Year of Wonders Summary Essay Example
Year of Wonders Summary Essay Example

Year of Wonders Summary Essay Example

Available Only on StudyHippo
  • Pages: 16 (4395 words)
  • Published: December 16, 2016
  • Type: Retelling
View Entire Sample
Text preview

The story begins in the Autumn of 1666 with Anna Frith serving as the protagonist. Anna, who is a servant to the village priest, tries to give him some apples. However, he is deeply saddened and broken. The entire community appears drained, causing Anna to reflect on happier times in her life. She remembers marrying Sam Frith when she was fifteen years old and escaping from her overworked and alcoholic father and stepmother. Although Sam passes away, Anna becomes a mother to two sons. After his wife Elinor dies, Anna takes care of Michael Mompellion, the preacher. In lonely nights, Anna finds no comfort in her empty home since she has lost her children to the plague.

The next morning, Anna milks her cow and brings some milk to Michael. At the rectory, she comes across Elizabeth Bradford


, whose family fled the village and the plague. When Anna informs Mompellion about Elizabeth's presence, he instructs Anna to tell her to go to hell. However, Elizabeth manages to enter the house and pleads for Mompellion's help with her sick mother. Mompellion refuses, stating that the Bradford family abandoned the village when they needed support, so he wants nothing to do with them. Elizabeth confides in Anna about her father's abusive behavior towards her family. When Anna approaches Mompellion, she finds him sitting at his desk with an unopened Bible.

Anna seeks comfort in reading a consoling excerpt from the Bible and reciprocates by sharing with him about a joyful family existence. However, he forcefully seizes her arm, causing her to become tearful. Astonished by his conduct, she departs. The story then rewinds

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay

back to the spring of 1665 when Anna, an eighteen-year-old widow, accommodates a lodger named George Viccars who works as a tailor. Initially perceiving him as a great stroke of luck, she will soon discover that this perception is incorrect. Anna is thrilled when George offers to pay sixpence weekly. Her two young sons, Jamie and Tom, are still very small in size with Tom still being breastfed.

Anna's children enjoy George's company and his stories, and Anna appreciates him making a beautiful dress for her when a box of cloth arrives from London. George secretly wishes that Anna would develop feelings for him, and his emotions begin to overwhelm him as he becomes flushed and unsteady. As Anna tries on the dress, George takes the opportunity to give her a kiss, leading Anna to realize that he is actually running a fever. The following morning, she leaves George sleeping and goes to the rectory. There, she is welcomed by Elinor, who is teaching Anna a variety of skills as a willing pupil. Although Anna is interested in learning about herbs, she also harbors fear because herblore is often associated with witchcraft.

The villagers have suspicions about Mem Gowdie and her niece Anys, whom Anna's stepmother, Aphra, believes to be a sorceress and gossips about to others. Anna is surprised to find George very ill when she checks on him at midday and he asks her to leave so she won't get sick, requesting for the priest. Michael Mompellion spends two days at George's side until he passes away. Before leaving, Michael tells Anna that she should do as George advised and "burn

everything." Soon, George's customers start arriving.

Anys Gowdie is described by Anna as a calming force during birthing when she assisted her aunt Mem Gowdie, who was the midwife. Anna shares with Anys about George's advice, but Anys refuses to have her dress burned. Anna burns George's clothes as well as the dress he made for her, which brings her sadness. Anna becomes consumed by thoughts of George and Anys and decides to make a visit to the Gowdies. She feels ashamed as she recalls how she and others used to tease Anys for being a vegetarian. However, during her pregnancy, Anna followed Anys' recommendation of using herbs that greatly benefited her.

Anys informs Anna that she had a sexual encounter with George, but George desired Anna as his wife. Anys had suggested to George to win Anna's affection by connecting with her sons. Anna inquires why Anys did not desire George as a husband. Anys declares her love for her work and refusal to be treated as property by any man. Moreover, she enjoys variety rather than being tied to one individual. After leaving, Anna stops to converse with her friend Lib Hancock. Subsequently, she assists with a dinner at the Bradford manor; unfortunately, the family does not exhibit endearing qualities towards anyone. During the dinner, the topic of discussion revolves around the plague in London.

