Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks Essay
828 Words4 Pages
The premise of the novel (Year of Wonders) could be seen as the antithesis of a journey as the villagers voluntarily agree to undertake a quarantine, which means they literally cannot go anywhere. In what way does this text represent a journey?
Though the characters in Year of Wonders are unable to take a physical journey due to their actions, their circumstances cause them to embark on many spiritual, mental and emotional journeys through the course of the novel. Anna Frith, for instance, is forced during the plague year to overcome the deaths of her sons and family, and take upon many new roles that she otherwise would not have. The text also takes the reader on an imaginative journey. With characters that show human failings and its…show more content…
This is also shown through her learning of medicine under Elinor Mompellion, as the death and suffering around her act as a catalyst for her to undertake these studies, so that she may fight the plague in some way.
Anna also undertakes a spiritual journey over the course of the book. Her learning of the villages’ Rector, Michael Mompellion’s true thoughts near the novels end, as well as her realisations on the nature of some of the other villagers causes her to question her Christian faith and its restrictions it places on her in the society she lives in. This can be seen in her accepting view of the Muslim faith in the epilogue.
Year of Wonders can also be seen as taking the reader on an imaginative journey. Through reading the book we can imagine ourselves in the time at which the characters live, faced by their same decisions. Geraldine Brooks has helped further this in a number of ways. The story is told in a first person perspective, allowing the reader to understand Anna’s feelings and attitudes. Period dialogue is used to help transport the reader into the time and place in which the novel is set. Geraldine Brooks has paid particular attention into giving the majority of the characters secret failings for instance, the Rectors beliefs causing him to punish his wife, and Aphra, Anna’s Mother’s decline into madness and superstition. This has the effect of making them seem more human
In Geraldine Brook's Year of Wonders, Anna and Elinor at first seem like they would make unlikely friends.
The book begins in the present; the reader learns of Anna's experiences over the last year. She describes who she was before coming to work for the Mompellions, and facing the plague years. Then she speaks to how she has changed. Working at the rectory has changed how she sees herself.
The rector sends Anna downstairs to send Elizabeth Bradford away.
It was as if there were two of me, walking down those stairs. One of them was the timid girl who had worked for the Bradfords in a state of dread, fearing their hard looks and harsh words. The other was Anna Frith, a woman who had faced more terrors than many warriors...As I entered the parlor and faced [Elizabeth Bradford's] thunderous countenance, I knew I had nothing to fear.
The story then flashes back: Anna is the uneducated housekeeper in Elinor Mompellion's home in Eyam, a small country town in England. Elinor explains things to the bright Anna as to how to improve herself and her life.
"...Anna," [Mrs. Mompellion] said as she saw me..."Did you know that the tea made of this unassuming little flower serves to cool a fever? As a mother you'd do well to add some herb lore to your store of knowledge, for you never can be sure when your children's well-being might depend on it." [She] never let a minute pass without trying to better me, and for the most part I was a willing pupil.
Anna loves learning, and soon Elinor is sharing all kinds of knowledge with her. Anna even learns to read.
The plague arrives and the town is devastated by the spread of the disease. Families are decimated; land is left untilled, or crops remain unharvested. Fear permeates the society. There is the loss of life, but paradoxically, there are wonders to be discovered as well.
Anna [and] Elinor...try to rally their neighbors to deal with the tragedy sensibly, praying to God but taking practical precautions such as burning infected clothing and supplies.
Neither is afflicted by the disease, but Anna, a widow, loses a man she might well have married, and soon her two sons follow. When Anna's younger son dies, Elinor is there to comfort her when her stepmother blames Anna because of cruel, superstitious beliefs.
With all about them crumbling, the two women do their best to help others. When the Gowdie women (the healers) are murdered, Anna and Elinor do what they can to help the townspeople with herbal remedies and midwifery. In joining together to help others, the women grow very close—Anna and Elinor survive by uplifting one another.
If Anna and Elinor had not had each other, certainly the town would have suffered more greatly than it did, but the women might well have given in to despair—Anna because of the loss of her boys, and Elinor because of her guilt and loneliness. To her pain, she is never able to have a baby...
...the whole parish...benefitted from her barrenness, as she mothered the children who weren't mothered enough in their own crowded crofts...
Learning and working together with common purpose to treat the sick, or even to save Merry Wickford's family mine, helps the women to forget their own suffering as they minister to others in need. These things help them to survive emotionally and spiritually. And perhaps the steps they take to protect the townspeople ultimately keep them safe from the plague as well.
Most of all, Anna and Elinor's friendship saves them.