Anna is the heroine in the story and highlights the theme of letting go. The other characters such as Michael Mompellier, Elinor, and the Bradfords provide contrast in their ability to let go of certain things and the results that it brings. The theme of letting go of the past is further highlighted by these other characters. The time of the plague was a time of letting go. Everyone's world changed in some way. In the beginning of the novel, Anna reflects on the loss of labor for picking apples. This foreshadows the changes that are to come in the rest of the novel. Ann says, "There were so few people to do the picking. So few people to do anything. An those of us who are left walk around as if we're half asleep, We are all so tired, " (Brooks, p. 3) This quote sets the tone of the novel and serves as a clue that many more changes are to come and many losses as well.
The last two chapters of the novel do not seem to be consistent with the rest of the novel. It would appear that the people who survived would remain in the town. However, Anna decides to take a chance and leave for a foreign land where she will have to let go of everything that she ever knew. She will have to let go in order to survive in the new lands. The novel contains may themes, such as the social roles of society, faith, and the ability to overcome great challenges. However, it is the theme of letting go of things that drives the central plot of the story. In order to see this plot, one needs to examine the characters from an outsider's view rather than by examining the individual scenes of the story.
One of the key symbols that is consistent throughout the novel is harvest time and the smell of rotting apples. In the beginning of the novel, these are a sense of comfort and joy to Anna. They are a symbol of abundance and the ability to survive the winter. However, as the novel progresses, the smell of apples rotting begins to symbolize the losses that Ann and the rest have endured. In the end of the novel, she no loathes the smell of rotting apples. Apples are symbolic of happiness. In a sense, they support the theme of the story in that Anna is "letting go" of her happiness, as expressed by her change in attitude towards the smell of rotting apples. Apples are a metaphor for happiness and are used as such throughout the novel. The theme of rotting apples also sets the somber tone of the novel.
This novel can have many different interpretations, depending on the focus of the reader. If one focuses on the physical affects of the plague, one can see how the loss of workforce affected society and the wealth of the village. If one examines the central theme of faith, one can see how as villagers lost faith, the society began to degrade, eventually coming apart at the seams and turning to murder. The story is also an examination of how those who survived would fill in the gaps and rebuild society. Interpretation of the story depends upon which element one wishes to examine. Reading the story through these various lenses gives a different perspective on the actions of the characters and the reasons behind them.
A year of wonder tells the story of surviving through letting go. All of the characters had to let go of one thing or another in order to survive. Those that could not let go, eventually perished in some manner, either physically, emotionally, or spiritually. The story has many elements that are seen in the survivors of modern disaster, regardless of the actual source of the disaster (Hickling, p. 1). The story is historically accurate and portrays many aspects of the plague, including superstitions and the flagellates (Hamilton, p. 1). It provides a well-rounded perspective of what life was like during the plague.
Brooks, G. 2001. A Year of Wonder. London, UK: Penguin. 2002.
Hamilton, L. Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague. BookPage. Accessed July 7, 2010.
Hickling, a. Journal of plague year. The Guardian, 14 July 2001. < http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2001/jul/14/fiction.reviews2 >. Accessed July 7,…