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Burial Rites Summary & Study Guide

Hannah Kent
This Study Guide consists of approximately 64 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Burial Rites.
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Burial Rites Summary & Study Guide Description

Burial Rites Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

Burial Rites” by Hannah Kent is based on true events. It is the dramatization of the final days of Agnes Magnusdottir who had been tried and convicted of murdering two men and then setting the farm where they were killed on fire. Agnes Magnusdottir was the last woman ever to be executed in Iceland.

Agnes had two accomplices who were also convicted of the crimes. Agnes and the others were sentenced to be executed by beheading. One of the convicted murderers, Sigga, had her sentence reduced because she was young and not very bright and Agnes has allegedly led her astray. Fridrik the man who murdered one of the men, confessed to the crimes. The authorities gathered that Agnes had killed Natan Ketilsson because he had reportedly spurned her.

The District Commissioner Bjorn Blondal requested the assistance of a young priest, Assistant Reverend Thorvadur Jonsson who everyone called Toti, in a matter that involved the condemned woman, Agnes Magnusdottir. She had asked that her spiritual advisor be replaced. It was one of the last worldly rights she would have and Blondal had to see that it was granted. It was important that this murdering sinner find redemption and find the Lord. Toti who had just finished his studies was bewildered. Why would this condemned woman ask for him? And as a new priest, was he equipped to handle such an unusual and demanding task? His father, also a reverend, told him that he had no choice. It was his calling and he had the Lord to rely upon.

Since there were no adequate prisons in Iceland, it was decided that Agnes would spend her last days under the custody of a government official. Jon Jonsson, District Officer, was called upon to take Agnes into his home to await her execution. His wife and daughters were frightened and appalled by this turn of events, but Jon was a dedicated officer and felt it his duty to comply with the request. Agnes was brought to the farm and initially treated with great derision. Jon and Lauga, the younger daughter, would not speak to her. Only Margret, his wife, and Steina, his elder daughter communicated with her.

Agnes turned out to be a good servant and worked hard at the chores that Margret gave her to do. She was visited by Toti and at first thought she made a mistake because the assistant reverend was so young. He persisted, however, spurred on by his father who told him he could not abandon his responsibilities. His sermons, prayers and readings from the New Testament had no impact on Agnes. He began to just talk to her like a friend and began to know about her tragic and tumultuous life which was marked by abuse and abandonment and poverty.

Toti did his best to bring Agnes to God before her death. At the end, she could not evade the executioner. But oddly enough, it was in the last few months of her life that she shined. She impressed those around her, proved herself to be a good and faithful worker as well as a kind soul with a bright mind.

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This section contains 529 words
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