Burial Rites


Hannah Kent

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Burial Rites: Prologue Summary & Analysis

The novel opens with a prologue in the first-person. It later becomes clear that the narrator is Agnes Magnúsdottir. She describes her condemnation to death. She then imagines that all people are “candle-flames” in the night, and imagines hearing footsteps as someone approaches to blow out her life. She wonders where she will be after death. Agnes relives the experience of watching a farm burn during the cold winter. She remembers looking back and watching the fire. Then she hears footsteps and the prologue ends.
Agnes imagines death to be like extinguishing candles. Clearly, Agnes does not neatly subscribe to Christianity’s vision of the afterlife, as she cannot imagine what happens after death. When the prologue ends as Agnes hears footsteps, Kent seems to be trying to convey that Agnes’s days are numbered, as her execution is coming like a person approaching to blow her candle out.
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