Year of Wonders


Geraldine Brooks

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Apples Symbol Icon

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

The Year of Wonders quotes below all refer to the symbol of Apples. 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:
Community and Convention Theme Icon
Part 1: Apple-Picking Time Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Anna Frith (speaker)
Related Symbols: Apples
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Year of Wonders LitChart as a printable PDF.
Year of Wonders PDF

Apples Symbol Timeline in Year of Wonders

The timeline below shows where the symbol Apples appears in Year of Wonders. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Apple-Picking Time
Community and Convention Theme Icon
...The season produced rich sights, like the “golden” hay, and smells, like sap and ripe apples. All these things signified that the harvest was successful and the town will make it... (full context)
Community and Convention Theme Icon
Faith, Suffering, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Anna cuts up an apple and takes it to her employer, the rector Michael Mompellion, who spends all his time... (full context)
Part 2: Ring of Roses
Community and Convention Theme Icon
...with fever and disfigured by a huge sore on his face that smells like rotting apples. George, recognizing that he has a contagious and fatal disease, urges Anna to take her... (full context)
Part 2: The Poppies of Lethe
Community and Convention Theme Icon cold and silent; when she goes into the blacksmith’s cottage, which smells of rotten apples, she finds Kate Talbot, heavily pregnant, nursing her husband, Richard. Richard has demanded that she... (full context)