Year of Wonders begins during what Anna calls “apple-picking time,” the fall harvest. In a town that depends on the crops it grows to survive through the winter, harvest time is almost sacred. Normally, when Anna walks through the orchards, she feels a mingled sense of sensuality and security, reveling in the strong smell of the fruit and feeling safe in the knowledge that there would be “food and warmth for the babies” during the snowy winter. On the other hand, plague victims develop pus-filled sores that, when they burst, give off a revolting smell of rotting apples. Thus, from her first days of tending her ailing tenant, George Viccars, Anna associates the plague and its horrors with this smell. At the end of the novel, Anna describes the harvest a year later, when most of the apple crop rots on the ground because no one is left to pick them. She isn’t even sorry for the loss, because she can no longer stand the smell of apples. For Anna, apples become a bitter reminder of the safety and stability she lost when the plague struck the village. All the things she considered strong and healthy – the village’s crops, the people around her, the community and its values – quickly succumb to rot and decay in the face of catastrophe. Recurring throughout the novel, apples and their smell become a reminder of the disturbingly thin line between bounty and decay, life and death, survival and destruction.
Apples Quotes in Year of Wonders
I used to love this season. The wood stacked by the door, the tang of its sap still speaking of forest. The hay made, all golden in the low afternoon light. The rumble of the apples tumbling into the cellar bins. Smells and sights and sounds that said this year it would be all right: there’d be food and warmth for the babies by the time the snows came. I used to love to walk in the apple orchard this time of the year, to feel the soft give underfoot when I trod on a fallen fruit. Thick, sweet scents of rotting apple and wet wood. This year, the hay stocks are few and the woodpile scant, and neither matters much to me.