How can the world in Wolf Hall be compared to our world today?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Overtly, the world of the Tudors set in 16th century England and the world of today are two different universes. This is made obvious through the references to clothing, food, fear of disease, culture and interactions that make the past, as Hartley would agree in The Go-Between, a different country. However, it is perhaps the genius of Hilary Mantel in this brilliant book that in spite of all of the differences between the world of the present and the world of this period of history, she allows the reader to see that there are actually some similarities that reveal how humans still operate in exactly the same way, specifically related to issues of power. Note, for example, Cromwell's shrewd assessment of how to maintain power:

But it is no use to justify yourself. It is no good to explain. It is weak to be anecdotal. It is wise to conceal the past even if there is nothing to conceal. A man's power is in the half-light, in the half-seen movements of his hand and the unguessed-at expression of his face. It is the absence of facts that frightens people: the gap you open, into which they pour their fears, fantasies, desires.

The reference to man's power lying in the "half-light" and not in openness is of course something that strikes true in today's age where, in spite of intense media publicity and the so-called information age, so much occurs that is unknown and is not revealed, and arguably, the true rulers of the world are the leaders of financial institutions that are not known and do not have to reveal their face at all to the public. It is references such as this one throughout the novel that reveal certain timeless truths about the nature of power, and how it is gained and sustained. This is the connection between the world of today and the world of so long ago that Mantel manages to make explicit in her story.

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