Harvest

by

Jim Crace

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Harvest can help.

Harvest: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
All afternoon, Walter works with Mr. Quill and daydreams about finding employment with him when the sheep push him out of the village. It’s sad to think of leaving Master Kent, but he’d prefer that to living under Master Jordan’s rule. He works as meticulously as possible turning dried calfskin into vellum, although he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. Mr. Quill says he fears “for us,” but Walter points out that it’s Mistress Beldam who has most to fear. They agree that she must be found and warned, before someone eventually admits that the shawl belongs to her.
It’s interesting that Mr. Quill talks about “us,” referring to himself as a member of the village even though he’s only been there a few days. His enchantment and desire to belong mirror Walter’s own reactions when he first arrived. However, the futility of Mr. Quill’s wish to integrate into the village just as it’s about to dissolve imbues a kind of pointlessness on Walter’s years-long quest for belonging.
Themes
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
The two men are worried that Mistress Beldam will return to the cottage where she hid the shawl, and which the servants are guarding now. They know that her “native insolence and vulnerability” will attract the rough men, and that they will not behave kindly toward her. Mr. Quill says they must wait until Mr. Baynham isn’t around to look for her, and Walter suggests that they wait for her by the pillory, since she’ll probably come during the night to feed the young man.
Walter and Mr. Quill predict that Jordan’s servants will feel the same draw to Mistress Beldam that the village men do. However, without a strong community to regulate and judge their actions, these men are capable of acting much more violently.
Themes
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
Walter spreads out the calfskin and scrapes it smooth. It smells terrible, but Walter sees this as a test, an opportunity to prove his value as an employee. Meanwhile, Mr. Quill experiments with different colors, looking for the combination that will make the map easiest to read. He explains the process of mixing various colors to Walter as he works, as familiar with his implements as Walter is with the fields or the weather. Walter finds him a good companion for the long afternoon.
While Mr. Quill can’t do physical work, his skill with his paints demonstrates the same dignity and reverence with which the villagers approach farming. Through their shared attitudes, the novel suggests that art and manual labor are similar both in their inherent value and the devotion they exact from people who practice them.
Themes
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Thinking about the prospect of leaving the village, Walter know that he’ll miss long winter days most, when everyone is snug in their cottages, making new tools and fixing old ones. When Cecily was alive, she and Walter wove baskets for everyone in the village, enjoying each other’s quiet company.
Walter’s favorite memory encapsulates both the village’s isolation— everyone is sheltering from the weather separately—and its profound sense of community—he and Cecily work not only for themselves, but for everyone around them.
Themes
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Get the entire Harvest LitChart as a printable PDF.
Harvest PDF
Now that Cecily is gone, Walter tells Mr. Quill, he’s eager for a new adventure, and to leave the village before the sheep arrive. Mr. Quill nods, understanding Walter’s hint. Walter asks about his own background, and he explains that his parents are dead and that his eldest brother has inherited their house and merchant business; Mr. Quill can’t be of use to him, since he’s “unfit to work out of doors and too great an encumbrance to be employed within.” His disability has driven him to become a mapmaker, an occupation he enjoys.
Mr. Quill’s compassion for the village is probably marked by his own sense of dispossession. Because of his disability, he’s barred from his father’s employment, and his brother has obviously taken no steps to help him. Such a fraught relationship with his own family also informs his respect for the lifestyle of the village, in which everyone either is related or cares for each other like relatives.
Themes
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Mr. Quill invites Walter to look at his sketches, and Walter is impressed by their strange beauty. To him, it looks like the patterns made by mosses or butterfly wings, which he observes in the land around the village. However, Mr. Quill’s drawings are neater and brighter than anything he’s seen in nature, “more pleasing than a barleycorn.”
Like his neighbors, Walter mostly appreciates nature for its usefulness, rather than any inherent beauty. Through the drawings, he sees that not only nature but art can have inherent value and be as compelling as the work to which he’s devoted his life.
Themes
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Related Quotes
First Mr. Quill shows Walter the sketch of the current village. With difficulty Walter discerns which shapes represent the barley fields and which lines delineate streams and boundary lines. He’s never had a true sense of the village’s shape. In fact, its outline looks like a man’s profile. It seems strange to view the common fields and forests in miniature, only the size of his thumb.
Viewing the map is disconcerting because it forces Walter to consider the land as an outsider, rather than an inhabitant. At the same time, the human profile hidden in the land is a reminder of the close and satisfying relationship the village has with the earth.
Themes
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
However, Walter says, the drawings aren’t completely accurate. Mr. Quill can’t capture the character of the land or the feeling of living in the fields. He’s made the village too beautiful, not taking into account rocky slopes and harsh terrain.
Mr. Quill is still under the sway of the village’s aesthetic beauty, and thus unable to capture the harshness of life within its bounds.
Themes
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
In the second drawing, the fields are even neater and more colorful. With the forests broken up, the profile Walter saw before isn’t evident. Walter praises the beauty of the maps and appreciates the vision they provide of his own world. Still, while they tell him where he’s standing now they say nothing about where he will be in a few days, and thus give him a sense of desolation.
That the map, which shows Jordan’s future plans, removes the human face from the land and reflects that he will sever the close human relationship with the earth, ending the cyclical processes of regeneration that have sustained both the earth and its inhabitants for so long.
Themes
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon