Year of Wonders
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.
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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.
Strength in 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 Effect of Disintegrating Faith in Year of Wonders
When faith is diminished in a community where it was once crucial, it is logical for the citizens’ reactions to be varied and occasionally destructive. In Geraldine Brooks’ historical novel “Year of Wonders,” villagers display myriad responses as they question the very foundations on which their lives were built. While some, including the exceptionally brave Anna Frith, flourish as a result, others become crippled by the devastation of losing their primary source of comfort and certainty. When Anna’s faith disintegrates her mind is opened up to a range of concepts long suppressed by her religion, resulting in her blossoming into a well-rounded individual full of compassion, hope and a burning desire to help others. It is a long and fruitful journey that leads to Anna seeing the plague as a “thing in nature merely”, as she turns to science to assist her in clearing the confusion and pain that at times cloud her vision. From this moment on Anna buries herself in books and strains her mind to think of potential remedies, urged on by Elinor who, when they are together in Anys’ home, predicts that “the key to defeating this Plague…must lie here, in the virtue of these plants”. As a consequence the two women bring relief to many of the dying including the young boy covered in thorns by his superstitious parents when she covers him with a soothing salve from the herbal remedies discovered in the Gowdie home. Her scientific revelations continue as she discovers that she is meant to go “from birth to birth”, overcoming her fear of childbirth and her religions condemnation of science when birthing Mary Daniel’s child and consequently discovering the joy that accompanies bringing new life into the world. Overall, science plays a large role in assisting Anna in filling the void left by her diminished religious beliefs.While science is the most monumental outlet for Anna’s shattered religious faith, her mind follows several other pathways and while one is riddled with darkness, she also gains belief in both herself and those around her. Anna’s faith in humanity is incredible considering the many despicable acts she witnessed throughout the plague year, illustrated when she raises her hand to Michael at the novels end, the small gesture implying Anna’s admirable capacity for forgiveness and her persistent belief in the fundamental decency of human kind. Anna also learns that the only person that she can rely on without doubt is herself, the transformative experience of the plague year allowing her to become “tempered and made strong”. It is ultimately Anna’s steely self confidence that drives her to remove herself entirely from her past and create a vibrant, independent future for herself and her child. Anna’s realisations, however, did not come without her first having to overcome the extraordinary grief that penetrated her soul. After the death of her two young boys, she turned to poppy in an attempt to salve her sorrows, desperate for “sweet dreams” and clinging to the fragile remains of her sanity. This weak moment makes her ultimately courageous, selfless decision to save the Bradford’s new born and travel to an unknown land all the more commendable, as the flaws in her personality are far outweighed by her unyielding compassion and bravery. So ultimately it was essential that Anna lost faith as it allowed her to discover inner strength and independence in the novel.Logic was not at the forefront of Aphra Bont’s mind as the horrors of the plague descended upon her home, and her “deeply superstitious” personality led to her being crippled by madness as the year progressed. When her last daughter died she “had Faith’s body strung up like a puppet” as she cast an array of spells upon her. She also overcharged villagers in exchange for useless spells, the allure of criminal activity all too enticing after it became apparent to her God was not there to punish her. Josiah Bont had a similar response when he took valuable items from villager’s homes in exchange for digging their loved ones graves. Such an activity appeared entirely reasonable to him, as he remained convinced that the villagers and any potential higher powers were out to get him. Jane Martin was a third villager whose descent into faithlessness affected in a detrimental way, as Anna saw her go from being an innocent Puritan girl to one reduced to alcohol abuse and sleeping around in a vain attempt to numb her pain. Such pain, however, is difficult to numb, and a number of villagers turned to mob violence as a mechanism of shifting the blame for the devastating events onto someone other than God. Mary Hadfield along with a number of others believed the Gowdies apparent “malice has brought plague” to their loved ones, consequently taking two lives as their grief manifested itself as anger unfortunately misdirected upon innocent bystanders. The minor characters of the novel showed a myriad of destructive reactions as their faith dissolved, their strength and resolve diminished as they lost their primary source of certainty.Ultimately, the characters in Year of Wonders resort to a range of different means in an attempt to fill the void the faith that had once been a quintessential part of their existence left. Many characters lose faith completely and opt to follow a range of pathways differing in their morality. Whatever their survival mechanisms, they are all driven by a singular force as they struggle to find fulfilment in a suddenly terrifying world.
Anna Frith’s Reliability as a Narrator in “Year of Wonders”
Geraldine’s Brooks’ exploration of the multi-faceted nature of humanity in her historical novel, ‘Year of Wonders,’ opens a myriad of concerns regarding transformation strife through the first-hand account of Anna Frith. Brooks extensively employs archaic language conducive to the time and vivid descriptions of the natural world alongside the horrors of the plague, which in addition to her presence at pivotal junctures offers integrity and authenticity to her account. Although her limited perspective may suggest a feminist sensibility throughout, Anna’s voice is core, as she becomes the embodiment of the novel’s central conflict posing religion against reason. Bearing witness to her moments of both triumph and weakness, the audience is able to identify and sympathize with Anna’s quandary, which mirrors that of the world at the time. The linguistic features of Anna’s narration are notably suitable to the bygone age Brooks wishes to portray. Great attention to syntax, absence of contractions and prevalence of words and jargon that do not appear in the modern lexicon, such as “sennight”, offer unheralded integrity to Anna’s 17th century account. Dialogue appropriately shifts between characters based on their level of intellect and background, most evident in the boorish remarks of Josiah Bont juxtaposed against Anna’s, whose dialect obscures her contemporary views, which may be deemed somewhat anachronistic. Furthermore, Anna forms the epicenter of the novel; the relationships she bears vital to the direction of the plot. Access to gentry allows her to recount the Bradfords’ preference to “run from danger” and later is the only character to witness to Michael Mompellion’s fall from grace. Despite her limited perspective providing no clear evocation of the tension or turmoil that exists in the hearts and minds of others, it is the “so little [Anna] knows” which concurrently adds layers to the readers understanding of what drove the rector to entreat “voluntary besiegement” and atonement upon the villagers and his wife, respectively. Anna emphasizes her affinity with nature and its irrevocable nexus with the contagion through superlative use of imagery. Her frank admissions of nature’s brute force serve as a stark reminder of the brevity of human life and its apparent insignificance in the face of the wider natural world. In order to create a vivid picture of the horrors of the plague, Brooks’ narrator does not shirk from the grim realities the novel presents; the candid comparison of the buboes of George Viccars to those of a “new born piglet” diverges with the bountiful descriptions of Elinor’s “little Eden”. Moreover, bucolic bliss connoted with the color green evident in her descriptions of the foliage, paints Anna as a fertile ‘healer’. The “abundance of grey” in the flint and sky holds connexion to Puritanism contrasted to the “surfeit of sunlight” in Oran, symbolic of the diminishment of these social mores. Anna reminisces on the “fleeting memories” of happiness being “swept away”, exemplary of the inevitable change adversity entails. Moreover the trope and fiery red attests to the trials Anna faces as empathy is deliberately cultivated for the vulnerable protagonist who assumes the mantle for the well-being of the village, a shepherd in both literal and figurative terms, correlating he herd to the mob hat strayed and need to be led back to safety. Finally, the admission of how “sickly sweet” smell of apples of which she “used to love” suggests how tainted her association with the natural world has become. The destructiveness and healing capacities in its flows and seasons, reflected in the novel’s format, form the paradox that lies at the center of the novel. Finally, Anna’s narration cultivates pathos through personal experience, dramatic action and slow unfolding of events with calm detachment; interior monologue garners sympathy for her harrow circumstance whilst providing insight into her transformation. In explaining the “confined” world to her late husband, Anna immediately sets contrast between her vibrant mind to that of the narrow views embedded within the patriarchal society. In addition, Anna’s descriptions of her sons serves to heighten the depression and misery she experiences in their passing, and presence in moments of “poppy induced serenity” and inner eruption of jealousy emphasises the vulnerability of Anna, which in turn strengthens the intrepidly progressive transformation she undergoes. Anna’s voice, despite subjective emotional levels, allows readers to identify richly with her sense of isolation, need for love, and changes she undergoes to evolve from timidly submissive maid to one willing to confront those in the upper echelons of power. Moreover, commentary of her existential questioning occurs sporadically and adds to one of the novels primary concerns regarding the role of nature and its fluctuating course. However, Anna speaks of the “debt” Josiah owes her, casting him all the more unsavoury in the readers’ eyes. Similarly, the harsh characterisation of the rector following his slump into self-reproach, unearthing his apparent selfishness, consequently promotes veneration towards Elinor Mompellion in not only loving and nurturing qualities but also her stoicism and resilience, accentuating the feminist sensibility which, despite its partiality, is pivotal to the direction and context of the novel. Anna’s retrospective recreation is both tangible and visually enlightening, the interior monologue baring her level of naivety in the absence of mediations or implied values of a third-person omniscient narrator. Whilst her documentation of the events of 1665 can be perceived as somewhat unreliable and anachronistic in its subjectivity, it is the emphasised feminist perspective which is paramount within the context of such a time, ultimately presenting Eyam as a microcosm in the great social change occurring in the fluidity of the 17th century.