THESIS – THE WRITING OF ‘MADAM PELE: A Contemporary Fantasy Novel’


What led me to write my novel ‘Madam Pele’, as a contemporary Mythical Fantasy novel – including discussions of both literary theory and influential authors of several genres.

For those of you who wish to view the complete Thesis, the following Link takes you directly to my Thesis page within the Edith Cowan University Repository.   Click on Madam Pele: novel and essay to open, then scroll and read the complete Thesis.

http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/37

Below is a Synopsis laying out the format of the Thesis.

ABSTRACT

In this essay I cover contemporary theoretical considerations, such as Modernism, Postmodernism and Fantasy, and the influences of various authors’ writing techniques, descriptive language and narrative-plot genres, that led me to want to write my novel Madam Pele as a contemporary mythical fantasy.

Naturally, my personal experiences form the foundation of the novel, especially those in Hawaii which contribute to its scope, but writing style is of equal importance.  In order to demonstrate what has led me to this stage of style development and position of perceptions, my early reading history and an analysis of the influential authors is a necessity.

‘Travelogue’ novels.

My definition of a ‘travelogue’ novel is one that describes the details of a journey to another country or location, as the vehicle for the story which is often secondary to those details.  I discuss two influential ‘travelogue’ novels: A Pattern of Islands by Arthur Grimble, and Faraway by J B Priestley.

Crime novel plotting.

Having, over the years, accumulated an extensive library in Crime/Mystery fiction, with their often complex logical plots, I have learned not only to apply my analytical mind, by focussing on minutiae, but have gained a firm grounding in plot construction.

Analysis of influential authors.

Moving through the works of various authors I rejected many and was drawn closely to others.  I found that the novels that remained embedded in my mind contained the elements of satisfying plots, and mystery that was not always criminal, as I was drawn towards fantasy fiction.

Modern and Postmodern characteristics.

I discuss what characteristics constitute Modernism and Postmodernism, listing them as gleaned from my studies of Literary Theory, and reinforcing it with quotes from  Lewis and Moss.

Descriptive Language.

I define some literary terms, such as metaphor, simile, metonymy and synecdoche, and the specified or unspecified tenor of these language tropes which were often used figuratively.  They could all evoke an image that was instantly recognized, including the connotations of the chosen likenesses, and the baggage of intertextuality, the resultant image suggested – imagery contributing to the clarity of the wit, humour and landscape of the authors’ texts.

A particular knack with words.

Under this heading I deal with those authors whose works demonstrate this particular language use, plus aspects of literary theory that have been influential to my writing style.

Dylan Thomas:  I discuss Dylan Thomas’s use of evocative language in his prose, in some detail, referring to works such as Quite Early One Morning, HolidayMemory, and Under Milk Wood.  I love his prose.  It is easy, enjoyable, and engaging to read, written to be read aloud so that the music of the language can be heard.

P G Wodehouse:  While his plots and characters provide some comic nature to his stories, I believe the main contribution comes from his use of language, his surprising descriptive imagery, his use of metaphors and similes.  They engender chuckles that swell to gales of laughter.  I discuss this aspect of his writing, referring to Galahad at Blandings to illustrate my views.

Tim Winton:  Like P G Wodehouse, Tim Winton is a crafter of words, with the gift of creating evocative imagery.   I discuss his novel Lockie Leonard, HumanTorpedo, with its colloquial Australian language; followed by a detailed analysis of his novel The Riders and the Postmodern aspects of its text, including fantasy elements.

William Golding:  In his novel, Pincher Martin, Golding depicts the plight of a man lost at sea during the war, struggling to survive the elements while stranded on an isolated rock.  This novel demonstrates a Bakhtinian notion of ‘self’, as the protagonist strives to retain his identity without a reflected image or his view of himself as seen by others.

Fantasy.

            After defining Fantasy, Imagery and the Imagination, arguing for the legitimacy of fantasy as a general product of the imagination in line with Coleridge, Tolkien, and Le Guin’s opinions, I indicate the different types of Fantasy – High Fantasy, Sci-Fi Fantasy, and Realistic Fantasy – pointing out that my novel, Madam Pele, falls between High Fantasy and Realistic Fantasy, containing as it does authentic mythology presented within a real setting.

Analysis of influential authors.

High Fantasy.

I discuss J R R Tolkien’s views expressed in his essay On Fairy Stories, using an extract from my Honours thesis most of which I have included as an Appendix.

Sci-Fi Fantasy.

Briefly I discuss the works of Julian May, and glanced at “the increasingly inaccurately named Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy” byDouglas Adams.

Realistic Fantasy.

            The authors under this heading constitute my main focus as they deal with the area that I have chosen for my own novel.  Each has its own area of fantasy that is relevant to my work as indicated.

William Golding:  one step outside reality in The Inheritors.

Patricia Wrightson:  re her rock character in The Nargun and the stars.

Daphne Du Maurier: her temporal slippage between medieval and current Cornwall in The House on the Strand.

Susan Cooper: re her detailed use of medieval myths and symbols to authenticate her Dark is Rising series

J K Rowling: re the compounding complexities of her wizard world narratives.

Contemporary Fantasy.

This refers to other authors using postmodern format for fantasy, who opened doors for me to future writing possibilities.

Madam Pele : the novel.

My goal was to recreate an authentic myth into a contemporary literary myth including sufficient elements of the realistic novel to provide access to modern readers.  This section illustrates the methods that I used to achieve this.

Madam Pele – outline.

This gives a brief synopsis of my narrative, covering both the Hawaiian holiday taken by Di and Paul, but also their present predicament in Perth and their interaction with Madam Pele.

The importance of Madam Pele.

I discuss the importance of the character of Madam Pele to my narrative, through which her own story interweaves.

Postmodern characteristics.

I relist these characteristics and discuss their relevance within my narrative.

Geometric plotline.

This explains my geometric way of looking at the plotline, and includes a diagram.

Devices.

After defining the term, devices, I then discuss each device individually, showing how and why I have used it as a writing technique, under the subheadings: Dialogue; Non-essential descriptions; Patterns; Voices; Active Verbs; Free Verse; Inserts; ‘Travelogue’ nature.

 

Conclusion.

I mention that I hope my demonstration was successful regarding my reasons for writing my novel, Madam Pele, as a contemporary mythical fantasy, and that it indeed stands up as such – the implausable becoming reality with the Pele myth incorporated into the contemporary world.

SEMINAR on NARRATIVE POETRY


This was the Seminar I gave while at University during the late 1990s.  It was the precursor for my Essay NARRATIVE POETRY so is identical in places.  However, there is an oratorial nuance that underlies this version.  I have left in the ‘Read from ….’ lines, as they show how there were several larger portions of text read from the relevant works.  The Medieval texts were read, fluently, by Professor Andrew Taylor to demonstrate the nature of these texts as the Medieval audience would have perceived them – via the sound of the words as well as the allegorical narrative content.

Before the written word, verse was the form in which oral tales were told.  And when the written form began to appear, its form was still that of verse – alliterative verse with patterns of syllabic and spatial stress, i.e. metre and caesura, within each line, and, in some cases, rhyming patterns.  Their content was mainly of two kinds – heroic tales of super-powerful men battling super-natural enemies (monsters, dragons) as in Beowulf (C 8-10th), and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (about 1400); and allegories where abstract human traits were personified in order to drive home a homily on religious behaviour as in the C14th works, Piers the Plowman, Pearl and Canterbury Tales.

Read from Piers the Plowman

With the advent of the novel in the mid-eighteenth century, the narrative function of verse was usurped, leaving it as a vehicle for the expression of ideas – love, hate, revenge, pity, ambition; of ideals – political, social, cultural; and of nature – land-and-sea-scapes, flora, fauna, artifacts, and humans. At this time poets were exploring ideas rather than expounding narratives, mixing story with contemplation.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (pp. 567-581) is not a short poem, but equates with a short story in length, and in content.  Chaucer by William Wadsworth Longfellow (pp. 679-680) presents a portrait of a poet that could be expanded into a short story.  The Listeners by Walter de la Mare (pp. 906-7) is a narrative belonging to the fiction fantasy/thriller genre and reminds me just a little of J B Priestley’s short story BenightedSnake by D H Lawrence (pp. 952-4) tells of a confrontation between man/culture and nature.  The Hunchback in the Park by Dylan Thomas (pp. 1178-9) makes a social comment, while Boy at the Window by Richard Wilbur (p. 1222) comments on cultural perspectives.  Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers and Living in Sin by Adrienne Rich (p. 1309) provide narrative cameos of modern life, with a wealth of information in a few words.

My task is to ascertain how these poems tell their narratives, and in what way they differ from short fiction, and to point out their similarities. The definition of narrative is a significant factor.  According to Abrams in A Glossary of Literary Terms,

a narrative is a story, whether in prose or verse, involving events, characters, and what the characters say and do…. Narratologists treat a narrative not in the traditional way, as a fictional representation of life, but as a systematic formal construction … the way that narrative discourse fashions a “story” … into the organized structure of a literary plot.(Abrams, 1993, pp. 123-4)

To facilitate the construction of the narrative, poets resort/resorted to the use of several devices, which we have already covered in the previous seminars – those of imagery, metaphor, simile, metonymy, alliteration, rhythm, metre and rhyme.  While the first five are used equally by prose-writers, the latter three are specific tools of poetry.

Another factor that differentiates between a narrative verse and a short story is the obvious one of length – that is, economy of language.  Yet most early narrative verses were much longer than many short stories.  However, later narrative verses, including the long ones, used economy of language, saying a great deal with few words, as compressed meditative poems do.  The Medieval Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Piers Plowman told complex narratives in formal structures, with interlaced flashbacks, symbolic and allegoric sub-plots.  Similarly, many modern short stories use flashbacks, symbolism and inter-textual references to expand the content of the narrative.  According to C S Lewis, “allegory is a mode of expression [which] belongs to the form of poetry, more than to its content … [s]ymbolism is a mode of thought …” (Lewis, 1958, p. 48)(my underlining)

In Medieval times, the function of the narrative was divided – as entertainment, and as the vehicle for spiritual or physical lessons in life.  This function underwent a change during the Renaissance, moving away from the heavily allegoric and epic towards the symbolic and metaphoric.  Lessons were still there to be learnt but they were not the prime motivation for the poem.  Narrative works became shorter and less frequent, as emotions and subjects involving the senses became more popular.  Yet throughout this time myth and its creatures were still used as vehicles for idealistic standards.

