Daylight gates

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The Daylight Gate: The Ways Women Bear Brunt of Fear and Poverty
Winterson uses the settings of Lancashire to depict the obscene repressiveness of the pre-
enlightenment England- a world where poverty is the most harmful and inescapable for females.
The tale is based on the Lancashire witches’ prosecutions which took place in 1612. The main
protagonist, Alice Nutter, is an appealing focal character living luxuriously at a time when most
women are poverty-stricken what upsets Thomas Potts along with Lancashire’s lawmen. On
page 9 of the book “The Daylight Gate”, the author points out that the character is an imaginary
Alice Nutter and the reason why that kind woman gets persecuted for witchery alongside the
Demdikes remain anonymous (Winterson and Barber, 9). The novella explores alchemy,
suspicion, magic and impoverished atmosphere of the Pendle locals. Women trapped in great
poverty have become soft target in a society experiencing considerable change which yet has not
fully recovered from the aborted mission to detonate the king and the parliament previously.
According to Hempel and Amy 2012, the zeal of lawmen is motivated by an assortment
suspicion of the ancient practices may it be witchcraft or Catholicism, fear, and craving to prove
loyalty to a protestant king who is particularly interested in Daemonologie(9). Thus, Pendle is a
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marginalized district and alleged home for outcasts who have violated society norms, hence
perceived as deviants and life-threating for societal order.
Winterson focuses on the harsh conditions upon which women alleged of witch craft
The impoverished nature of the Demdikes illustrates the first claim in the novel. The
Demdike family comprises mainly of women. They are viciously hunted by Constable
Hargreaves and his group of law enforcers for accusations of witchcraft on other people. Hence,
they seek Nutter’s help who being of compassionately hosts them in her estate’s ancient tower.
The rest of the Lancashire refer to them as witches because of their impoverished state, save for
Nutter, who defends them saying they deserve to be pitied, and not punished. According to
Church and Episcopal 2014, on page 24, the law enforcers of the newly enthroned King James I
who is a firm Protestant believer are extremely brutal to women suspected of having any sorcery
connections (Church, 24). Women labeled as witches such as Elizabeth Device, Sarah Device,
among others, are sexually assaulted by the cruel law enforcers of the king. On page 16,
Constable Hargreaves in his respond to Alice Nutter says that the proof of the evil practice is
supposed to be determined by the law and the scripture. Constable Hargreaves vividly refers to
the exposition of the book of Exodus Chapter 20 Verse 16 which states that a witch shall not be
allowed to live (28). Persecution of the alleged witches was not seen as a murder by the law
enforcers of King James I.
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The sufferings the Demdikes go through in the hands of the law enforcement agency
illustrate the second claim on the way women bear fear and torture in the hands of law enforcers.
They endure great pain which make them harder and learn to fight through without begging for
mercy as it never helps. Since seeking for sympathy is an act of futility, they opt to provoke fear
and dislike (27). For instance, Sarah Device, who has been captured, is being subjected to all
manner of torture including ducking, beating, and being starved. Moreover, she is raped by the
lawmen. Alongside others who escaped, she is accused of having bewitched John Law, a tree
harvester. The law enforcers on page 28 point out that John Law is lying on his deathbed and
has lost his power of speech and legs after having an encounter with Demdikes in the forest. On
page 18, Constable Hargreaves inflicts Sarah Device with fear when he mentions that her
grandmother, together with her sister, is waiting to be maimed in Lancaster Castle for being
alleged of witchery practice. She is stripped and exposed to the young as evident by a young
boy-Tom, forced to check for any cat marks on her body. In an endeavor to fight for her dignity,
Sara Device maims the young man by biting off her tongue when he tries to rape her. She is
almost strangled to death save for Alice Nutter’s appearance who comes to her rescue. Nutter’s
empathy for the oppressed Demdikes makes the witch persecutors, particularly Thomas Potts,
label her as a possessor of supernatural powers and a witch too, as illustrated by the statements of
the law enforcers on page 17.
Hargreaves, one of the lawmen says that “Alice Nutter rides astride like a male,
accompanied by a falcon despite her not being a falconer” (15). The lawmen are suspicious of
how a widowed woman like Nutter could accumulate immense wealth on her own, if not through
evil means. She is also accused of witchery on the account that she looks quite young despite her
advanced age (Eliot). Surprising enough, on page 25, the author observes that even the Demdikes
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taking refuge at her home believe there is something extraordinary about her when they summon
her and plead that she uses her magic to secure the release of their counterparts held in custody at
Lancaster Castle. She is questioned by Demdikes how she gained her richness, youthfulness if
not by magic.
