There are so few people to do the picking. So few people to do anything. And those of us who are left walk around as if we're half asleep. We are all so tired. (1.1.2)
Something has gone down in the village of Eyam. But what? A mass exodus? A widespread bout of food poisoning? A zombie infestation? That last one might actually be closest to the truth: the village has been decimated by the plague. As we'll see over the course of this section, this tragedy has had a profound effect on the community.
And we all—the whole parish—benefited from her barrenness, as she [...] [made] herself indispensable in any number of ways to all kinds and classes of people. (2.2.49)
Both Mompellions are important to the community, but Elinor is particularly beloved. As Anna implies here, Elinor serves as a mother to the whole community by providing guidance and helping those in need. That's definitely true in her relationship with Anna. Elinor is Anna's best friend, mom, and teacher, all in one tidy package.
Pale and hushed, we took our appointed places, the grieving and the guilty. (2.6.5)
The lynching of Anys is a big turning point for the community of Eyam. The perpetrators feel a great deal of shame for their irrational actions, while the rest of the town is just scared. Things will only get worse from here.
And so the rest of us set about learning to live in the wide green prison of our own election. (2.7.33)
Even though Anna hardly ever leaves Eyam, she feels constrained once the village is shut off from the outside world. The rest of the villagers feel the same way. As we'll see, this ends up making everyone stir crazy, to put it mildly.
Before sunset, no less than four families were visited so, by deaths that reached across generations, snatching children and parents with the same dread hand. (2.9.11)
No one is exempt from the horrors of the plague. The villagers were gung ho to stay in town when Mompellion first suggested the idea, but now that they're experiencing the consequences of their decision, they're left wondering whether they made the right call. Unfortunately, things will only get worse before they get better.
It was on the first Sunday in March that Michael Mompellion surrendered to the inevitable and closed the church. (2.10.28)
This is a big deal. Beyond serving as a gathering place for the villagers, the church is where they made their infamous Sunday Oath. With their place of worship gone, the community is left more scattered than ever before.
There had been [...] hurts that could not be healed. For one time, at least, in that hard season, I had the satisfaction of having done a thing that had come out right. (2.10.102)
Like her peers, Anna struggles to stay sane amid all of the madness. The one thing that comforts her during this experience, interestingly enough, is actually helping her community. Whether that means inventing medicine, delivering babies, or mining ore, Anna derives a great deal of satisfaction from helping others.
"Mr. Mompellion, too, has come upon these talismans. It seems the madness is spreading as fast as the disease among us." (2.12.11)
One major side effect of this whole plague business is that the community goes insane. With their loved ones dying every day and no end in sight, the villagers turn to bizarre magical rituals to save themselves. It's basically mass psychosis.
Those of us who were left feared [...] the hidden contagion we each might carry. People scurried [...] without meeting another soul. (2.12.30)
The villagers' fear of the plague becomes so intense that they give up trying to keep the community together. At this point, they're all so emotionally broken that seeing each other only reminds them of everything they've lost. Eyam has become Bummerville.
The village itself reeled on in a stunned condition. It did not spring suddenly back to life with the opening of the roads. (3.15.26)
Although the plague eventually recedes, the village will never be the same again. Maybe most people will do what Anna did and skip town. Maybe most will decide to stick around and rebuild. Either way, the Eyam that existed before the plague is gone forever.