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January 29, 2022, 06:06:17 am

Author Topic: Text response: Year of Wonders  (Read 6908 times)  Share 

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Text response: Year of Wonders
« on: August 12, 2012, 11:48:31 pm »
Hey guys,
If anyone could read my year of wonders essay and give me some feedback it would be great :D
just a q. though, are you allowed to quote sections from the Afterword of the author (the bit at the end of the book where the author is interviewed) in your essay?
Year of Wonders is set in a tiny 17th century village.
Yet Brooks is able to give us a much wider view of the world. Discuss.

Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders explores many issues of the world through Anna Frith’s retelling of her village Eyam’s suffering through the infamous Plague of the seventeenth century. By placing the people of Eyam into turmoil and death, Brooks demonstrates how different human beings react to crisis. The ongoing intelligence of the protagonist Anna, also serves as the beginning of enlightenment in science, while questioning the way religion is portrayed in society. Furthermore, the complex nature of Anna’s character as a house maid to the Mompellions allows Brooks to give the audience a greater insight of the class and values which existed in the real world.

Through the various ways the villagers respond to the crisis of the Plague, Brooks is able to explore human nature in all its complexities. Some of those reactions, the audience are encouraged to admire, while others, to be critical of. Brooks exposes how many people cannot adjust to the horror and uncertainty they have to face, how “fear…[was] corroding our ability for clear thought”. There are individuals who resort to unconventional cures, for example, the self-flagellation of John Gordon and the village resorting to superstition by erroneously making accused-witch, Anys, their scapegoat. Greed is also apparent in Eyam, despite being in a tragic state of reoccurring death, with Josiah Bont stealing from those who already lost so much. In his contribution to even more suffering to the people of Eyam, Brook reveals the harsh reality of the world of how humans can be so cruel to each other. However, Brooks also captures the inner-heroism in human beings, in particular, the “courageous self-sacrifice” of the people of Eyam through its voluntary quarantine and the commitment the majority of the villagers undertake in uniting at Cucklett Delf every Sunday. The strength and unionism presented in the village, is a broader and brighter picture of the way humans support each other when they need each other most. The Plague also makes leader and carers out of people, allowing their qualities to shine, such as Michael Mompeillion, who reassures villagers that “no one in this village will face their death alone”, and Elinor and Anna, who nurse the sick and dying. As horror strikes the village, Brooks urges the audience to admire those who stay strong but empathize with those who are torn apart by death, thus showing the differences in human nature.

The 17th century setting of the novel allows Brooks to depict the growing questions surrounding previously accepted views of Religion and God’s place in people’s lives. This is explored particularly in Anna’s expanding interest in herb lore and her analytical exploration of her religious life.  The Plague, seemingly coming from nowhere, is explained by Mompellion and other villagers as a punishment or test from God. As the novel continues however, and innocent people, including children, are struck by the disease, Anna begins to questions whether this is true; “why were God’s words always so harsh?” There is a stark contrast between the relief Anna provides to the plague victims with her knowledge of herbal medicine, “boiled willow bark eases aches and fevers”, to Michael Mompellion’s radical view that “we trust in God to perform His wonders”. The people of Eyam show the world that there is a need for physical healing as well as spiritual healing for humans. The great burning of all the possessions of the villagers prevented further deaths because they had carried Plague seeds, and not because God had accepted their offerings. Anna’s revelation that they should “give more thought to as how the Plague spread” instead of pondering over God’s judgment of the world, marks the beginning of a shift from religious fundamentalism to human logic. Brooks, through Anna’s frustration of the Plague’s easy annihilation of her village, illustrates how sometimes humans must act on their own rather than trusting on a fate that may or may not be set out for them by God.

    Year of Wonders exposes the unjust hierarchy and social hypocrisy that come with a rigid class structure.  There is a fine division between the poor and the wealthy in Eyam, where throughout the novel a scornful tone is present towards the upper class, particularly towards the Bradfords. Through Anna’s articulate narration, the audience is able to observe that the Bradfords are rich people who have poor morals; how “those who have most give least, and those with less somehow make shrift to share”. By hastily deserting the village, the Bradfords are “abandoning their duty”, as the servants remain to curtsey to them as they leave. The servants’ obedience proves that both parties know their place; whether or not they were fine with it, as Anna as a house maid describes that “a servant has no right to stay, once she is dismissed”. Even during the aftermath of the Plague, the Bradfords return with the same cynical attitude where Elizabeth Bradford hands over the horse’s reigns to Anna even though her mother is bleeding upstairs and requires Anna’s aid. Even Josiah Bont recognizes their egotism, rightly pointing out, “When have the likes of them ever given a ha’penny for the likes of us?” Furthermore, Brooks reveals how the upper class will always be given more opportunities in life. For example, only those with external resources could escape Eyam’s quarantine, and as Elinor was born in a wealthy family, she was able to learn how to read and write whilst Anna had to rely on Elinor’s benevolent nature to be provided with such education.

Alternatively, Brooks explores how women are essentially the backbone of the community, despite being in a low position in society where most girls were expected to marry young.  There are many instances in the novel were women are discriminated, such as Josiah Bont happily placing a mule on his wife and even with the Colonel, who took a “perverse amusement in belittling his wife”. However, as the plot unravels, both Anna and Elinor defy the men’s views, joining in a “long line of women” in tending to the sick and providing solace to the dying. Without the nurturing presence of women, the village would have been in a more chaotic state. Brooks ultimately demonstrates the unnecessary strain humans place on gender and class.
   A much wider perspective of the world is given by Brooks in Year of Wonders, through the hardships various characters face in the 17th century village of Eyam. The Plague breeds heroes and monsters out of the people of Eyam, and in turn, Brooks depicts how human reactions to adversity are diverse. In Anna’s analytical temperament, Brooks introduces the recession of old religious beliefs from society and the beginning of science and human logic. The novel also questions the fixed roles placed in society, particularly the unjust treatment of domestic workers and women.

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