like best friends, to the point where they are willing to sacrifice their lives to help a child mine ore. The connection between the two is almost inseparable. When Mrs. Mompellion contracted a minor fever, Anna was convinced that she had contracted the plague, and was extremely disheartened. “I wept then in earnest, standing right there in the middle of the field.” (Brooks, 233). Anna was so scared of the possible passing of Mrs. Mompellion that she didn’t even consider where she was going to weep. Thanks to the setting of a very secluded village, and the point of view that was used, Brooks engages the audience very effectively and makes us have empathy for the characters in the story.
The Religious Century
The time period that the story is set in also effectively incorporates the setting. Brooks wrote this novel based in the 15th century and in that time period, the idea of religion and God is the core in every household was very pronounced, and Brooks did not let this idea fade away. In multiple instances, Brooks seamlessly folds in the motif of religion into the plot of the entire novel. Even in the start when the townspeople are wondering about where the plague came about, Brooks carefully brings up the possibility of religious influence. “If God saw fit to send this scourge, I believe it would be His will that one faces it where one was, with courage and thus contain its evil.’ (Brooks, 62). It seemed that the first instinct Mr. Mompellion had about the Plague was one of religious influence, instantly thinking it was God who had sent the plague along. Brooks very quickly sets up how much religion is drilled into everybody’s brain and made into an important factor to consider in decisionmaking, especially seeing that Eyam was in the countryside and with a very Puritan background. As mentioned before, Mr. Mompellion quickly decided that it was an obligation to close down the village boundaries. Mr. Mompellion himself is the rector for the village, and all of the townspeople see him as the leader of the town, the one holy man with the capabilities to lead a village. Even the decision to isolate the village was one heavily influenced by religion. “Yet God in His infinite and unknowable wisdom has singled us out, alone amongst all the villages in our shire, to receive this Plague… Because of His great love for us, He is giving us here an opportunity that He offers to very few upon this Earth.” (Brooks, 100). Mr. Mompellion is so convinced that God had sent the plague to the village that he starts praising Him for bringing the plague to the village, This praise for God bringing in the plague ultimately leads to the decision of closing the village. Brooks very thoughtfully incorporated the use of religion, because it was such a big deal back in that time period. Everyone believed that the if everything in the world was going wrong, the only thing right was that God was with them. The time period that this novel was set in has very well portrayed how the setting can influence and help the reader understand the plot and the events occurring in the novel.
We can see that in many instances, Brooks has used the literary technique of setting to dramatically change the way that the novel is read by her audience. Thanks to her thoughtful use of including many references from the 17th century, Brooks allows the reader to truly step into the shoes of people living in the time of the plague and experience what living in that time period felt like, especially in the countryside where not much is heard from. The intimate relationships within the people that have to be fostered to create trust within a small village. The importance of how religion runs everything in almost all households. The type of conditions that people lived in. All of these have been woven intricately to produce a book that completely changes the way how people see the bubonic plague, and really understand why things happened. Geraldine Brooks carefully crafted her novel in the setting of a small village set in the time period of the bubonic plague to very effectively enhance and thicken the plot of the story, making this a novel for the ages.
Staying Strong in Times of Catastrophe
Humankind has the capacity to show extraordinary strength and compassion in times of catastrophe. Michael Mompellion in Geraldine Brooks’ “Year of Wonders” is a primary example of such a person, as despite his misguided religious beliefs he possesses a steely determination and desire to help those in need that renders his actions throughout the plague year commendable.
Michael takes on the role of leader in the plague year, a job that comes with much hardship and despair. It is he that encourages the villagers to quarantine themselves from the outside world when they become aware of the plague’s presence, and he uses his sermons to preach this selfless suggestion to many reluctant villagers. He reasons that “because of us, hundreds (may) die who might have lived”, and through protecting outsiders from their village potentially saved the lives of hundreds of strangers. His constant usage of “us” and “our” throughout the sermon suggests he has the best interests of the villagers at heart and that he is purely altruistic in his intentions. As the plague year progresses, he continues to lead the villagers as he brings them together on a regular basis allowing them to stay connected to one another and share in their despair and grief when they most need support. He encourages the villagers to continue to “meet at the Delf” when they feared contagion, keeping them connected through adversity and consequently easing their pain. He is overall quintessential in ensuring the togetherness of the villagers, as he gently led them to each other through torrents of emotion and offered them support and comfort.
