At Hiruharama

by

Penelope Fitzgerald

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Tanner Character Analysis

Tanner is the story’s protagonist. He is an orphan in England who is sent to Auckland, New Zealand to be an apprentice, but the wealthy family he works for treats him more like a servant. He meets Kitty, who is in a similar situation, and they begin a romance. After they marry, they move to a homestead of their own in the more rural area of Hiruharama. Throughout the story, Tanner is depicted as calm, resourceful, and hardworking, and he insists on seeing the best in people. For example, when the doctor calls the Tanners’ neighbor Brinkman “a crank,” Tanner says that Brinkman is a dreamer, showing that where some people might find a reason to be annoyed, Tanner finds a way to be charmed. In the story, Tanner makes one significant, almost dire mistake: he puts his second child (an unexpected twin) in the garbage, thinking the baby is just his wife’s afterbirth. The doctor, though, finds the child. That mistake, which could have become a tragedy, instead becomes a principle that guides the Tanners through their lives: namely, that they shouldn’t throw anything away, or, in other words, that they should look for the value in what at first might be overlooked, neglected, or discarded.

Tanner Quotes in At Hiruharama

The At Hiruharama quotes below are all either spoken by Tanner or refer to Tanner. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Value and Perception Theme Icon
).
At Hiruharama Quotes

They didn’t have to buy their place, it had been left deserted, and yet it had something you could give a thousand pounds for and not get, and that was a standpipe giving constant clear water from an underground well.

Related Characters: Tanner, Kitty
Related Symbols: Standpipe
Page Number: 408
Explanation and Analysis:

“What’s it called?”

“Hiruharama.”

“Don’t know it. That’s not a Māori name.”

“I think it means Jerusalem,” said Tanner.

Related Characters: Tanner (speaker), The Doctor (speaker)
Page Number: 409
Explanation and Analysis:

“He’s a crank, I dare say.”

“He’s a dreamer,” Tanner replied. “I should term Brinkman a dreamer.”

Related Characters: The Doctor (speaker), Tanner (speaker), Brinkman
Page Number: 410
Explanation and Analysis:

Parrish didn’t mind because Hiruharama, Tanner’s place, was on a more or less direct line from Awanui to Te Paki station, and that was the line his pigeons flew.

“If you’d have lived over the other way I couldn’t have helped you,” Parrish said.

Related Characters: Parrish (speaker), Tanner
Page Number: 410
Explanation and Analysis:

He had made the pigeons’ nest out of packing-cases. They ought to have flown daily for exercise, but he hadn’t been able to manage that. Still, they looked fair enough, a bit disheveled, but not so that you’d notice. It was four o’clock, breezy, but not windy. He took them out into the bright air which, even that far from the coast, was full of the salt of the ocean. How to toss a pigeon he had no idea. He opened the basket, and before he could think what to do next they were out and up into the blue. He watched in terror as after reaching a certain height they began turning round in tight circles as though puzzled or lost. Then, apparently sighting something on the horizon that they knew, they set off strongly toward Awanui.

Related Characters: Tanner, Parrish, Kitty, The Doctor
Page Number: 411
Explanation and Analysis:

The doctor emerged, moving rather faster than he usually did. “Please to go in there and wash the patient. I’m going to look at the afterbirth. The father put it out with the waste.”

There Tanner had made his one oversight. It wasn’t the afterbirth, it was a second daughter, smaller, but a twin.

Related Characters: The Doctor (speaker), Tanner, Kitty
Page Number: 412
Explanation and Analysis:

“I think of myself as one of the perpetually welcome.”

Related Characters: Brinkman (speaker), Tanner, Kitty
Page Number: 412
Explanation and Analysis:

After that the Tanners always had one of those tinplate mottoes hung up on the wall – Throw Nothing Away. You could get them at the hardware store.

Related Characters: Mr. Tanner (speaker), Tanner, Kitty, The Doctor
Page Number: 412
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire At Hiruharama LitChart as a printable PDF.
At Hiruharama PDF

Tanner Character Timeline in At Hiruharama

The timeline below shows where the character Tanner appears in At Hiruharama. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
At Hiruharama
Upward Mobility and Colonialism Theme Icon
Mr. Tanner and his family have decided to leave New Zealand, and he’s excited to explain (to... (full context)
Value and Perception Theme Icon
While running an errand to a dry goods store, Tanner meets Kitty, who also came to New Zealand from England. Like Tanner, she thought she... (full context)
Value and Perception Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Colonialism Theme Icon
Years later, Kitty and Tanner find a remote country place where they start to build their lives together. They don’t... (full context)
Value and Perception Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
About two years later, Kitty tells Tanner that she’s pregnant. Tanner drives into the nearest town, Awanui, to meet with the doctor.... (full context)
Value and Perception Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Colonialism Theme Icon
Tanner leaves the doctor’s office and goes to the post office, where he writes a letter... (full context)
Value and Perception Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
More or less when they expected, Kitty goes into labor. Tanner uses the pigeons to send for the doctor and calculates that it will take him... (full context)
Value and Perception Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
...doctor eventually drives up with his wife’s widowed sister, who used to be a nurse. Tanner comes out covered in blood and tells the doctor that he managed to deliver the... (full context)