“In the face of the plague, the characters’ beliefs disintegrate.” Discuss.
In Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks focuses on the effects of the plague on the English village of Eyam in 1665. The village is introduced as a spiritual community; there are various religious and moral codes that the people live by. As the plague hits, these strong beliefs are put to the test. Brooks’s narrative asserts the notion that disaster and catastrophe, as widespread in form as the bubonic plague, is capable of destroying both faith and trust between humanity and religion. Some villagers lose hope in what they once had confidence in; the panic and distress during the plague year causes them to behave irrationally. When the most pious character of Eyam, Michael Mompellion, has his passion for God put to the test, he becomes broken and concludes that there is no God. The protagonist, Anna Frith, also loses faith in her religion, however her outcome is much different in comparison. In the midst of chaos, Anna is rational and her sense of purpose in life becomes stronger and clearer. Even if her beliefs disintegrate during the plague year, she forms new beliefs and ambitions, which builds her character from a helpless young girl to an independent woman. Hence, even when various characters’ confidence and trust evaporate as a result of the plague, yet there are also characters that become stronger in the end.
Initially, the villagers believed in their ability and in God’s will to overcome the scourge of the plague, yet as the year progresses, some villagers also began to lose hope. Mass amounts of loved ones are lost and various characters began to question the power of religion. Anna’s father Jos Bont would “waste his reason in drunkenness” because only liquor helps him to escape from the harsh reality and “justify God’s ways to man”. Anys Gowdie thought that her herbal knowledge would have helped George Viccars more than “the empty mutterings of a priest.” Like Jos, Anys...
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