Study Guide

Josiah Bont in Year of Wonders

By Geraldine Brooks

Josiah Bont

Josiah Bont isn't winning Father of the Year any time soon. Equal parts con man and bully, this dude has few redeeming qualities, as far as we can tell.

That being said, we do end up sympathizing with the poor schmuck when everything is said and done.

Mad and Bad

Josiah's relationship with his daughter Anna is terrible. For starters, Josiah physically abused her when she was a child, which shaped the person she became in many ways—and not really for the better. Later, Josiah marries Aphra, who is openly hostile to her new stepdaughter. Anna makes an effort to spend time with her dad, but it's a lot like using a cell phone on the summit of Everest—there's no connection.

As if that weren't enough, Josiah Bont also exploits his neighbors after the plague hits. He charges exorbitant fees to bury the dead, and sometimes he even begins to dig before the person has died. In one instance, he even buries someone alive. The village punishes him harshly for these actions, and this punishment inadvertently causes his death.

Thicker Than Water

Josiah's punishment forces Anna to re-examine her relationship with her father. On the one hand, she considers his sins and cruelties, which are heftier than your average WWE wrestler. On the other, she considers his own childhood abuse, something that traumatized him in strange and horrible ways. "I was finally able to fashion a scale on which I could weigh my father's nature and find a balance between my disgust for him and an understanding of him," she says (2.12.4).

Of course, nothing excuses Josiah Bont's actions. The dude is legit deplorable. But that doesn't mean we can't explore the circumstances that made him this way. Exploited by employers his entire life, Bont has become hard, mean, and unsympathetic toward people who suffer. After all, who sympathized with him when he was in the same position? Thinking about it this way, we can gain a measure of sympathy for the least sympathetic character in the novel.

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