They discuss the wealthy individuals who leave London to avoid the disease, while Mompellion proposes that it would be honorable and brave to stay and prevent the spread of the illness. Anna is concerned about her sons being exposed to George and rushes home

to find them peacefully asleep. The fall after George Viccars' death is remembered by Anna as one of the most beautiful, with warm, sunny and dry days. She is grateful that her children are not ill. Anna and James take care of the sheep and later sit by the riverbank. They encounter Michael Mompellion, who startles Tom with his presence, but Mompellion calms him down.

Mompellion is good with the children and Anna appreciates having a pastor who is kind and open. Jamie surprises Anna at home by showering her with roses. One day, Mary Hadfield witnesses some boys playing with lifeless rats. Shortly after, Edward Hadfield falls ill with a severe fever. A surgeon treats him with leeches, but upon learning about George's death, advises the villagers not to seek his help anymore. Before sunset, Edward passes away, closely followed by his brother and stepfather. Little Tom also becomes sick and that night, Anna goes to sleep holding Tom in her arms, fully aware that it will be their final time together.

In the morning, he is lifeless. Sign of a Witch Summary Jamie also falls victim to the plague. Anna tries various treatments during her free time with the support of Elinor and Anys. Jamie endures five agonizing days before passing away. The subsequent days become a blur as more villagers succumb to the plague. While returning to work, Anna spends any spare time at the church cemetery. On one occasion, she overhears a drunken group of people accusing Mem Gowdie of causing the plague while being beaten with bound hands on the ground. Despite Anna's pleas for them to stop,

the group disregards her.

In a cruel test to determine if Mem is a witch, they forcefully drag her to the mine water to see if she sinks or swims. Anna tries to intervene but is pushed and knocked unconscious. When Anna regains consciousness, she hears Mary Hadfield screaming that Mem is drowning and that she is not a witch. Anna attempts to go down and save Mem but loses her balance. At that moment, Anys appears and pulls Anna up, then swiftly goes down to bring up Mem who is also unconscious. Anys immediately begins administering CPR to revive Mem. However, once Mem regains consciousness, the villagers accuse Anys of being a witch for seemingly raising the dead. Anna pleads with Lib Hancock to put an end to this madness, but Lib reminds Anna about Anys's affair with Viccars, who was considered the "Devil" responsible for bringing the plague.

Anna attempts to assist Anys, but is forcefully pushed away when the crowd proceeds to tie a noose around Anys' neck. Despite her imminent peril, Anys courageously shares tales about the other women present before being hanged. In this moment, Michael Mompellion makes his entrance and chastises the mob, asserting that the sole evil in their midst resides within themselves. He urges them to pray and hope for forgiveness of their sins. Subsequently, the villagers engage in prayer and lamentation. In the meantime, Mem is unable to attend Anys' funeral due to being afflicted with fever and is confined to the rectory per Elinor's insistence. Just five days following Anys' burial, Mem succumbs to illness. The community now finds itself bereft of their

sole healers and midwives.

The law does not reach the plague-stricken village, so nobody is being prosecuted for the murders. Some members of the mob die from the plague, while others repent in hopes of receiving forgiveness. In the church, Mompellion delivers a passionate speech about God's love and states that the plague is a test. Many may be tempted to leave the village, potentially spreading the infection further. However, he urges them to remain in order to contain the disease. Supplies will continue to be delivered to the outskirts of the village until the end of the plague. He warns that those who flee will experience "loneliness, shunning, and fear". Mompellion pleads with everyone to stay so that if they become ill, they will have neighbors and friends by their side and won't die alone as long as he is alive. He asks villagers to reflect and pray before deciding. Except for wealthy Bradfords who discreetly leave during church service, all villagers agree not to flee.

After Mompellion's sermon, Anna's spirits are lifted and she is surprised when Maggie Cantwell, cook for the Bradfords, appears at her door. Maggie has been dismissed without notice and seeks Anna's assistance in retrieving her belongings.

Michael Mompellion urges Colonel Bradford to fulfill his duty, but the Colonel insists on fleeing the plague, deeming it foolish not to do so. Mompellion cautions the Colonel that his reputation will be forever tarnished in the village and that God's punishment will surpass any plague. As the Bradfords depart, several servants implore for assistance and find shelter within the village. Maggie and Brand, who did not vow in

church to stay, journey to stay with relatives. Afterwards, Anna and other villagers observe as goods are delivered from a distance. The delivery person receives a list of the deceased to share with relatives and friends in nearby villages.

