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Burial Rites | Study Guide

Hannah Kent

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Course Hero. "Burial Rites Study Guide." May 1, 2020. Accessed June 4, 2023.


Course Hero, "Burial Rites Study Guide," May 1, 2020, accessed June 4, 2023,



Hannah Kent

Year Published





Historical Fiction, Mystery

Perspective and Narrator

The novel has two narrators: a third-person omniscient narrator and a first-person narrator, Agnes Magnúsdóttir. She is a historical figure, the last person to be executed in Iceland. The novel also includes letters, excerpts from court documents, poems, and hymns.


The first-person narrative of Agnes Magnúsdóttir alternates between past and present tense. The third-person omniscient narration is in the past tense.

About the Title

The title has several meanings. The main character, Agnes Magnúsdóttir, is confined to a farm while she awaits execution. In a sense she is already dead because she is destined to be executed, so her time at the farm is a kind of burial, attended by the rites demanded by the state, the church, and society. Additionally, in burning the bodies of their murder victims, Agnes and her coconspirators failed to observe customary burial rites. Murder is the crime for which Agnes is judged guilty, but the indifferent disposal of the corpses adds to the shock of the crime. Finally, a government official decrees that Agnes and another condemned prisoner will be "buried on the spot without ceremony." Thus, the convicts are denied full burial rites as a way of further punishment.


This study guide for Hannah Kent's Burial Rites offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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