In Coleridge’s narrative poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the  mystic and symbolic abound.  Events were governed by omens and curses.  When the Mariner shot the Albatross, symbolic of good luck at sea, with his crossbow, he realised that he:

          … had done a hellish thing,
          And it would work ‘em woe:
          For all averred, I had killed the bird
          That made the breeze to blow.
          (Norton, 1983, p. 569, lines. 91-4)

During his tribulations at sea, including the death of his companions, and his own near-death, spiritual beings both good and evil manifested to assist the Mariner to learn the lesson that:

          He prayeth well, who loveth well
          Both man and bird and beast.
         He prayeth best, who loveth best
          All things both great and small;
          For the dear God who loveth us,
          He made and loveth all. (ibid,
          p. 581, lines 612-3,616-7)

Coleridge used patterns in his verse structure – the first and third lines were of iambic tetrameter, and the second and fourth lines rhymed – and most of the stanzas were quatrains, though there were a few six line stanzas.  The rhythms these patterns set up enhance the narration, especially if read aloud, or performed.

Longfellow’s Chaucer evokes a picture of the poet sitting surrounded by artworks that illustrate his penchance for nature.  The sonnet harks back to Chaucer’s own major work The Canterbury Tales – a  narrative verse of epic proportions in which the characters tell tales to pass the time on their journey of pilgimage; tales involving characters of all classes, and including tales of talking animals and birds.

Read from The Canterbury Tales

This tale of Chanticleer the rooster, who through cunning escapes the clutches of a fox, is a retelling of an Aesop fable.  Longfellow evinces from the reader of his poem all of this pre-existent narrative knowledge, by the lines:

                                            . . . and as I read
          I hear the crowing cock, I hear the note
             Of lark and linnet, and from every page
             Rise odors of plowed field or flowery mead.
         (ibid. p. 680)

Thus a poem can be a vehicle for past narratives, achieved by a touching reference of a few words.  If told in short story form, this character sketch would need expansion of these inter-textual references that can be alluded to in verse form.  Longfellow wrote the one stanza sonnet using ten syllables lines that were a mixture of Iambic and anapestic trimeter, and an orderly rhyming pattern – ABBA ABBA CDECDE – that facilitates ease of reading.

By the closing of the nineteenth century, much poetry had moved away from the narrative.  Walter de la Mare wrote poems about concepts, like Goodbye and Away, but also wrote a narrative verse called The Listeners which dealt with a Traveler’s experience at a “lone house” one moonlit night.  It tells of “phantom listeners” who

   Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
       To that voice from the world of men:
   Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
       That goes down to the empty hall,
   Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
        By the lonely Traveler’s call. (ibid, p. 906)

It doesn’t just describe an eerie moment though.  With the lines:

    “Tell them I came, and no one answered,
          That I kept my word,” he said. (ibid, p. 906)

the narrative expands, teasing the reader with the hint that there is more to the Traveler’s visit to the house than mere chance.  It is left to the reader to fill the gaps.  This is where poetry has the edge on prose – it can tell parts of a narrative, leave whole swathes of information out, yet leave the reader with the knowledge that a tale has been told, and one that fits a bigger picture.  Short story can do this too, although it is rarely done with the same degree of brevity.  According to Dylan Thomas, in his essay , ‘Walter de la Mare as a Prose Writer’, he describes de la Mare’s “elaborate language, [as] fuller than ever of artifice and allusion when it was seemingly simple”. (Thomas, 1983, pp. 110-111)  He believed de la Mare’s

[c]ountry terror was a little cosy, so that you felt not that
som
ething nasty had happened in the woodshed but that
there were quite hellish goings-on among the wool-
baskets
in the parlour. (ibid, p. 110)

Of the same era as de la Mare, D H Lawrence wrote poems about objects like Piano, and concepts like Elemental and Self-Protection.  With his poem Snake he wrote of nature as seen and experienced from a cultural position.  The narrative describes the coming of the snake to the poet’s water-trough, giving a physical description of the snake and its actions, followed by his reaction based on fear of snakes bred into him.  As a result of this fear, he killed the snake.

          And immediately I regretted it.
        I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
        I despised myself and the voices of my accursed
                 human education. (Norton, 1983, p. 953)

With a touch of intertextuality Lawrence refers to the albatross of Coleridge’s poem, and the connotations that accompany it.

          And I thought of the albatross
        And I wished he would come back, my snake.
       (ibid, p. 954)

Of significance in these two poems is a breaking away from the formal structure of verse.  Walter de la Mare’s poem was of mixed metrical patterns, with alternate lines rhyming, and no stanzas.  D H    Lawrence abandoned all formal patterns of line-length, stanza-length, and rhyme-grouping.  There were no rhymes, and the line lengths were often those of sentences.  In other words he wrote free verse.  The line between prose and poetry, for those who need their literature to be placed in neat little boxes clearly defined and labeled, was beginning to blur.

Of the twentieth century, Dylan Thomas specialised in the sounds of words and their interplay to form vivid and unusual images.  Of mixed metre in six line stanzas, with intermittent rhyming, his poem The Hunchback in the Park (Norton, 1983, pp 1178 – 1179) tells a sad social tale of a homeless man forced to sleep in a “dog kennel”. Much of the narrative is implied yet evocative by his turn of phrase – for example “the Sunday somber bell at dark” that tells of the bell rung to inform visitors that the park is closing implies the tolling of the church bell, carrying with it notions of religion, of Christian attitudes which should encompass the sheltering of all God’s creations, including the aged and poor. The narrative is also that of the park, Cwmdonkin Park in the industrial Welsh town in which Thomas grew up.

Read from The Hunchback in the Park

A favourite of mine, Richard Wilbur’s Boy at the Window tells of two points of view, two perspectives on life and what constitutes security and safety.  Yet it tells a tale – of a boy snug inside a warm house watching a snowman outside in a storm, and of the snowman watching the boy staring out of:

                    . . . the bright pane surrounded by
          Such warmth, such light, such love, and so much fear.
          (ibid, p. 1222)

Told with a degree of formality in two brief eight-line stanzas, iambic pentameter, an ABBA BCBC pattern of rhyming, and an economy of words, Wilbur’s narrative is nevertheless crammed with details. His referral to Adam and Paradise shows a leaning towards the earlier poetry, where religion and myth were used as signposts to further meaning, and to strict standards.  Yet the narrative is modern in its use of perspectives and the emotions, the senses it arouses.

Both of Adrienne Rich’s poems, Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers and Living in Sin tell stories – the former ballad in a structured way with rhyming couplets in four line stanzas of regular iambic pentameter stresses; the latter unstructured, with no rhymes, irregular metric lines and no stanzas.  In Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers her life is revealed not just by her tapestry, but also by:

The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band [that]
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand. (ibid, p. 1309)

We learn by those two lines that her life has been controlled by her husband, has been restricted.  As she depicts the tigers, free “and unafraid” upon the screen, the reader shares a knowledge of the sense of her longing for freedom.

Living in Sin tells a tale of adultery, of an illicit affair with the milkman.  Rich used words like heresy, sepulchral, and demons to remind the reader of the religious immorality of the protagonist’s way of life.  With words like “beetles”, “dust”, “cigarettes” and “the coffee-pot boil[ing] over on the stove”, the notion of the sordid nature of the affair is underlined.  The final commentary leaves the reader in no doubt.

         [S]he woke sometimes to feel the daylight coming
          like a relentless milkman up the stairs. (ibid, p. 1309)

The futility, and the inevitability of the continuation of the affair is driven home.

In these postmodern days, verse has seen a return to its original narrative function although in a much less formal form – free verse, with its lack of structured metre, stanzas, and rhyme.  In The Monkey’s Mask, by Dorothy Porter, a modern fictional genre, that of murder mystery with a lesbian detective, is presented in verse form.

Read from The Monkey’s Mask

(C) Jud House  17/02/2013

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abrams, M H (1993)  A Glossary of Literary Terms 6th Edition.  Fort Worth:  Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

Allison, Barrows, Blake, Carr, Eastman, & English Jnr; + Stallworthy (essay) (1983)  The Norton Anthology of Poetry 3rd Edition.  New York:  W W Norton & Company. (REFERRED TO AS NORTON)

Lewis, C S (1936;1958)  The Allegory of Love – A Study of Medieval Tradition.  New York:  A Galaxy Book, Oxford University Press 1958.

Thomas, D (1983)  Quite Early One Morning – Poems, Stories, Essays.  London:  J M Dent & Sons Ltd.

Mentioned Narratives

Alexander, M (Trans. 1973)  Beowulf.  Harmondsworth:  Penguin Classics, Penguin Books Ltd.

Chaucer, G The Canterbury Tales  Trans. Coghill, Nevill (1970)  Middlesex:  Penguin Classics, Penguin Books Ltd.

Langland, W  (1377)  Piers the Plowman.  Edited by Skeat, Rev W W (1869)  Edition: (1958) Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Porter, D (1997)  The Monkey’s Mask.  South Melbourne: Hyland House Publishing Pty Ltd.

Tolkien, J R R (1995)  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo.  London: Harper Collins Publishers.

* * * * *

PETER CAREY – BLISS – NOVEL & MOVIE




NARRATIVE DEVICES

In the novel, BLISS, Peter Carey used a number of narrative devices to facilitate the conveyance of the story.  The most significant of these was his use of storytelling – he created narratives within a narrative, or what Robert Scholes called fabulation in his book ‘FABULATION AND METAFICTION’ (Scholes, cited Dovey, 1983)  For example, by the means of Vance’s story of New York:

In New York there are towers of glass.  It is the most beautiful and terrible city on earth.  All good, all evil exist there. . . . If you know where to look, you can find the devil.  That is where he lives. . . . But New York is full of saints, they . . .” (Carey, 1982 p. 18).

