At Hiruharama


Penelope Fitzgerald

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Themes and Colors
Value and Perception Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Colonialism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in At Hiruharama, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Community Theme Icon

In “At Hiruharama,” community is often presented as flawed and comically imperfect, but those imperfections don’t invalidate its worth or mean that it doesn't have value. Though the Tanners’ home is miles away from their closest neighbors, the story portrays them as still belonging to a community, as a number of people help them in small but significant ways. Their distant neighbor, Parrish, lends them racing pigeons so they can notify the doctor when Kitty has gone into labor. And the doctor, for his part, not only travels to attend to Kitty, but also brings along his sister-in-law, a nurse. Even Tanner’s sister, who lives far away in England, sends a book about childbirth that, though barely applicable and quite late to arrive, is nonetheless appreciated. Finally, there is Brinkman, the Tanners' closest neighbor, whom the doctor describes as a “crank,” Tanner describes as a “dreamer,” and who comes off as self-centered at the very least, as he hangs around the Tanners’ house expecting dinner while Kitty gives birth. Even his presence doesn’t seem entirely unwelcome, though, and his foibles are seen, by Tanner at least, as more comic or sympathetic than off-putting. These people—who find each other knit in the fabric of each other's lives by mere happenstance—might be highly flawed, but they still show up for the Tanners when they’re needed most (except, perhaps, for Brinkman, whose presence is mostly for comedic effect). In fact, the community as a whole, is ultimately responsible for discovering and saving the life of the Tanners’ second child. Although the story depicts the idea of community in far from idealistic or utopian terms, then, it nevertheless suggests that even seemingly random (or even flawed) people can come together to provide indispensable communal support.

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Community ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Community appears in each chapter of At Hiruharama. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Community Quotes in At Hiruharama

Below you will find the important quotes in At Hiruharama related to the theme of Community.
At Hiruharama Quotes

“What’s it called?”


“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: