Year of Wonders- Jon Milston the Sexton

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Jon Milston, the sexton, says, ‘these times, they do make monsters of us all.’ Is this a fair assessment of the townsfolk of Eyam living under quarantine?

Geraldine Brooks’ historical novel, Year of Wonders, shows many different events that happen during the time when the vulgar plague spreads through the town of Eyam. This novel is based on true historical events. It explores different themes such as religion, the meaning of life and death and how people cope in such a fearful time. Jon Milston the sexton says to Anna after burying many bodies “... these times, they do make monsters of us all.”Milston says this after he is summoned to the home of plague victims whom weren’t all dead yet. Generally, when people are described as ‘monsters’ they are considered to be villainous and dangerous. While it is applicable to consider some characters as ‘monstrous’ many are revealed to be altruistic and courageous. The author shows different aspects of the characters and how some are true monsters. Brookes tries to relate to her readers by showing the responses of the characters to the events of the plague, and presents this through her novel.

Anna Frith, the protagonist in the novel, is the narrator, as all the events are seen through her eyes. The reader learns everything about Anna, including her strengths and weaknesses. As the novel progresses she goes from strength to strength. She is clearly not a monster. She transforms as a person from the catastrophes that the plague brings to Eyam. She is a girl who has, ‘faced more terrors than many warriors’ yet she has not faltered. Brookes portrays Anna as a considerate and assertive person. She overcomes the death of her husband, children, father, step mother, friends and neighbours. Her imperfections are not the acts of a monster; they allow the reader to compare her strengths to the weaknesses of others. The strength of women in crisis being a very strong view of the author.

Michael Mompellion, the rector of...
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