Sie sind auf Seite 1von 7

At Hiruharama – Penelope Fitzgerald

About the Author

Penelope Fitzgerald belonged to the illustrious Knox family. Her father and his brothers were intellectuals of their time. She was a late entrant to writing, publishing her first book when she was 58. She has written short stories and historical fiction that received much acclaim. The story At Hiruharama is written with compassion and humour.

story At Hiruharama is written with compassion and humour. Background/Setting Setting Time Late 1920s/Early 1930s



Time Late 1920s/Early 1930s

Place Hiruharama, north of Auckland, New Zealand

Society Small, spread-out towns, limited communication and transport options

Mr. Tanner is narrating the story of how his grandfather arrived in New Zealand and established himself there. He had sailed out to that country expecting to train as an apprentice but he was just a servant. The story is of a couple who set up home in a remote part of New Zealand with no neighbours for miles around.


Mr. Tanner is an unusual character. He sails out to New Zealand hoping to be an apprentice but finds himself a servant. He is ready to make a leap of faith and marry Kitty. He learns to read and write to please her. He is a pioneer who sets up home in a remote corner of New Zealand. He works hard trying to make a success of the venture. His resourcefulness can be seen in the unusual way in which he plans to summon the doctor.


Main Characters

Tanner An orphan from Lincolnshire sent to New Zealand as a servant. He meets Kitty, his future wife while at work. As they settle in, Kitty revealed that she is pregnant. During this period, he becomes much more nervous and fidgety, constantly running around and trying to get things done. However, that is out of his determination to help his wife to the best of his abilities.

Kitty Tanner’s wife, she met him while working as a servant. She persuaded Tanner to learn how to write and formed his base on which he could anchor to. During her pregnancy, she is

remarkably calm and quiet.

Minor Characters


Tanner’s neighbour, he comes around twice every year to have dinner with them. However, by a coincidence, his visit is on the day that Kitty goes into labour. He blatantly refuses


pest, Tanner and Kitty manage to deliver the baby safely.

to pest, Tanner and Kitty manage to deliver the baby safely. leave without food, complaining that

leave without food, complaining that he was counting on this dinner. Although he is a

The doctor

The local doctor has almost no business due to the low rates of illness in the area. He


had accidentally thrown away the second baby and manages to save it.

concise and to the point, and never wastes time. He is the one who finds that Tanner



in order to contact the doctor if needed.

town local who is a pigeon-racing enthusiast, Parrish lends two racing pigeons to Tanner

Themes (major and minor)

The theme is the pioneering life of the settlers in New Zealand. Tanner and his wife both young and inexperienced settle down in Hiruharama, a remote place. When it is time for their first child to be born, they have to be inventive in summoning the doctor. They get homing pigeons which fly to their owner who informs the doctor. But by the time the doctor arrives, the twins are born.

Statements of Theme

Throw nothing away. (At the end of the story Tanner makes this his motto after accidently throwing away a baby.)

Always be prepared for the unexpected. (When they learn the at Kitty is expecting children Tanner has to go into a mad rush to prepare.)

Big things may come from small beginnings. (The baby they accidently threw away ended up becoming the most successful person in the family.)


The plot is flimsy. Tanner arrives in New Zealand hoping to be an apprentice but turns out


be a servant. He puts faith in future and marries Kitty who is similarly placed and moves


Hiruharama which is remote. Working hard, they set up a home and a farm. Meanwhile,

Kitty is pregnant and Tanner has to be creative in summoning the doctor when her time is

ready. He gets a pair of homing pigeons who fly to their owner who summons the doctor.

Tanner, Mr. Tanner’s grandfather was an orphan in Stamford, Lincolnshire before he was sent to New Zealand as a servant. There he met Kitty, Mr. Tanner’s grandmother, who was also a servant. They got married, and moved further up north to buy some land and carve out a living. They settled in a quiet piece of countryside called “Hiruharama” and after two years,

o Background (family, place of origin, etc.) o Situation
o Background (family, place of origin, etc.)
o Situation

Kitty told Tanner that she was expecting a child. After consulting with the doctor and getting his assurances and a prescription of medicine, Tanner borrows two racing pigeons from a man named Parrish, in order to contact the doctor in an emergency. However, on the day that Kitty does go into labor, their neighbor, Brinkman, comes around for dinner. Tanner quickly sends off a message to the doctor using the racing-pigeons and begins to help his wife while Brinkman continues to complain about the lack of food. The doctor arrives as soon as Tanner delivered the baby. As the doctor deals with the afterbirth, he realizes that it was a smaller twin and gives it to Tanner. It turns out that the second twin would be the more successful of the two, starting a career in law and hence bringing lawyers into the Tanner family. After that experience, Tanner hung up a tin sign on the wall: “Throw Nothing Away”, just to remind the family how important that philosophy was, especially to them.

