We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.
It’s hard to come up with a thematic interpretation of this part. I’ve offered a transcript of the one moving scene, and a careful outline and summary of the episodes. For 6:12, a transition (see soap opera aesthetics) from the Phineas & Laura matter Part 1 to this Lizzie matter, I’ve provided a blog on its gripping theme about loneliness, isolated people herding together; lonely friends.
In this Part genuinely made of of all Lizzie matter and centered on this spoiled hard mean childwoman Raven has conjured up, it seems to me there is a cynical or sheerly commercial use of crude stereotypes at its core, but since we did manage to come up with some coherent talk about it on Trollope-l, I here put some of this discussion on the blog. We asked what was changed, and in the changes that seem significant we found some purpose & meaning.
It seemed to me significant that the actress put on the cover of the DVD is Penelope Keith as Clara Hittaway (she hits away) and the penultimate climactic—and purely invented even if allowed for by a sentence early in ED—scenes are of Clara bullying Lord Fawn (Derek Jacobi), and then he obeying his sister and proposing to Madame Max (Barbara Murray) and then succumbing to bullying by Lady Glena and finally Lizzie Eustace (before the Sergeant returns with news of Lizzie’s coming exposure). When I’ve discussed the Palliser films with others among those who’ve seen them all and remember them, it doesn’t long before Derek Jacobi’s performance as Fawn is remembered and pronounded capital.
In short, domineering women is the chief motif of this Part and if there is anything serious here, it’s the exposure of hollow strength. Lizzie has not won, but lost big. Lady Glen’s (Susan Hampshire) appearance at Lady Eustace’s bedside and successful bullying of Lord Fawn provides Lizzie with nothing substantial she can use nor does it do anything practically for Lady Glen; like the diamonds at the center of the story, you can’t eat this and it won’t give you shelter. Tellingly, Lady Glen is momentarily embarrassed by the men going in and out of the room. She is a deluded innocent:
Lady Glen’s (Susan Hampshire) body language says, “Yikes! Yet another man in this woman’s bedroom?”
How unnerving. And she’s right.
Lady Glen is kept safe, dignified, respectable, by the patriarchy whose rules she obeys. Trollope took umbrage at the Becky Sharp character and hoped to succeed in bringing it down because he loathed admiration for any femme fatale. In Trollope’s novel, Lizzie is not prostitute, good mother/wife, babe, sidekick to a male adventurer action hero or “male wanna be. She is an amoral women in a male hegemonic environment in private life, but not a prostitute, not someone who can be ejected and that’s because she was married to Eustace and has money. Raven just doesn’t take the femme fatale stereotype seriously; he doesn’t believe such a woman has any real power in life. Since he doesn’t, and he has no interest in the protofeminism of Eustace Diamonds, he is left going through the exercise of the central parodic murder mystery in order to get to the Phineas (Donal McCann) and Palliser matter once again.
The domination of the Duke of Omnium (Roland Culver) is another change: from the opening of Lizzie’s story he has been there, titillated, encouraging on her side. When Trollope produces the first of his many portraits and history-backgrounds of Lizzie Eustace (ED, Ch 1), he begins with Admiral Greystock and he suggests she is a chip off the old block, but Trollope’s Duke did not know Greystock. Raven’s Duke remembers the Admiral well. A reinforcing new added detail is the Admiral’s first name: Horace. This may be Raven alluding to Trollope, who from An Old Man’s Love we know read and reread Horace with great delight. In the film the actor playing Omnium as a lecherous dirty old man in 2:11-13 takes great delight in the lurid stories of Lizzie: a large overall theme of the series is a transition from a hierarchical, formal coercive aristocracy in charge (1:1) to a more egalitarian world where the parents allow their children to make their own choice of mate and marry for love (12:26). So the Duke belongs to this older world, and he sees Lizzie as the sort of woman men in that world “enjoyed.” The femme fatale as a type is no longer with us in realistic stories.
I offer the idea that the character most contrasted to the Duke of Omnium across the whole series is Phineas Finn: the man who makes his way in the world and works in it for himself and others and wins out based on work and personal merit; the Duke has done nothing but act out an imperial part in public and work to keep his family a powerful wealthy clique. He is Phineas’s true rival for Madame Max’s affections, and had Phineas been willing earlier, she would have given herself to him. And this is consonant with Trollope’s attitude towards the Duke who through Trollope’s Madame Max we are told lived a life no man should live if he wants to be a decent human being. Lady Glen’s cool remark she doesn’t want him dying of a tantrum, better to die of orange curacoa (a long scene which is also a development of a single line in Phineas Redux) shows her real attitude towards the old man. She does her duty as part of her bargain in the old regime.
Against this background, the Part is still an interlude but it fits into the series’ larger themes (beyond the infantilizing of women and endorsement of male hegemony) too. Nick described another aspect of this in the invented scenes with Fawn.