In the rectory, Elinor quickly urges Anna outside to assist a woman in labor. Although Anna is scared, Elinor insists, and so Anna supports in delivering the baby, even though she feels anxious. However, Anna recalls how Mem and Anys Gowdie aided her and tries to emulate them. Anna realizes that the baby is not positioned correctly and advises Mary to walk. Several hours later, the baby is still in a sideways position, and Anna can practically hear Anys' voice guiding her to carefully feel inside for the baby in order to determine the best way to assist it. She manages to grasp a foot and successfully delivers the baby. Both Anna and Elinor rejoice with relief.

Amidst death, there is a celebration of new life. Anna finds the poppy vial in Elinor's basket and hides it in her sleeve as she knows she will return to an empty house. The summary of "So Soon to be Dust" involves Maggie, the Bradford Cook, and Brand coming back covered in decaying fruit. Mompellion takes the barely conscious Maggie to Jakob Merrill's cottage, a villager who discovered them on the road. They were recognized as residents of the plague-infested village and were first pelted with fruit and then stones. Maggie collapses, but Brand manages to place her in a wheelbarrow and bring her back.

Mompellion commends him for not abandoning Maggie and acknowledges that he

is the hero of the plague, which will ultimately make heroes out of everyone, regardless of whether or not they seek such recognition. Brand will remain with Jakob's children while Maggie relocates to Anna's cottage. Anna embarks on a quest to find a horse and cart for Maggie's transportation and encounters her inebriated father. A confrontational encounter ensues, during which he requests the men to bring a "branks," an iron head cage he previously used on Anna's mother, complete with a bit to restrict speech. The memory of her mother's agony when wearing that contraption and her father's degrading treatment of her mother by parading her around the village floods Anna's mind.

Fear causes Anna to wet herself and she hurries home to clean her soiled clothes and body, feeling shaken and upset. Suddenly, a boy arrives and informs her that she must visit Maggie, who will die before midnight. Anna wonders why individuals with special talents like Maggie's cooking ability or Viccars' sewing skills are taken away so soon, when they still have many productive years ahead. The Poppies of Lethe Summary reveals that Anna creates her own "tincture" using honey and poppy resin for pleasant dreams. After waking up, Anna feels much calmer than before and is grateful to have more strength to face the despair in her life.

Sally Maston, a five-year-old child living next door, is covered in blood from plague sores. In Sally's cottage, her mother has passed away and her father is also close to death. Additionally, there is a crying baby present. By sunset, four families have been affected by death. Mompellion takes care of the

dying, while Elinor and Anna assist the orphaned children. Anna discovers that Lib Hancock is dying and visits her, but Lib is too far gone to have a conversation and dies without any words being exchanged. Anna consumes the last of the poppy mixture and experiences another magical dream. She awakens feeling peaceful until she realizes that she has run out of poppies.

Upon venturing outside, Anna notices that Blacksmith Talbot's house is unusually quiet. To her surprise, she discovers Kate Talbot, who is pregnant, and her husband using hot irons on his plague boils. It is during this encounter that Anna learns about the charm that Kate is using on her husband and asks about its origin. Kate reveals that the ghost of Anys Gowdie whispered to her, instructing her to place a shilling in a log as an exchange for the charm. Anna informs Kate that someone had played a greedy trick on her. After taking care of some tasks, such as milking the cow and preparing a meal for Kate, Anna continues on with her errand, which involves poppies. Eventually, she finds Elinor at the Gowdie cottage, searching for herbs that could potentially help in battling the plague.

Anna admits to taking the poppy, which Elinor already knows about. Elinor reveals that she has also tried it in the past to cope with her own struggles. She confides in Anna about her sheltered upbringing as a privileged child and shares an unfortunate incident at age fourteen when she was deceived by a young man into eloping. However, he ultimately left her, leaving her pregnant. In desperation, Elinor injured herself

with a hot iron but was miraculously saved by a physician. Although her womb could not be saved, the doctor provided her with poppy to alleviate her pain. Elinor believes that if it weren't for Michael, she would still be lost in a drugged state.

When Michael discovered that Elinor was sick, he initially offered his friendship and later expressed his love for her. Elinor discussed this situation with Anna and in spite of it, Anna's love for Elinor grew stronger. They investigated the spread of the plague and identified that the oldest individuals in the village were less affected, prompting them to focus on protecting the youngest ones. In the summary of "Among Those That Go Down to the Pit," Mompellion is shown digging six graves, which includes one intended for the sexton. Anna frequently accompanies Mompellion when visiting the sick individuals. One individual they visited was Jakob Merrill, who admitted to being a neglectful husband and expressed concern for his young daughter and son.

