We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

Susan Glaspell's _Fidelity_ & Jhumpa Lahiri's _Namesake_ · 8 October 08

Dear Friends,

I finished Susan Glaspell’s extraordinary 1915 novel, Fidelity a couple of nights ago. It’s an important book for women, far more truly & healthily than a number of books in the same generation (very late 19th, early 20th century, e.g., Kate Chopin’s Awakening) are often proclaimed to be. It still speaks to those who aspire for individual fulfillment, who find they have no where to exercise their talents for doing good or creating something worth while. The title refers to the book’s assertion that human fidelity consists in being loyal to the rare experience of loving companionship and to your ownself’s inner life.

Margaret Preston, Studio Window (1906, near contemporary painting)

Glaspell’s central heroine is a youngish woman, Ruth Holland who is in her early 30s when the book opens. The time is just around the outbreak of WW1. Eleven years ago before the book opened, Ruth had fallen ecstatically in love with a married man, Stuart Wilson. The experience seems a result of intense physical attraction more than character congeniality. Until near the end of the book, all we know of Wilson beyond his being a married man is he was a successful businessman, and that once he had had a brief affair with another young woman which his wife, Marion, would not forgive him for. Because of this affair his wife keeps him at arm’s length. All three and the novel’s hero, Deane Franklin, are part of an upper middle class group of extremely conventional interconnected families and friends who make up the society or community of a small town in America, Freeport. Stuart and Ruth left the town together after Ruth discovers she is pregnant , Stuart that he has TB, Stuart’s wife, Marion, that Stuart has a permanent lover and it’s Ruth Holland. Marion refused to divorce him.

Glaspell’s hero, Deane Franklin, is slightly older than Ruth and he once did and still loves Ruth; she loves him tenderly and intimately as a friend. Deane is a physician. As the story opens we are in Deane’s mind as he is among various neighbors who are welcoming his newly wed-wife, Amy. Deane is worrying about the coming or return of Ruth to the community. She returns to be with her father who is dying. Her mother had died some time before. Deane worries no one will accept her and she will be treated cruelly, ostracized, including by members of her family. We switch back and forth to Ruth’s mind as she comes back to her family and is ostracized by all but one younger brother, Ted, (who at the time she had not respected or valued because he seemed weak or just naive) and her dying father.

What happened 11 years ago to Ruth emerges alternatively in Deane’s mind and Ruth as he remembers how he was courting Ruth ands she remembers how difficult it was for her to carry on her relationship with Stuart without letting anyone else know. Slowly he suspected something was amiss, and then she came to him pregnant. Ruth hid her lover from her family and friends with great difficulty for this is a tightly knit group of people and if they are not standing guard over Ruth, the way her life and theirs is organized, in effect she is never allowed to be alone or unaccounted for—or so they think. She must continually lie to find space and time to meet Stuart who we gather she basically meets to have sex with. But she had lied and succeeded until she became pregnant.

Then we switch to Ruth’s mind and experience in the present tense. We learn how how stressed she was to be doing this—betraying her family as it feels, lying to everyone. Her family is presented as having been endlessly loving: nothing was too good for her, nothing asked of her (no need to support herself), all she needs to do is enjoy herself is the way they put it. Of course on their own terms, and part of this is allowing herself to be courted by Deane, and (they hope) marrying him, going to her friend, Edith’s wedding.

Edith’s wedding is made a great deal of. It’s presented as particularly heinous of Ruth that after having found herself pregnant, and planning to run away with Wilson because she must (as she is pregnant), she fulfills her promise to be Edith’s bridemaid. We are never told what became of this pregnancy, but as now when Ruth returns she has no children by Wilson, we are to assume something went wrong. There is no thought of abortion anywhere in this text: it is not suppressed in the way of modern movies (a natural and real option not mentioned), but simply beyond these conventional people of the 1910s. I know from reading UK novels that abortion was certainly thought of in the 1920s when a young woman got pregnant, even to the point there were customs surrounding it, such as the man was supposed to help her find a good doctor, and when he didn’t do this, he was remiss (many didn’t though—this is part of Rosamond Lehmann’s The Weather in the Streets and also a life of Simon Raven where he gets his girlfriend pregnant and is just not up to this kind of stealth networking expected of “gentlemen”).