Furthermore, Michael is a pillar of astutely comforting words and bottomless empathy as he soothes the dying fruitlessly throughout the text. At its very beginning he pledges that “none should die alone”, a sentiment that proves extremely difficult to follow through with, but he continues to tend to the dying with his unyielding perseverance weighing on him to the point of collapse. He soothes those in bitter pain by reassuring those such as Jacob Merril that “if we slip and fall, He understands our weaknesses”. He attempts to save those lost in bitterness and resentment, including Anna’s very own father when he “tr(ies) to appeal to any shred of good left deep within him” in response to Josiah robbing those on deaths doorstep of their most precious possessions. In his quest to squeeze every ounce of good from each and every person and event in the plague year, Michael made many villagers horrific deaths a little less painful and appealed to the decency in many a lost soul.
His most controversial decision in Year of Wonders was that to force his wife Elinor to remain abstinent in punishment for her premarital affair and consequent terminated pregnancy. From his perspective, “Elinor’s lust caused the loss of a life”, a crime so terrible in the eyes of God that by forcing her to live part of her life with her “lusts unrequited”, he was in fact desperately trying to save her soul so she would go to heaven. While such a punishment is repulsive to modern audiences, Michael believed he was in fact saving his beloved wife, acting in her best interests and assisting her in regaining the respect of God. The fact that he stuck firmly to his “resolve” despite the trials and stress of the plague year is most admirable. When she dies regretful and guilt stricken that he is no longer able to see light amongst the darkness of the plague. His misguided religious beliefs disintegrate with her death and he “feeds on the gall of (his) own grief”. Modelling himself off Anna’s own transformation, he rises from the depths of his despair and once again sees the importance of “bring(ing) life to others”, pledging to continue his caring, kind approach to the villagers and overcoming seemingly insurmountable grief to do so. And so we see that Michael’s punishment of Elinor was an act purely of love, and watch him rise up from his anguish in a most admirable manner as a stronger and more balanced human being.
Michael’s actions throughout the plague year all stem from a place of selflessness and care, as he is portrayed performing admirable deeds on a daily basis by soothing the dying and comforting grief stricken survivors. He has exceptional faith in the goodness of human nature and brings out the best in many. This is encapsulated when he declares, “the plague will make heroes of us all,” a statement that most certainly applies to him.
The Crucible and Year of Wonders
Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible and Geraldine Brooks’ novel Year of Wonders are both works that explore the treatment of individuals under oppressive theocratic ruling. Both Miller’s and Brooks’ works are aligned with key themes of superstition, suspicion of witchcraft, and unknown cause of diseases which lead the communities to unravel and fraction in 1660’s Salem and Eyam. Brooks’ novel Year of Wonders exemplifies the manifestation of female power contoured against theocratic standard, creating religious boundaries, whereas Miller illustrates the ability of religion to unite or divide an isolated society against inner turmoil. In both Miller’s play and Brooks’ novel, suspicion of witchcraft and unknown cause of the plague sparks mass hysteria in their religious society, causing the people’s faith to sway.
Miller’s play and Brooks’ novel both depict the lack of empowerment women face in their oppressive societies, as their actions are often dictated by their theocratic society. Through the inclusion of Tituba, Miller highlights the injustice that women face despite their continuous plea for innocence. Regarding their condemnation, Miller’s stage directions suggest that superiority of women is inexistent, with Tituba “fall[ing] to her knees” begging for justice and mercy despite her innocence to the accusations of her “dancing in the forest.” Through Tituba’s prosecution, the audience is encouraged to notice the overshadowing injustice casted on women by their theocratic ruling . Miller exemplifies this concept through Martha Corey’s character, accused by her husband, Giles Corey, she is targeted as a witch due to his suspicion of “reading strange books.” In contrast, Year of Wonders compares the array of ways in which women strive for autonomy in their highly religious society. Brook personifies Anna as a “timid girl” whose resilience is to rebel and completely defy social norms; when she launches onto Anteros which symbolises Eyam’s women striving and overcoming the theocratic suppression, exercising that woman should be “shackle to their menfolk”. These two texts highlight that the lack of empowerment women face doesn’t grant them the opportunity to voice out their opinions which adds fuel towards the suspicion of witchcraft for the villagers in the communities.