Carey was able to introduce the ideas of power, evil, goodness, and fascination with America generally, and New York in particular into the story.  This fabulation was varied and involved many of his characters.

Primarily the stories told to Harry by his father, Vance, then retold by Harry to his family, friends and work associates, were the basis for Bettina’s dreams and aspirations of success, while they became a security blanket for Harry in times of stress.  From them sprang the lies and dreams of his son, David, who wanted to be able to tell stories like his father.  When he discovered that he had no talents for narration, he determined to live out a story of his own devising, even though it led to his death.

Alex Duval’s secret, truthful reports were another variation of storytelling, and another device for bringing the theme of cancer and corruption to the attention of the reader.  It also re-introduced the message of punishment for wrong-doing which gradually built up within the story.

Honey Barbara’s stories of her commune home, of Krishna and folk-law, and even of the ‘dream police’, were also a form of fabulation.  They suggested an alternative lifestyle to the corrupt, degenerate one that Harry was currently living – a tempting Paradise as a foil for the Hell in which he felt trapped.

Bettina’s advertisements, and her dreams of New York, were also fabulation, providing her character with substance and a sense of reality.  At the asylum the old man, Nurse, who wrote down his memories so he wouldn’t forget them after treatment; the matron, Alice Dalton, who told the boy scouts about the business of running an asylum; at the restaurant Aldo, with his  story of his cancer and its treatment with marijuana; from the circus, Billy de Vere, who told the elephant story which became a reality, and a nightmare for Harry – all added their individual stories to the composite narrative.

By using these individuals to tell their separate stories, Carey was able to present the reader with a variety of viewpoints, despite the fact that he had the overall narrative being presented by a single narrator, who was eventually revealed as one of Harry and Honey Barabara’s children.

In the movie this use of narrator was altered, although it was still a device used to draw the viewer’s attention to the theme of storytelling throughout the movie.  It opened with Harry (in the present) telling a story, which he called ‘The Vision Splendid’ as told to him by his father.  This immediately introduced the viewer to the religious nature of the coming movie, yet what followed didn’t initially seem so.  Rather the next scene showed family and friends at the aftermath of a dinner-party, drinking, smoking, swearing and appearing generally debauched.  This device of visual gluttony and degradation was used as a device several times in the movie to draw attention to the Hellish nature of Harry’s existence.

The next narrator, who we recognised as an older Harry, then took over the narration to tell of Harry’s deaths, madness, and final move to Paradise.  At this point the narration changed from third person to first as Harry’s identity as the narrator was affirmed.  But the final scene was narrated by his daughter, as he was unable to tell of his own final death.

Carey used this story-telling device to work for his characters as well as against them.  When Harry got caught up in the elephant story he lost control – he was in a story not of his father’s making or of his own telling.  But it was significant that he solved the problem by telling the only original story he was ever to tell.  Unfortunately, this clever use of the device was omitted from the movie, with Harry’s reward of freedom being attributed to the relinquishing of the marijuana to the police.  Ultimately, however, Harry was able in both book and movie to attribute his freedom to being good, and thus begin his ascent out of Hell.  This was indicated in the book when ‘ . . .  the taxi drove him across the bridge, the river below appeared as black as the Styx.’ (Carey, 1982, p. 73).

Carey used shift in time as a device to introduce Vance’s stories from the past, and to take us into the future to see David’s demise.  However, although the directors had the ideal medium for exploiting time-shift scenes, they rarely took advantage of it, showing the adult Harry with his father as a dream rather than a true jump back in time.  By contrast, Carey’s adroit use of this time-shift device, linked as it was to the story-telling device, kept the reader involved and gave them a hindsight for what was to follow.

While sex and cancer were themes of the story I believe that they were also devices which were used as markers in the story.  Initially sex was graphic and rampant, used to mark people’s relationships with each other, and thus to the whole story.  The fact that Harry was unaware of the debauchery around him was used to heighten the shock experienced by him when he did see it.

Sex was also a commodity, to be bought and sold – Lucy with David to buy her drugs, Honey Barbara with Harry for the first time as a means of giving in to the Hell in which he lived, Bettina with Joel as a mark of power to be gained in their prospective futures.  But sex had a double edge – it could be used for good or evil.  Honey Barbara represented the good, wholesome capacities of sex, while Bettina and Joel’s led to self-destruction.

The text was marked by sexual episodes, both in the book and the movie, until Harry found Honey Barbara in the car on his front lawn.  That episode marked the attaining of sexual bliss, and after that sex was only implied for the rest of the story – even when Harry finally reached Paradise and won Honey Barbara back with his tree-planting love-letter we only knew they’d had sex because we discovered the offspring as a narrator.

When sex ceased directly to mark the text, and as the arguments slowly disintegrated the household and Honey Barbara’s strength, we saw her reduced to her original status as a commodity.  Sex as a device was supplanted by the device of money as a power to be controlled in the lives of all at Harry’s house.

Cancer was a very important marker in the story, creeping insidiously into the story, as it would through a body.  It was used three times specifically to make the reader more aware each time of its importance to the story.  Aldo was the first cancer victim to mark the narrative.  His case was dealt with in a low-key way.  The second cancer marker was the wife of Harry’s client, Adrian Clunes, who described quite graphically how his wife had cancer.  “She weighs four stone and six pounds and everyone comes, like ghouls, to look at her.  Our friends are nice enough to stay away, . . . ” (Carey, 1982, p. 117)

At this point the Cancer Map was introduced, a device which strengthened Harry’s resolve to fire his client as his first constructive step towards being good and getting out of Hell. The map was the concrete evidence of the cancer symbol that was used to show that life in the city, and in society, was like a cancerous growth festering and nurtured from within – fed on foul air, drink, smoke, pollution, petrol fumes, in fact most commodities.

Bettina’s cancer was the final marker, closest to home, affecting the reader directly because she was one of the main characters – not just a friend or an associate’s wife.  Her explosive death, and Joel’s subsequent suicide signalled an end to Harry’s Hell, and his enslavement by Bettina to the advertising business.  He escaped to Paradise and safety, yet seemed to take some of his Hell with him, as he found the rainforest initially unreceptive, and Honey Barbara hostile.

Death was not only a theme throughout the narrative, but was also a device with which Carey manipulated both his characters and the reader.  We knew in advance, for example, that Harry would die by the end of the story, as the opening lines were “Harry Joy was to die three times, but it was his first death which was to have the greatest effect on him,. . .” (Carey, 1982, p. 7)  This statement/opening device prepared us for the story to follow, though not for the extremes that it would take.

The text was liberally sprinkled with deaths which were either drug-induced, cancerous, or suicidal – all unnatural deaths.  Even the final, ultimate death of Harry was caused by a branch of one of his beloved trees falling on him – even in Paradise he wasn’t really safe from death.

In the movie symbolism was used as a narrative device implying by its presence the presence of its associate.  An example of this was the use of cockroaches which first appeared emerging from Harry’s chest after his open-heart surgery.  They represented, by their connotation of the lowest-of-the-low, the embodiment of Hell.  Later they were to appear crawling across Harry’s bedroom wall, with its pseudo-Paradise mural, in the scene where Honey Barbara was reduced to her commodity status – Harry told her that she knew how much she cost him to keep, so she was not to say she didn’t love him.

Another device used in the movie to represent the presence of Hell was a musical motif – a sliding down a semi-tone on a violin string, slightly distorted, creating an unnerving, uncomfortable yet sad feeling.  This was effectively used during the period of time following Harry’s operation, and his second imagined death, until his escape to Paradise – the rainforest.

The movie directors were able to use many devices symbolically.  Apart from the cockroaches, music, and sardines to represent the evidence of sexual misbehaviour, they were able to show visually the degradation of the city, its traffic, its pollution from smoking chimneys, car fumes, rubbish, and its greyness.

Allied to this the degradation of the people was seen by showing the stained linen, both bed and table, the clutter of unwashed plates, cutlery, glasses, full ashtrays that filled a scene, with the people an integral part of the debauchery.  All characters were shown smoking, a symbol of cancer, continually, during meals, meetings, sex, arguments, parties, and working.  This device showed how evil and Hell had pervaded all of society.

Against this the directors were able to portray the rainforest as green, glistening, clean, filled with singing birds and rippling streams.  When Harry entered this Paradise he had to pass through a fire, symbolic of cleansing, to reach safety – the precarious nature of which was noted-by-device of having a burning branch fall directly behind Harry as he thought of safety.

The ultimate movie device was the viewpoint of the camera – used most effectively to show Harry’s out-of-body experiences at his first death, including the Heaven and Hell visuals, and his final death as he rises to the tree-tops to be inhaled by the trees.

Carey in his book endeavoured to present the narrative by using devices as a movie director would – cutting from scene to scene, shifting in time, using markers as a director would use symbols.  And most effectively, he allowed the story-telling of his characters to tell the story for him.

(C)  Jud House  28/08/2005

BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Carey, P. (1982).  BLISS.  London: Picador, Pan Books Ltd.

Carey, P. (1981).  EXOTIC PLEASURES. London: Picador, Pan Books Ltd.

Dovey, Teresa “An Infinite Onion: Narrative Structure in Peter Carey’s Fiction”, ALS, Vol 11, No 2, Oct 1983, pp. 195-204.

Sibree, Bron “Carey Faces up to Fame”, WEST AUSTRALIAN paper, Saturday August 10, 1991

Turner, Graeme “American Dreaming: The Fictions of Peter Carey”, ALS, 12, 4, 1986, pp.431-441.

Willbanks, Ray. (1992) SPEAKING VOLUMES: Australian writers and their work.  Melbourne: Penguin.