When Ruth’s mind switches to dealing with the present, we also gather she and Stuart have had a very hard life for 11 years. He was not able to become a successful businessman again once he left Freeport. Stuart’s TB has been a real burden to them. Not only had his wife refused to divorce him and stayed on living in this town and persisted in calling herself Wilson’s wife; she and all who knew her had treated Stuart and Ruth as pariahs and did all they could to ruin their reputation with others, and caused them to be distrusted. Ruth had been subjected to cruel slights and she and Stuart had fled to a far away state where they knew no one, Colorado.

Ted welcomes her stiffly, but he does welcome her and tries to get his siblings to do likewise. Gradually we see her sister, Harriett would also love her but for Harriett’s husband, Edgar, and Ruth’s other brother, Cyrus, a man who resembles George Eliot’s fierce brother who never accepted Eliot until after Lewes’s death; Cyrus is ugly in his behavior about money which at his death the father left equally to Ruth.

So what is so extraordinary? The conversations we are privy to which Ruth, Deane, and Ted, have with others. The meditations they have afterwards. Probably these are unrealistic as people don’t reveal themselves this way so cogently to one another nor do they see so lucidly into their minds or issues at hand. Some are idealized or dramatized so as to present a thematic point. But they are believable enough in the experience. I will expatiate on 5 long ones (turning points in the novel) and some interpersed shorter ones (which come at the end of the novel). Then I’ll make some general remarks by comparing the book to another novel by a woman written more recently, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake.

1) Deane’s wife, Amy, emerges as our first dense presence, and his conversations with her reveal the impossibility of a flexible open mind (Deane’s) reaching a narrow selfish one (Amy’s). Amy immediately rejects Ruth upon being told the story of what happened from the women who automatically rejected Ruth originally. She senses and then will and cannot accept Deane’s sympathy for Ruth. Deane’s whole attitude of mind appalls her and (this is important); she does not believe he is simply sympathetic, and takes the view he behaves the way he does because he loves Ruth. In other words, she is immediately sexually distrustful and then jealous. As the gap between them opens, we see that Amy has no heart for anything but her ego and looks upon herself as a prize or object she could have bestowed on someone making more money. She fully thinks that Deane looks at life this way. Deane is drawn to her sexually, but she is only “giving” sex and he does not realize they have nothing in common in their souls or attitudes of mind.

In the course of the novel we learn that Amy leaves Deane and that the town members blame Ruth—the bad evil sexed up woman, and Amy is glad to have her blamed. Yes Deane did, does and continues to love Ruth, but he would have been a faithful (in mind and body) husband to Amy had Amy had a heart to be faithful to him, to her supposed love for him. But it seems the only love she has is for herself.

Fear. The hatred of Ruth comes from fear of her sexuality. The
justification for excluding her is she has broken a bond which all
observe in order to keep marriages intact. Once she has sex outside marriage and takes “another woman’s husband” away, she is seen as someone who will do anything and not respect the customs that hold people in roles. She is not to be trusted with any women’s husband or anyone.

2) Then we have Ruth’s conversations with Annie. Annie’s story emerges when Ruth sees Annie selling vegetables, and approaches her to say hello. Annie was a schoolmate and someone “beneath” Ruth and is right now regarded by everyone of Ruth’s class with benign courteous contempt. The pretense is courtesy, the reality contempt. No one would invite Annie to their house in Ruth’s group. Annie is the only woman to welcome Ruth; Annie invites Ruth to her house. This is not probable, a kind of sentimentality and quick building of trust necessary to have the conversations.

In Annie Ruth finds a person living a rich inner life of startlingly unconventionality. Annie is living the life of solitude an author we are reading on Women Writers through the Ages, May Sarton, claims to (but does not—that’s a blog for another day). She is all alone except for when she goes selling her vegetables and fruits because she is considered beneath all those who are middle class. In fact they are her inferior when it comes to intelligence and depth of feeling.

Annie married within her class a man who makes little money and bores her. She has four children. She lives this unconventiononal—and fulfilled though lonely life through books. She thus remains “faithful” to an inward self she has discovered and she communes with great spirits in books. Hers is a hard scrabble life where she has no one to talk to, and she is tremendously happy to have Ruth stay with her for a few days after Ruth’s father dies and before Ruth returns to Stuart Wilson.

