Mem and Anys Gowdie

Mem and Anys Gowdie
Mel and Tamara-Jade
• Believed to be a set of beliefs and practices like a religion
• Witchcraft historically was associated with evil and Satan or direct
human contact with the devil
• People believed that witches would cause harm to others in the
form of illness, accidents and even death
• Belief in magic and witchcraft was widespread in the 1600’s across
• The Salem Witch trials occurred in 1692
• When disease occurred and natural disasters people began to look
for reasons why such disasters occurred
• They explained these things by blaming the witches saying they had
charmed people into illness and caused nature to act against people
• People believed that witches were responsible for bringing God’s
wrath down upon them.
Witchcraft in relation to Eyam
• Many villagers in Eyam believed the Gowdies to be the
cause of the death of many of their loved ones
• They believed that because the Gowdies appeared to
be practicing magic and witchcraft in some forms that
they had brought Gods wrath down upon them. But
most importantly the villagers were uneducated and
needed to find someone to blame for such losses
• ‘You killed my family hag.’ ‘Your malice has brought
plague on my man and my mother and my boys.’
• The village eventually turns on Mem and Anys which
results in the women's deaths. Frustration, uncertainty,
fear and poor education led to a horrid turn of events
Mem Gowdie
Away from the
conformity of society
Free to be who she
Women of today
Chose their husband, not out of necessity
Fewer social restrictions
Higher class jobs
Have more respect
Have the right to an education
Have legal rights
Women in the novel
No legal rights
Must obey their husbands
Deemed as a lower class to
Must be married or fear
being labelled as a witch
Restricted jobs, maid
Women in the Novel
• ‘He seemed to take a perverse amusement in
belittling his wife.’ Colonel Bradford pg 57
• ‘Urith had ever been a woman of few words. She
was kept so cowed by her husband that she crept
here and there, timid and silent, afraid of
conversation lest it somehow led her into
conduct of which her husband did not approve
of.’ pg 219
• ‘Cowed and nervous she fretted constantly over
where next her husband would find fault...’ pg 57
Mrs Bradford
Mem Gowdie
• Mem in these times would be more likely to be
called a witch as she lived without a husband and
took interest in things much of society, especially
the small town of Eyam, believed to be in the
hands of God.
• The people viewed her and her niece with
suspicion because the was thought that God sent
illness and if Mem was curing what God had sent
then she must be conversing or working for the
Mem Gowdie
• Mem is portrayed sympathetically because she is the
main representation of science and broad mindedness.
She also represents the new form of women that was
emerging which Anna aspired to become. Brooks wants
to represent science and independence in a positive
light and place religion and superstition in and
uncertain and negative light.
• ‘Mem helped us as she could for pence or payment in
kind as each of us was set to manage it, while the
surgeons would not stir without the clank of shillings to
line their pockets.’
Anys Gowdie
• Anys Gowdie is a skilled healer and midwife in the community of Eyam.
She is Mem’s niece and Anna’s friend. Anys is about the same age as Anna.
She came to live with Mem as a young child after the death of her own
parents. Anys is an appealing character of the novel as she lives an
independent life with Mem. Being independent as a woman is a rare thing
in this period of time. She experiments with natural medicine to help
people’s illness. This gets her into trouble as when the plague strikes she is
murdered by a mob of the town. ‘Anys Gowdies raised the dead! Its her
that’s the witch!’ The town believes that the medicines she and her aunt
make aren’t any help at all and that they just worsen illnesses. As back
then it was expected to follow religion, but she did not, she believed in
logic. Anys’ logical thinking brought her to the idea that God does not have
a contribution to what happens to the town or its people and it’s the
environment’s influence. The town believes that what Anys and her aunt
do is a form of witchcraft and that this is against God so they must be
killed. The towns people believe that they have brought the plague to
them. The craziness of the plague drives people to blame others and
because Anys is an easy target, they think of her.
Anys Gowdie
• It shows what pain and suffering can make you do. Anys’ is
murdered by the villagers in an attack on her. Before she is
finally hung she speaks the words ‘Yes, I am the devil’s
creature, and mark me, he will be avenged for my life!’
(p.93) Even as Anna tells her not to say these things as they
are untrue, she goes on. A quote from Anna on Anys is, ‘She
was a rare creature, Anys Gowdie, and I had to own that I
admired her for listening to her own heart rather than
having her life ruled by others' conventions." (p. 55). After
Anys’ death, Michael Mompellion says to the villagers, ‘Do
we not have suffering enough in this village? Is there not
Death enough here for you all that you bring the crime of
murder amongst us as well?’ p95

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