* * * * *

MILES FRANKLIN – MY BRILLIANT CAREER – NOVEL & MOVIE


The construction of the female characters in the book text of ‘My Brilliant Career’ was different from their representation in the movie text.  In the book we are exposed to the narrator’s biassed view of the relevant characters, while in the movie, despite Sybilla still acting as narrator, we are presented with a more general characterization of women in turn-of-the-century Australia.

In the story women were portrayed as of lesser importance than men, with various roles according to their status – Sybilla was fair game to Harry Beecham as a servant in a blossom tree, yet out of bounds as the grand-daughter of the house.  Within her household Sybilla’s mother is a powerful figure, but her husband still dictated where they lived and worked.

Sybilla’s grandmother was also a powerful figure at Caddagat (with authority even over Uncle Jay Jay in relation to Sybilla), Aunt Helen below her, then Sybilla, followed by the maids on a much lower level and having power only between themselves and their relative positions in the work-force.

Yet they were all women, with feelings, needs, hopes and desires, all of which were considered, by themselves as well as by men and society in general, as secondary to those of the men around them.

. . . it was only men who could take the world by its ears and conquer their fate, while women, metaphorically speaking, were forced to sit with tied hands and patiently suffer as the waves of fate tossed them hither and thither, battering and bruising without mercy. (Franklin, M. 1979, p.33)

Against this second-rate status Sybilla rebelled openly.  And she saw, as the main culprit for maintaining this, marriage that subjugated a woman’s independence of thought and personality.  She stated “Marriage to me appeared the most horribly tied-down and unfair-to-women existence going . . . . I laughed at the idea of love, and determined never, never, never to marry.” (Franklin, M. 1979, p. 31 & 32)

In the movie Sybilla’s mother was portrayed as she’d have been in reality – with the film-makers’ hindsight of the period – as hardworking, weighed down by the struggle to keep the family fed and together, despite the drought and a lazy, drunk husband, yet maintaining a semblance of refinement.  As evidence of this, although the house was little more than a timber shanty, there were clean lace curtains at the windows, photos in silver frames, and an in-tune though honky-tonk piano in the parlour.

She remained practical in the face of a continually growing family (due to no contraception), yet could not face the humiliation of fetching her husband from the pub – that was for Sybilla to bear.  She saw the need to send Sybilla away to work, to help support the family, as an obvious practicality, rather than as Sybilla saw it – as a punishment.

In the book her Mother was shown as hard, unyielding, lacking in kindness and under-standing, and intolerant of Sybilla’s ideas and desires.  She appeared to treat Sybilla as a possession to be packed off to Grandmother, then redirected to the M’Swat’s as it suited her.  Yet we do see, underlying this characterisation of her mother by Sybilla, the latter’s understanding of the forces that have reduced her beautiful refined mother to behave as she did.  We see this from Sybilla’s point of view and are sympathetic with her (from our own position of acceptance and equality in society).  Yet we are able to recognise her mother’s hardships, her subsequent bitterness, and her need to take this out on her eldest daughter, who she saw as unmarriageable due to a lack of beauty, and a rebellious and outspoken nature.  She saw her as being an indefinite burden on her stretched resources.

Sybilla’s grandmother was characterised, in both book and movie, as very Victorian, with rigid views about a woman’s place in society and the home, how she should behave with decorum and modesty, show refinement and manners.  She was affronted at the idea of Sybilla going on the stage – but more because it was her granddaughter – and totally disregarded Sybilla’s views on the matter.

Against this arbitrary decision-making by others, on her behalf and without any concern for her thoughts or feelings, Sybilla also rebelled.  Likewise, upon receiving her mother’s letter informing of her transfer to the M’Swat’s as a governess, her indignation and horror was extreme.  “The steel of my mother’s letter entered my soul.  Why had she not expressed a little regret at the thing she was imposing on me?” (Franklin, M. 1979, p. 162)  When asked by her grandmother for her response she exclaimed, “Say?  I won’t go!  I can’t!  I won’t!  Oh, grannie, don’t send me there – I would rather die.” (Franklin, M. 1979, p. 162)

In the movie Grandmother was shown as caring for Sybilla, but as less kindly than she was portrayed in the book – as a foil for the character of Aunt Gussie, who though out-spoken was more understanding of Sybilla, in whom she seemed to see herself as a girl.  In the book she was a less dominant, more formal figure – Sybilla called her Miss Beecham – and seemed to be there only as a chaperone in the background to add respectability to Sybilla’s visit.

While the movie portrayed these characters a little differently, and compressed the events to suit its running time it did portray the M’Swat family perfectly.  Although it omitted details such as Mr M’Swat’s diary, it did show Sybilla’s degradation, as she gradually became dirtier and more depressed.  The power struggle between Sybilla and Mrs M’Swat was clearly shown, as was the futility of the existence in the cultural desert of the M’Swat’s squalid home.  However, in the scene where the children read the story from the pages of newspaper that lined their walls, the movie also left the viewer with a feeling that Sybilla’s time had not altogether been wasted.

In the book, I was held captive by Sybilla’s misery and frustration with the injustice of her situation.  It was hard to believe in the kindness of the M’Swats, although Sybilla stated quite clearly that they were kind, or in the degree of their squalor and ignorance – the movie, however, clarified this giving it reality.  Aunt Helen and Grandmother could not believe in this squalor when they received Sybilla’s pleading letters.

Just as the M’Swats were ignorant of the refinement and better quality of life and possessions to be gained by the use of their money, so was the wealthy Grandmother at Caddagat ignorant of how base the lives of others, like the M’Swats, could be.  Both the book text and the movie text showed this fact clearly – the movie with a cut to a quick scene at Caddagat, its lush green formal surroundings a stark contrast to the mud and haphazard hovels of the M’Swat’s farm.  Aunt Helen, in her elegant clean gown was seen discussing another letter from Sybilla with Grandmother, their disbelief apparent.

Miss Derrick was portrayed in both media as representing everything that a woman should be in society:

Miss Derrick brought herself and her dress in with great style and airs. . . . She sat down with great indifference, twirled her bracelet round her wrist, languidly opened her fan, and closed her eyes as she wafted it to and fro. . . . She would adorn the head of his [her husband’s] table.  She would never worry him with silly ideas.  She would never act with impropriety.  She would never become a companion to her husband. (Franklin, M. 1979, p. 121, & 122)

Obviously, Miss Derrick was everything that Sybilla rebelled against being.  In both media the latter was represented as a strong character, outspoken, intolerant of the attitudes of society towards the downtrodden generally, and women in particular.  She was treated as an adult, expected to marry well to help the family , yet sent to her room like a child as punishment for a prank.  Another example of this dual treatment was evident in the ultimatum she was indirectly given – marry Harry Beecham or be sent to the M’Swat’s farm as a governess/servant.  She was expected to make a decision about marriage, but not allowed to make a decision against going to the M’Swat’s.  Virtually all other decisions were made for her by her mother or hergrandmother.

Sybilla’s character in the book text was more confused and unpredictable, less outwardly loving and maternal than in the movie.  In the book she hated being touched by a man, resisted all attempts at being kissed – one very violently with a whip, which  symbolized power throughout the story, and male dominance over female – and yielded antiseptically to a parting kiss from Harry when he left, broke – it was accepted, but not enjoyed.  Yet in the movie she was shown romping in the parlour in a man’s arms, and pillow-fighting in the meadows, openly trying to provoke Harry into taking some form of action.  When he finally did she rebuffed him, as mentioned, with a whip.

Later when Harry came to claim her, in the movie she turned him down compassionately, and maternally kissed his forehead.  Yet in the book this scene was much more passionate.  In answer to one of his many pleas she said bitterly, “. . . leave me; go and marry the sort of woman you ought to marry. . . . A good conventional woman, who will do the things she should at the proper time.” (Franklin, M. 1979, p. 221 & 222)  There was no farewell kiss – instead, she wrote him a note which she gave to him as he was leaving the next day.

At this point in the narrative, I as a reader lost some sympathy for Sybilla.  Admittedly she was very confused – she seemed to want to marry him, yet resisted, believing “I am not good enough to be your wife, Hal, or that of any man” (Franklin, M. 1979, p. 222)  To me this statement was hypocritical – she did to him what she resented being done to her – she made a decision on his behalf.  In the movie, however, the audience’s sympathy is maintained as her reason for not marrying was quite clear – she wished to remain independent, and believed that by marrying and joining her life with someone else’s she would lose this independence.

As a sixteen year old would probably be, Sybilla was very confused, and constantly referred to her egotism, which she didn’t want to become sublimated to a man.  Her egotism seemed to be a lifeline – a means of preventing her from becoming just another woman in society if she could manage to keep it intact.  In the movie egotism was not mentioned, her character was much clearer, less confused and more mature, and her objectives in life were more defined.

The movie ended with her standing at the gate in the peaceful and greening landscape.  A feeling of hope for the future and contentment with choices made was the overriding effect.  Sybilla seemed to be finally at peace with herself.  Although the ending of the book was similar, I was left with a feeling of dissatisfaction for things left unresolved.

In conclusion I believe that the differences in the construction of the female characters between the book text and the movie text were important and justified.  The film-makers needed to portray the story that Miles Franklin wrote in a believable and balanced fashion.  An audience would not really credit Sybilla’s mother as being as hard as her daughter depicted her, and it was important that this audience be kept in sympathy with Sybilla.

The Directors, by being able to cut from scene to contrasting scene, to make their visual and audible media work for them, were able to show in moments what Miles Franklin took pages to describe.  After all, they had a limited time in which to tell their captive audience a story that could be read over any period of time at liesure.  So despite needing to compress scenes, omit characters, events and symbols ( e.g. the power symbol of the whip), the Directors were able to portray the essential elements of the book – in particular the struggle needed to attain womanly independence in the Victorian society of turn-of-the-century Australia.

(C) Jud House 28/08/2005

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Clancy, Jack  Bringing Franklin up to Date: The Film of My Brilliant Career Jack Clancy in ALS, Vol 9, 1979-80, pp 363-367

Coleman, Verna (1981). Miles Franklin in America: Her Unknown (Brilliant) Career. London: Angus and Robertson.

Franklin, Miles Childhood at Brindabella, My First Ten Years  Sydney: Arkon (paperback), Angus and Robertson.

Franklin, Miles (1979).  My Brilliant Career.  Sydney: Arkon  (paperback), Angus and Robertson.

Franklin, Miles (1981).  The End of My Career.  New York: St.  Martin’s Press.

Mathew, Ray (1963) Miles Franklin, Australian Writers and Their Work series, Melbourne: Lansdown.

McInherny, Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career and the Female Tradition, ALS, Vol 9, 1979-80, pp 275-285.

* * * * *

CINDERELLA – HISTORICAL CULTURAL VARIANTS


CINDERELLA:  Selected variants from different historical periods and the way in which stories reflect the culture out of which they arise.

Although hundreds of variants exist of the fairy tale, CINDERELLA, I have chosen, for expediency and as representative of four historical periods, the following versions (course hand-outs):  THE CHINESE CINDERELLA, 850 AD; Charles Perrault’s  CENDRILLON and d’Aulnoy’s FINETTE CENDRON, contrasting pair, late C17th; Grimm Bros.’ CINDERELLA, C19th; and Disney’s CINDERELLA, C20th. The pairing of the seventeenth century stories will provide a clearer picture of the culture of their era.

There were variants of THE CHINESE CINDERELLA story, but although the heroine’s name may change from Shih Chieh to Yeh-Shen, the components of the fish, magic bones, and slipper remained a constant.  There were many elements within the story  which disclosed historical cultural information to the reader, who was informed in the opening paragraph that the story was set in pre-dynastical times, among cave-dwelling country and island folk.  These were ruled by a chieftain, Shih Chieh’s father, while the more military and powerful of them are ruled directly by a king.

Culturally the reader learns that the status of women was very low in China at that time.  The women were under the control of the patriarch/father, or when he was no longer there – as in Shih Chieh’s case – the matriarch/step-mother, unquestioningly carrying out designated tasks.  The women were bound together in their subordination to the patriarchy, just as their feet were bound.

Thus in China, where the “lotus foot,” or tiny foot was such a sign of a woman’s worth that the custom of foot-binding developed, the Cinderella tale lays emphasis on an impossibly small slipper as a clue to   the heroine’s identity. (Yolen, 1977, p. 298)

The beauty of tiny feet was only in the eye of the male beholder.  And when a king decided to marry a woman – in this case, Shih Chieh – it was as good as done.  Chinese women were passive, and compliant:   “when he [the king] demanded to see her, she appeared ….” and “the king bore her away to his kingdom to be his wife.” (Hume, 1962, p. 2)  There was no suggestion of choice for Shih Chieh concerning her future.

Shih Chieh was depicted as “not only beautiful … [but] clever, as well, and always happy” (Hume, 1962, p. 1) – when her father was alive.  She showed herself to be obedient to her step-mother’s demands, no matter how unreasonable or dangerous.  Yet she was secretive  – she hid the fish in her room, then in the pond.  Later, when the bones had also been secretly buried, she decked herself in azure gown and gold slippers and, disobediently, followed her stepmother and stepsister to the festival.

Thus the reader sees that she was not completely passive, though obviously subordinate, economically, to her stepmother and step-sister.  However, her degree of self-help is founded on the aid rendered to her by the ‘magic’ fish and the ‘angelic’ male stranger who advised her.

Finally, Shih Chieh was incidental to the ending of the story, which was primarily about the fish and the slipper.  But her beauty, passivity and luck was rewarded by marriage to the king, who, due to greed, lost the magic bones.

In late seventeenth century France, Charles Perrault and Marie Catherine d’Aulnoy wrote their versions of the Cinderella story – Perrault’s being the most well-known.  At that time it was fashionable to take oral folk tales, previously and traditionally told by older women to young girls to prepare them for and assist them over the turbulent initiation into adulthood, and transcribe them to written tales for the entertainment and formal socialization of the aristocracy, and Bourgeoisie, both adults and children.

Perrault’s CENDRILLON/ CINDERELLA OR THE LITTLE GLASS SLIPPER was written tongue-in-cheek, not to be taken seriously,

primarily intended for adult reading, as [he] had made obvious; they were a reflection of the artificial world of court life, though each story was dutifully provided with a moral. (Whalley, 1980, p.141)

He introduced into the tale a godmother, an extra stepsister, animals, a magicked pumpkin, and a time limit set on Cinderella’s ball-attendance.  While the fish was omitted from the tale, he made much of the slipper motif.

Cinderella was shown as obedient, compliant, passive and beautiful, only able to get her prince with the assistance of her god-mother, and her magic.  Her beauty of face and nature were rewarded, including her forgiveness of her stepsisters’ unkindness and ill-treatment of her.

Cinderella was as good as she was beautiful and she brought her two sisters to live in the palace, and they were married on the self-same day to two great lords at the court. (Perrault, 1697, p. 100 – Hand/Out)

The characteristics of “gentility, grace, and selflessness” Perrault considered socially acceptable for “the well-bred seventeenth century female” (Yolen , 1977,p. 296), and he promoted these in his tales.  With the right attributes a woman could attain her highest reward – that of marriage, and financial security – essential for women in that insecure period.

Contrary to Perrault’s version was that of d’Aulnoy, FINETTE CENDRON, which incorporated elements of other tales, such as the Cyclops and Minotaur Greek myths, Hansel and Gretel, and Jack and the Beanstalk.  A much longer, more complex story than Perrault’s, it involved the journey, both actual and symbolic, of the heroine towards maturity (a right-of-passage story) and marital security.  As a female writer, d’Aulnoy presented a different picture of women at that time.  Her heroine, Finette Cendron, was “the best-hearted girl in the world” (d’Aulnoy in Zipes, 1989, p. 404), obliging, considerate, mindful of customs, loyal, virtuous, practical, grateful, not greedy, accepting of advice (by her godmother), secretive, gullible, vulnerable, resourceful, courageous, ingenious, lucky, obedient, forgiving, polite with good manners, possessed of common sense, (these attributes are supported throughout the text) and, finally, was able to recognize and use her power to restore her family’s fortune.

And when she told them the names of her father and mother, they recognized them as sovereigns of dominions they had conquered.  When they informed Finette of this fact, she immediately vowed that she would not consent to marry the prince until they had restored the estates of her father. (d’Aulnoy in Zipes, 1989,pp. 415 -416)

Finette was a multi-facetted, three-dimensional character, able to control not only her own destiny but that of her family, unlike Perrault’s Cendrillon who had few attributes/facets and was one-dimensional.

D’Aulnoy’s story was to be taken seriously, demonstrating to readers, paricularly girls, that they could control their own destinies, even if marriage and financial security was still the ultimate reward.  Her version touched on issues of subordination – women to men, younger to older, lower class to upper class – and that of abandonment, a common economical occurrence at that time.  She showed, through Finette, that women were actually far removed from the ideal that Perrault strove to enforce.

In the Grimm Bros.’ version of CINDERELLA the heroine was portrayed as passively submissive to the step-mother and step-sisters.  The idea of mother-protection was introduced into the story, in the form of a magic tree planted on her mother’s grave, with a little white bird that “threw down to her what she wished for” (Grimm,1975, p.122).  Cinderella was shown to be a little more human, weeping when sad, begging her step-mother to allow her to go to the festival, and endeavouring to complete the allotted tasks, no matter how impossible they seemed in order to do so.  The Grimm brothers also introduced the complicity of the birds, without whose assistance Cinderella would have remained in her subjugated position.

Cinderella was rescued from her degradation by the intervention of the King’s son who did not give up his search until he had found the true wearer of the shoe.  In this story the depiction of self-mutilation that the step-sisters undertook in order to get their prince, was a reflection, if perhaps an exaggeration, of the lengths a woman would, and should go to, to achieve married status.  The tale ended with reward for the heroine for her goodness, beauty, and patience, and with punishment for the step-sisters of blindness meted out by the birds.

Writing in the nineteenth century, the Grimm brothers wanted to use their tales to educated and socialize children, who were to take as their role models the heroes and heroines of the tales.  They were precursors for the perfect Aryan race, where all were blonde and blue-eyed, the women passive and domesticated, and the men strong, clever, and in control of society.  Their message of reward and punishment was just as important as that of the desired character traits for male and female children.

Disney’s story, CINDERELLA, was a composite of Perrault’s and the Grimms’ stories, with some twentieth century bowdlerization and romanticism added.  As Disney’s version was created visually simultaneously with the script, his illustrations depicted his notions of the perfect female character, as did the text.  His Cinderella was shown as “the sweetest and most beautiful girl in the world.” (Disney, 1965, p. 193)  She had blonde hair, and blue eyes, and a shapely figure under her tattered gown and apron.  Disney utilised the animal element, not merely for magical effect with the pumpkin, but as companions for Cinderella in her lonely kitchen and attic, to show just how loveable she was – even all the animals and birds loved her.  “She made little clothes for them, and gave them all names.” (Disney, 1965 p. 193)

In Disney’s version the stepsisters were portrayed as ugly, physically as well as in character – they were rude, sarcastic, lazy, and jealous of Cinderella’s beauty.  The step-mother’s cruelty was shown by the way she treated Cinderella as a servant, the way she spoke to her and locked her in the attic.  The only violence in Disney’s version was the scene where the sisters snatched the decorations from Cinderella’s first gown.  Sympathy for his heroine had to be established in the reader/viewer, but not at the expense of frightening the children/audience.

Disney retained the godmother, but made her a fairy to help explain her magic to a twentieth century audience.  He retained the slipper and its loss, and the search by the prince for the owner of the slipper.  He borrowed from Grimm the idea of the tasks to be completed before his heroine could have permission to attend the ball, although he updated them to house-cleaning tasks rather than the picking out of grains from the ashes.

