Harvest

by

Jim Crace

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The Pillory Symbol Analysis

The Pillory Symbol Icon

In its various uses, the pillory represents the village’s initial vitality and eventual decline. At the beginning of the novel, Walter notes that the village doesn’t have a church, only a pile of stones that no one has had time to assemble. Instead, the pillory, which Walter describes as a cross “more muscular and far reaching than the usual, narrower crucifix” is the site of many rituals that would normally take place in a church; Master Kent conducts marriages, baptisms and funerals here, and the village congregates at the pillory to give thanks for successful harvests. The funerals of Master Kent’s wife, Lucy, and Walter’s wife, Cecily, take place at the pillory as well. In this sense, the pillory shows the village’s distance from conventional sources of authority, like the church. By emphasizing the similarity between the funerals of Lucy, an aristocrat, and Cecily, a peasant, the novel further suggests that this distance facilitates the village’s remarkably egalitarian character.

However, early on in the novel the villagers consign the Beldam father and husband to the pillory for no greater crime than trespassing. The depiction of the two men dangling from the cross with “hanging heads and hands” is a clear comparison to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion narrative, which in turn casts the villagers as oppressive Roman soldiers and Master Kent as a tyrannical Pontius Pilate. While it establishes the village as harmonious and cohesive, then, the pillory demonstrates that this strength comes with an intense hostility to outsiders that makes the villagers complicit in injustice, not just victims of it. Before fleeing at the end of the novel, the Beldam husband chops down the pillory, marking the final disintegration of a way of life at once beautiful and deeply flawed. While Master Jordan is the major threat to the village’s integrity, it’s important that he’s not responsible for the pillory’s destruction; rather, it’s a moment of retribution from someone the village has wronged independently of him.

The Pillory Quotes in Harvest

The Harvest quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Pillory. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Harvest published in 2013.
Chapter 9 Quotes

Our church ground has been desecrated by our surliness. Our usual scriptures are abused. This body on the cross is not the one that’s promised us. Yet, once again, it’s Mr. Quill who teaches us our shortcomings. It’s Mr. Quill who’s intimate and kind. It’s Mr. Quill who’s valiant. It will not make him popular.

Related Symbols: The Pillory
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
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Harvest PDF

The Pillory Symbol Timeline in Harvest

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Pillory appears in Harvest. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...decrees that the old man and young man will both spend one week in the pillory for stealing the birds. Their bows will be snapped, and all three will have their... (full context)
Chapter 3
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...these three guilty friends” confess and take their place instead of the strangers in the pillory. (full context)
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...village, and then they’ll be free of them. In any case, seven days in the pillory isn’t much for roaming men like them, “men who have no roots but are like... (full context)
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
The pillory hasn’t been used in many years, ever since two cousins, related to Walter’s wife Cecily,... (full context)
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
The pillory stands on the site of the unbuilt church, taller than a man and shaped like... (full context)
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
...rich food and drink and helping the pain in his hand. He walks toward the pillory. When he sees the miserable old man and young man exposed to the elements, he... (full context)
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
Walter approaches the pillory and introduces himself, but the men don’t respond. In the bad weather, Walter can’t even... (full context)
Chapter 4
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
...Earlier, he told Walter that the younger man shouted at him as he passed the pillory, as if he were the true criminal. Now, he instructs him to report to the... (full context)
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...friendship and feels it could be a potential opportunity to him. As they approach the pillory, he realizes he’s forgotten about Mistress Beldam and feels suddenly disloyal. Right after this thought,... (full context)
Chapter 5
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...Master Kent, his cousin, helping Mr. Quill carrying the old man’s body away from the pillory and into the manor house courtyard. Part of his leg has been eaten by an... (full context)
Chapter 6
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...been too kind, and that the old man deserved to meet his death in the pillory. He says he’ll release the young man in another city when he departs and announces... (full context)
Chapter 7
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
Jordan questions Master Kent about the younger stranger, still imprisoned in the pillory. Affecting to be concerned that the man has insulted his cousin and threatened to murder... (full context)
Chapter 8
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Chapter 9
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
...to the manor, they see Mr. Quill in conversation with the young man in the pillory; all the villagers disapprove, seeing this as a sign of Mr. Quill’s disloyalty even though... (full context)
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...settle down to wait in the shadows, Mr. Quill explains that the man in the pillory is her husband, and the dead man was her father. They’ve traveled to the village... (full context)
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
...the villagers noisily returning from the manor house she disappears. Mr. Quill runs to the pillory, hides the bottle which she’s dropped, and hurries after the departed woman. (full context)
Chapter 10
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
...Mr. Quill, they couldn’t find him. By that time, he was with Walter at the pillory. However, the men interpret the tools of his craft—pestles, paints, and books about plants—as evidence... (full context)
Chapter 12
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
...hired men. He makes Walter promise not to let the young man out of the pillory until his allotted sentence is over, and tells him to prepare the horses for their... (full context)
Chapter 14
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
...sleep anymore, so he takes Mistress Beldam’s shawl outside, intending to place it by the pillory, where she’ll find it. (full context)
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Once outside, Walter feels too nervous to walk to the pillory and instead places the shawl on a bench in the courtyard. Back in bed, he... (full context)
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Walter gets dressed, arms himself with an old sword, and finds the key to the pillory. As he approaches the young man, Walter smiles in reassurance, but the man doesn’t respond.... (full context)
Chapter 15
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
...not for their nighttime expedition, there would have been no fire, no men in the pillory, no slaughter of Willowjack, and none of the disasters that followed. To Walter, the fairy... (full context)
Chapter 16
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
...possessions from the manor and animals from the village. The young man marches to the pillory, and with some effort, chops it down with an axe while his wife torches the... (full context)