Monday, 11 September 2017

Jones Minor Prophet

 Tycanol Wood, a place of magic and enchantment, but also a place of terror and death.  Some of the most dramatic episodes from the Saga occur in this place of mossy stones and gnarled oaks......

Another of my favourite characters from the stories -- this time Amos Jones, the hero of "Flying with Angels."

Amos Jones, preacher and prophet

Amos Jones, itinerant preacher, minor prophet and last great love of Martha’s life, is another character of whom I am very fond. He is, like Wilmot Gwynne, a product of his age. Wilmot comes from the white heat of the industrial revolution, and Amos comes from the white heat of religious fervour, as a man intent upon spreading the gospel and saving souls.  He is an unlikely lover, for he and Martha have a wide social gulf between them, but they make immediate and easy contact when they first meet, and in some ways Martha finds him similar to her great friend and mentor Joseph Harries.  Both Joseph and Amos are fiercely intelligent, radically inclined and lacking in respect for the establishment.  They have a similar sense of humour, and speak in a way which Martha finds attractive.  They are also instinctively drawn to fight against injustice and to help the poor.  Maybe Martha has learned some lessons from her relationship with Joseph, which might have developed further had it not to been for his determination to  hide his love, and to protect her from the challenges that would have accompanied an inappropriate marriage.   Martha never says this directly to her diary or to anyone else, but maybe, as she felt drawn towards Amos emotionally, she thought  “To hell with convention!  Now I am going to live dangerously! “   And live dangerously she does.

One of the reasons why Martha and Amos are drawn together is their shared awareness of the world of the supernatural - and that is of course one of the reasons why Martha and Joseph have a natural empathy for one another.  But Amos combines a familiarity with ghosts and the other residents of the spirit world with a firm Christian conviction and devotion to his calling as a pastor and itinerant preacher.  In an age when many of Martha’s acquaintances specialize in self-indulgence, Amos specializes in self-denial and seems to take pleasure in suffering.  This makes him into an ascetic or prophet, and it makes him a very unlikely companion for Martha, who is not particularly religious and who has a long history of conflict with the church and with various rectors over tithe payments and other church matters.  But Martha has already had a flirtation with Methodism, and maybe she is excited by the idea that she might learn more about the nonconformist community and its system of beliefs as a means of self-improvement.  She has had conflict with the Baptists before, but she does not set out in Flying with Angels to fight with these good people or to humiliate them.   I have tried to portray Martha in this story as a more mature and tolerant figure than she was in her younger days, and as a person who genuinely wants to support Amos in his chosen and difficult calling.

The core episode in Martha’s relationship with Amos, namely the episode in which she seduces him in Tycanol Wood, is one of the most crucial episodes in the whole of Martha’s life story.  What follows next, tragic and gruesome though it is, leads on to high drama and considerable comedy in the big meeting in Brynberian Chapel. In a book such as this it is always very difficult to juxtapose horror and comedy so closely, and I faced a challenge in writing it down.  I am not sure that I have got the balance exactly right, but it was fine fun to try!

Like most of the other men in Martha’s life, Amos is essentially a tragic figure, involved in a loveless and unconsummated marriage and trying to find contentment and even salvation through good works, preferably a long way from the home that he has set up with his frigid wife.  Martha gives him happiness, and a good deal of pain as well.  He loves Martha with an intensity which he has never experienced before, so that is a sort of fulfillment for him.  As the story unfolds Amos realizes that it is his destiny to sacrifice himself in order to save Martha from those who have put a price on her head.  He does make the ultimate sacrifice, having arranged things in such a way that his friends are powerless to stop him.  So, as pointed out in Chapter 9 of the last book, he is a Christ-like figure who is too good to be allowed to live in an evil world.  He has many weaknesses,  and Martha is much stronger than he.  His destiny is to attract enemies who feel threatened by his goodness, and to suffer an unpleasant death at the hands of vicious men.

(An extract from "Martha Morgan's Little World")

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