?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Valerie Martin's Mary Reilly: true gothic

If this be not a gothic I know not where gothic is to be found:

Dear students, friends and readers.

Tonight I'm returning to make blogs out of my lecture notes for the use of my students.  The first one I'll do is for Valerie Martin's Mary Reilly as the students seemed to express much enthusiasm and interest in the book and watched the Stephen Frears', Christopher Hampton (he revised an earlier script by Polanski), Norma Heyman 1996 Tristar Mary Reilly with what seemed like intense absorption.  I will be adding stills from the film later this week.

I. First Mary Reilly is both a sequel and an historical novel.


Photograph of a woman servant on her day off, 1890s

A. Sequel defined:

    1.  defined in dictionary as "continuation or resumption of a story or process after a pause or intended ending.  Sequel makes ending of original story provisional."  A prequel:   what happened earlier. But there is a kind of sequel that goes over the same ground from another point of view.  That's what Valerie Martin is. Gone with the Wind has been rewritten as The Wind Done Gone from the point of view of a woman slave on the plantation Tara

    2.  What Mary Reilly also represents is the kind of sequel that is an interpretation of the book.  That's the best kind when original book a masterpiece. 

B.  What kind of interpretation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is it? What are some of the observable differences? realism, psychology, and modern social attitudes towards class, gender and sex.  A fantasy given solid realities.

    1. Center of original kept: a parable of ourselves:  two selves the mocker and the earnest, our conventional outward self and the secret sharer inside ourselves who does not conform usually.

    2.  Mary Reilly much franker about sex, interpreting it as heterosexual. Valerie Martin gives us concretely what Hyde was doing that was so bad: he loved to dominate, and the way in which you can prove you dominate someone, triumph over them, is to inflict pain.  Sexual experience includes strong elements of triumph and competition.

    3.  In sexual experience there is a area of feeling at which pain becomes a form of pleasure; at least it's hard to tell them apart as when you hold a piece of ice against your skin and it feels like it is burning. 

    4.  Martin makes real the violence.  I think Stevenson probably meant us also to see in Hyde the self-immolation of the alcoholic; the hints about Jekyll in Stevenson's tale suggest he exaggerated it in his mind because of his sense of shame. I have talked about drugs and medicine and science.  The movie does pick up on the drugs element as John Malkovich harrowed, slinks about clutching his drawer of drugs

    5. Martin shows how personalities are formed to be obedience to those higher up on the hierarchy.  Mrs Kent is Cook; Mr Poole is Butler and Steward; Bradshaw the footman.   She may be trying to suggest how women are formed to be obedient to men or at least find themselves in positions where it is to their advantage to be submissive.

C.  One problem with her book is the same that is some of her explanations (such as her father as alcohol) explains away things that happen, and inference is then we could avoid them if only we will reform our society and ourselves.  That's true of some of the events in the story (for example the poverty, alcoholism and brutality of Mary's father), but not its centre: 

    1.  the central remains that dual self which Stevenson conceived and cannot be explained away, and if anything she insists on Jekyll being Hyde and vice versa and what is good about Stephen Frears's production and Christopher Hampton's screenplay is they bring home to you that Jekyll is Hyde and let you see and hear Hyde as human, as not something feverishly apart.  And all seen from the standpoint of a young woman.

    2,  In afterward she does offer on the part of the fictional editor who found the diaries, the argument that what happened was Jekyll killed himself out of despair because addicted to some drug and presumed amoral behavior; Poole and Utterson covered it up with this crazy story, p. 261. 


Mary reading

II.  Judging it generally its own right:  it's a historical novel.  All sequels are.  What sequels do is take the names, places, stories and themes of an original book and place them before the reader once again.  They sell easier this way.  The key to success is, Can the writer really evoke the earlier period convincingly?

    A.  First thing it must have is a convincing language and for modern reader no striking anachronism.  Can be anachronistic, but reader must not recognise it.  I think Martin succeeds in creating a flavor of the times, a voice, and knows enough.

    B.  To be live it must have some inner life that springs from within the author.  Author must have something to say to us.  It's not necessary that your book fill out the vision of the earlier one; it can, but it can directly contradict it.  It can produce an interpretation
opposite to that of the orignal. 

    C.  It is necessary to have copyright permission if the book was published in a fixed form less than 70 years ago.

    D I think in this case the novel is a fitting complement to the original. 