In both Miller’s play and Brooks’ novel, suspicion of witchcraft and unknown cause of the plague sparks mass hysteria in their religious society; leading faith to sway. Brooks’ heroine, Anna Frith gradually moves from adhering to religious observance and questions her “flimsy; tattered” faith in God. As she pursues a scientific understanding of nature, she comes to reject superstition and begins to regard the plague “as a thing neither of God or the Devil, but simply a thing in nature.” Brooks symbolizes that through a complex understanding, Anna becomes a more vigilant character that isn’t swayed by binary thinking. In contrast, none of Miller’s characters question their faith in God. Even though Proctor may well declare “God is dead,” John and Elizabeth still maintain their devoted belief in Christianity. Indeed it is their trust in God’s mercy and his offer of redemption that empowers John Proctor to defy Judge Danforth’s court and instead places his faith in God’s eternal salvation that other “judgement (that) awaits us all” to which Rebecca Nurse refers as they are about to be hanged. Proctor’s believes more in beneficent, loving and compassionate God than a vengeful punitive God. In both The Crucible and Year of Wonders, John Proctor and Anna Frith both spark innovative thinking which leads them to a division within their society.
Salem’s strict religious community in The Crucible, superstition is rife and scientific explanations are minimal, causes the community to divide and respond to the crisis in an upheaval manner. Conversely, Year of Wonders illustrates the power of community during a time of crisis, where superstitions infects Eyam. Miller encapsulates John Proctor as a vessel of justice whose suffering from mental torment from his religious moral code. John Proctor struggles to “mount the gibbet like a saint” in the divided community where law is powered by superstition. However, Giles Corey “fearsome” cry for “more weight” and Rebecca Nurse’s mature distinction between temporal and spiritual authorities-“let us go to God for the cause of it” serves as an inspiration to John Proctor to “show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them [the authorities] with it.” Miller positions his audience to understand that his conflict protagonist inevitably clash with the men with ordained authority such as Reverend Parris and Governor Danforth; hence resulting in the division of the Salem community. Whilst mass hysteria spreads wildly through Miller and Brooks’ theocratic society, Brooks presents the Mompellions as figure of strength that plays a major role in bringing the people of the village together selflessly. Brooks describes the mob’s “crazed” voices that “screamed” with “frenzy” to emphasis that there is no rational evidence to justify their accusations. With the use of religious leadership in Eyam, Mompellion condemns the hysterical actions of the drunken mob that attacks the Gowdies “Fools! Ignorant wretches!” has pure altruistic intentions to terminate further development of the accusations of witchcraft, bring the Eyam community together. Both Miller and Brooks showcase how the effect of superstition can weaken the cohesive bond between communities.
Humanity’s Capacity for Change as shown in Year of Wonders
Humankind has the potential to undergo significant change, and instances of crisis often act as catalysts for such transformations. The once meek and complacent Anna Frith becomes a women of exceptional bravery and compassion in Geraldine Brooks’ historical novel Year of Wonders, as in the course of her journey she changes many of her own views and challenges others’ perceptions of her. She overhauls many of the key pillars of her existence, meaning the changes she experienced were all-encompassing, demonstrating to readers the extraordinary malleability of human nature. The first important alteration Anna endeavoured to make was in regards to her relationship with men and her class status as a lowly maid, both features of her life that fed into her lack of independence and power. This transition is marked by the change in how she refers to Elinor, from “Mrs. Mompellion” at first to “my friend” later, and using her first name. This change in address indicates that she becomes comfortable with her equality to Elinor and that she deserves such a position. It was Elinor, in fact, who was the main influence on Anna’s defying of class boundaries, as Elinor’s own past mistakes led to her acting as a surrogate mother to Anna and helping her to see her value and potential. By treating Anna as an equal and educating her, articulated by Anna when she says “for as I loved to learn, she loved to teach”, Anna is exposed to a world previously closed off to her by her lack of means and she