Plot Chart


• Tanner is introduced

• Details of how Tanner and Kitty meet

• Setting the scene; they move to Hiruharama

Rising Action

• Revelation of the child

• Tanner going to the doctor, obtaining medicine

• Borrowing racing pigeons from Parrish

Brinkman arriving for dinner while Kitty is in labor Climax

• Tanner writing a letter to the doctor

• Tanner helping Kitty while Brinkman complains

Falling Action

• The doctor arriving right after the baby was delivered

• Tanner greeting the doctor, covered in blood

• Brinkman continuing to complain


• The doctor discovering that the “afterbirth” was a twin

• The narration ending, concluding with “Throw Nothing Away” and the lives of the two girls.


Tanner sails out to that country expecting to train as an apprentice but he is just a servant. Shortly, he meets and marries Kitty a similarly placed girl. They move to Hiruharama and

settle down there. It is miles away from anywhere. When Kitty falls pregnant, Tanner wants to be ready for the birth of the child. The story is about his unusual ways. They have twins who are born before the doctor arrives. Tanner does not realize that what he considers is waste from the birth to be thrown out, is actually his second child! The doctor saves it and she lives to become a successful lawyer.


it and she lives to become a successful lawyer. Analysis At Hiruharama is a story said

At Hiruharama is a story said with compassion and humour. At no time do Tanner or Kitty show despondency. Tanner is illiterate but Kitty coaxes him to learn. Starting from scratch, they set up their home and a farm. Their first born are twins who arrive in the world in unusual fashion. The birth is a normal enough, but Tanner leaves the second born outside thinking it is the afterbirth that has to be discarded! The doctor arrives in time to save it. The couple goes on to have nine more children!

At Hiruharama is a well crafted story which sustains the reader’s attention through its sympathetic treatment of life. Though there is no winding plot, the story catches our attention and maintains tension and suspense because of the realistic portrayal of adorable characters.

The story is about Mr. Tanner and his wife Kitty who end up in New Zealand and make the best out of the worst. Through farming, they manage to live in an almost barren land with not many neighbours. They live away from the city and so when Kitty gets pregnant, her husband is very worried about the medical help that she may need. He visits a doctor in the city and buys two pigeons which he hopes to use to communicate with the doctor through the man who sells them. He sees to it that nothing is overlooked. But he makes the worst foolishness when he mistakes one of the babies for the afterbirth and dumps it in the dustbin. It is this girl who becomes a lawyer and raises the family’s hopes for a better living.

The story seems to be part of a longer novel because of its abrupt opening. This is very effective since it sounds like the writer is taking the reader into his confidence with such ease and frankness. The writer amazes us with his story telling techniques and informal style.

The land Mr. Tanner and Kitty selected to settle down in had only one good thing about it. There was a standpipe and constant clear water from an underground well. This source of water later turns out to be the symbol of the limitless love and affection Mr. Tanner possesses. Human relationships and the need to love and be loved loom large in the story.

Though the story is written like a chronicle, the writer is able to provide it with interesting moods and subtle tones. Along with the barrenness of the land we are also told about an insensitive neighbor who comes to dine with the couple twice a year. His name is Brinkman. He doesn’t have much to do with the plot of the story but he serves an important purpose. We find that there is a kind of softness deep in him too. He has no family since he couldn’t persuade a woman to live with him in that godforsaken land.

He arrives for his half-yearly dinner when Kitty is about to have labour pains. This disappoints him and he talks endlessly about his last dinner with them. He is not bothered about the trouble the family is going through. Still, it touches us deeply when he says why he comes to visit the Tanners. He insists he doesn’t come for dinner or to enjoy the scenic beauty. He says,

“No, I’ve come today, as I came formerly, for the sake of hearing a woman’s voice.”

This touch is important for the story since the story is feminist in its content and treatment. It is a celebration of femininity. This is brought forth through the character of Kitty and how the other treat Kitty. It is Kitty who inspires Mr. Tanner to learn to read and write and he manages to accomplish it before he marries her. Her mildest suggestion to him that he should write to his sister “how it is between us” inspires him to live up to her expectations. Since she asks him to ‘write’ to his sister, Tanner knew she expected him to be literate.

to his sister, Tanner knew she expected him to be literate. Unlike Mr. Tanner, Kitty was

Unlike Mr. Tanner, Kitty was educated even before she came to New Zealand. She came as a an

governess d ended up as a servant. It is with her help that Mr. Tanner is able to run a farm.

Tanner might be finding Kitty so committed since she has chosen to live with him and share his hardships. He tells the doctor the reason why his neighbor is not married.

“You couldn’t ask a woman to live out there.”

To this the doctor says,

“You can ask a woman to live anywhere.”

Against the doctor’s and Brinkman’s apparent insensitivity, Mr. Tanner comes out as man with such a good heart.

When Mr. Tanner visits the doctor, we see him very anxious about his wife’s condition. He wants to know how many women die in childbirth. He has no questions about the baby, even though the doctor makes a prophetic statement,

“Well don’t ask me if it’s going to be twins. Nature didn’t intend us to know that.”

