At Hiruharama


Penelope Fitzgerald

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Value and Perception Theme Analysis

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.
Value and Perception Theme Icon

“At Hiruharama” explores the often-overlooked value of neglected or abandoned people, places, and objects. The story contends that value is determined not so much by intrinsic qualities but by perception. This idea is exemplified most explicitly during the story's climax. After Tanner helps his wife, Kitty, deliver their child, the doctor arrives and discovers a second child in what Tanner mistook for afterbirth. What Tanner perceived as garbage turned out to be, on closer inspection, a human child (who goes on to become a lawyer). This notion of finding value in what might otherwise be overlooked is underlined by the tinplate the Tanners hang in their kitchen, which reads, “Throw Nothing Away,” meaning that something of importance can often be found in the things people take for granted or fail to fully consider. Similarly, when the Tanners are looking for a place to move, they find a plot of land that has been abandoned by its past tenants, even though it contains a “standpipe giving constant clear water from an underground well”—something that the story suggests is quite priceless, despite the fact that nobody else seems to recognize its worth. The Tanners then proceed to turn that abandoned plot into a thriving homestead. Even Tanner himself is described as abandoned, an orphan who aims to become an apprentice with a wealthy family but is instead treated as a servant. When he meets his future wife, Kitty, she soon gleans that he can’t read. Instead of rejecting him based on his social standing or perceived shortcomings, though, Kitty sees a deeper, intangible value in him and encourages him to learn to read, thus illustrating the story’s implication that it’s often beneficial to refrain from writing people (or things) off before considering their potential.

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Value and Perception ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in At Hiruharama related to the theme of Value and Perception.
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:

“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:

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: