Burial Rites

Burial Rites Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Chapter Ten opens with a clerical report describing Rósa’s response when asked to testify at court. Rósa declined to do so. Rósa told the clerk that, after Natan left her, Fridrik made advances on her. According to Rósa, Fridrik thought that Natan had hidden money on Rósa’s property and he was hoping he could find it. Fridrik later broke into her storeroom. Rósa also mentioned that, while Natan was living with her, he sometimes buried his money for safekeeping.
From Rosa’s account, it seems that Natan was right not to trust Fridrik. Later, when Agnes describes Fridrik’s house, Kent makes it obvious that Fridrik grew up in profound poverty, suggesting that Fridrik’s greed may be the result of this destitution during his childhood.
Themes
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
The narrative switches to the third person as it describes Tóti waking up in his home and feeling very ill. Tóti gets up to get some water and falls back asleep on the pantry floor. Reverend Jón finds him, wakes him up, and gets him back to the badstofa. Tóti is standing and sweating when he suddenly faints into his father’s arms.
Tóti’s sudden illness serves mostly as a twist in the plot, preventing him from spending time at Kornsá ministering to Agnes at the worst possible time. During Tóti’s illness, Reverend Jón reveals his softer side as he nurses Tóti back to health.
Themes
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
The narrative switches back to Agnes’s perspective as she describes the endless winter days. Agnes wonders where Tóti is, as he has not come by recently. Agnes worries that he is tired of talking with her. Agnes is sick of waiting for her execution. She wonders why it is so delayed, thinking that Blöndal must want her to suffer with anticipation. Agnes thinks that maybe she will go to church the next Sunday, as she misses the community of the church. Agnes wonders if she would have had a stronger support network if Natan had allowed her to go to church.
With Tóti gone, Agnes misses his companionship. Her desire to attend church suggests that she may also miss the presence of Christian spirituality in her life. With Tóti providing both friendship and Christian teachings, Agnes seems to be developing more positive associations with the Christian church, even imagining that Natan’s atheism may have kept her from forming relationships.
Themes
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
Agnes wonders if she and Rósa could have been friends under different circumstances. Agnes had heard a lot about Rósa from Natan, who described their romantic relationship to Agnes. Natan told Agnes he had sent Rósa letters ending their affair unequivocally. But when Rósa showed up at Natan’s house one night unexpectedly, Natan seemed extremely happy to see her. Rósa introduced herself and her daughter, Thóranna, to Agnes. Agnes sensed Rósa’s hostility towards her.
As Agnes thinks about the fact that Natan’s aversion to the church prevented her from forming a support network, she imagines what other friendships Natan’s jealousy and abusive tendencies inhibited. Agnes feels that she and Rósa had a lot in common and may have been friends if not for the fact that Natan pitted them against each other.
Themes
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
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Natan had invited Rósa inside, but Rósa said she only came to drop Thóranna off. Agnes was surprised and Natan explained that Thóranna lived with him in the winter. Rósa, Agnes, and Natan exchanged tense words. Rósa got upset and then left. Once she was gone, Agnes asked Natan what he had told Rósa about her, and Natan said nothing. Agnes did not believe him, and Natan got angry and left the house. Agnes asked Natan if he was following Rósa, and Natan gave no response.
As Agnes remembers when Rósa showed up at Natan’s house with Thóranna, she gives the reader another example of the emotional abuse that lead up to Natan’s physically abusive behavior. Natan lies to Agnes, neglecting to tell her about Thóranna and saying that he told Rósa nothing about Agnes even though he obviously did.
Themes
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
The narrative switches back to follow Tóti. He is still very ill, and dreams feverishly that Agnes has come to visit him. She kisses him, but then tries to choke him. Tóti tosses and turns, feeling incredibly uncomfortable.
Tóti’s fever dreams reveal how he is physically and emotionally attracted to Agnes but is also afraid of her rumored capacity for violence.
Themes
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
The perspective jumps to Steina and Lauga, who are talking as they clean the badstofa. The sisters are bickering when Margrét comes in asks why Steina is upset. Lauga tells her that she heard a story from Róslín about Agnes and told Steina, who did not like it. According to the story, Agnes received a prophecy as a child that an axe would fall on her head. Margrét is overtaken by a coughing fit, and she coughs up blood. Suddenly, Agnes appears in the doorway and asks if Margrét has tried lichen jelly for her cough. Lauga tells her they don’t need her potions, but Agnes tells Margrét she will make her the jelly. Margrét agrees over Lauga’s objections.
Lauga and Steina debate the truth of the story that Lauga heard from Róslín about a prophecy in Agnes’s past. Despite Lauga’s rumors, Margrét and Steina are trusting in Agnes more and more, as Kent shows when Margrét agrees to let Agnes make her a jelly to sooth her cough. Agnes’s intelligence and knowledge as woman is no longer a reason to distrust her among the family at Kornsá, and rather is a highly valued asset.
Themes
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
The narrative changes back to Agnes’s first person perspective. She is disappointed that Tóti still hasn’t come. Winter, meanwhile, has arrived in full force. Agnes wonders if she would tell Tóti about sleeping with Natan if he were there. Agnes remembers Natan’s jealousy towards her and how Natan would go through spells of bad moods, during which he would be cruel to her. Agnes felt he was falling out of love with her. Agnes hated being Natan’s servant and answering his commands.
Agnes is unsure of why Tóti is no longer visiting. Her worry that he has grown tired of her implies that Agnes has become attached to Tóti and looks forward to his company. In contrast to Tóti’s gentleness, Agnes remembers Natan’s uncontrollable mood swings and his cruelty, which prefaced his later violence toward her.
Themes
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
The relationship became more and more toxic until one day Daníel talked to Agnes about Natan. Daníel mentioned that he had noticed that she and Sigga both received special presents from Natan. He then expressed his romantic interest in Agnes and told her that he, Sigga, and Fridrik all knew that Natan and Agnes had sex. The conversation then got heated. Daníel implied that Natan would never marry Agnes, and the conversation ended when Agnes told Daníel that he disgusted her.
As Natan’s behavior becomes increasingly concerning, Daníel, who has a soft spot for Agnes, intervenes in an attempt to make her realize that Natan is manipulating her. Daníel’s approach, however, does not work. He becomes frustrated that Agnes is choosing Natan over him, rendering his intervention ineffective.
Themes
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Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Agnes wonders if she would tell Tóti this if he were there. She thinks about another day on Natan’s farm. Daníel and Natan had gone fishing and Agnes saw them out on the water, heading back early. When they reached shore, it was clear that Natan was in a terrible mood. Agnes asked Daníel what happened, and Daníel told her that Natan thought some waves that they encountered were a sign of death. Natan got irritated and made Daníel turn back.
Natan’s volatility is obvious as Agnes describes some of the incidents that came to pass. Natan’s belief in signs and symbols exacerbates his bad moods, as Natan imagines he is being forewarned of his own death. Natan’s prediction, as it turns out, is correct, since he later is killed.
Themes
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
Agnes went to talk to Natan. She found him yelling at Sigga, and Agnes told Sigga, who seemed upset, to leave, saying she would help him undress. Natan angrily told Agnes that she was forgetting her place. Later, Agnes followed Natan to his workshop. Natan found the door of his workshop open and accused Agnes of stealing from and taking advantage of him. Agnes told Natan that he was the one who was taking advantage of her, since he had lied to her about the fact that she would be the housemistress and had given the position to Sigga instead.
As Natan yells at Sigga, it is clear that he’s not only hostile towards Agnes, but also towards Sigga. Natan’s comment that Agnes is “forgetting her place” shows how Natan uses Agnes’s lower class status to control her and to prevent her from confronting him about the truth of his cruel behavior. Agnes, however, does not back down and accuses him of lying about her position in the house.
Themes
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Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
Natan did not find anything missing in the workshop but still refused to speak to Agnes. Eventually he went outside and stared at the sea. Agnes followed him. She hugged him and told him she was sorry, and then tried to kiss him. Natan pushed her away from him. Agnes asked Natan what was wrong. He grasped her shoulders hard and told her he had been seeing omens, like the waves and his dreams, that he thought foreshadowed his death.
When Agnes follows Natan to his workshop to comfort him after he accused her of stealing, Natan becomes physically violent towards her for the first time. Although this is the first instance of physical violence from Natan, he has repeated patterns of emotional abuse throughout the book.
Themes
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Natan told Agnes that he saw her nailed to the wall by her hair in his dreams of his death. Natan then grabbed Agnes by the hair, causing her to cry out. Agnes told Natan that no one was trying to hurt him. Natan struck Agnes in the face and told her never to speak to him like that again, then shoved her away. Agnes ran away from him up to the house.
As Natan describes Agnes’s role in his dreams, his violence towards her increases and he pulls her hair and hits her in the face. Natan’s jealousy and lies seem to have been warning signs that culminate in his physical violence toward Agnes.
Themes
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
That night, Agnes lay awake waiting for Natan to return to the house. Eventually she fell asleep, but the rattle of Natan coming into the badstofa later woke her. Agnes hoped Natan would come sleep in her bed. Instead, though, he went and crawled into Sigga’s. Agnes, hearing them having sex, finally understood that Natan had been sleeping with both of them all along. Natan went back to his own bed after they finished and Natan and Sigga fell asleep. Agnes was furious and wanted to leave that night, but she had nowhere to go.
To add insult to injury, the night that Natan attacks her, Agnes hears Natan and Sigga having sex. Agnes then realizes that Natan had been lying to her and sleeping with Sigga the entire time. Kent makes it clear to the reader in this moment that Natan’s lying is linked to his violence, as his abusive lying and emotional manipulation are tied up in his womanizing.
Themes
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon