How does Sheers present the character of Maggie Jones?
Maggie is presented as a wise, experienced character. She has been married to William for 30 years and so she knows the habits of her husband very well: the fact that he has never left the cows unmilked tells her that something momentous has happened to him. Her first reaction to the thought of what William has done is “You daft, stupid bugger William Jones”( 14) which shows that she puts private, family matters over wider issues such as her country’s involvement in the war. However, in an effort to keep the women calm and together as a team, she suggests that the men’s leaving has been an attempt to protect the women, showing her wisdom and forward thinking. Sheers presents her as a mother figure to the women; “Always Maggie leading, playing the role of the mother, the aunt.” Here, the repetition of two strong female roles emphasises her dominant role as the matriarch of the valley which is again shown later in the novel (124, 125) where Maggie takes control of Sarah’s attempts to sheer the sheep. In fact, in Chapter 3 she becomes the unofficial leader of the women; in the scene around Maggie’s table (54), Maggie’s calm is contrasted with the rising panic of the younger women, Mary and Menna. Later (116) Sarah’s first reaction to Albrecht’s first appearance is to go to Maggie, although she knows that Maggie has now been proved wrong about Germans not bothering to come to the Olchon valley. This incident, where Sarah privately questions Maggie’s authority, also sows the seeds for Sarah’s increasing independence that reveals itself towards the end of the novel. At the start of the novel, because she has a radio, Maggie has a clearer sense of what is happening in the outside world than Sarah (49); Maggie’s radio, which had been “their one intermittent contact with the outside world” picks up only static which intensifies the women’s feelings of isolation and the reader’s fear. Maggie’s sense of her own...
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