Study Guide

Year of Wonders Chapter 5

By Geraldine Brooks

Chapter 5

Sign of a Witch

  • Jamie gets sick. Anna tries a host of natural remedies, some of which are suggested by Anys and actually work pretty well—but they're not enough.
  • Jamie buys the farm after five days of sickness.
  • Anna is lost in grief. She now spends most of her time in the local graveyard.
  • One night, Anna spots 10 or so villagers shouting and standing in a circle. As she gets closer, she realizes that they've surrounded Mem.
  • The villagers, drunk, are accusing Mem of being a witch and are blaming her for the plague. Anna tries to stop them, but they're too much for her.
  • The mob decides to "swim her" (2.5.27), which is a test meant to determine whether someone is a witch. They'll throw Mem into water, and if she floats, she's a witch. If she sinks, she isn't.
  • Wait. How does this end well, either way?
  • Mem sinks. Uh-oh. Anna goes to dive in, but Anys suddenly appears and leaps into the water. She emerges with Mem's unmoving body.
  • Anys and Anna give Mem some textbook CPR. Who knew Puritans knew first aid?
  • Mem sputters and begins to breathe. Phew. Unfortunately, the mob takes this as a sign that Anys is a witch, especially after Lib accuses her of sleeping with the devil, a.k.a. George Viccars.
  • Someone hits Anys, and the whole group pounces on her. They put a noose around her neck.
  • Anys shouts that she has slept with the devil (along with the other village women, she claims) and curses them all. They kill her.
  • Mr. Mompellion arrives soon after and is horrified at the madness that has taken hold of the village.