Mompellion assures Jakob that God loves him and that Jakob took in Brand, who was homeless. If Jakob makes Brand part of his family, Brand can farm the land and take care of the children. Jakob makes a will reflecting this arrangement. Anna offers her father two lambs as a bribe to dig the graves, hoping her children will receive some of the meat. The villagers only take a break on Sundays, and weeks pass. Mompellion informs them that the plague thrives in warm weather and there will be more tests of their willpower. Instead of meeting at church, they will gather at Cucklett Delf so

that the healthy individuals can keep a safe distance from the sick ones and avoid getting infected.

The deceased must be promptly buried in any location. Mompellion collapses while Mr. Stanley, a new minister, gives a sermon reassuring the community that their loved ones will be saved even if they are not buried in the church cemetery. Merry Wickford, a Quaker, fails to meet the minimum share of lead needed for her mine. However, her neighbor, David Burton, makes a small mark on it. Anna implores other miners to assist the destitute orphan, but their alliance lies with Burton as he shares their faith. With just one day remaining, it appears that Merry is at risk of losing everything and ending up in the poor house. Nevertheless, Elinor promises to secure the lead for Merry.

Elinor and Anna don mining clothes and gather the required tools. Merry assists by cleaning the lead and notifying them when they have enough for measurement. They begin breaking the rock but quickly realize it's an impossible task. Anna proposes using "fire setting", a risky method involving extreme heat and cold water to cause an explosion, despite its fatal consequences for Sam. Anna sets it up, then flees as rocks scatter in all directions. Despite the danger, the plan succeeds, resulting in numerous valuable ore dishes in the mine.

The Barmester proclaims Merry's mine as safe, leading to cheers from all the miners except David Burton. The miners also applaud Merry and the women for their efforts. That evening, Anna experiences a peaceful sleep, feeling a sense of accomplishment. However, over the next nine days, Anna is

plagued by extreme soreness that makes even simple tasks challenging. One morning, she encounters her father who expresses gratitude for helping him secure the grave digging job. Rumors have circulated about his unfair demands of household goods from the sick and weak while disregarding contagion risks. Anna reprimands her father for stealing but receives no response.

Every Sunday, the villagers gather at Cucklett Delf while maintaining a distance of at least three yards from each other to prevent the spread of infection. Anna's father does not join them. Instead, Anna accompanies Mompellion in an attempt to persuade her father to change his behavior, but his drunkenness renders their words ineffective. Anna's father commits a heinous act that prompts the villagers to take action. Among the few remaining survivors, Christopher Unwin, the lone member of a family of twelve, has been afflicted with the plague for an extended period and may potentially overcome it. Believing he is nearing death, Christopher's condition prompts Anna to accompany Mompellion to visit him.

Anna's father is present, digging a grave, possibly in anticipation of looting the house once Christopher dies. Mompellion engages in a confrontation with Anna's father. Afterwards, Christopher exhibits a hunger, to which Mompellion playfully remarks that they both outdo the reaper. The next morning, Anna discovers Christopher Unwin, covered in mud and blood, who claims that Anna's father attempted to murder him by striking him with a shovel and stealing his clothes and belongings. Christopher was buried alive and had to dig his way out. The villagers transform into an angry crowd. Anna reflects upon all the beatings and cruel actions perpetrated by her father

and proceeds with her everyday tasks.

During her father's trial for attempted murder, Anna is asked to testify. Her father admits to stealing from the Unwin home, drawing everyone's attention towards Anna. However, she disappoints him by choosing to remain silent. As a punishment, he is subjected to having knives impaled into his hands in the stowes of the Unwin mine. This form of punishment leaves individuals isolated, relying on their family members for help. Anna hopes that Aphra will be there for her father despite the ongoing storm throughout the night. Unfortunately, Aphra cannot go because all but one of her children have been affected by the plague and she cannot take the risk of leaving them alone.

Aphra's anger transforms into insanity when she reaches Anna's cottage three days later, becoming furious upon discovering that nobody has brought down her husband's body. She expresses that she has recently buried all of her sons. Anna agrees to accompany Aphra to the Unwin mine, where they discover Joss' corpse brutally mutilated by animals. In the summary of "The Press of Their Ghosts," Anna begins crying for her father and shares the misery of their respective childhoods. Subsequently, Anna finally feels liberated from her father. Anna believes that her father did not flee the village because Aphra convinces him that she possesses fortunate talismans for their protection.

