Year of Wonders

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Year of Wonders – Holiday Homework Questions
Yr12 English – James McBride

Background of the novel:
1. William Shakespeare wrote most of his known plays between 1589 and 1613, and died in 1616.
2. Elizabeth I was succeeded by James VI of Scotland (becoming James I of Great Britain upon his crowning), in 1603.
3. Between the years of 1649 and 1660, during the English Civil War, England had no monarch; instead, the country was temporarily ruled by Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell as a military/parliament.

4. In 17th Century England, many people believed that witches were abound and were the cause of a variety of otherwise difficult-to-explain behaviour amongst people; if a person were found guilty of witchcraft, they were sentenced to death by hanging.

5. Puritans were those of a particular division of the Christian faith, differing notably from other branches in mostly their views on morality, which they believed to be incredibly important – and pursued down to the finest level of detail – and the structure and manner of their worship (shunning the interference of outside sources, such as rulers of the land, into religion, and not seeking happiness by normal means, taking it instead from their belief that they were acting according to God’s will).

6. (I couldn’t answer the first part of this question, as after seeing multiple versions of the book’s cover there seems to be no recurring phrase to consider as a ‘subtitle’.)

Historical Fiction:
1. While some people may hold the expectation that historical fiction would be based on facts and research, painting a realistic picture of its setting, I would say that such an assumption is not, or at least should not be, usually present; historical fiction is labelled as ‘fiction’ for a reason, and as such is grounded too much in alternate reality, aiming too much to provide entertainment rather than information, to be considered an accurate, researched portrayal of its setting. Of course, there are exceptions – Year of Wonders, in part, being one – but even that does not provide a realistic enough picture of its time and place to make the emergence of such an expectation of factual provision becoming commonplace in the genre seem a good idea.

2. I believe that an author’s ability to shape their material into an effective and engaging narrative holds a higher position of importance than their willingness to adhere to historically accurate occurrences; if the author aims to engross their audience in the story, then every other aspect of the book is secondary to that goal. In the same way as one would be unwise to attempt to write a good book about a purposefully boring premise or character, there is little point in maintaining historical accuracy if such maintenance detracts from the entertainment of the piece. Even if the aim is not entertainment, but rather the conveyance of a particular theme, the same reasoning applies – there is little to no reason in maintaining historical accuracy if the themes being presented could be done so far more effectively without such accuracy.

3. Although it is obviously important in any medium to avoid anachronistic occurrences that could detract from the story, I do not agree that the ‘anachronisms’ in Year of Wonders could be classified as such, in that they do not seem to be truly anachronistic at all. By this, I mean that the attitudes of the main characters do not seem unbelievable, even considering the book’s setting, as any era will always have those who think differently – indeed, if not for this, this emergence of individuals going against the status quo who may obtain the rare chance to influence others, mankind’s common values would never have changed since its inception. Each of the characters in question seems to have been written with enough explanation of their own values and attitudes that they are justified, even within the context. While these circumstances are certainly unlikely, they are not impossible, and...
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