Mr. Tanner is very resourceful and is very proactive. He tells the doctor, “I can do anything about the house.” We find this to be true.

‘He told the doctor he’d managed to deliver the child, a girl, in fact he’s wrapped it up in a towel and tucked it up in the washbasket.’

Even on the day of his wife’s delivery, in the midst of all the problems and in spite of his anxiety and desperation, Tanner is a good host to Brinkman, his neighbor whom he hasn’t seen for the last six months. His good nature goes unnoticed by his neighbour, but that doesn’t deter him from serving his guest. He wins the love of all the people he meets including the doctor and the Maori boy who sells pigeons. When the doctor says the Brinkman is a crank, Tanner objects and says that he should be called a dreamer at the worst.

Tanner is not only endowed with a good heart, he also has a smart brain. He is resourceful and plans things in advance.

“Tanner turned over in his mind what he’s say to his wife when she told him she was going to have a child.” But when he finally tells him, he doesn’t say anything but straightaway goes to the town to consult a doctor.

The language of the story is informal to a great extent though there are two instances of the writer’s skill to write in different styles. When Tanner writes to his sister his style resembles the Bible since it is probably the only book he is able to read after he became literate. Another change in style in when Brinkman talks. His English is fairly elegant. All the other characters speak in dialects.

The story ends with Brinkman’s thoughts. His words tell us how simple are the characters that we come across in this story. In fact, these words throw much light on the theme of the story. In spite of deserts and barren lands, the earth is still beautiful. Likewise, in spite of hardships and accidents, life is still beautiful in its own terms.

don’t ask me if it’s going to be twins.”
don’t ask me if it’s going to be twins.”

“All the time Brinkman continued to sit there by the table and smoke his pipe. Two more women born into the world! It must have seemed to him that if this sort of thing went on, there should be a good chance, in the end, for him to acquire one for himself. Meanwhile, they would have to serve dinner sometime.”


Hiruharama is a symbol of good luck for Tanner and Kitty. Till then they lived unsatisfactory lives working as servants. Once they move to Hiruharama, they find an abandoned homestead and freely flowing water that is worth its weight in gold. Their farm thrives and they become well off. They have twin girls one of which is saved from death at the nick of time. She not only survives but also goes on to become a successful lawyer.

Important vocabulary and expression

There are interesting little cameos sketched by the author. Mr. Brinkman is one of them. An unmarried man he pays the Tanners a six monthly visit. Just as Kitty is in labour, he comes on a visit hoping to be given a meal. Brinkman is unusually happy about the birth of two girls in one shot. He feels with so many girls being born, he will soon find a wife.

Literary devices used with examples

The story is presented in an interesting flashback. The grandson is the one who narrates the story of his grandparents. “That meant he had to something about his grandfather, who had been an orphan from Stamford in Lincolnshire….”



(409) Significance:

This example of foreshadowing makes the reader want to read on and find out what exactly happens now that they have a clue or hint.


“Tanner came out of the bedroom covered with blood, something like a butcher.” (412). Significance:

This example of a simile makes the reader visualize how Tanner would look like at this point in the story. It also makes the story more poignant, showing the couple’s tribulations.

Situational irony:

“…Often by the time that I arrive I’m not needed.” (409) Significance:

The doctor, in his conversation with Tanner mentions that most of the time, he is too late to be of any use. However he is the one that finds out that Tanner accidentally threw out the second twin.

out that Tanner accidentally threw out the second twin. Situational irony: “…I’m going to look after

Situational irony:

“…I’m going to look after the afterbirth. The father put it out with the waste.” (412) Significance:

This example of situational irony supports the theme, ‘throw nothing away’, because he threw away the baby thinking that it was nothing but it ended up being very successful.


Person Vs. Self All of the characters in the story are relatively calm compared to Tanner. He continues to fret and rush around trying to get things done before the babies arrive. He fights with himself over trivial matters like staying with Kitty to give her company or finishing chores.

Person Vs. Person The night Kitty goes into labour, Brinkman, their neighbour arrives at their house for dinner. Brinkman almost demands dinner and refuses to leave without it. This was a minor conflict, as they never argue with Brinkman, they just ignore him.

Person Vs. Circumstances Tanner and Kitty are relatively poor and isolated. Their distance from a doctor makes the process of delivering the babies more difficult than it is in normal circumstances. However due to racing pigeons, they can communicate with the doctor if needed.

Significant Quotations


was going to have a child.” (409) Significance:

“Tanner turned over in his mind what he’d said to his wife when she told him she

Tanner already feels the strain of being responsible for a child, even though it is months away. This leads him to prepare for the baby hurriedly


line from Awanui to Te Paki, and that was the line his pigeons flew” (410) Significance:

“Parrish didn’t mind, because Hiruharama, Tanner’s place was on more or less direct

Parrish has allowed Tanner to use his pigeons to communicate with the doctor, unknowingly aiding him in saving his second twin’s life.