In Annie Ruth sees someone who has stayed faithful to herself without breaking outward conventions and how demanding achieving a modicum of safety this way is. Some of Annie’s loneliness comes from her poverty; no one bothers with her as they can get nothing from her; she hasn’t the manners ever to be invited to find more people like herself—or job situation which would bring her in contact with someone like herself. Books are precious to Annie. And she defines the difference between love and companoinships that counts. Two passages:

”’I wish you could stay longer,’ Annie went on, all the while working. ‘So – ’ she paused, and continued a little diffident … so we could really get acquainted; really talk. I hardly ever have anyone to talk to,’ she said wistfully. ‘One gets pretty lonely sometimes. It would be good to have someone to talk
to about the things one thinks.’
‘What are the things you think, Annie?’ Ruth asked impulsively.
‘Oh, no mighty thoughts,’ laughed Annie; ‘but of couse I’m always
thinking about things. We keep alive by thinking don’t we?’
Ruth gave her a startled look.
‘Perhaps it’s because I haven’t had from life itself much what I’d
like to have,’ Annie was going on, ‘that I’ve a world within. Can’t
let life cheat us, Ruth,’ she said … if we can’t have things in one
way – have to get them in another.’
Again Ruth looked at her in that startled way.”

A little later:

”’Romantic love is a wonderful thing,’ Annie pursued; “I suppose it’s the most beautiful thing in the world – while it lasts.’ She laughed in a queer, grim little way and gave a sharp twist to the knot she was tying. ‘Sometimes it opens up to another sort of love – love of another quality – and to companionship. It must be a beautiful thing – when it does that’ She hesitated a moment before she finished with a ‘ness that had that grim quality: ‘With me – it didn’t.’
‘So there came a time,’ she went on, and seemed newly to have gained serenity, ‘when I saw that I had to give up ….”

As a result of these conversations Ruth sees that all these 11 years she has been living in fear, and allowing the prejudices of her town to control her inner as well as outward life. She has not made friends, she has avoided public meetings, she has in effect imprisoned herself and she vows no longer to be afraid, and live faithfully to herself. She has not found solace in books because she has hated herself and felt guilty and ashamed. This consitutes an extraordinary chapter of insight about how people keep away from others and why and how they can let themselves become prisoners of the prejudices they do not live by themselves. Ruth realizes the way others regard her has been from a distance, and they cared only slightly, that the insults she so feared were if she could only feel this of little signficance to them and her.

3) Mildred and Ruth’s chapter-long talk. While at some parties or meetings which occur just after Ruth’s father dies, Ruth sees another younger woman, Mildred. Mildred she is told by Deane is known to be having an affair with a married man. She is around the same age Ruth was when she fell in love with Stuart. Ruth does not talk to Mildred—or anyone else much as she is basically ostracized by everyone and only accepted because such parties are the thing to do, and to let all the family members come is also a convention. While at Annie’s house, Mildred most unexpectedly comes to visit Ruth and another startlingly insightful encounter ensues.

Mildred has come to Ruth to be validated. She talks of intense love and what happens but that after Ruth has said to herself as a result of her conversation with Annie that she will be like Annie and not obey conventions or be afraid anymore, she does not validate Mildred but becomes passionate over how Mildred will hurt others. Ruth is imbued with how her father and mother were hurt, how Edith was, and how much her family has lost in reputation, prestige and she herself seems to suggest this love is not worth it. All along Ruth has been repeatedly told and shown that she hurt this or that person because another was prejudiced and stayed away from them or hurt a business.

Mildred is appalled by Ruth’s reaction and drives away. We learn later that Mildred was influenced by Ruth: the result: Mildred travelled with the most narrow and conventional of the women in the town, and now has returned and is going to marry a rich man and she is buying the Holland house and what she cares about is decorating it expensively and fancilty. She has become outwardly cold, sheerlymaterialistic and imbued with her position. She sold her dreams for this and is now determined to get her payment.

Ruth now thinks that she was filled with fear for Mildred when she refused to validate Mildred’s love and begins to see that convention is built out of fear for others. The we will go for what we want, but when asked about or for others we are living with we somehow give them conventional advice. (But Annie didn’t—either we are to take Ruth’s musings from an ironic standpoint by the narrator or see that Glaspell has forgotten that she idealized Annie.)

Ruth sees conventions as people imposing fears on other people they in private won’t impose on themselves but since all work to impose on one another, the conventions become deadening and destroy lives. This is a deeply persuasive passage which goes on for quite a bit.

4) The most horrifying and important conversation Ruth has in the whole book is probably with Harriett, her sister, and probably because it’s the most real. Harriett comes to visit Ruth before Ruth is to go back to Stuart. Harriett has a proposition. She presents herself as loving Ruth. All Ruth has to do to be re-accepted is ditch Stuart. Come back and live with her family.

Glaspell is the first writer I’ve come across to present this as the horror and disloyalty (lack of fidelity) it is. To Harriett all the 11 years Ruth lived with Stuart doesn’t matter; what will happen to him doesn’t matter. Nothing matters but that the law says Stuart is Marion’s husband and therefore he is. And that people intensely disapprove. On this basis Ruth is to give up her life with Stuart and him. Here is part of this one:

”[Harriett:] ‘We all feel it’s terrible this way. So this is what
Edgar [Harriett’s husband] proposed, and Cyrus agreed to it, and it seems to me thething to do.’ She stopped again, then said, in a
blurred voice, fumbling with the clover and not looking at Ruth. If
you will leave the – your – if you will leave the man you are living
with, promising never to see him again, – if you give that up and
come home we will do everything we can to stand by you, go on as best we can as if nothing had happen will try to -’
She looked up – and did not go on, but flushed uncomfortably at
sight of Ruth’s face – eyes wide incredulity, with something like horror.
‘You don’t mean that, do you, Harriett?’ Ruth a queer, quiet voice.
‘But we wanted to do something -’ Harriett be then again halted,
halted before the sudden blaze of Ruth’s eyes.
‘And you thought this -’ she broke off with a short alugh and sat
there a moment trying to gain control of When she spoke her voice was controlled but full of passion. ‘I don’t think,’ she said, ‘that I’ve ever known of a more monstrous – a more insulting proposal being made by one woman to another!’
‘Insulting?’ faltered Harriett.
Ruth did not at once reply but sat there so strangely regarding her
sister. ‘So this is your idea of life, is it, Harriett?’ she began in
the manner of one making a big effort to speak quietly. ‘This is your idea of marriage, is it? Here is the man I have lived with for eleven years. For eleven years we’ve met hard things together as best we could – worked, borne things wgether. Let me tell you something, Harriett. If that doesn’t marry people – tell me something. If that doesn’t marry people -just tell me, Harriett, what does?’
‘But you know you’re not married, Ruth,’ Harriett replied,
falteringly – for Ruth’s burning eyes never left her sister’s face.
‘You know – really – you’re not married. You know he’s not divorced, Ruth. He’s not your husband. He’s Marion Averley’s.’
‘You think so?’ Ruth flung back at her. ‘You really think so, do
you, Harriett? After those years together – brought together by love, united by living, by effort, by patience, by courage – I ask you again, Harriett, – if the things there have been between Stuart
Williams and me can’t make a marriage real- what can?’
‘The law is the law,’ murmured Harriett. ‘He is married to her. He
never was married to you.

I’ve just watched a TV mini-series costume drama by Harriet O’Carroll (based on a non-fiction book by Stella Tillyard) called Aristocrats where the real life story of Sarah Lennox was told. In order to be accepted back into her family, Sarah gave up a lover (who we are told had been disrespecting her but we don’t know that for sure) and has to live alone for years with the baby. This is presented in the film as good for her, teaching her to be serious and moral; in the book we see her suffer, but Tillyard the author does not at all criticize what happened from a humane standpoint.

5) The last long one I want to deal with is Ted’s with Stuart’s estranged wife, Marion. Ted is a young man, early 20s, and he suddenly wonders if anyone ever asked Marion to divorce Deane. He goes to visit Mildred and ask her if she will divorce the man she has no lived with for over 11 years. She is appalled at him, but in the ensuing conversation, he manages to ask her what she has gotten out of spending her life this way.

He leaves and we go inside her mind and discover that (presented in hints earlier) that she has lived a terrible 11 years, constantly keeping up a cool indifferent appearance, away from others so as to avoid and preclude their officious (and not real) piety. She had done this to get revenge. She remembers back under the pressure of Ted’s sudden assault that she had been partly to blame for Stuart’s pursuit of Ruth. She had when she first married Stuart been fastidious over sex and cold; she had not wanted to yield to him, to open up emotionally and show her vulnerability or physical enjoyment, and Stuart grew bored with her. He had had a couple of nights of sex) with a friend who came to stay with her. He confesses this, and she had been so angered that ever after she refused to have sex with him. Thus his affair with Ruth was partly the result of his frustration.