Up the stairway she carried breakfast trays for her stepmother and her two lazy stepsisters.  And down she came with a basket of mending, some clothes to wash, and a long list of jobs to do for the day. (ibid, p. 195)

The ‘Happily ever after’ ending belonged entirely to Cinderella, and to any young girl who was as sweet of nature and beautiful of face and figure as she.  The message was clear – if a girl is prepared to be these things, and be patient and wait, then one day her prince would also come and reward her with marriage and security.  The message for boys was that

[t]he goal of every prince (every man) [was] fulfilled by a beautiful, long-haired young woman, with a fair complexion, especially if she is connected to a castle, money, and power. (Zipes, 1986, pp. 160 – 161)

Throughout the Cinderella versions the message has remained the same – except for d’Aulnoy’s version, which even so still ended in marriage and security.

In the early to mid-twentieth century women were still not in control of their own destinies.  They were considered subordinate to men and to each other, both economically and generationally.  A woman’s place was in the home, doing housework and taking care of the family – child-minding.  She was to be protected by her male/father/husband/son, and be patient, hard-working, uncomplaining, virtuous, sweet, loveable, and if possible as beautiful as cosmetics would make her.  Disney reflects and upholds these attributes with his version of Cinderella, although at the time he produced it he was merely reflecting the ‘normal’ society in which he lived.

All these versions have done just that, while retaining and modifying the original to suit the changes in their societies’ attitudes and their own particular views and biasses, regarding the behaviour of both sexes within these societies.  The authors

retained (or inserted) [various elements into their tales] because … [as] narrators, [they] instinctively or unconsciously, felt their literary ‘significance’. Even where a prohibition in a fairy story is guessed to be derived from some taboo practised long ago, it has been preserved in the later stages of the tale’s history because of the great mythical significance of prohibition.  (Tolkien, 1990,p. 142)

Despite its historical setting, the actual historical period and culture of the written tale is textually obvious.

(C) Jud House  19/08/2006 & 7/01/2013

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Babbitt, N. (1970)  “Happy Endings?  Of Course, and Also Joy.’  in Haviland, V. Editor(1973)  CHILDREN  AND LITERATURE  Views and Reviews.  London:  The Bodley Head Ltd.

Buchan, J. (1931)  ‘The Novel and the Fairy Tale’.  in Haviland, V. Editor (1973) AND LITERATURE  Views and Reviews.  London:  The Bodley Head Ltd.

Butler, F. Editor. (1975)  CHILDREN’S LITERATURE VOL 4.  Philadelphia:  Temple University Press.

Gilbert, R. (1990)  ‘Endings’  in  MEANJIN  Vol. 49 (1990)

Haviland, V.  Editor. (1973)   ‘Folk Literature and Fantasy’  in  CHILDREN AND LITERA -TURE  Views and Reviews.  London:  The Bodley Head Ltd.

Le Guin, Ursula. (19   )  ‘This Fear of Dragons’  in  THE THORNY PARADISE: Writers  on Writing for Children.  Blishen, E. Editor.  Harmondsworth, UK: Kestrel Books

Lewis, C.S.  (1952)  ‘On Three Ways of Writing for Children.’  in  BOURNEMOUTH  CONFERENCE PAPERS AND DISCUSSION.  Library Association Proceedings.

Liberman, Anatoly. (1985)  ‘Between Myth and the Wondertale.’  in  MYTH IN LITERA-TURE. Kodjak, A., Pomorska, K., Rudy,S. Editors.  Columbia, Ohio: Slavica Publishers Inc.

Kegan, Paul  Editor.  (1975)  ‘The Six Swans.’  from  THE COMPLETE GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES.  London:  Routledge. (H/O)

Perrault, Charles. ‘Cendrillon.’  from Zipes, J. Editor (1989) BEAUTIES, BEASTS AND ENCHANTMENT.  Meridian:  Penguin.

Philip, Neil. (1989)  THE CINDERELLA STORY; The Origins and Variations of the Story known as Cinderella.  Penguin Books Ltd.

Shavit, Z. (1986)  ‘The Notion of Childhood and Texts for the Child.’  in  POETICS OF CHILDREN’S LITERATURE.  Athens & London: University of Georgia Press.

Tolkien, J.R.R.  (1964)  ON FAIRY-STORIES.  in  POEMS AND STORIES.  Williamson F.R. & Tolkien C.R. Editors.  London:  Harper Collins Publishers (1992)

Yolen, Jane. Editor. (1986)  FAVOURITE FOLKTALES FROM AROUND THE WORLD.Pantheon.

Zipes, Jack. Editor. (1993)  DON’T BET ON THE PRINCE; Contemporary FeministFairy Tales in North America and England.  U.K.: Scolar Press

Zipes, Jack. (1983)  FAIRY TALES AND THE ART OF SUBVERSION.  London: Heine-mann Educational Books Ltd.

Zipes, Jack.  (19  )  ‘On the Use and Abuse of Folk and Fairy Tales with Children.’  in BREAKING THE MAGIC SPELL: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales.  H/O London: Heinemann.

Zipes, Jack. (1986)  ‘Fairy Tale as Myth  Myth as Fairy Tale.’  in  THE BROTHERS GRIMM:  FROM ENCHANTED FORESTS TO THE MODERN WORLD.  New York  & London: Routledge.

* * * * *

FAIRY STORIES – THE HAPPY ENDING


Angela Carter claimed that heroic optimism was an important element in fairy stories, the principle which sustained the idea of a happy ending whatever the odds.  The ability of the hero/heroine (protagonist) to remain hopeful while enduring their respective trials and torments impels the reader to continue to hope that the inevitable resolution will be a happy one.  In most fairy-tales the happy ending is an essential consequence of the journey, actual and physical, of the protagonist through the tale.  Natalie Babbitt defined ‘The Happy Ending’ as:

something which goes much deeper [than a simple ‘happily ever after’], something which turns a story ultimately toward hope rather than resignation…” (Babbitt in Haviland, (1973) p. 158)

As a result of this hope, Babbitt said that

Wilbur can escape an early death, Cinderella can be Queen, Bilbo can outwit the dragon, and the ugly duckling can become a swan.  Not without pain, not without violence, not without grief; but in the end, somehow, everything will always by all right.” (Ibid, p. 159)

Apart from a few exceptional tales, the storyteller’s audience (usually young girls), and the text’s readers, are able to anticipate, while enduring the hardships as the protagonist goes through them, the resolution of these difficulties in a positive and happy way – in other words a consolation, for all participants, for the rigours thus endured.  Tolkien refers to:

[this] consolation of fairy stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe [eucatastrophe], the sudden joyous ‘turn’ … this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially ‘escapist’ or fugitive’.  In its fairy-tale – or otherworld-setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur.  It does not deny the existence of the dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of joy, joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief. (Tolkien, (1964) p. 60; (1992) p. 175)

The notion that “this joy is not essentially ‘escapist’ or ‘fugitive’ “ leads us back to his idea that the world of ‘faerie’ is ‘otherworld’, or of a secondary world of the author’s devising.  The fact that the reader suspends belief in the real world to enter this secondary world does not mean that he/she is running away from the former.  After all, upon reaching the conclusion (hopeful happy ending) of the ‘otherworld’ story, the real world must be re-entered.  The fact that the reader does so, armed with hope and joy, is a bonus, an advantage for him/her to help deal with the problems encountered there.  As Tolkien was a highly religious man, he saw this joy linked to the joy of holy miracles, of faith and belief in the after-life, and the joy he believed would be the reward when finally united with God in Heaven – thus his use of the word ‘evangelium’.

Tolkien added:

It is the mark of a good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give the child or man that hears it, when the ‘turn’ comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality. (Tolkien, (1992) p. 175 – 176)

I have personally experienced this ‘turn’ when reading Tolkien’s own works – a little for THE HOBBIT but many times, very strongly for THE LORD OF THE RINGS.  It is a tangible ‘turn’, which no doubt young readers of fairy-tales would experience.  My belief that Tolkien is the ultimate authority on fairy-stories was backed up by my research – most reference material I studied quoted the above statement by Tolkien, in part or in full, to illustrate and support their particular theories.

In my selected fairy tales: DONKEY-SKIN (H/O), THE SIX SWANS (H/O), and PRINCE AMILEC (Zipes, pp 48 – 54), there was a point in each story when a joyous ‘turn’ of events occurred – when the story moved from trials and sorrow to happiness and reward for the protagonists.

In DONKEY SKIN, by Perrault, the princess first had to go through the sorrow of leaving her home to escape the incestuous attentions of her father; the trials of  wearing the donkey-skin and toiling as a scullion in the kitchen of a farmhouse; and the derision and harassment from the servants; before being eligible for the joy and glory of winning her prince.  Of course she required the assistance of her fairy godmother to achieve her escape from home, and the acquisition, not only of the three beautiful gowns (the colour of the sky, the moon, and the sun), but also of the donkey-skin, with which she disguised herself.

Throughout her trials Donkey-Skin did not give up hope of deliverance from her menial situation.  This was evident by her ritual cleansing and dressing in her gowns on Sundays, and when having seen the prince from a distance

[she] admired him with a tender look.  Thanks to her courage, she realized that she still had the heart of a princess beneath her dirt and rags. ( Ibid, p. 71)

This equates with heroic oprimism – appearing to propel the tale towards its happy ending.

I believe that there were several places in the text where the joyous ‘turn’ of events occurred.  The first was when the prince saw Donkey-Skin, dressed in all her finery, through the key-hole.

[T]he prince kept peeking at her, scarcely breathing because he was filled with such pleasure. …. Three times he was on the verge of entering her room because of the ardor that over-whelmed him, but three times he refrained out of respect for the seemingly divine creature he was beholding. (Zipes, (1989) p. 71)

While this was a joyous event for the prince, the reader knows that it was also a turning point in the tale for Donkey-Skin.  The next joyous event occurred when Donkey-Skin put the ring on her finger, dressed in her finest gown, and entered the court.  Once again the tale focussed on her beautiful gown, her physical beauty and her majestic bearing, and on the reactions of the courtisans, King, Queen and prince rather than on the princess’s happiness (which the reader is left to assume).  Finally, at the wedding, the bride’s father,

who had purified the criminal and odious fires that had ignited his spirit in the past, [and] the flame that was left in his soul had been transformed into devoted paternal love, (Ibid, p. 74)

also had a joyous moment when reunited with his daughter.  “Weeping with joy, he embraced her tenderly.” (Ibid, p. 74)  Once again everyone shared his moment, even the fairy godmother, who “told the entire story … [which] culminated in Donkey-Skin’s glory.” (Ibid, p. 74)  However, I believe that Perrault deflated the joy of the happy ending by his over-abundance of moralizing.