Additionally, Winterson is indirectly noting the disadvantaged in her civilization. She
was adopted by poor working-class guardians who should have been jailed for child negligence -
her mother caned and locked her out of the house at night. In her diary, why should one be happy
when one could be normal, Winterson depicts her mother as an actual phantom who fought with
the devil for her life.
The the novella captures is the beliefs and superstitions of the early seventeenth century
and makes the reader get immersed in such world that parallels that of Hammer horror films.
For instance, the magistrate is under a spell, Nutter’s youthfulness is associated with an
elixir she got from Queen Elizabeth’s fortune-teller, John Dee. There are also cases of creepy
rooms and phantoms with no substance such as the ones Alice witnesses lifting the letter that
almost gets set on fire (29). Additionally, more enlightened characters seem to hold
contemporary contradictions regarding their beliefs in supernatural powers. For instance,
superstition seemed not to bother Robert Nowell, the local magistrate, until later, when he almost
dies from sorceress’s spell. He begins to have a change of perspective. Another example is that
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of Alice Nutter, on page 45, where she tells the Demdikes that witchery is mystical. Ironically,
she had been recruited by John Dee as a partner who firmly believed in magic.
In March 1612, two old local sorcerers namely Demdike and Chattox are among the
wizards locked up in the dungeon waiting to be persecuted. The grand- daughter of Demdike
alongside Alizon, the daughter of Chattox, are also set for trial after Alizon cursed a peddler for
refusing to lend her pins (Church, 24). As a result of the confrontation, the peddler immediately
suffers from a strange disease which is considered to be the effect of witchery. Mother Chattox,
who happens to be a witness in the case against the Old Demdike, is cunningly turned to a witch
by the crafty judge Roger Nowell, accusing her of being a witch from birth. Each family accuses
the other of witchcraft making all the four women be put behind bars waiting for the August
hearings. It is the fear of witches that drives Chattox and her daughter to be part of the outlawed
group of Demdikes. Alice holds the view that the witches are victims of an unfair society
seeking some influence in the form of reparation. Brought up in dire poverty and misery, they
mislead themselves into reasoning that they possess power through the practice of sorcery.
As Alice speaks to Robert Nowell, she makes reference to such women as being destitute
and full of ignorance. She says they lack the power in his world. Therefore, they are agitated to
gain all the power they have. Winterson has portrayed the witches as people of the lowest class
in the society seeking for ways out of destitution and punishment from their beliefs. For instance,
one sued witch by the name Mouldheeds had chunks of flesh that hang from her body; one
would think she was a junk of cooked meat. Her feet ponged of dead tissue. In the jail, the
woman appeared wrapped in rags. It is evidently clear that the society placed little worth on
such individuals, smaller than the animals killed for the meat provision. Such indirect remarks by
the author on injustices of the seventeenth-century English civilization concurrently draw on
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Hammer films’ traditional demonstrations of nasty nobles’ disregard for the destitute and
frightened villagers.
Witches are supposedly thought to have struck pacts with the devil to gain their
supernatural powers. There are those who believe that they indeed expelled mystical powers
while others operated on the local’s fears that they had such powers. Being a county of
lawlessness, Lancashire was the most targeted place for enchantresses and Catholic recusants.
Besides the Old Demdike, who succumbed to death in the jail, the rest ten accused witchery
victims, including Alice Nutter, get arraigned in court, found culpable, and are eventually hanged
in August 1612 (107).
The above discussion has clearly depicted the pre-enlightenment atrocities women pass
through during the reign of a protestant regime. The trials are based on a real life scenario that
occurred in 1612, a period when religion and politics were closely entangled. After the
attempted assassination of the King by the Gunpowder plot of 1605, making all catholic
accomplice flee to a desolate and untamed Pendle region far from the reach of the ruthless
London law. The victims are denied their human rights to a fair judicial hearing since there is no
substantial evidence linking them to the sorcery crimes they are alleged to have committed.
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Works Cited
Church, Episcopal. The Hymnal of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. New
York: Church Pension Fund, 2014.
Eliot, George. Mill on the Floss, the: Webster's Bulgarian Thesaurus Edition. New York: ICON Group,
Hempel, Amy. The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel. New York: Scribner, 2012.
Stay, Jesse and Thomas Stay. Minecraft Recipes for Dummies. Hoboken: Wiley, 2015.
Winterson, Jeanette and Nicola Barber. The Daylight Gate. Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Audio, 2014.

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