The sentimentality here is Marion changes. Most improbably during the next few days after Ted’s visit, Marion takes pity on a maid whom the plot conveniently inserts in the house as pregnant and in need of help. Marion’s generosity offends her housekeeper who leaves lest she be contaminated. And within the next year or so Marion does file for and divorce Stuart.

I am puzzled here. Why did she not divorce Stuart before? Why live a pariah who we are shown the rest of the community far from really sympathizing with makes into their lurid symbol, kept apart. She has always to keep up a face to meet faces. Is it the sex? I really think sex is at the center of this book. In terms of the book Marion doesn’t like sex, but I wonder if it’s thought polluting for her to remarry. It’s not okay for widows to remarry in 18th and 19th century novels the way it is for men.

This conversation is also still going on, this time I’ll adduce a movie in contemporary dress which played in moviehouses: in the movie, Sex and the city, one of the four women leaves her husband because he once has sex with another woman. We are shown this friend had been tiring of sex. It being a happy movie, she forgives and we are given this scene of terrific sex between the. But the value is validated—the idea one sexual fidelity of the most absolute kind is the basis of a marriage, like a bargain in a marketplace. He cheated so you’re out of here.

6) Then there are many shorter conversations and meditations interwoven throughout the book and a few right at the end. It’s those at the end I deal with here. Marion’s filing for divorce comes to Stuart and Ruth’s attention at the close of the novel when Ruth has returned home. At long last Stuart and Ruth can marry, but now she doesn’t want to. In fact they have grown apart and couldn’t face it until now. Their love didn’t last. It had never been companionship. At the close of the book he leaves her to start a business elsewhere. He is startled by her willingness to tell the truth and relieved. She is herself leaving the house they built and going to try to make a life for herself elsewhere. Not Freeport. Ted is her root and stake and he is (very like Biff’s dreams in Death of a Salesman) making an independent but hard life for himself on a farm. The emigrant’s dream coming to the US was independence.

Ted is at first distressed beyond measure that his sisters will not marry Stuart. She tries to make him see that this would not be faithful to herself or Stuart. Ted half sees it.

Deane and Ruth’s many talks. Near the end of the book, Deane sends a letter to Ruth: he is leaving Freeport and going to Europe to offer his services during the horrific conflagration that is WW1. Deane’s business as a doctor has been destroyed. Because Amy left him and the rumors over Ruth, gradually no one goes to him but when they are in deep trouble (This reminds me of Lydgate in Eliot’s Middlemarch and the doctor in Harriet Martineau’s Deerbrook. In these books decent good men are ostracized and their business fails because they do the right and decent thing which is disapproved of by a community of stupid bigots).

The great irony is it was Deane Ruth really should have married and loved—here was the companionship and soul mate she would have known. The problem was she was not sexually attracted to him; he was and is clumsy, not suave and openly in love with her, easy to have, and she was foolishly drawn to the distanced handsome engimatic forbidden man. But had she married him, she might never have appreciated him and thought of herself as bored. She does not see this—or at least never acknowledges it. I did as reader and think Deane knows.

For the flaws (so I won’t seem too overwhelmed), the style is so bare. There seems too little metaphor in the language; the only poetry or lyricism she will allow herself is in the description of this terrible town, Freeport, which not altogether paradoxically is described from afar and as part of a walking experience enchanting.

Nell Blaine (1922-96), Still Life with Shore (mid-20th century)


Glaspell’s novel is about class as well as about sex and is centrally American—about US society, its puritanism over sex and hypocrisies about class and community life. But it is mostly about sex and love and marriage and it’s an attitude towards these in modern western society I want to talk generally about.

I was struck by how much Glaspell’s buys into a belief in intense love and enthrallment. Ruth, her heroine, and Stuart Williams, the man Ruth becomes enthralled and then pregnant by, are helplessly in love. We don’t see any scenes between them of thrilling or happy or congenial conversation. We are just to believe in this love. Dean Franklin, the young man who plays the non-romantic hero who is the good husband material and the man in a Victorian novel (say by Ellen Wood’s sick East Lynne which I’ve also been trying and failing to read) would obviously be the man Ruth should marry and her family wants her to marry, Dean loves Ruth too.

