Analysis of Protagonist Morals in Geraldine Brooks’ Novel Year of Wonders and Frog by Mo Yang

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In Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders and Mo Yan’s Frog, the authors emphasise their protagonists’ morals and attitudes as a major factor in their character development. In the fictional novels, the protagonists’ journeys, built through their relationships and adversities. They contribute to the perspectives of the characters and show personal values of belief that justify their actions. Both texts explore the impacts of loss and adversity, in both a physical and abstract sense, and shape the protagonist’s moral and ethical development throughout their journey. Furthermore, the audience is given an insight into the different beliefs and superstitions that allow the protagonists’ experiences and thoughts to drastically change over time.

Both world novels share themes of death and show how the characters have grown and developed, using a more or less direct approach, allowing the protagonists to form and abide by their own morals. In Year of Wonders, Anna Frith suffers through mortality of loved ones throughout her journey to conquering the Plague, which led her to overcoming obstacles through her various experiences, and ultimately shaped her perspective. The novel was based on the true story of William Mompesson’s maid who survived during the Eyam Plague. The protagonist experiences the loss of her family and the author emphasises her melancholy through the use of truncated sentences. In the first chapter of the book, the composer expresses the protagonist's dismay, when they discover her deceased husband’s body, as her friend shows her support, “They tried to keep me from it, but I wouldn’t be kept. I would do that last thing for him. She knew. ‘Tell them to let her go to him,’”.

The use of the truncated sentence, “She knew.” emphasised their strong bond and connection, and the understanding she has in Anna’s circumstance. The text indirectly allows the audience to infer the distress and undergoing pain that Anna endures. The character’s flashback of her husband’s passing foreshadows the death of her sons. She recounts the atmosphere of the situation in the village, explaining that “The Plague is cruel... Its blows fall and fall again upon raw sorrow, so that before you have mourned one person that you love, another is ill in your arms.” The author portrays the plague as “cruel” and describes the spreading of the plague in a blowing motion, falling continuously and gradually filling the village with sorrow. The personification used in the allows the readers to visual the flow and contagiousness of the plague and how it would greatly affect others lives, in this case referring to Anna’s sons. The shared idea of death and loss can be expressed well using language techniques to further emphasise the circumstance and importance of their occurence, in order for the characters to grow and develop.

As well as the development of character growth through their past experiences of loss in Year of Wonders, Wan Xin, from Frog, experiences a more abstract sense of loss, physically losing a loved one and also what had been lost with the consequences. Wan Xin when she loses her ex-fiancé, when he flies to Taiwan during time period the Chinese Civil War. She tells Xiangqun, “I can say he destroyed me, but he also saved me.” In the beginning of the novel, she finds out that Wang Xiaoti, her ex-fiancé, was a defector and had planned to be a spy in China and then return to Taiwan. Because of this, Wan Xin’s loyalty was immediately questioned due to her past relationship to the traitor. However, it is later believed that he had left a diary behind to prove Wan’s obliviousness to the whole situation This was strategically incorporated by using the antithesis into the novel to have more meaning to their relationship without extensive explanation.

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Due to the scandals caused by Wang’s leave, Dr Huang stirs trouble, when her loyalty and reputation is tampered with within the Party. The protagonist compares herself to Huang by saying that, “For the daughter of a Shanghai capitalist and graduate… to work was a case of ‘a fallen phoenix is not the equal of a common chicken’. And who was the chicken?... That would be me.” The social status and place of the doctor and Wan Xin are contrasted greatly, as outlined in the hypophora. She labels herself the chicken and continues to compare by saying, “A chicken pecked at a phoenix. A chicken that beat a phoenix into submission.” The repetition and personification assists the author to exaggerate and show the measures and standards that are expected of her. The author even continues to proceeds to mention that she gets “pecked” and “beat”, representing all the teasing and doubt that she faced from her past relation with Wang Xiaoti. Wan Xin and Anna both lose their loved ones, and the audience view their sufferings and see how they were able to endure their pain and move past it, as they were able to recall their memories with the use of flashbacks.

The fictional novels, Year of Wonders and Frog, present relevant topics to their related time periods. A major issue in their settings were due to beliefs, with supernatural beings and personal values. These beliefs formed extreme changes in perspectives for the protagonists, as well as the people around them. In 1666, where the novel is set, the topic of the Black Plague was still pertinent as villagers believed that the Plague was brought the curses of witches and they were haunted by the ghosts of those that had passed.

In Year of Wonders, Anys and Mem Gowdie attempt to create remedy for the village and due to panic, they quickly accuse the two of being witches. Mary Hadfield blames Mem for the death of family and exclaims, “‘You killed my family, hag?... I heard you curse us for bringing….’” The villagers all begin to agree with one another and come to the idea of letting her swim to see if she was a witch. The author uses visual imagery by describing her “with tugging exposing one withered pap, purple from bruising”. This creates Mem Gowdie’s realisation that she could not be saved as she seems “near insensible from beatings” as the villagers drag her towards the flooded mine. Before Mem almost drowns, Anys rescues and revives her. The villagers then shift their suspicions and then believe that Anys Gowdie is the witch and not Mem because she “raised the dead”.

As Anys gradually passes away, she is provoked as “she looked away and stared all round her at her persecutors. The sun, slipping below the horizon, beamed a lonely finger of light.” The description conveys visual imagery and representation of time passing before her time is up and her loss of hope of surviving, meeting the reality of her death. Looking away from the sun shows the rejection of hope that is left and the personification of the sun “slipping” below the horizon and bleaming a “lonely” finger of light, symbolising her last signs of hope fading away. We find that Anna’s friends are taken away from her by death and this impacts her greatly as she continues to suffer through more complications in her journey.

Frog’s protagonist has a more realistic approach in her personal values of belief, in this case, the one-child policy. When the novel was written, there was a very prominent case of overpopulation in China and to reduce it, they had to enforce the one-child policy. At the beginning of the novel, the protagonist works as a midwife, supporting the birth of newborns. After they question Wan Xin’s loyalty to China, she’s put into a difficult situation where the health care director speaks to her privately and her reaction according to the text was, “The directors words make her [Gugu] cry bitterly once more.

His words made me cry bitterly as well.” The use to repetition in the text allows to audience to have a better understanding of how the protagonist felt and how it would later affect her opinion of her occupation and beliefs. Later on in the book as the story progressed she encounters several hardships, where her thoughts are further altered.

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Analysis of Protagonist Morals in Geraldine Brooks’ Novel Year of Wonders and Frog by Mo Yang. (2021, February 10). WritingBros. Retrieved June 18, 2024, from
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