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The Summary.
Michael Mompellion from the novel ‘year of wonders’ is not what one would call a
conventional character, in fact as pointed out by Anna Frith, he is somewhat of an ‘enigma.’ He
is a charismatic young priest, who had recently taken up position within the village of Eyam,
before the plague struck. Though well mannered and seemingly upper class he is not from the
well off family that Anna originally thought he was from. His career trajectory has been the
result solely of personal ability and application, and also the luck of finding a patron within
Elinor, (his wife’s) father, who recognizes his academic potential and funds his education. The
fact that Mompellion Is in fact lower class, but has married above his station with Elinor, is
educated like the wealthy, yet still interacts with the lower class easily demonstrates an
unusual social mobility for the time period.
Many people, however, still questioned his marriage to Elinor, due to the
difference in social standings between them. Mompellion’s intelligence and
initiative is the reasons that he is used as a leader whilst the town is in crisis
during the outbreak of the plague. In the beginning, he is truly hesitant over the
position as a leader, taking into account his relative short time period within the
town, and also the Bradford’s standing as leaders. Soon however he takes up the
task and dedicates himself to it fully. He insists on quarantine and then develops
strategies such as conducting services in the open air (at Cucklett Delf), to
minimize the spread of the plague.
Later he urges the villagers to burn their flea infested possessions that carry the
plague. That he is able to convince the people of Eyam to follow his often unpopular
directives says much for his personal commitment and magnetism. The trauma
experienced by Mompellion's own family following the death of his father has, he
states, helped him to understand suffering of men. He is capable of immense
compassion and generosity of spirit.
The extent to which he is prepared to support his parishioners, spiritually,
religiously through the novel is heroic. He visits the dying, praying with them
and assisting in the writing out of their wills, determined as he is to honor his
pledge that none shall die alone. He even goes to the extent of assisting in the
digging of their graves. He pushes himself to the absolute limits, going without
respite, until at last he collapses in front of his congregation. Mompellion is
defiantly a man of the people.
The strongest nature Mompellion possesses is the force of his will. This is
also adversely one of his most disturbing qualities. A quote from Elinor
observes that his will ‘can drive him to do what any normal man cannot do.’
A following quote, ‘believe me, I have seen this for better and for worse’
suggests to the reader that she herself has been subjugated to this will.
Mompellion is an even tempered man, and this is exhibited through his
slight liberal tendencies. An example of this is his treatment of the former
minister. The town threw him out, yet Mompellion is accommodating
towards him allowing him to stay within Eyam’s boundaries.
He also consistently preaches about forgiveness, and condemns the old
ways of papal barbarities committed in the past. A lead on from the power
of Mompellion's will, is the determination he possesses to save his wife’s
‘soul.’ This determination borders on the fanatical, a trait often observed
within members of the religious faith the entire Mompellion marriage is
based upon Michael’s perverse view of forced celibacy will save his wife’s
immortal soul. This is well hidden by Mompellion, however the audience
does catch a snippet of his anger towards Elinor, and perhaps by extension
all women, at his angry reaction to Jane Martin’s drunken wantonness.
A connection perhaps with the character of Mompellion is his stallion, Anteros.
Anteros is the name of the Greek God of requited love. He was the very
personification of mutual love, and punished those who spurned it. This is ironic,
as the rector rejects physical love with his wife, spurning her. The god Anteros is
also acquitted with lust, shooting arrows made of lead into humans, creating a
passion without love. Why Mompellion has named his horse thus is intriguing.
Perhaps as a reminder of the pitfalls love possesses or as a way to further force
himself from his wife. The time of his coupling with Anna then is significant, as
they come together just after Anna frees Anteros from his stable.
Mompellion by the end of the novel is a different man. His faith has been broken
by the loss of his wife Elinor, and with that comes much self loathing, and the
ultimate rejection of divine purpose. ‘My whole life, all I have done, all I have said,
all I have felt, has been based upon a lie.’ He deeply regrets his treatment of Elinor,
and questions his leadership of the village during the plague year. He blames
himself for man of the villager’s ills. Mompellion becomes himself a symbol of the
villager’s loss and pain. Though vindicated as their savior he is a ‘bitter emblem,
and embodiment of their darkest days.’

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