Symbolism In Hannah Kent's Burial Rites

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In Hannah Kent’s historical narrative Burial Rites, assistant Reverend Toti is given the task of being Agnes’ spiritual advisor before her death. However, providing Agnes spiritual guidance proves a hard task for Toti initially as he is inexperienced and the criminal herself is unwilling to atone by the officialdoms methods. As Toti accepts this, he uses his own methodology to help Agnes that she accepts – allowing her to narrate her own story. Kent shows that Toti’s method works as Kent not only portrays Agnes’ transformation as drastic, but also uses religious symbolism to allude to the concept of Toti being Agnes’ saviour. Here, Kent reinforces that compassionate people, like Toti, are essential to society and create positive and lasting …show more content…
After initial failed attempts to quote scripture, He acknowledges that Agnes requires “means other than religious rebuke” to atone for her sins and come to terms with her death. Toti looks to the words of a famous Icelandic poet, Hallgrimur Petursson- “The pathway of thy passion to follow I desire,” to calm his horse Ysa. The symbol of pursuing one’s own path in order to strengthen their character foreshadows the manner in which Toti begins to interact with Agnes – by acknowledging his own flaws first.. His methologies become unique in comparison to other Reverends who are trapped by the Bible and limited to the word of God, as he uses his intuition and empathy to remain openminded to the destination paved by her revelations. Also, The notion of quoting a poet rather than the word of God illustrates how Toti is open to wisdom outside the pages of the New Testament. His determination to succeed in helping Agnes also sets him apart from his fellow Reverends, who “delivered the threat of brimstone” and expected Agnes to “weep at their feet” like Reverend Johanssen and Blondal did, making him anachronistic of his time. His methodology for helping Agnes is talking to her ordinarily and “listen[ing] to her story” to “draw the curtain to her soul”. As Agnes narrates her story, she frees herself from her past guilt and misgivings as she acknowledges that with Toti’s help, her web of mistakes can be “unravelled”. In addition, his honesty makes Agnes help her feel safe. He tells her that, “just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean we have to be afraid. We have God, we have His love and He takes our fear away,” and as such he unknowingly comforts Agnes. He helps Agnes come to the conclusion that she is not completely powerless and can control [her] own [spiritual] fate as his tells her that“[they] author [their] own

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