Harvest

by

Jim Crace

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Harvest: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Walking on the main lane, Walter has reached the village bounds, which are marked by a tall stone. He hasn’t been so close to the edge of the boundary for years, and he recalls Master Kent’s dictum that “if we stay within our bounds, there are no bounds to stay us.” On the other hand, leaving the bounds means losing everything he’s ever had.
Walter returns to meditating on the nature of boundaries. The clearly delineated edge of the village used to provide security for its inhabitants. However, now it’s a barrier between them and the land, and has come to represent their dispossession.
Themes
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Walter breaks off a blade of grass and chews it. Then he bumps his head against the boundary stone, just as village parents do when their children are big enough to walk, to remind them not to stray. The resulting cut on his forehead joins his other injuries, reminders of the recent disasters. In one hand he carries the piece of vellum he’d prepared for Mr. Quill’s map. He has already burned the two sketches, along with their creator. But he intends to keep the vellum, which is empty and “could be anywhere.”
Just as he’s about to depart for good, Walter is reenacting the ritual that affirms membership in the village. His decision to burn the maps shows that he rejects viewing the land as Master Jordan does; taking the empty vellum shows his desire to recreate himself and at last take charge of his own life as an individual.
Themes
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
Walter looks back at the village for the last time. No one is working, and the land is unattended, “an Eden with no Adam and no Eve.” The wheat Walter has planted is growing under the earth. The manor house is burning; if anyone ever asks, Walter will blame it on Mistress Beldam, who is bringing “sin and mischief” to the village but also “bearing [him] away.”
Walter uses Edenic imagery not to praise the land but to emphasize its eerie emptiness, which contradicts the Bible’s depiction of a harmonious relationship between humans and nature. By speaking both of the “sin” Mistress Beldam embodies and the service she’s done by helping him leave the village, he shows a new understanding of her, accepting that she’s neither an emblem of regeneration, as he first thought, nor a beacon of groundless anger.
Themes
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
The view away from the village is more exciting, or at least wilder. The hedges are untended, showing that no one inhabits this land. However, Walter sees trees full of fruits and nuts, telling him that the land will provide for him until he finds another place to live.
Even though the village has collapsed beyond repair, Walter understands that nature is much larger than its manifestation in his small community, and he can continue to rely on it for sustenance.
Themes
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
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A mouse scurries into the lane until Walter kicks some earth toward it, warning it of his presence. It disappears under a rock. Walter gathers up his few possessions and his intangible memories. His one task now is to say farewell to the common land, leave the village behind, and travel forth until he reaches “wherever is awaiting me.” As he finishes this thought, Walter amends it, saying that he will find “wherever is awaiting us.”
As he leaves the village, Walter tries on his identity as an individual by describing his plans in the singular. However, his retreat into the plural pronoun shows poignantly how difficult this is for him. It’s a reminder that his development as an individual comes at the expense of his beloved community.
Themes
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
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