The Year of Wonders is a result of the author Geraldine Brooks explorations through the English countryside where she stumbled across eem AKA the plague town. In the villages museum located in the local church she found that in 1666 the village was convinced by visionary young minister to quarantine themselves within the village to arrest the spread if the plague. During this year two thirds of the village's population died. During her research into the events during that terrible year she came across this entry in the young ministers diary: "My maid continued in good health; which was a blessing, for had she quailed, I should have been ill set... ." Which in Geraldine Brooks own words said. Trying to imagine who this woman could have been, how she may have lived, and what she might have felt provided the voice for my novel.
The theme of changing self is very much represented in the "Year of Wonders." Changing self is the process which everybody is constantly undergoing where circumstance, event, others and intrinsic motivation greatly change how we think, act and feel. Changing Self is primarily represented through the main character of Anna Firth. It is contrasted with the experiences of others in the village. The novel begins with a section which is taken from after the year the plague struck.
It introduces Anna the central character and other influential characters, showing their resultant nature after the horrific year. Its purpose is to allow insight into how things turn out which is essential in maintaining interest throughout the main body of the text that lacks a suspenseful plot. Anna uses the phrase "I used to" from the beginning and through out this section indicating that the year was has caused a change in self. The repetitive use of this phrase with other reflective language shows that changing self is a major theme within the novel.
Changing self often involves the input and influence by those who are around us. These people change the way think, act and feel. This aspect of changing self is shown to great extent in the Year of Wonders involving Anna and those around her. The first to enter the novel is George Viccars.
George is young tailor from London who is seeking the country life who ends up boarding with Anna. George shatters Anna's illusions of London society and manners. His descriptions give her insight into what sexuality means to others and how it was used and abused by those in power. It also made her realise her naivety of the rest of the world. These were not the only insights that George gives to Anna. When he made romantic advances to Anna she realised how much she missed a man's touch.
This type of change is one induced by an incident that only at that point do you realise that you need to change yourself to accommodate this new feeling, action or outlook. Elinor is the character she elevates to her mother figure. She is the wife of the town's minister and the woman she works for and influences Anna's worldview. She enables Anna to relate to and accept others such as Any's Goldie. This aspect of changing self is evident in everyone's lives where we have elevated figures be it your parents, elder sibling, best friend or teacher. These are the people who we most identify as those who mould and shape ourselves.
Though prominent, change in self induced by others is not the primary means of showing changing self in the novel. The impact of tragedy such as the plague and the community's choice to cut itself off from the outside world is the main cause of changing self. Anna's experience of grief is profound as anyone in the town. Before the plague came she had already lost her husband in a mining accident, then George Viccars who she became fond of became the first victim of the plague shortly followed by the death of both her sons also victims of the plague. Then as the ministers maid she was present at most of the townspeople's death, the very people she had grown up with she watched all of them withering away. This horrific chain of events caused her to become understandably depressed at times causing her to resort to drugs.
But with her strength of character and the strength of her mother figure Elinor and her husband the towns minister she did not allow these terrible incidents to overcome her. She re-directed herself to become the healer and midwife of her town, inspiring those around her through the tragic year. This shows that both intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation are often required to induce a necessary change in self. But this fate did not befall all the surviving members of the community. The novel depicts negative change of self in others as they respond to the tragedy. For example the puritan girl Jamie Martine as she lost her family changed to the life of a whore.
John Garden another townsman became so mentally disturbed that he thought that by burning all of his belongings as a sacrifice to god and inflicting self-harm he would rid himself of the plague. This clearly shows the aspect of changing self that the same situation will not uniformly change those involved. Then when Anna thought it was all over the tragic death of her mother figure occurred. By then Annas new self had become strong enough to withstand the loss of her mother figure. But the minister just fell in a heap. This allowed Anna to recognise that everyone responds to events differently when she says "I understood that where Michael Mompellion had been broken by our shared ordeal, in equal measure I had been tempered and made strong" When presented with the opportunity to adopt a child Anna, with her new tempered and strengthened self, takes the chance and saves the child and flees with her and begins a new life in a Middle Eastern port, studying midwifery and other forms of medicine.
Anna pursued this study as Elinor had recognised in her a huge capacity to learn and a certain skill in midwifery. This positive result from coming from the harsh nature of change is reflected in the title of the book Year of Wonders. At the beginning of the novel Anna is a na " ive young recently widowed maid. By the end she is a strong independent young women who is able to read both English and some Latin and a very skilled midwife. Geraldine Brooks successfully reflects this through her writing. At the beginning Anna speaks as an uneducated servant would in short factual sentences.
Then as she gains greater insight and knowledge from the educated Elinor, Brooks has Anna's language progressively become more eloquent. In conclusion the Year of wonders represents changing self through the main character of Anna Firth and those around her in the context of great suffering due to the plague. The novel uses the characters and language to give insight into the effects circumstance, event, others and intrinsic motivation has on the process of changing self.