On the black hill setting Essay
On the black hill setting
Despite the seemingly hopeless situation, Amos and Mary signed the lease, and the reader witnesses the hardships that they face as they work hard to improve the house and the farm. Near the end of the story, ‘The Vision’ has been transformed into one of the richest farms in the area, living up to the ‘miracle’ the name implies. The fact that “the border of Radnor and Hereford is said to run right through the middle of the staircase” is also highly significant to the book. ‘The Vision’ is hence the symbol of two differing cultures, the English and the Welsh, merging as one.
This is further emphasized by Amos and Mary’s marriage, the marriage between a Welshman and an Englishwoman. It contributes greatly to the theme of duality in the novel, of binary opposites inevitably existing side by side. The difference between the Welsh and the English is further highlighted by the ‘walks’ on the two sides of the border that the Joneses twins go on. The twins loved to go on walks with their grandfather, and had two particular favourites – a ‘Welsh walk’ up the mountain and an ‘English walk’ to Lurkenhope Park. The ‘Welsh walk’ was only practical in fine weather.
Often, they would set out in sunshine, only to come home soaked to the skin. And equally often, when walking down to Lurkenhope, they would look back at the veil of grey rain to the west while, overhead, the clouds broke into blue and butterflies fluttered over the sunlit cow-parsley. These two walks reveal the topographical differences between the English and the Welsh side despite them sharing a common boundary. The differences in countryside in turn symbolize the cultural and economical differences between the England and Wales.
On one hand, there is the Welsh wilderness, where even the weather seems more harsh and unpredictable. Meanwhile, the English side seems to be always pleasant and sunny, with blue skies and fluttering butterflies. This contrast represents the contrast between the lives of the lower-class Welsh and the higher-class English. Like the weather, the English seem to have more comfortable and ‘sunny’ lives in disparity to the harsh and unpredictable lives of the Welsh farmers. The higher class and economic power of the English is further accentuated by the Lurkenhope Estate itself.
The estate belongs to the Bickertons, an English family “made rich by the West India trade. ” It encompasses the village as well as many Welsh farms, including ‘The Vision’. The vast estate is a representation of the economic power of the Bickertons, and the fact that it owns the Welsh farms symbolizes the direct power the English have over the Welsh. The castle itself is the heart of the estate; “it was a ‘fake’ castle, built in the 1820s. From another lawn came the knock of croquet balls and the noise of young, moneyed laughter”(pg.
24). It clearly represents the grandeur of the English in stark distinction to the humble Welsh farms, and the “knock of croquet balls” and “moneyed laughter” underlines the leisure of the lives of the English in contrast to the hard lives of the Welsh. As the novel progresses, the Bickertons begin selling the farms to the Welsh tenants to “repay war debts”. This is highly significant of the gradual shift in balance of power between the English and Welsh, also tied to the British Empire losing power in the First World War.
The downfall of the English is additionally signified by the steady deterioration of the castle, carried out both by time and the dwindling of the Bickerton family line. The castle finally meets its demise in the hands of a mere schoolboy, designating the loss of any splendour it once held; “The castle itself lay crumbling in ruins until, one August evening, a schoolboy sneaked in to shoot rats with a bow and arrow, dropped a cigarette butt, and the place went up in flames”. The destruction of the castle is the physical symbol of the final release of English control over the Welsh.
Another major setting in On the Black Hill, is a Welsh farm sharing a common boundary with The Vision. Like The Vision, The Rock’s name is another reference to Christianity; the Rock is a major symbol in the Bible, as it represents a solid and reliable foundation that one must build life upon. The Rock acts as the pair to the Vision, highlighting the theme of duality in the novel. They exist in a state of enforced proximity and are examples of two ‘halves’ conflicting. The tension in their relationship is increased by their closeness, yet again opposites must inexorably co-exist. Similarly to the Castle, The Rock gradually deteriorates.
Whereas at the beginning, The Rock is a well established farm while The Vision lies in ruins, in the end their situations are swapped. This again shows that the balance of power between such ‘halves’ are constantly shifting, and one side prospers or achieves a kind of ascendancy at the expense of the other. Palpably, the settings in On the Black Hill are highly significant to the novel in contributing to the atmosphere of events as well as the context of the story as a whole. With the style of an impressionist, Chatwin describes the landscape to encompass the events he brings to life.
In addition to that, the contrasts between the three major settings, The Vision, The Lurkenhope Estate, and The Rock, are symbolic of the opposites inevitably co-existing and the constant shift in the balance of power in such relationships. Thus setting is indeed more than a mere background; it contributes to the meaning, and allows the reader a greater insight into the novel. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Miscellaneous section.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 11 November 2017
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