is consequently able to interact with all classes of people and get a job that is not menial. Much of Anna’s transition from lower class to classless also stemmed from her perception of herself, a perception Elinor is key in shaping, as she began to view herself as just as worthy as the wealthy consequently forcing those around her to challenge their views, seen when Elizabeth Bradford visited Michael in the novel’s first chapter. While Elizabeth “pushed past” Anna twice throughout their interaction, a gesture that indicates her sheer dismissal of Anna and lack of respect for her, Anna rebutted her rudeness by using the same doorway as Elizabeth. This was a discrepancy Elizabeth was clearly uncomfortable with, but one that illustrated Anna’s steely self-confidence at the plague year’s end and her new perspective on the redundancy of social class. Unfortunately, members of society such as Elizabeth will always view Anna as lesser than themselves, but Anna’s successful career and solo journey at the novels end prove that her resolute nature far outweighed a few doubters. If it were not for the rapid crumbling of her religious faith, Anna’s intelligent, open mind would have never been able to challenge her puritan upbringing and eventually turn to science as the more logical alternative. She begins to question her faith early on as she realises Anys’ “fornication and blasphemy branded her a sinner” despite her altruistic work in helping the villagers with their ailments and wellbeing. If it were not for her admiration of and respect for Anys her initial doubts about religion would perhaps never have arose, rendering Anys essential in her painstaking journey from puritan to atheist. The “dark and light” in which she “had been taught to view the world” began looking distinctively grey although she continues to go to church and see the plague as the doing of God until very late on in the novel when her mind is freed by the realisation the plague may be “a thing in Nature merely”. Anna’s unquenchable thirst for knowledge and self-reliance filled the void opened up by the disintegrating of her faith, as she left the certainty and comfort it offered to pursue her desire to become wordly and educated – a plight impossible without the ever patient teachings of Elinor. It is almost impossible for Anna to release herself from a lifetime of teachings, however, partially because of her admiration for Mr. Mompellion and the sermons he continues to preach until the novels final pages. Even then, when her faith has turned into hope, she still refers to the “Plague” with a capital “P”, suggesting that there is still a trace of her subconscious that sees the disease as a hopeless force similar to that of how she now views God. As she breaks the binds her strict upbringing placed upon her, however, she proves that it is possible to change in a way that opens one up to a myriad of exciting opportunities. Furthermore, there are many small instances of change Anna experiences throughout Year of Wonders, all which relate back to her fear of certain activities that stem from traumatising life experiences. Firstly, she confronted the idea of dabbling in herbal remedies, scared of becoming a “widow…turned witch” but eventually overcoming her self-consciousness in order to ease the pain of those in great suffering, displaying exceptional compassion and benevolence. Elinor’s powerful role modelling assists her decision greatly as she encourages Anna to help her in discovering remedies and applying them to the wrath of the plague. Anna was then gently pushed, once again by Elinor, whose kind, calm tone as she says “we will do the best we can by Mary Daniel” coaxes Anna into acting as a midwife to the first time mother. She is desperately afraid because of her own mothers death in childbirth but the experience sparks her passion to move “…away from death…from birth to birth” in the novels epilogue – a passion she would have never discovered if it was not for the mentoring of Elinor. She overcame past traumas once again when she went down into the mine to assist an orphaned child in surviving, battling with her fear of darkness and death and emerging injured but triumphant. On these three occasions, Anna’s selfless desire to assist those more in need than herself overcame her crippling fears, proving an enduring valiance far greater than what most can claim and most certainly proving mankind’s capacity to change.Ultimately, Geraldine Brooks illustrates humankind’s exceptional capacity to be moulded and shaped through the character of Anna. This is demonstrated through Anna’s psychological and social transformations as she emerges from the plague year having opened up doors she never knew existed and having been “tempered and made strong.”