    E. I really think it is an fine achievement: a book by a modern woman which brings in the underclass and woman's perspective while succeeding in bringing to the fore the actual 'evil events' and an actual portrait of Hyde which Stevenson could not bring off - partly his time, partly he was too repressed

    F.  I suggest maybe Stevenson would have admired the book, at least I think Martin wrote a book she hoped he would admire as it is in part a tribute to him, and can also be read as a commentary on his work.

        1.  Note who it is dedicated to:  JRM (her father) and RLS:  Stevenson

        2.  The physical depiction of Jekyll and Hyde who are not differentiated from one another physically all that strongy is a depiction of Stevenson himself:  pale, thin, sensitive in the case of Jekyll, pale, thin, haggard in the case of Hyde: both athletic

        3.  She alludes quietly to a number of Stevenson's stories:  the series which is known as the Suicide Club is about a group of men who agree they want no longer to live, and go about it as a sort of thrilling challenge to murder someone else or release to be murdered.  Suicide has never been easy to do.  They draw cards each night, and one person is the murderer and the other the  victim.  It's up to the murderer to do it in some surprising way.  Hyde's behavior in Mrs Farraday's brothel alludes to these  macabre bloody stories.

        4.  The Suicide Club also opens with a doppelgänger figure:  two young men about town disguise themselves nightly so they can go about in a different identity from their own and do what they please without being held accountable and without being repressed.


Mary and Jekyll near the end of the film

III.  Some individual themes and successes.

A.  One is the realistic novel's concern with reputation:  Jekyll has led a twisted repressed life because he insisted on hiding his least deviation from sin; this hiding made him regard himself as depraved.  He is a harrowed soul, and Hyde the embodiment of that aspect of him. 

B.  You need to be safe.  Safety a concern of the gothic.  Is there any safety anywhere?   Mary Reilly recalls Austen's more subtle presentation in that we see that the social order has taught Mary to control herself, taught her she has few choices.  Also found in ghost stories that have realistic surface.  p 79 Also a concern of ghost stories which seem to suggest there is no safety.

C.  There is a stress on hierarchy.   It is still with us, but more subtle, not so insisted on and institutionalised.  Absolute obedience of lower classes to upper.  You are not yourself;  you are judged by the accidents or distinctions society has placed upon you.  People as social roles.  They are respected for outer distinctions which are the result of chance; they are trained in accordance with where they are born:  Mr Poole, Bradshaw, the Cook (who is rarely named in novel as Mary thinks of her as cook, but is called Mrs Kent by the others), Annie.  This banging up of individual against this rigid world is typical of gothic: trouble is when walls of hierarchy torn down, we find ourselves in savage place of war of all against all.

D.  Realism:  the terrible power of money.  Jekyll sends Mrs Farraday money; she comes to get more bribes.   The landlord assured Mary no money was owing as her mother's furniture and clothes had all been sold. He rejoiced in Mary having made such a good bargain there was a full shilling for Mary.  He gives it to her.  Mary has her savings of 8 pounds to make the funeral.   Then we are back to the haunted streets again.

D.  What makes the book different and of real interest: In Stevenson's book we find ourselves in a relativistic stance of Utterson, Jekyll's friend, bland.  In Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde we see Jekyll and Hyde from afar, by the reasonable Mr Utterson who is not subject to them, not in their power, never endangered by them.  In fact he and Jekyll are old     friends, buddies, he has the highest opinion of Jekyll. He is unwilling to write down too much against his friend.     He is implicitly shattered by end of story and not heard from again.

    3.  Mary lives with Jekyll.  She sees him intimately.  She brings him his breakfast, makes his bed, takes his shoes off, makes up his fire.  Sees him undressed. She is in his power and that of Hyde.  Now that makes for suspense in the film.  We are frightened Hyde -- or Jekyll -- will hurt her in some way.  When she hides under the table, we wait breathless and Hyde has some fun stamping on the table, and then giving her the key from under it.  This is a repeat in effect of when the film opens and she is scrubbing a stoop and he comes along as Jekyll and cleans his boots on the stoop.  He has been out as Jekyll having a wild night (at the brothel?) and is home in the dawn.

    4.   Mary Reilly takes Utterson's place in Stevenson's novel.  She also takes Lanyon's.  She sees the metamorphosis in the film.  In Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Lanyon is so distressed he takes to his house, never leaves, then takes to his bed, and dies.  He is the horrified shattered scientist who cannot take in what he has seen.

    5.  Mary loves Jekyll; he can do no wrong and she is sexually attracted to Hyde, not for himself but for what he is in Jekyll.    

        a.  Early in the novel and film we see the servants suspect what often did happen in such situations (and Ibsen plays upon): the  master seduced the servant.  And it was not always because she liked sex.  Sometimes she was afraid to lose her position; male masters could prey on male servants homosexually too.

        b.  To Mary Jekyll is a good man; in the book we are told about his charitable activities; he is a gentleman.  He seems the opposite of her father.  Power is sexy; power is an aphrodisiac. Mary seeks to protect Hyde to protect Jekyll. But we see that Jekyll lies and is Hyde too.  At one point she sees Jekyll "at his ease" after Hyde has been out doing harm and she does grow irritated but she goes no further than this. She also tells him acts have consequences but again she does not apply her words to him -- at that point she doesn't know about Hyde.

E.  The whole stance of the book is much more realistic than Stevenson's tale.  We are give all sorts of sociological, historical, psychological detail which enables us to hold onto what's happening and talk about it in realistic not symbolic and metaphysical terms.  Yet the ultimate interpretation of the book is symbolic, metaphysical, at the end Mary lays down next to her master in death.  She yearns to escape life. In the film Polanski's script makes Jekyll seek oblivion.


Mary and Hyde in intense interaction

IV.  The text itself.

A.  Book framed.

    1.  It  opens with memory of father written down; closes with familiar device.  It was found by the editor as a manuscript.  It is carefully described. She is writing it as we go. She learned to write from Jekyll and it fulfills her need to write. An imagined editor provides a coda. It is a sort of interface the way the manuscript and causeway in The Woman In Black are, the attic and parapet are in Wharton's "Afterward."

    2.   The opener is a story of child abuse and rats which does happen.  Frame allows us to move into dream world slowly, and a staggering situation is made probable.  See p. 97: he always hated to see me cry; the person susceptible to bullying is often attacked by others.  They make the strong nervous; fear contagion of sadness and weakness, resent it.

B.  Book's style is what makes it.  It is idiolect of Mary:  mun is just one small thing.  The sentence structure, the vocabulary, the movement of her mind feels right.  I suspect Valerie Martin has studied the Sherlock Holmes stories where we have a lot of servants who talk like this.  It's bare in the modern way:    Still she gets a lot of suggestive innuendo in.

C.  We can see book as debating explicitly some of the inferences about human nature, life, society, morals through conversations of Mary with Jekyll and Hyde which punctuate the narrative.   That is the story is in essence the same one; we just swing round to see it from another point of view.  It is complicated by double plot of Mary's parentage:  story of father and mother threaded in.    But most interesting thing to me are the conversations between Mary and Jekyll/Hyde.  The issues these bring up.

D.  First she half-expects we have read Stevenson's classic so she plays on our eagerness at long last to see Hyde.  Makes him more mysterious by putting it off.

    1.  Done Parallel structure of seeing Hyde.   First:  'Cook has seen him', p. 88; what's he like?  a dwarf, well not quite.  Something wrong somehow.  The light dragging step of Mary's father becomes Hyde's; in a number of places Mary's mind switches back and forth from Hyde
to her father so they stand for same impulses for us: the father's evil self out of alcohol (but there
already, wheedling man).  See p. 40

    2.  Mr Poole has seen him, p 114. He's not a gentleman. The man has a wolfish way about him.

    3.  Mrs Farraday's testimony, p. 68; he knows the price of things; but then on pp 124-28:  Mary says her     master has some experiment which it takes courage for him to pursue; Mrs Farraday sees it in another light.  They've taken the girl; she's dead.  His precious name is safe.  'This is such linen even his friend Mrs Farraday cannot clean for him', p. 128

    4.  Mrs Farraday not central in book; the secondary heroine of the book is Mary's mother.  Expatiation and quotation from book.

