Study Guide

Year of Wonders Repression

By Geraldine Brooks

Repression

Chapter 2

George Viccars [...] kept his gaze down on the floor, respectfully. Different from all those men who look over you like beef at a saleyard. (2.2.3)

After the death of her husband, Anna apparently becomes the hottest bachelorette in Eyam. She's not too pleased about this status. Putting aside the creepiness of such unrepentant gawking, Anna has difficulty seeing herself as a sexual being.

I was crying for a different kind of waste; wondering why I had waited until so near this death to feel the touch of those hands. (2.2.73)

Viccars's death saddens Anna not just because she felt affection for him, but also because it highlights how her repressed sexuality has limited her. In her mind, she should have enjoyed what little time she had with him instead of getting hung up on morality.

And there was still, I was surprised to discover, woman enough alive within me to want to wear that dress. (2.2.29)

Anna is shocked when she finds herself thinking sexually tinged thoughts. Where did those things come from? Despite her growing feelings for Viccars, however, Anna puts up a strong fight against her intimate desires.

His [...] idea of lovemaking was a swift and sweaty tumble, a spasm and then sleep. (2.2.9)

Well, that's certainly not the type of lovemaking that would inspire a Marvin Gaye smooth jam. Anna loved Sam a great deal, but she'd be lying if she said that sex was an important part of their relationship.

I was like one who forgets all day to eat until the scent from some other's roasting pan reminds her she is ravenous. (2.2.36)

Now we're getting into Marvin Gaye territory, folks. Despite having built up a formidable dam to keep her sexuality at bay, the tiny leak caused by Anna's attraction to Viccars quickly turns into a full-on tidal wave. There's no stopping it now.

Chapter 3
Anys Gowdie

"And I suppose you need to know whether I lay with George," Anys declared [...]. "Of course I did. He was too young and handsome to have to slake his fires with his fist." (2.3.20)

Unlike Anna, Anys has no hesitations about sex. She's also a pro at making up hilarious euphemisms, if this passage is any indication. Because of her free-spirited nature, Anys becomes a big inspiration to Anna as she struggles against her own repressed desires and redefines her sense of femininity in the process.

Chapter 9

"I was desperate, and I was deranged," she said. "I violated my own body with a fire iron." (2.9.69)

This horrible event shows just how powerful repression can be. Elinor's big sin—sleeping with the wrong person—is something that many people have done. Her shame is so strong, however, that it basically drives her temporarily insane.

Chapter 12
Michael Mompellion

"On your knees, sinner!" He took a step towards us, a looming black figure. (2.12.53)

Mompellion seems like a swell dude for most of the novel, but he tends to flip out whenever he catches wind of sexy times. As we'll see, there's a fascinating reason for this.

Chapter 15

"I deemed that she should atone by living some part of her life with her lusts unrequited. The more I could make her love me, the more her penance might weigh in the balance to equal her sin." (3.15.81)

This is a yuge revelation. Anna has always seen Elinor and Michael as the perfect couple, so she's shocked when Michael reveals that they never ever had sex. This was his way of punishing Elinor for her prior sexual activity. In this light, the second sentence in the passage is particularly disturbing: Michael made Elinor love him in order to cause her pain. Yikes. Talk about repressed.

We had each other, wild and hard, right there upon the gritstone floor, and the pain as the rough flags grazed my flesh seemed to match the pain that was in my heart. (3.15.60)

Well, that's one way to get rid of repression. Anna has long been attracted to Mompellion, and with Elinor dead, she can no longer hold back the tide of her feelings. It ends up being a mixed bag. On the one hand, she feels incredible after having removed the yoke of sexual repression. On the other, she feels shame for betraying her recently deceased friend.