Mompellion also informs them that he has seen talismans. Anna decides to investigate a particular family who claim to have obtained a protective talisman for a mere tuppence. Upon her investigation, she discovers that they have been deceived. On her way home, Anna stumbles and begins

to ponder whether the plague is simply a natural occurrence, similar to her tripping on a rock. Rather than attributing it to a divine curse, she suggests that they should focus on uncovering its mode of transmission and addressing it as a farmer would eliminate unwanted foliage from his fields. The crucial aspect lies in having the appropriate tools to combat it.

The May festivities bring a combination of hope and fear to the villagers as more and more succumb to the plague. The death toll reaches 140 people by June, leading to the village's rapid decline due to the loss of skilled craftsmen. Each individual reacts differently to the tragedy. Jane Martin, who previously cared for Anna's children, now spends her time at the tavern, consuming alcohol and participating in sexual activities. John Gordon, who had beaten his wife during Anys' hanging, has begun punishing himself by scourging his back with a leather strip filled with nails every few steps. Mompellion explains that this act of self-flagellation was common practice during the Black Death centuries ago.

During a visit to the Gordons, Anna and Mompellion come across a drunk Jane Martin engaging in sexual activity. Mompellion expresses strong disapproval towards them. Anna helps clean up Jane and they both assist her on the horse, taking her back to her croft. Mompellion instructs Anna not to inform his wife about these events. Reluctantly, Gordon's wife allows them inside their house. She reveals that John's troubling behavior began after receiving a religious document from London. He has gone so far as to burn their clothes and inflict physical harm on both her and himself

using leather and nails. Mompellion sets off in search of John but is unsuccessful in locating him.

Brand finds John Gordon's dead body on the rocks near a steep cliff. Some villagers start making their own whips, possibly influenced by John's warnings. Mompellion feels a mix of anger and self-blame about this situation. One day, Anna sees Michael tenderly caring for Elinor, which makes her feel jealous and causes her to smash their tea cups against a stone. The Great Burning Summary reveals that Anna and Elinor are confused about why some members of the same household get sick while others remain unaffected by the disease. While Elinor coughs, Anna acts as if she doesn't hear it.

During the second instance, Elinor's cough becomes increasingly noticeable as she continues to cough for several minutes. She assures Anna that it is only a minor cold, but this causes Anna to shed tears. Elinor tries to wipe Anna's eyes with a handkerchief but quickly puts it back in her whisket. In that moment, Anna realizes that Elinor is afraid of spreading the plague. Over the next three days, Elinor's fever rises and her cough worsens. Anna stays by her side as much as possible, reflecting on the different roles that Elinor has played in her life - acting as a mother figure, teacher, and friend. Whenever Mompellion joins them, Anna experiences familiar feelings of jealousy.

Elinor expresses her gratitude for having a supportive husband like Michael and a reliable friend like Anna. She requests Anna to also be a good friend to her husband as he will need support. While Elinor is ill, she

speaks childishly and then intimately to her husband. Mompellion dismisses Anna coldly. It becomes evident that Elinor did not contract the plague but rather had a common fever. On a Sunday, Mompellion shares a revelation from God, urging the villagers to burn any potentially contaminated possessions and thoroughly clean their homes.

Reluctantly, everyone is persuaded by him to participate in a burning event. The villagers, albeit tired and with dwindling numbers, sing a psalm with less enthusiasm than before. During the event, Brand and another young man forcibly bring forward a woman dressed in black and veiled. Michael reveals her to be Aphra, the one who deceived the villagers by pretending to be Anys Gowdie's ghost and taking their money. The villagers become angry and Mompellion declares that she will be dealt with the following day. Michael assign the task of guarding Aphra to Brand and Robert.

The young men throw Aphra into a deep pit filled with manure overnight. If she had slept, she would have drowned in it. The villagers consider her punishment complete due to the obvious suffering she has endured. However, Mompellion insists that she must repay the money. Despite this, Aphra refuses to allow Anna to enter her home for several days. Eventually, Anna forces her way in and discovers Aphra's dead daughter, who had succumbed to the plague, hanging from the rafters. She also finds Aphra naked with a shaved head, dancing with a snake. Mompellion decides to wait until Aphra collapses from exhaustion before burying her daughter.

Get an explanation on any task
Get unstuck with the help of our AI assistant in seconds