Anna’s Role as Narrator in Year of Wonders
First person narrators often serve as important additions to texts. This is the case in Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders, where the intelligent, authentic voice of the central character Anna Frith added significantly to the story as she described places and people with reliability and consistency. Her balanced views and commentary on her own torrent of emotion throughout the plague year give readers an insight into the plague not replicable by third person writing, and her vivid descriptions of literary devices such as the weather or the nature surrounding her act as important symbols of the text consequently adding greatly to its overall meaning.If it were not for Anna’s constant, detailed accounts of elements of the nature surrounding her, the text would lack greatly, as her descriptions so often emphasise key ideas of the novel. Weather is a primary example of this, as she reiterates that the plague begins in spring in the very first paragraph of “Spring, 1665” as she explains George Viccars arrived “in the following spring”. This, accompanied by the fact that the plague ended in “apple picking season”, acts to juxtaposition the horrific events of the plague year as the plague begins in the season of life and ends in “leaf fall”. Through this, the randomness of catastrophe is conveyed to readers more completely than simply the unsystematic deaths that occurred throughout the year, and the idea that life continues to exist no matter what is emphasised. When Anna moves to Oran she describes “the dazzle of the sunlight”, and her constant mentioning of words relating to light in this chapter imply Anna has finally found a place of relatively consistent happiness where she can grow without the constant pressure of crisis. Anna’s descriptions of plants throughout the text further add to its meaning, and Elinor’s character is encapsulated by “her little Eden”, described in detail by Anna who paints a vivid picture of the garden and states that “all manners of flowers flourished there”. This reflects the support offered by Elinor to all classes of people throughout the novel, and how her tender care allows characters such as Anna to “shine” far brighter than they thought possible, adding to the character in a way that direct descriptions cannot. Overall, Anna’s contribution to the novel in a symbolic sense is crucial in our understanding of the chaotic plague year and our perception of certain characters. Anna acts as a reliable narrator further in Year of Wonders through her uncompromised descriptions of people and places, as well as her usage of language made redundant in modern times. When introducing readers to the Bradfords for the first time, the dialogue is littered with adjectives describing the Colonel as “arrogant” and “perverse”. The women of the household are portrayed as possessing “vapid beauty” and as being most “proud” and “sour”. Her rich vocabulary weaves together to paint a sharp picture of the family as a whole, and her continuous descriptions of all characters involved in the book allows readers to gauge each person’s place in the village and a general overview of their important characteristics in relation to the storyline. Anna paints a similar word picture of the village itself, and readers learn of the “thin thread of dwellings”, as well as the “tilled fields” and “sheer stone face” that rises above the town. This depiction of the village is located early in the novel, assisting in transporting readers to a place very different from their own and adding an authenticity to the novel. Her narration also transports readers to a very different time, mostly through the scattering of vocabulary not familiar to a modern audience that was used heavily in the time of the novels writing. She talks of using her “tallow stub” to give light to her book, and uses words such as “upon” more frequently and in different contexts than it is used now, seen when she articulates that George Viccars dress is “upon my body”. Her descriptive devices and language are essential in enhancing the novel’s plot and in allowing readers to become familiar with a time, place and society strange to them.Moreover, Anna’s interior monologue greatly enhances the readers understanding of the plague year as they share in the myriad of varied emotions she experiences, and gain an insight into the workings of her sharply intelligent mind. By allowing readers an insight into her personal reactions of the plague year, sympathy is evoked and the novel as a whole becomes more emotive. Firstly, we see her suffer extraordinary anguish at the death of her two young boys, depicted in her grieving tone as she describes “my arms reaching…for my babies…jolting suddenly wakeful when I do not find them”. When her resolve weakens and she resorts to taking poppy in a vain attempt to ease the constant pain that lingers in her subconscious, she feels “the wretchedness of my own selfish scheme”, an emotion shared by readers as they feel compassion towards her moment of weakness and admiration towards her acute self-awareness. She articulates the gradual disintegrating of her faith at several points in the novel as she questions the “dark and light” in which she has been “taught to view the world” and eventually begins to see the plague as “a thing in nature merely”. This allows readers a fascinating insight into the workings of her mind and the rational reasoning behind her eventual turning to “hope”. Overall, the part Anna plays in narrating Year of Wonders is critical in enhancing readers’ perceptions of the plague, as well as their views on particular characters and understanding of the ultimately optimistic message Brookes hoped to convey. Through her descriptions of the vibrant nature surrounding her and her usage of vocabulary that transports readers to a time far gone the goings on of Anna’s lucid mind allows readers important insights into the goings of the plague year and leads to her acting as an extremely reliable narrator.
