Summary Of Hannah Kent's Burial Rites

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Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites sees Agnes Magnúsdóttir condemned by her community for murder. As an educated, but socially lower-caste woman, Agnes is unable to escape her fate once the community view her as undeniably guilty. This inability to escape her fate, leads readers such as myself to consider the extent of which the stereotyping associated with gender is influential in determining one’s fate. However, it appears there is also the possibility of the individual changing their fate through influencing others. This is evident as Agnes retells her story in a poignant and sincere way that sways readers and members of her community alike as they begin to believe that she is not as guilty as what society perceives her to be.

As an educated woman, Agnes immediately confronts societal expectations. Icelandic society at the time was somewhat conservative; similar to 19th century English society. Women had a set role in society, as they were perceived as housekeepers and providers for the male figures in their lives . Literacy and numeracy where therefore considered as redundant for females as their home-based lives had no reason to incorporate a higher level of education. Women were also believed to be inferior to men and thus expected to display a deferential attitude. And yet, Agnes is highly literate and displays at times, a
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Neither woman is an ideal representation of society’s image of a woman as Steina is clumsy and awkward and Margrét is stubborn and assertive. Jón remains somewhat removed from the situation, owing to his elevated social positioning of him being a male and thus considers the matter of Agnes ‘beneath him’. Lauga meanwhile, remains steadfastly disapproving of Agnes. Lauga displays a much more promising image of a young woman and thus does not want to ruin whatever potential status she could gain by being seen to side with Agnes whom is at the very bottom of society’s social

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