Jim Crace

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Themes and Colors
Renewal and Decay Theme Icon
Individuals and the Community Theme Icon
Progress and Dispossession Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
Outsiders and Blame Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Harvest, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Renewal and Decay

Jim Crace’s Harvest portrays a society that derives both stability and satisfaction from the cycles of death and rebirth occurring constantly in the surrounding land. Isolated and centered around subsistence farming, the villagers are always one bad harvest away from disaster; at the same time, their bountiful harvests have allowed them to survive for centuries without altering their way of life. When the village experiences a rapid decline, Walter, the narrator, blames Edmund Jordan

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Individuals and the Community

One of the novel’s chief preoccupations is the tension between the assertion of individual character and the preservation of the community as a whole. At the outset, most characters, especially Walter, scorn the idea of individuality; they identify more strongly as members of the village than as discrete beings, and their thoughts and feelings are oriented around the good of the community rather than personal aspirations. When Edmund Jordan announces his determination to find…

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Progress and Dispossession

Over the course of the novel, the village’s agrarian lifestyle quickly succumbs to the machinations of its new landlord Edmund Jordan, who decides to convert he land to more profitable sheep farming. Jordan enacts the policy of “enclosure,” which was widespread in England in the 16th and 18th centuries and involved landowners converting common lands (which villagers previously farmed to sustain themselves) into economic enterprises that produced a single item—in this case, wool.


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Religion and Ritual

While Christianity was central to English civil life in the 16th and 17th centuries, the time in which the novel takes place, the village conspicuously lacks a church. Instead of formal religion, it relies on quasi-pagan rituals to celebrate its few festivals. Formal Christianity arrives only with Edmund Jordan, who says he’s going to promote religion as an act of charity towards the village but actually intends to use it to enforce his own…

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Outsiders and Blame

Harvest depicts a primitive but highly functional and idyllic community just as it’s annihilated by economic progress. There’s a clear contrast between the village, usually characterized positively, and the insidious forces of change, represented by Edmund Jordan and his mantra of “Profit, Progress, and Enterprise.” Complicating this contrast is the villagers’ behavior towards the outsiders in their midst, including Mr. Quill, the Beldam family, and Walter himself. While Jordan sacrifices the village to his…

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