Year of Wonders Essay

Kapil Ravindran
“Year of Wonders depicts the way hardship can destroy a community”

Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders, a novel about the plague, illustrates how a disease such as the bubonic plague can take a town hostage literally and figuratively. A time of chaos brings out much of what is best and worst in human nature. For some, their response to the daily toll of death and misery is a chance to show their true decency and resolve. For others the dark side of human nature; self seeking, need to blame others and selfish behaviour is most evident. Michael Mompellion is noble in his public response to the crisis, yet diminished in his private response to loss of faith. Anna rises to meet he needs of the villagers when they most need her, however slips into darkness when confronted by the loss of her children. Brooks implies how response to crisis in one’s personal life can lead to despair and self harm.
A person who responds with great persistence and courage to a crisis, can be found wanting in another light. Michael Mompellion’s loss of faith after the brutal murder of Elinor was understandable, however his response to the loss was theatrical. He looked to take selfish pleasures such as his sexual relationship with Anna, as a way to cover his personal pain. Although as the book comes to a close Mompellion realises that the actions he commits was wrong and changes. Not all people respond in such noble ways, many people show their most selfish sides to their nature when chaos reigns all around them.
For some people, a time of crisis is a chance to show the more generous side to their quality. The female protagonists such as Anna and Elinor emphasize the true generosity human beings posses in the face of adversity. After the Gowdies’ deaths, Anna continues their heritage of healing and midwifery, overcoming her own bad experiences of childbirth and becomes the most essential member of Eyam. It is not only the protagonists that prove to be selfless, when...