Burial Rites Landscape and Weather

1138 words 5 pages
How does Hannah Kent make the landscape and weather an integral part of the novel?

Amidst the journey of the last woman executed in Iceland is the ‘nature [that] is watchful of all of us.’ Kent parallels the protagonist Agnes’ story alongside the force of the harsh Icelandic climate and country that ‘is as awake as you and I’ and often determines key events in the novel. The ominous foreshadowing of death represented in elements of the landscape highlights how the country is an essential aspect of the novel, often adding to the dramatic effect. Agnes’ road to spiritual redemption, both religion based and personal, is greatly influenced by the natural occurrences of the country. Ultimately, the harsh Icelandic conditions impact the lives
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Her comfort with the family is evident when she proclaims to reverend Petur that she is Agnes Jonsdottir, thus she has found an identity with the family. Kent illustrates that the landscape and weather equally impede and benefit Agnes’ journey to spiritual redemption.

The harsh country and climate has the ability to control the lives of the characters in the novel. Often this wielding of power negatively affects the characters. In a section recounted in Agnes’ first person perspective, the audience becomes aware of the hardships of her upbringing. Agnes’s foster mother dies at childbirth along with her daughter, due to the ‘chill’ of the evening and inadequate resources. Consequently, Agnes feels guilt, seeking to question Toti whether she ‘killed the baby,’ all stemming from the harsh ‘wind’ and ‘cold rush of air’ that made for inadequate conditions for childbirth. Similarly, the Jonsson family experiences the same restrictions of this poverty stricken lifestyle, damaging their quality of life. The ‘peasant’ family must continue to ‘work’ to ensure survival in the colder months, resulting in ‘shared fatigue’ and ‘exhaustion.’ Thus, although they are morally opposed to keeping a ‘murderess’ in their house, the family is restricted in choice, as they cannot afford to deny to be ‘compensated’ due to their already poor living conditions emphasized by the harsh climate. The Icelandic weather regularly controls the characters lives, restricting them of choice as it wields


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