“But firstly the scene in which she appears at the Fawn family breakfast is very funny – it opens to the sound of Fawn his mother and seven sisters cracking their eggs in rhythm (a rare interesting use of sound in the series) – the comedy is Ealing (I thought of Kind Hearts and Coronets). Mrs Hittaway destroys this eccentric family harmony with a pitiless analysis of Fawn’s need to obtain a rich wife so he can get money. She cuts right through all ideas of love, respectability, affection, family feeling and insists on the primacy and centrality of money (this is mirrored by Mrs Carbuncle who keeps telling Lizzie that money is much better than diamonds). Raven gets hard here – and he gets Trollopian too, because even if the scene itself is not there money always, always is. Now given this you could then have an interesting clash between the demand for money and another set of values – but as Fawn is presented as an emasculated joke, and we have no Lucy Morris, no such conflict occurs. “The two scenes in which [Madame Max] offers herself to Phineas are both beautifully staged, acted and realised [6:11, 6:12]. We have here real pain, real adult feeling. They contrast strongly with much of the rest of the material in these episodes.”
Raven throughout exposes the hypocrisy of the older order.
Plantagenet Palliser (Philip Latham) explaining to Duke how modern law operates in Lizzie Eustace case
To conclude, there is an unease in the whole of Trollope’s Eustace Diamonds. A. O Cockshut wrote a perceptive essay on the book as bitterly pessimistic, looking into cynicism and finding the outlook to have merit but I think it’s deeper than that. If it were just that, Raven and his fellow film-makers (studying these films has made me admit that not just screenplay writer and director, but producer, cinematographer, production designer are as central, not to omit the company executives who decide how much will be spent), Raven and Co would not have had such a hard time. Cockshut is pre-feminist in his writing (pre-1970s) and simply erases how many women there are in the book and their roles.
Trollope is acutely uncomfortable with the amoral strong woman who is often presented as a femme fatale in earlier literature; unlike Thackeray who feels ambivalent towards Becky Sharp, Trollope distrusts and dislikes her, and yet he puts his version of this type at the center of this book. I think he did it partly to sell the book; he also is imitating Collins whose methods he takes out time more than once to mock and say he finds tedious and tiresome. He just doesn’t care what time this event took place precisely or where or even who particularly did the crime unless the character is interesting.
Not only Miss MacNulty, but (in effect) Lucy Morris is dropped, Lucinda is dropped (the two other heroines of the book). The bossy minor characters are brought in, and Lizzie is made a coarse kind of woman, a Widow Greenow (who was lopped from CYFH?), a greedy ravenous hollow woman (though in Trollope the Widow Greenow is partly redeemed by her love for her niece and honesty before herself). The only other women who moves the plot in these episodes is Mary Floyd Jones who is an absolute contrast to Lizzie, giving all, asking nothing but love and loyalty.
In Eustace Diamonds Lucinda is driven mad and Lucy treated very shabbily until minimum decency leads Frank to marry her (rather like Phineas marries Mary in Trollope). Read against the grain (or overread slightly), Trollope’s Eustace Diamonds does (to use Nick’s words) “expose the real economic position of the single woman without means.”
Raven and his film-makers ridicule the emasculated non macho-male and show intense distaste for the bully women—they also show distaste for Adelaide Palliser by making her heavy and an absurd husband-hunter. Sarah Badel has cooperated by playing Lizzie in a way that makes her thoroughly unlikable; the minute her “friends” are gone she is insolent and arrogant to her maid; the men she meets are really so many toilet seats in which she dumps her appetites. The comedy and plan of Mrs Hittaway to get Madame Max to say yes and then engagement fixed too late for lady to withdraw is a parallel of what Lizzie hopes to do to Fawn. The dialogue over Trollope’s Noble Jilt also becomes a parallel, not only an exposure of Mrs Carbuncle’s blindness to herself but about how one can break an engagement. Lizzie’s willingness to break that and a marriage frame her as a hollow slut. Into her bedroom we have seen Emilius reading erotically (that’s her use of the Bible), and Frank kissing and falling into the bed. The diamonds as she uses them might as well be paste, for she is.
This ridicule obcures the larger theme of a work-ethic order which allows for marriage for love replacing a sheerly hierarchical one where marriages are arranged to keep up the hierarchy.
There is some good feeling in this Part and it’s provided by the Matching Priory people and Phineas and Mary, and these characters are kept before us so we will have some tonic and sense of non-hollow people to keep our spirits cheered. Trollope does not use the scenes at Matching this way and he does not. include Phineas nor Mary in this book.
I could quote Tennyson on the old order giving place to the new, but as this 7:13 seems to me perverse, sneering at men who are not macho and finally dismissing Lizzie not because she’s amoral in all ways, but because she lied at the wrong time and in the wrong place and has not sold herself to one man in marriage.
Gramsci: The old order is dead. The new order cannot yet be born. In this interregnum, a variety of pathological symptoms arises.
The hard-working Sergeant Bunfit triumphant at last
On to the end of this material and the opening phase of Phineas Redux (7:14).
Posted by: Ellen
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