The Highroad To The Stake Essay, Research Paper
After reading Michael Kunze?s The Highroad to the Stake , I feel that the Ironmaster?s wife has a very unfortunate life, yet she did not look for pity, she made the best of the situation. Her lifestyle is one that is not glorious or even desirable, yet the way she lives it is almost admirable. She has to deal with certain appalling facts about herself and her husband that most l people normally don?t even think about and she did it the best way possible. I feel that she solely responsible for maintaining some type of sanity in her entire household.
To be a member of the lowest caste of society during the early modern period in Europe meant that you were involved in some type of lowly profession. A few examples of these professions included things such as gravediggers, beggars (which was considered a profession as you needed a license to do this at the time) and a jailer. When one was a jailer they were excluded from society, people turned their heads away from them. Reasons for this may have been that people didn?t want to see the man that carried out the brutal punishments the courts concocted. The people had no problem with torturing a man and his family, but they couldn?t actually face the man who had done it.
The only thing worse than being a jailer, is being a jailer?s wife. She had to try to raise a healthy family under these harsh conditions, while being ignored by society. "People in the street did not see her simply as a housewife; they avoided her as "dishonorable" on account of her husband?s occupation." (Kunze 292) Her family lived in Falcon Tower with the prisoners and that is where she had to try and meek out some sort of existence. I believe she had done everything in her power to make her life seem as normal and stable as possible. "On the Northeast side of the building she had laid out a little garden which a few vegetables and some wild flowers transplanted from the meadows struggled to exist." (Kunze 292) I believe living in Falcon Tower had definitely took a toll on the Ironmaster?s wife. I feel that it is next to impossible to raise a family in such a harsh and violent surrounding. Kunze stated that the screams of the tortured and dying could be heard during supper time. "?conversation about everyday things always had an undertone of terror." (Kunze 292)
Michael Kunze goes on to state that the Ironmaster?s wife was the only person to show the prisoners a bit of comfort in Falcon Tower. Although she did not make it her mission to improve the lives of the people in the tower, she did go above her expected duties and responsibilities. I feel that deep down inside she felt sorry for these people that her husband was going to or in the process of maiming and torturing, but she did nothing for she knew that this was the only way to put food on the table. When the jailer was given money, he had to buy food for his family and the prisoners, so obviously he and his wife would cut the prisoners a bit short, but solely for the existence of their family. She fed them enough to stay alive and even giving them that much food is admirable in its own way because she knew that these people were inevitably going to die. I believe that the jailer?s wife was the only warmness in the frigid coldness of Falcon Tower. She was the one who tended the prisoners dungeons and often times she washed their clothes and opened cell windows upon request. "And so she became their confidante: she carried messages from one to the other, told them something of the outside world, and sometimes warned them in advance when the commissioners were coming." (Kunze 293) I feel that she comforted the prisoners just enough to console them, but not so much that she became personally attached to any of them. This act takes an extremely large amount of discipline and heart. I think the way she deals with the prisoners is ideal, for she most likely does not fall asleep with a guilty conscience yet she does not mourn when a prisoner is being tortured an inch from death.
Although in one case the Ironmaster?s wife did let her emotions get involved. Kunze states, "Among all these wretched creature, it was the fate of little Hansel Pappenheimer that most deeply moved her." (Kunze 293) I believe that she felt a deep pain when she saw this boy away from his mother in a dark prison cell. Kunze says that she assumed the role of the mother in Hansel?s life. She would spend extra time in his cell and bring him toys and blocks to play with. Although she was never sure of whether or not he was a tool of the Devil, she still questioned his imprisonment. "Such were the questions that preoccupied the Ironmaster?s wife as she closed the door of Hansel?s cell after visiting him, and bolted it behind her." (Kunze 296) She saw the same defiance in Hansel that she felt her own children used as a defense mechanism from society and that is most likely why she took a special interest in him.
I have a good deal of respect for the jailer?s wife. Although she did not play a pivotal role in The Highroad to the Stake, she did stand out as a interesting and unique character. She maintains a state of calmness in a world of chaos for not only herself, but her entire family. At the same time I have a good deal of sorrow for this woman. She must continue her life in the same dismal manner with no hope of advancement or personal achievement.