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Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks Essay

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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 setting during a disaster, the text makes the reader think about how they would react in similar conditions, placing themselves in the characters minds. Finally, the text can also be seen to represent the spiritual and emotional journeys of the other characters in the novel, as they struggle in faith and through the loss of their loved ones.

The novel follows Anna Frith, a woman living during the great plague of London in 1666. Her village of Eyam decides to quarantine itself to prevent further spread of the disease, and as more and more of the villagers succumb to it, she has to take up numerous roles and gain skills she otherwise would never have developed. In doing this she learns more about herself, what she is capable of, and makes an emotional journey. For instance, when a young orphan girl is threatened with the loss of her claim, her only source of income, unless she can procure a full dish of lead, Anna takes it upon herself to assist her. This shows both Anna’s emotional change from ...


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...ll change as a result of the plague year be it for better or worse. This can be seen as while some of the characters strive through and become stronger people at the end, like Anna and Elinor, the disaster brings out the worst in others, such as Josiah Bont.

In summary, despite Year of Wonders not containing an obvious, physical journey, other forms of journey feature heavily throughout it, be they the mental and emotional journeys the various characters take, or the imaginative journey the reader takes. The use of the framing device of the plague year supports both, allowing us to see the journeys those faced with hardship must take, as well as providing historical context for the reader’s imaginative journey. In these ways, Year of Wonders, while at first appearing to be “The antithesis of a journey” stands to heavily represent many different forms of journey.



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