In THE SIX SWANS, by the Grimm brothers, the sister of the swan-brothers undertook a difficult task in order to free them from their step-mother’s spell.  Her brothers told her that, to achieve this:

For six years you may neither speak nor laugh, and in that time you must sew together six little shirts of starwort for us.  If one single word falls from your lips, all your work will be lost. (Grimm, (1975) p. 234)

It was considered a trial indeed for a female (that loquacious creature) not to speak or laugh.  It also meant that Donkey-Skin had no means of either explaining her identity to the King, or defending herself against the false accusations of her mother-in-law.  She suffered sorrow at the separation from her father and her brothers, and grief at the loss of her babies.  Our hope is kept alive by the King’s defence of his wife:

She is too pious and good to do anything of that kind; if she were not dumb, and could defend herself, her innocence would come to light. (Ibid, p. 236)

But it is dashed again when even he had to deliver her to justice, after the disappearance of the third baby.

In this tale we are given concrete evidence of her joy, the ‘turn’ occurring as she stood at the stake with the shirts over her arm.

S]he looked around and six swans came flying through the air towards her.  Then she saw that her deliverance was near, and her heart leapt with joy.” (Ibid, p. 236)

The reader moves with her from this point onwards as she freed her brothers, who embraced her, then finally was able ot speak for herself.  Her children were returned to her, the wicked mother-in-law was punished, and the happy ending was completed with the final sentence:

[T]he King and Queen with her six brothers lived many years in happiness and peace.” (Ibid, p. 237)

In  PRINCE AMILEC by Tanith Lee, it was the hero, Amilec, who had to undertake difficult tasks in order to win his chosen princess.  From the outset the character of this princess is exposed to the reader, but not to Amilec, who fell in love with her portrait.  He was blind to her rudeness, to the page’s warning that she was frightful and that he should go home, and was determined to attempt the tasks no matter how impossible they seemed.  However, upon succeeding to fulfill them, with the aid of a pretty witch and her bat, Basil, encountered not the princess’s love and gratitude, but a royal tantrum.

The reader has recognized almost immediately that the witch is far more suitable a bride for Amilec, and must wait in frustration until the ‘turn’ occurs, when he will realize this for himself.  Hope is raised when the princess demanded a wedding dress:

By this time Amilec was getting a bit fed up with her tantrums, but he thought that, of all her demands, this was the most reasonable.  ( Zipes, (1986) p. 53)

When the witch delivered the dress, wearing it to display its beauty, he was stunned – ‘the scales fell from his eyes’.  In front of the court he declared:

“How can I have been so blind!  You are the most beautiful girl I have ever met.  You are also the kindest.  May I humbly ask you to be my wife?  I promise to look after Basil, and I’ll live in the cave, if it will make things easier.”  (Ibid, p. 54)

To say that the hero was optomistic in this tale would be untrue.  However, he was determined, in the face of seemingly impossible odds, to persist till the end.  Having formed an alliance with the witch, who completed his task for him, he was able to face each subsequent task more hopefully, looking after Basil and collecting seaweed while she did so.  Thus, the hope of the happy ending was sustained throughout the tale.

The joy of the happy ending is not as remote from the reader in this tale, due to the involvement of that reader throughout the tale.  Not only did Amilec and the witch live happily ever after, but the princess was happily allowed to travel, leading the story to begin its cycle once again.  The reader knows that she also will suceed, if the tale follows it pattern truly.

In conclusion, I reiterate that the hope held by the protagonist of the tale, prepares the way for the happy ending, and is an essential component of the fairy tale, whether the trials be insignificant or enormous.  Tales that have no joyous ‘turn’, no happy ending, are unsatisfying, providing no consolation for the reader.  As Tolkien said, in his ‘Epilogue’ to ON FAIRY-STORIES:

The peculiar quality of the ‘joy’ in successful Fantasy [fairy-stories] can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth.  It is not only a ‘consolation’ for the sorrow of this world, but  a satisfaction, an answer to [that truth].” (Tolkien, (1992) p. 178)

(C) Jud House  28/08/2005

TRADITIONAL LITERATURE: BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Babbitt, N. (1970)  “Happy Endings?  Of Course, and Also Joy.’  in Haviland, V. Editor 1973)  CHILDREN  AND LITERATURE  Views and Reviews.  London:  The Bodley Head Ltd.

Buchan, J. (1931)  ‘The Novel and the Fairy Tale’.  in Haviland, V. Editor (1973)CHILDREN AND LITERATURE  Views and Reviews.  London:  The Bodley Head Ltd.

Butler, F. Editor. (1975)  CHILDREN’S LITERATURE VOL 4.  Philadelphia:  Temple  University Press.

Gilbert, R. (1990)  ‘Endings’  in  MEANJIN  Vol. 49 (1990)

Haviland, V.  Editor. (1973)   ‘Folk Literature and Fantasy’  in  CHILDREN AND LITERATURE  Views and Reviews.  London:  The Bodley Head Ltd.

Le Guin, Ursula. (19   )  ‘This Fear of Dragons’  in  THE THORNY PARADISE: Writers on Writing for Children.  Blishen, E. Editor.  Harmondsworth, UK: Kestrel Books

Lewis, C.S.  (1952)  ‘On Three Ways of Writing for Children.’  in  BOURNEMOUTH CONFERENCE PAPERS AND DISCUSSION.  Library Association Proceedings.

Liberman, Anatoly. (1985)  ‘Between Myth and the Wondertale.’  in  MYTH IN LITERA-TURE. Kodjak, A., Pomorska, K., Rudy,S. Editors.  Columbia, Ohio: Slavica Publishers Inc.

Kegan, Paul  Editor.  (1975)  ‘The Six Swans.’  from  THE COMPLETE GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES.  London:  Routledge. (H/O)

Perrault, Charles. ‘Donkey-Skin.’  from Zipes, J. Editor (1989) BEAUTIES, BEASTS AND ENCHANTMENT.  Meridian:  Penguin.

Philip, Neil. (1989)  THE CINDERELLA STORY; The Origins and Variations of the Story known as Cinderella.   Penguin Books Ltd.

Shavit, Z. (1986)  ‘The Notion of Childhood and Texts for the Child.’  in  POETICS OF CHILDREN’S LITERATURE.  Athens & London: University of Georgia Press.

Tolkien, J.R.R.  (1964)  ON FAIRY-STORIES.  in  POEMS AND STORIES.  Williamson  F.R. & Tolkien C.R. Editors.  London:  Harper Collins Publishers (1992)

Yolen, Jane. Editor. (1986)  FAVOURITE FOLKTALES FROM AROUND THE WORLD.  Pantheon.

Zipes, Jack. Editor. (1993)  DON’T BET ON THE PRINCE; Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and England.  U.K.: Scolar Press

Zipes, Jack. (1983)  FAIRY TALES AND THE ART OF SUBVERSION.  London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd.

Zipes, Jack.  (19  )  ‘On the Use and Abuse of Folk and Fairy Tales with Children.’  in BREAKING THE MAGIC SPELL: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales.  H/O London: Heinemann.

Zipes, Jack. (1986)  ‘Fairy Tale as Myth  Myth as Fairy Tale.’  in  THE BROTHERS GRIMM:  FROM ENCHANTED FORESTS TO THE MODERN WORLD.  New York  & London: Routledge.

* * * * *

PSYCHOANALYTIC LITERARY CRITICISM – Jane Eyre


In literature Psychoanalysis deals with the psycho-sexual, the unconscious instinctual tendencies (id) of both writers and their characters, the recognition of the repressed desires, the dreams, and the uncanny relating to them, and the use of the language of nature to symbolise these emotive traits.  Marxism is concerned with the socio-economic backgrounds and references, and the ideological influences on the writers and their characters within the texts.  Both theories are concerned with the relevant experiences of the readers through which they interpret the texts.

According to Selden Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism began with Sigmund Freud’s view that:

the relationship between author and text [was] analogous to dreamers and their ‘text’ (literature = ‘fantasy’); [was] modified by Post-Freudians . . . in a psychoanalytic reader-response criticism . . . ; contested by Karl Yung’s ‘archetypal’ criticism [where] . . . the literary work is . . . a representation of the relationship between the personal and the collective unconscious, the images, myths, symbols, ‘archetypes’ of past cultures; [and recently] . . . .remodelled in the context of poststructuralism by . . . Jacques Lacan and his followers [with] . . .the coupling of a dynamic notion of ‘desire’ with a model of structural linguistics.  Selden

(1993, pp. 136 & 137)

According to David Forgacs:

Marxism is a theory of economics, history, society and revolution . . . all Marxist theories of literature have a simple premise in common: that literature can only be properly understood within a larger framework of social reality. Forgacs, pp. 134 & 135)

He also believes that literature should not be treated or kept in isolation, divorced from society and history.  He adds:

For Marxists, social reality is not an indistinct background out of which literature emerges or into which it blends.  It has definite shape . . . found in history, . . . as a series of struggles between antagonistic social classes and the types of economic production they engage in.” (Forgacs, p 135)

Both Psychoanalysis and Marxism act as a nature/culture binary – ‘nature’ representing metaphorically the subconscious desires, the socially repressed elements of the characters’ natures – ‘culture’  comprising the social class structure, with its historical time-frame, and the revolutionary changes occurring as a result of the power relationships between the classes.

