Burial Rites

In: English and Literature

Submitted By emmamurf
Words 1203
Pages 5
“Knowing what a person has done, and knowing who a person is, are two different things”.

How does Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites provide insight into the experience of Agnes?

* * * * * * * *
In Burial Rites, Hannah Kent explores the idea that behind even the most heinous of actions, there can be ambiguity; that stories are shaped by self interest, biases and ideologies of the day, which can challenge preconceived beliefs of guilt. Using excerpts from archival material, juxtaposed with a story told through multiple narrators, including first person monologues of the protagonist, Kent allows us to appreciate Agnes not just as an evil scheming murderess, but as someone with a complex history and vulnerabilities, offering a deeper understanding of her experience.

The use of material from historical archives to preface the chapters of Burial Rites, creates a powerful authenticity to the story that provides a factual skeleton of Agnes, as well as insights into the way she was treated by the authorities. Kent is able to use ‘truths’, such as her literacy, intelligence and poverty, established by the Ministerial Records and inventory of her possessions, to flesh out the persona of Agnes and explore their implications in terms of her experience. They also reveal the deep love and attachment that Agnes had for Natan and her continuing grief over his loss, through her poetry in response to Poet Rosa, with lines like “do not scratch my bleeding wounds” and “my soul is filled with sorrow”. This suggests that rather than the narrow view of her murdering out of rage and hatred, that there may have been a more complicated situation, which Kent explores further. And, the official letters of District Commissioner Blondal indicate the hardline patriarchal approach of the law, at a time when women had minimal rights. His words characterize him as officious and…...

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