Wolf Hall Questions and Answers
by Hilary Mantel

Start Your Free Trial

What is the main argument in Wolf Hall? 

Expert Answers info

Sol Gandy eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write965 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Wolf Hall is Hilary Mantel's novel about Thomas Cromwell, who advised King Henry VIII. It is the first of a trilogy, followed by Bring Up the Bodies and the third, as yet unpublished, The Mirror and the Light. In Wolf Hall, Mantel traces the rise of Cromwell from a secretary to Cardinal Wolsey to chief minister to Henry. He is also portrayed as an enlightened, Renaissance man who is sympathetic to the reformation and against the abuses of the Catholic church. 

The main argument, which is contrary to many historical interpretations of Henry's reign, is to show Cromwell as a hero. Cromwell is seen as a benevolent father who takes the deaths, from sleeping sickness, of his wife and daughters very hard. He's also seen as a loyal adviser, first to Wolsey, and then to the king and the king's second wife Anne Boleyn. Contrary to many histories and studies of the period, Cromwell is the good guy in opposition to Sir Thomas More, who comes across as evil and dogmatic in his opposition to those who wish to bring the Protestant Reformation to England. In the novel, More is a torturer and a man who will do virtually anything to sustain Catholicism in England.

Cromwell, on the other hand, is open minded and reasonable when it comes to the changes which seem inevitable for England. One particularly poignant scene depicts Cromwell as a young boy witnessing the burning of a heretic. This memory stays with him as More begins persecuting those who would defy the Catholic church and bring in the ideas of Luther and English translations of the Bible. The novel closes with the beheading of More at the Tower of London. 

check Approved by eNotes Editorial