Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders (2001)

Geraldine Brook’s novel Year of Wonders (2001) is more than a romance set in the famous Derbyshire village of Eyam, which is known as the ‘Plague village’ because it quarantined itself from 1665−1666 to contain a local outbreak of the Plague.  The novel is meant to celebrate the triumph of Enlightenment values, like sectarianism and reason, over religious superstition, as well as promote an appreciation of nature over a fascination with the spiritual.  More than this, the text comprehensively promotes feminist values, especially through its treatment of its central character, the strong-willed, independent and resourceful Anna, a working-class woman from a humble, if not deprived background who educates herself and achieves a fulfilling sense of vocation in medicine as a professional healer.  She is meant to be regarded as an inspiring role model.  Notable among the values promoted by Anna and other female characters is an appreciation of herbal and alternative medicine as a feminine tradition providing great benefit to the community.

As well as presenting feminist values, the novel has much to say about social class, critically commenting on the inequalities of the class system alongside those inequalities determined by gender due to patriarchy.  The novel takes aim at the upper class or nobility (the Bradfords), depicting it as being, with few exceptions (Elinor), undeserving of its privileges and, worse, capable of contemptable behaviour towards the lower classes.  The novel also takes aim at the capitalist middle class (Anna’s father as the gravedigger), characterising it as exploitive by taking advantage of the vulnerable to make an unfair profit.  By contrast, the novel celebrates lower-middle-class professionals (the Rector) and members of the working class (Anna) who are generous and helpful to others on the basis of addressing need rather than capitalising on economic opportunity. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2019 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Year of Wonders meaning, Year of Wonders themes, Year of Wonders analysis, Year of Wonders notes