I think I was struck by this because at the same time I’m listening
to Jhumpa Lahiri’s 2003 Namesake read aloud beautifully by Sarita Choudhurty—and read Kathy’s blog on Anne Chanan’s A Good Indian Wife. In Lahiri’s I find a reflection of what I have seen in my female Indian students and sometimes colleagues. I’ve known some Indian women students and gathered that they are taught to dismiss “silly” ideas about love. I’ve seen a number of them make fun of the notion they could fall in love with a young man and dismiss marriage as a sort of unimportant thing if it weren’t for their parents insisting. Then they will say that the parents do insist and it seems that they are being introduced to people with the right of refusing this or that one, but not marriage itself. And they are being discouraged from going to graduate school.

Perhaps they are better off being discouraged from believing in
romantic love. The idea of love has freed people from coerced
marriages, but it brings a lot of damage and blighted lives when this feeling is found not strong enough or real enough to cope with daily life, and certainly it’s presented as what initiated Ruth’s unhappy rebellion—for Ruth didn’t want to rebel; she had rather Stuart had not been married.

Jane Hahler, Bellefronte, PA (2006)

None of this is to deny I have lived nearly 39 years of my life based on the idea I fell in love and love my husband deeply. If it’s not love, I might as well call it that. And I did throw over much to get married, but I never lived near anything like or had anything like the whole world Ruth is part of—loving parents, 4 siblings, friends, “natural” upstanding money-making mate waiting for her (Deane).


I have gone on too long but I really think Glaspell’s book is an important one for women and Lahiri’s deeply moving too. Persephone books is to be commended for reprinting Fidelity. It seems to have been ignored, bypassed by Virago who go for the Jane Austen genteel books much more :). In a comment to a previous blog, I talked about Mira Nair’s film adaptation of Lahiri’s novel (also called the Namesake, with Tabu who played the Elinor Dashwood role in I have Found it as the heroine).


Posted by: Ellen

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  1. P.S. It's true that the unacknowledged and most undiscussed (not even in novels) customs over abortion I mentioned in the UK are later ones, post WW2; the story of Weather in the Streets is early 1930s and Simon Raven’s story comes from then; a mini-series I saw on TV (Longitude) presents a simiar "expectations" for gentlemen in the 1920s where the “expected” thing is the husband whose wife wants a divorce is to hire someone to be photographed with him in a compromising way so the wife can sue him for adultery; when he doesn’t do this, she has her lawyer accuse him of being “unfit” emotionally and gets an official separation that way.

    Elinor    Oct 8, 10:58pm    #
  2. P.P. S. A mere half century and a decade lies between Glaspell’s Fidelity and Ellen Wood’s East Lynne. As time really exists in the history of women, this is a drop in the bucket. Yet one cannot find two more startlingly disparate treatments of the same subject: for the center of Fidelity is a woman who has an affair with a married man, gets pregnant by him and runs away with him. That’s not adultery but the community around Ruth Holland (in Fidelity) treats her just as hostilely, as a pariah, a horror. The authors of both want sympathy for their heroine; the class system is as strong, but there the resemblance stops.

    Perhaps one important facilitator of Ruth’s freedom is she has no children. The famous thing about Isabel Vane is she has children by her husband, is thrown out and loses all contact with them, and then after an accident thought dead, and then comes back to care for them as their servile governess. They never know she was their mother.

    One astonishing thing to me was a parallel I recognized between East Lynne and of all books, Graham Swift’s 1990s Last Orders (which I’m doing with my students). In LO there is an improbable story. A woman, Amy Dodds, spends 50 years, twice a week going by bus to a home to see a totally imbecilic daughter she gave birth to. She says she went in the hope of just once, just
    once, hearing this daughter acknowledge her as her mother and indicate she felt something for her. Never once did this imbecilic child ever recognize Amy as her mother. In the novel the father will not have anything to do with this daughter and Amy has gone partly to revenge herself on him for not accepting the daughter and not loving her Amy (it was a shotgun marriage).

    Well, this is a parallel with Wood’s East Lynne. Isabel Vane’s great torture is that her children do not recognize her as their mother, they never say they love her as their mother. In the movie but not the book a famous line is spoken: something like “Dead, dead! and never recognized as their mother.” This is total madness—or so it seems to me. What morbid rot. A pathological outgrowth of imposed “norms” so incessantly inculcated it becomes a form of insanity.

    I’ve realized more than once just how wallowingly sentimental Last Orders is. The men go on this sentimental journey; they are pilgrims in a progress, like Chaucer’s pilgrims stop off at Canterbury &c&c, but not been able to think through the craziness Amy’s trips represents.

    Elinor    Oct 9, 12:24am    #

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