Think about your Topic Sentences
It is Agnes’ struggle against fate and ill fortune that wins the reader’s sympathy. Do you agree.
There is no doubt that Kent presents Agnes as a character who confronts a harsh and unforgiving fate. The author suggests that from her illegitimate birth, to the ambiguous crime, and her harsh death, Agnes has been overrun by a fate that seems to conspire against her. She describes her “home” as one of loneliness and isolation.
Agnes struggles against the stigma attached to her criminal status, and hopes that her audience will show greater understanding of the complex crime.
Nevertheless, Agnes does struggle to win forgiveness and attain mercy. Her personal stories challenge Toti and Margret to provide the compassion and understanding that she so desperately seeks. She seeks their sympathy, but also the reader’s through her personal stories of adversity.
Topic: The fate of the characters in Burial Rites is to live in a harsh landscape surrounded by unforgiving people. Discuss
In the novel ‘Burial Rites’, Hannah Kent uses the setting and landscape to reflect many key aspects of the story; including to a certain extent the struggles faced by her characters. Kent uses the setting to reflect her characters’ struggles to come to terms with their fate, as well as their warring emotions war. Landscape is also used by Kent to highlight the relationship between the nature and religion. Furthermore, setting in the novel is also used to portray the personalities and tumultuous relationships between the characters.
The author uses the harsh and icy landscape to reflect the unjust social attitudes that lead to Agnes’ tragic death. The ice and snow that isolates the communities in winter also reflects the isolating and harsh judgemental values of the District Commissioner Blondal and the Reverend XXX who do not tolerate ‘waywardness’ and have a strict view about Agnes’ crime. They also do not tolerate illegitimacy or women who are intelligent. If the “winter comes like a punch in the dark”, so too does the death sentence ensnare Agnes in a web of hatred. In such a harsh environment, Agnes has no choice but to ‘take up the wind’s howl and mimic its loneliness’.
Places such as Illugastadur and Katadular are depicted in ambiguous terms as they reflect the brutal kindness of Agnes’ deed. She becomes involved in the mercy killing which seals her feat. IN Illugastadur she is literally and symbolically ‘knifed to the hilt with fate’ and the compassionate ‘kiss of death’ embroils her in a crime. The ambiguity of the landscape in Illug which is at times passionate, superstitious and ominous foreshadows Agnes’ ambiguous crime.
The natural landscape of Kornsa reflects psychological and emotional journey of Margret and Agnes as they both struggle for acceptance in the face of their tragic deaths. Growth rejuvenation.. .
the emotional growth of Margret and Agnes’s psychological site of personal growth and development – landscape in flux – changing Margret
Forgiving people – spiritual landscape
The setting of her execution reflects Kent’s view that a greater spiritual and compassionate outlook can help to provide comfort to Ages and help to resolve her tension/stress, anxiety .
In many ways, the landscape is also spiritually represented as Kent seeks to contrast the harsh landscape with a forgiving spirit that reflects her about life and death. Landscape is everywhere, personified as Agnes’ fate in the verses that ‘lifted over the snowy field and fell about them like a mist’. Eventually Toti summons the courage to afford her quiet dignity in death. Instead of prayer, Agnes hears singing. Clasping hands, he remains true to the end, withstanding fever to provide sustenance. Squeezing her hand, and getting close, he tells her, ‘God is all around us, Agnes. I won’t ever let you go’. There becomes a spiritual and natural view of the world as they recognize the burial hymn that grip the air ‘just like the flower’. God is part of the landscape, not in some non-descriptive place elsewhere or above, as she meets her death and looks up at the ‘blank sky’.. According to Kent, as reflected in both the title and the Icelandic Burial Hymn, Christ is an ‘amorophic’ love that should be experienced through the world as Christ’s ‘arm enfolds us’ just as Toti’s arm enfolds Agnes before her death.
Despite the harshness of their lives, the characters in Burial Rites are resourceful and determined
There is no doubt that Kent portrays the patriarchal figures of the socially conservative Icelandic society as determined. Both Blondell and Reverend judge Agnes harshly and stigmatise her as a “wayward” criminal and for this reason they are determined that their follow through with their harsh form of punishment. Kent suggests that such figures are unforgiving and lack compassion. They are determined and intransigent.
Agnes is a very independent and resourceful woman who survives a harsh and judgemental society. She weaves her own stories to elicit sympathy and forgiveness … Initially, reeling from the judgemental values of a society that casts her out because of her illegitimate status, she finds the personal strength to survive and withstand their censure. Her personal stories focus on her courage and strength and these stories have a transformational impact upon key care-givers such as Toti and Margret.
Characters like Margret and Toti are emotionally resourceful because they change their harsh attitudes towards Agnes. Both come to realise that she deserves compassion and both are determined to provide her with solace. Initially, Margret stigmatized A as a criminal, but helps prepare her for her death. Her assistance testifies to her own emotional journey and suggests that she indeed becomes strong and resourceful herself. Toti…
Both Fridrik and Natan are resourceful in manipulative ways and their ability to survive in harsh landscapes… they also appear determined to exploit their power in this patriarchal socially conservative society which they use to harm Agnes.
The setting is “another character”. Discuss
Kent uses the setting to reflect and personify Blondels’ and the Reverend’s harsh views towards sin and punishment.
The setting also reflects Agnes’ social and physical isolation as a result of these attitudes. Agnes’ illegitimate status means that she lives her life as an outcast. Kent uses the landscape to metaphorically reflect her isolation. During her stream of consciousness passage … she refers to the “home” that eludes her. She reveals her place as one of loneliness, as she “mimics the howl of the wind. This recalls her loneliness as the young baby dies in her arms, which is the death of any solace she gains from family. This physical isolation also reflects social isolation as Agnes becomes a victim of the socially conservative patriarchal society that stigmatises her as a criminal.
The natural landscape of Kornsa also reflects the different psychological and emotional journeys undertaken by both Margret and Agnes. They both struggle for acceptance but for different reasons. Growth rejuvenation.. Preparing Agnes for death, also helps Margret prepare for her own. In this case, the farm, the rejuvenation, the spring, also reflects her more compassionate outlook that enables her to die a more peaceful death.
The setting also personifies the spiritual journey and compassion that Toti eventually displays to Agnes. reflects Kent’s spiritual views about love and suffering. The circumstances of Agnes’ death and Toti’s compassion, reveals a landscape that becomes more spiritual… . that God is everywhere, personifies Agnes’ spiritual journey as in the verses that ‘lifted over the snowy field and fell about them like a mist’. Eventually Toti summons the courage to afford her quiet dignity in death. Instead of prayer, Agnes hears singing. Clasping hands, he remains true to the end, withstanding fever to provide sustenance. Squeezing her hand, and getting close, he tells her, ‘God is all around us, Agnes. I won’t ever let you go’. There becomes a spiritual and natural view of the world as they recognize the burial hymn that grip the air ‘just like the flower’. God is part of the landscape, not in some non-descriptive place elsewhere or above, as she meets her death and looks up at the ‘blank sky’.. According to Kent, as reflected in both the title and the Icelandic Burial Hymn, Christ is an ‘amorophic’ love that should be experienced through the world as Christ’s ‘arm enfolds us’ just as Toti’s arm enfolds Agnes before her death.