Study Guide

Aphra Bont in Year of Wonders

By Geraldine Brooks

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Aphra Bont

Aphra does some incredibly evil things over the course of Year of Wonders, but we'd be lying if we said that we didn't have any sympathy for her.

Casting Spells for Fun and Profit

Like her husband, Aphra uses the plague to exploit her neighbors. Posing as the ghost of Anys Gowdie, who was accused of being a witch, Aphra sells them magical spells she claims will protect them from the plague. These spells, of course, are a total scam. They also cause untold pain and suffering, leaving us wondering how someone could do something so nasty.

There are a few moments when we sympathize with her, however. The first is when her husband, Josiah Bont, dies, leaving her shocked and grief-stricken. The second is after the villagers find out about her scam. In what amounts to torture, two men lock her up overnight in a pit filled with manure, and by next morning, she "was not Aphra but a gibbering, broken thing" (2.13.66).

Aphra Krueger

That episode represents a turning point for Aphra—and not in a good way. Now legit crazy, Aphra kills her daughter in some strange ritual and subsequently murders Elinor. Her reasoning behind killing Elinor is actually quite interesting: she believes that the Mompellions stole Anna away from her and her husband.

Here's what Aphra says to Anna before the murder goes down: "You think I can't see through you? You're not my stepdaughter now. Oh, no. You're too fine for the like o' me. You're her creature" (2.13.73).

Needless to say, this logic makes zero sense. Is Aphra angry that Elinor is taking over her role as a mother? Or is she expressing hatred toward Elinor's perceived elitism? Is she angry that Elinor has managed to be her own woman while still being accepted by her society, unlike Aphra?

But maybe trying to find logic in Aphra's actions is a fool's errand. She really is certifiably insane at this point. As we saw with the murder of Anys, irrational fears can drive people to commit unthinkable horrors.

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