Study Guide

Elizabeth Bradford in Year of Wonders

By Geraldine Brooks

Elizabeth Bradford

If Eyam were a high school, then Elizabeth Bradford would be that popular girl everyone kisses up to but secretly despises. Think Mean Girls, but with a hip Puritan edge.

Hoity-Toity

Elizabeth's rich family, though leaders of the community, abandons the town when the plague hits. As her father tells Mompellion, the Bradfords have enough money to skip town, which makes it silly in his eyes to stick around and die like those silly commoners. No matter if the Bradfords inadvertently spread the plague to the next town.

These people are basically every negative stereotype of the upper class bundled up into one.

After the plague recedes, Elizabeth returns to Eyam with her mother. She assumes that everyone will roll out the red carpet and worship her like they did before. They don't. And the Bradfords don't like it—just take a look at how Elizabeth reacts when Anna dares to walk through the same door as her, for example: "She pinched her face at this; she was not accustomed to sharing a doorway with servants. [...] Well, times had changed in the Bradfords' absence" (1.1.34).

The nerve of that Frith girl, are we right?

Real Housewives of Eyam

Interestingly, Elizabeth and her mother have already lost their status in the world outside Eyam. Although Elizabeth claims that they returned to Eyam because her mom was sick, the truth is that her mom is actually pregnant—and not with her husband's child. Juicy. This makes us view the Bradfords a little more sympathetically, especially after Elizabeth earnestly asks Anna for help.

That being said, the Bradfords remain despicable until the bitter end. Not only does Elizabeth try to kill her newborn sibling, but after she lets Anna take the baby, her family also falsely claims that Anna kidnapped the child and stole their money. Jeez. Right when we think we empathize with these folks, they show their true colors once again.

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