Crisis Becoming Positive in Year of Wonders
Crisis inevitably comes with anguish and grief, but it is possible for positive outcomes to stem from such events. The plague year in Geraldine Brooks’ “Year Of Wonders” is a primary example of this phenomenon, as we see devastation unfold that is laced with the brightness of exceptional characters. Despite the deaths of almost a third of the villagers and the near crippling grief experienced by those remaining, the positive transformations and extraordinary strength and positivity seen in certain characters, as well as the new lives that began, offer an optimistic view of humankind.One of the novel’s key messages is that humankind has an exceptional ability to transform in a positive way. This is primarily shown through Anna’s transformation, as we see her meek exterior dissolve to reveal a vibrant, tenacious woman. She must deal with the restrictive confines of a rigid class system, but with the assistance of the ever understanding Elinor and her growing self-belief she becomes Elinor’s “friend” as opposed to her maid and her “fear” of the Bradford’s turns to pure distaste. This is seen at the novel’s end, where Elizabeth “pushed past” Anna twice throughout their interaction, a gesture that indicates her sheer dismissal of Anna and lack of respect for her. Anna rebutted her rudeness by using the same doorway as Elizabeth, a discrepancy Elizabeth was clearly uncomfortable with, and it was through this small movement that Anna’s steely self-confidence at the plague year’s end was illustrated and her new perspective on the redundancy of social class shown. Further transformations are seen in Anna’s work life as she begins the novel as a lowly maid, working for the Mompellions and at Bradford hall, and ends it working for an esteemed medical professional. It seemed as though she would simply never have the opportunity to break free of the boundaries placed upon her by her absence of education. Fortunately, “as (Anna) loved to learn, (Elinor) loved to teach”, and it was through Elinor’s patience and knowledge that Anna’s scientific understanding grows to the point where she is able to become a midwife at the novel’s end, moving from “birth to birth” and defying the constrains of her upbringing. Michael Mompellion also undergoes significant change in the text, as his misguided religious beliefs disintegrate with the death of his wife and he “feeds on the gall of (his) own grief”. Modelling himself off Anna’s own transformation, he rises from the depths of his despair and once again sees the importance of “bring(ing) life to others”, pledging to continue his caring, kind approach to the villagers and overcoming seemingly insurmountable grief to do so. Overall, both Anna’s and Michael’s transformations are admirable in their own way and both offer an uplifting message to readers.As well as demonstrating the incredible transformations people are capable of, Year of Wonders illustrates the power of community and the strength and life that can arise from such togetherness. Michael calms the dying fruitlessly, working himself to the point of collapse to ensure “none should die alone”, and the way in which he sticks doggedly to this pledge shows exceptional strength of will and soothes many souls in their dying moments. Michael also plays a major role in bringing the people of the village together, selflessly encouraging the quarantine potentially saving many lives and “find(ing) words to salve (their) sorrows” as he brought them together to pray and share their grief with one another when they most needed support. Elinor is another character full of warmth and energy, and throughout the course of the novel she shares these traits with all manners of people, her kindness and lack of bias encapsulated by “her little Eden”. The fact that “all manners of flowers flourished there” reflects the support offered by Elinor to all classes of people throughout the novel, and how her tender care allows characters such as Anna to “shine” far brighter than they thought possible. Michael and Elinor bind the community throughout the novel and with the help of others create a sense of unity invaluable during times of catastrophe.Another uplifting message offered by the novel relates to the cycle of life and death, as the shattered remains of the village continue to be punctuated with bright specks of new life. In the novel’s first chapter Anna describes a walnut shell that “already sprouts a sapling” in the town’s main street, immediately establishing the idea that while numbers of the dead are devastating that life will still flourish in the village as is the inevitable way of nature. In the midst of the plague year when numbers of the dead are rising rapidly and Anna is dealing with the crippling grief of losing loved ones, she assists Mary Hadfield in giving birth to a healthy new born. Anna marvels that “in that season of death, we celebrated a life”, her experience acting as another reminder to readers of the continuation of life. Anna loses both of her children at the beginning of the novel, a heart shattering occurrence that rendered her devastated and alone. The fact that at the novel’s end she takes possession of the Bradfords’ baby further offers the positive message that life goes on no matter what, and that devastation is capable of being punctuated by pure joy. And so “Year of Wonders” ends leaving readers with several indications of the power of life amongst death, celebrating nature’s way of overcoming disaster and offering hope to crushed citizens.Ultimately, the desolation experienced by many in Geraldine Brooks’ “Year of Wonders” is outweighed by key ideas that offer optimism to readers. Through her depiction of several exceptional characters and focus on representing life as well as death, Brooks creates an uplifting novel full of vibrancy and hope.