At Hiruharama by Penelope Fitzgerald
In At Hiruharama by Penelope Fitzgerald we have the theme of prosperity, aspirations, struggle, love and contentment. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Fitzgerald may be exploring the theme of prosperity. Both Tanner and Kitty (Tanner’s wife) have started out fresh in life after they have gotten married and have been very fortunate. The land they have acquired has running water and enough space for all their needs. Similarly there home is big enough for both of them. Unlike others who might struggle when they set out in life this is not the case for the Tanners. Tanner himself also appears to be an amiable sort of person. Something that is noticeable by his twice yearly ability to tolerate the more selfish Brinkman. A man who appears to only think about himself. If both Tanner and Brinkman are compared to each other it is possible that Fitzgerald is suggesting that Tanner because he is more open and amiable to others is the nicer man. His focus as well is always on Kitty. Kitty is Tanner’s number one concern which suggests that he is very much in love with her. Kitty has also made Tanner into a better man. Helping him with his reading and writing. It is also noticeable that throughout the story Tanner is there for Kitty. In fact he is prepared when she gets pregnant. The two homing pigeons being an example.
It is also noticeable that both Tanner and Kitty struggled when they first met each other working as servants for the same family. It wasn’t a life that either wanted to live and through Tanner’s resilience when it came to saving his money he was eventually able to marry Kitty and take her to Hiruharama. It is also possible that Tanner is a worrier. Something that is noticeable when he asks the doctor about what the statistics might be for women dying in childbirth. To further reassure himself Tanner writes a letter to his sister asking for a book on childbirth. If anything Tanner as with all things in his life likes to be prepared and on top of things. Not even the arrival of Brinkman can put Tanner off what he knows he needs to do. His primary focus is on Kitty even though he has no experience of childbirth.
In a humorous twist to the story it is left to the doctor on his arrival to discover that a second child was born. Something that Tanner was unaware of due to the confusion that surrounded the birth. Thankfully the child after being attended to by the doctor is given a clean bill of health. In a short period of time Tanner has went from servant to husband to father and he has done so with distinction. Thinking always of Kitty. Which may suggest that Tanner is very much in love with Kitty. He has also overcome the isolation that surrounds his farm and the farm itself has prospered. Thanks to Tanner and Kitty’s hard work. Though Brinkman is the only visitor to their home there is no sense that Tanner and Kitty feel alone. Rather they are content with what they have and may even be happier now that they have twin girls in their lives.
In the space of a few short years the Tanners will go on to have nine more children and the reader feels as though the Tanners will continue to prosper. From humble beginnings Tanner and Kitty have managed to live a successful life in a harsh environment. Most likely quickly learning as they go along. Brinkman on the other hand is to live a lonely life thinking only of himself and most likely still visiting the Tanners every six months for his dinner. In many ways Fitzgerald may have written a story to highlight that when a couple are in love they can overcome the odds and succeed. Whereas many would have stayed servants this is not the case for Tanner and Kitty. They had aspirations and dreams to have their own piece of land and home. To be their own employers answerable to nobody but themselves. No matter how hard the work may have been. Tanner and Kitty were prepared to do the work. Knowing that if they were true to themselves they would succeed. Tanner’s intelligence can’t be underestimated particularly when it comes to his purchase of the two homing pigeons. Though it seems like a simple idea very few people would have actually thought of it. Preferring instead to go in town and get the doctor. Instead Tanner was there for Kitty. Something that the reader suspects is also true for the remainder of Tanner and Kitty’s life. Both Tanner and Kitty have lived a prosperous and loving life together and had the good fortune to rear eleven children. All from very humble beginnings. Kitty complimented Tanner’s character while Tanner was always there for Kitty.