The concept of subject is not as straightforward as one would expect.  The subject syntactically is that which acts upon the object, while in literature is the topic/matter at the heart of the text.  The idea, ‘I think therefore I am’, “proposes a zero-degree picture of the subject: completely independent, completely unified.” (Saunders (1993) p. 99)  However, the completely unified subject can be seen to be environmentally and politically determined, while the notion of complete unity is undermined by the psychologically internal complexity of the subject.

Psychologically:

the subject is understood to be constituted by both conscious and unconscious desires and intentions: if you like, there is more to ‘I am’ than the controlled rationality of ‘I think’.  The result is a self which is not unified, but made up of competing factions[.] . . . . Freud’s own techniques of analysis of [the subject’s] dreams . . . goes beyond intention and unity, and looks instead at the fractured, the repressed, the displaced, and the unconsciously symbolic. (ibid, (1993) p. 100)

When the subject is seen through the eyes of Lacan and Kristeva, it is fractured and dispersed, “displaced by a post-modern economy of floating, disconnected desires and sensations.” (ibid, p. 100).

The concept of ‘subject’ can be seen not only in terms of ‘other (that which it is not), and ‘gaps/silences’ (that which is not explained), but also in terms of the psychoanalytical and the socio-economic/ideological.  The ‘subject’ of JANE EYRE (a Bildungsroman novel of formation) is Jane herself, and, as she is the narrator, we are able to see her life unfolding with the socio-economic influences, conscious thoughts, and unconscious desires contributing to her character development.

In the first chapter the distinction between Jane’s position and John Reed’s position in the household is graphically drawn – John is wealthy, arrogant, cruel, and selfish (the latter three being a result of the first), while Jane is poor, dependent (on the Reed family), ‘habitually obedient’ yet stirred to rebellion by the injustice of her treatment.  The Reed sisters are selfish indulged, and indifferent to Jane’s situation while resentful of her presence.  Mrs Reed is tyrannical, unfeeling, jealous (of Jane’s place in her late husband’s affections), and resentful of the burden of caring for Jane.

The upper class or Bourgeoisie, which the Reeds represent, are paradoxically shown to be uncharitable, unkind and unpleasant, yet because of the power they possess as a result of having affluence, as a desirable class to belong to and/or attain.  Jane’s portrayal of others of the same privileged class is on the whole equally unflattering.  Brocklehurst is depicted as hypocritical (has a puritanical expectation of how POOR young girls should behave and dress, while his own daughters are permitted to dress frivolously and behave ill-manneredly), stern, cold and uncharitable (witness the burnt porridge episode).  The Ingram family are haughty, overbearing, caught up in their own esteem, and once again ill-mannered.  Even Rochester Jane shows to be selfish, overbearing, arrogant and oblivious to those beneath him unless directly affected by them.

Jane, however, has virtually no status – she is ‘less than a servant’ in the eyes of all, including the servants.  By birth she is the Reeds’ social equal, yet her impecunious state dis-empowers her.  Ideologically she must learn to conform, to control her passionate nature (repress the id), in order to attain her economic independence and subsequent rise through the class system, while refusing to allow her own victimisation.  By learning to say no to John Reed she learns the power “of resistance against oppression and . . . of self-confirmation, asserting the right to value her well-being above the demands made by others.” (Nestor, p. 51).

Various levels of class are portrayed by Jane – from the moneyed Bourgeoisie (property owners) like the Reeds, Brocklehurst, Rochester, Mr Oliver “the proprietor of a needle-factory and iron-foundry” (Bronte, (1976) p. 381); to the poor ‘gentry’ who needed to earn a living like Miss Temple, Mrs Fairfax, and Diana Mary and St. John Rivers; to the servant/working class people like Bessie, Abbot, Hannah, Grace Poole; and finally to the peasant class children in the Moreton School, whom Jane describes as “heavy-looking, gaping rustics”, “farmers’ daughters”, “rustic Scholars”, and at the end of her time there of “some half-dozen of my best scholars: as decent, respectable, modest, and well-informed young women as could be found in the ranks of the British peasantry.” (Bronte, (1976) pp. 392 & 416)

As well as these there are coachmen, inn-keepers, shop-keepers, gardeners, maids, doctors, teachers, clergymen and others, all adding to the fabric of the narrative.  There are a few historical references to the Industrial Revolution time-slot – to the potato-famine of Ireland: “burnt porridge is almost as bad as rotten potatoes; famine itself soon sickens over it.” (ibid p. 63) – and (as mentioned above) to the fact the Mr Oliver owned a needle factory and iron foundry.

There was also mention of another kind of class system – that of the older girls at Lowood dominating over the smaller younger girls: “whenever the famished great girls had an opportunity, they would coax or menace the little ones out of their portion.” (ibid, p. 77)

The psychological references and influences are abundant in JANE EYRE.  In first chapters the red and white pattern is established by “folds of scarlet drapery . . . to the right” (ibid, p 23) and to her left the “drear November day” (ibid, p. 24) through the clear glass panes of the protecting window.  This pattern is repeated in the red-room, with “[i]ts red drapery and carpet and contrasting white bed and easy chair embody[ing] two separate threats to Jane – a prison of passion and a chill, ‘pale throne’ of repression.” (Nestor, p. 51)  Thus red is symbolic of passion which Jane must learn to suppress if she is to mature, while the white is symbolic of a cold, sterile life void of that passion.

This idea of imprisonment is thus hinted at in the opening pages to be followed by the actual imprisonment in the red-room.  On escaping the confines of this room, then her nursery, and finally Gateshead itself, she finds herself in another confining, regimented location – Lowood school.  Having worked herself up to the semi-independent position of teacher, she leaves the institution to venture into  the wider world – only to find that at Thornfield she is surrounded by signs of enclosure.

As Jane enters its gates they ‘clash’ behind her, Mrs Fairfax locks the hall door and takes the key before showing Jane to her room, just as she later securely fastens the trapdoor from the attic, and in the library Jane discovers that most of the books are ‘locked up behind glass doors'(104)” (Nestor, p. 58)

The fact that Jane sought e sense of freedom on the third floor of Thornfield is ironic – it was the site of Bertha’s imprisonment.  Even when Jane runs away and enters the Rivers’ household she is bound by another form of entrapment – that of St John Rivers’ uncompromising expectations of and plans for her.  Her ultimate release is seen to be when she returns to Rochester as an equal, financially independent, and releases him from his confining restraints of blindness.

The dreams that Jane has throughout the book are also psychological windows to her mind, and premonitions of her future.  The carrying of the child, in the dream Jane had prior to her wedding day, is symbolic of the weight of domesticity which hung around the necks of Victorian women, tying them down and preventing them from being independent.  Her ally, nature, had taken over the ‘prison’ of Thornfield which was reduced to rubble – it could no longer contain her – and through its agent the wind, was blowing away the restricting child, leaving her free to fall into freedom.

The use of dreams as premonition devices in the narrative were also an indication of Bronte’s awareness of the uncanny.  Her:

figurative language is profoundly suggestive, privileging the imaginative and intuitive ahead of the rational.  Similarly her use of the supernatural reinforces the sense of know- ledge beyond logic, of truths that are felt as much as thought.  (Nestor, p. 31)

With this language she is able to suggest psychological links – hunger indicating deprivation, confinement signalling oppression and elements of nature offering a nurturing safety:

Nature seemed to me benign and good; I thought she loved me, outcast as I was: and I, who from man could anticipate only mistrust, rejection, insult, clung to her with filial fondness.  Bronte, (1976) p. 349)

Finally the socio-economic position of the writer, “in an age shaken by religious, scientific and social upheaval” (Nestor, p. 30) where women were powerless, relegated to passivity, had an immediate bearing on the text.

Charlotte endorsed a fiercely individualistic self- sufficiency which placed the demands of society second to those of self, establishing a particularly important priority for women given the nature if Victorian’s demands upon them. (ibid, p.29)

Psychologically, Charlotte Bronte wrote in:

a distinctly female literary tradition . . . marked by images of enclosure and escape, fantasies in which maddened doubles function as asocial surrogates (as Bertha did for Jane) for docile selves, metaphors of physical discomfort manifested in frozen landscapes and fiery interiors and obsessive depictions of diseases like anorexia (of which Charlotte was suggested to have died from), claustrophobia and myopia.” (Nestor, p. 27) (my parentheses)

There are many more indications of the socio-economic and psychological practices at work on the subject in JANE EYRE.  Those I have shown give an insight into the text that a superficial reading may gloss over.

(C)  Jud House 28/08/2005

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Althusser, Louis. (1970) extract from IDEOLOGY AND IDEOLOGICAL STATE APPARATUSES.

Althusser, Louis.  ‘Ideology Interpellates Individuals as Subjects’ from ‘Ideology and the State’ in LENIN AND PHILOSOPHY.

Bronte, Charlotte. (1976 ed.)  JANE EYRE.  London: Pan Books Ltd

Forgacs, David.  MARXIST LITERARY THEORIES.

King, Jeannette. (1986)  ‘Recent Critical Approaches’ in JANE EYRE. Milton Keynes: Open University Press

Kristeva, Julia. (1986) ‘A Question of Subjectivity – an Interview’ in WOMEN’S REVIEW, No 12.

Lane, Margaret. (1980)  THE DRUG-LIKE BRONTE DREAM.  London:  John Murray (Publishers) Ltd.

Marx, Karl.  from the ‘Preface’ to ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’ in LITERATURE AND SOCIETY: MARXIST APPROACHES.

Nestor, Pauline. (1987)  Women Writers/CHARLOTTE BRONTE.  Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble Books.

Rhys, Jean. (1968)  WIDE SARGASSO SEA.  London: Penguin Books.

Saunders, Ian. (1993)  OPEN TEXTS, PARTIAL MAPS.  Nedlands: The University of Western Australia.

Selden, R. & Widdowson, P. (1993)  A Reader’s Guide to CONTEMPORARY LITERARY THEORY.  Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf, of Simon & Schuster International Group.

Spivak, G. C. (1986)  ‘Marxist Discussion of WIDE SARGASSO SEA’ from ‘Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism.’ in RACE, WRITING, AND DIFFERENCE.  Chicago: UCP.

* * * * *