    4.  Mary's suspicions arouse and she makes explicit what Utterson never quite does:  Jekyll is hiding Hyde's crime, pp 132-38

    5.  I have seen him, p. 144:  she hops out of her bed in her usual way.  Read from pp 134-35.  Then again they have another encounter:  pp. 144-48.  He is drawing dirty pictures in Jekyll's books.  Who asked the question, 'Don't you know who I am, Mary?' Jekyll or Hyde?

E.  Key dialogues for this novel and perhaps from one perspective all that we have read so far:

    1.  pp 47-48 (p. 45):  Jekyll asks her what if you could do something without getting caught, no one who counted would know, no punishment; Mary looks at him and say:  'I don't believe that there is any actions without consequences'.

    2.  Second debate or dialogue adumbrated when Mary tells Jekyll, p. 57:  'being wild they have a greater will to life' about the plants. pp. 77-78 (around p. 72 in small book):  He says if there can be no force for good, we must despair.  She says no.  We may avoid giving people pain or making them suffer.  p 78:  She says there can be no force for good.  Her master has after all given money for a school.  She knows what that school was inside.  Human nature of people made the poor and powerless in it their victims very often.   Okay is that good?  No. It's safe.  It is a serious question:  liberals often trust to making institutions and laws which will guarantee fairness, justice; or do they guarantee safety?  Institutions though are as natural as wild people so there is nothing unnatural about controlling ourselves. We also do have good impulses.

    3.  I see ultimate question of these books:  what is safe?  We are told Poole hates change, fears it, p 201.  All should be orderly, then we are controlled.

    4.   Are you ever afraid of yourself?   pp. 141-43.  What is in your, whether it be despondency, madness, anger, whatever.

    5.  Encounters with Hyde are brief and enigmatic; in each he teases her, looks desperate, angry; asks her if she doesn't know who he is, p. 162.  Movie builds these up considerably.

    4.  p. 158 & 189:  You weren't afraid of him, were you?  After the horrifying brutal murder of Carew Danvers, he is rubbing his eyes as Jekyll; she says he is like a child.  He knows it somehow and looks at her coldly  He asks if something amuses her p. 189:

    5. This links to another general question in the genre:  are you afraid of what's in you, your capabilities, and she says yes, sometimes. She does want to laugh at ludicrous hypocrisy of undertaker and landlord:  You are the bereaved p 162.  Absurdity of our pious behavior,
our pretenses.  The Hyde in us laughs at ceremonies, p. 176.  Yet ceremonies are what we have and she finds some comfort in it, p. 200

        a.   She has to work to keep back a shout of laughter all the while grief-striken over mother's death, p 180  Fake sympathy.  Haffinger thinks her heart cold.

        b.   No.

    6.  We are probably meant to take debate between Jekyll and Lanyon and Littleton over whether one should educate a person even if they have to stay in misery of poverty seriously, pp. 201-14.  Hard for me to think any thinking person could doubt the value of giving someone some
fulfillment who had the gifts, but there is a deeper debate.  Who is to pay for it?  Those who would keep everyone out of college are thinking of the money.

F.  Perhaps there is this improbability in the story as told by Valerie Martine:

    1.   End of book we are expected to believe Jekyll and Hyde are relying on her.  Perhaps that's a bit of a stretch:  in 1890s servants were second class people.  Would not have happened.

    2.  Still in gothic romances central character becomes one all rely on.  It's not quite probably a man like Jekyll would turn to Mary; more probable he'd turn to Utterson.  But Utterson would remain at a distance, and Lanyon turn away horrified.

    1.  P. 204:  she will not leave him -- as Jekyll he speaks out his vulnerability kindly, in need.

    2.  P. 233:  as Hyde he snarls at her:  she hears him weeping, she tells him you promised you would go away; we are expected to believe she's not caught on or doesn't want to see.

    3  Mary is also used interestingly to suggest Jekyll is not innocent; film goes farther to make her an analogue of Hyde because she's attracted to him.

    2.  This film  shows Mary longing for Hyde; this parallels the reality that Hyde is a projection of Jekyll himself.  The film insists  on this.


The servants told about Hyde: Mr Poole, Mrs Kent (Cook), Bradshaw, Annie and Mary to the back

V. Film, Mary Reilly

A,  Film is a product of film-makers:  producer is often as important as director; the director, the screenplay  The particular actors influence the way the characters are projected.

1.  To understand this one it's probably important to know that Hampton's screenplay is based on one by Polanski:  Polanski's work both reflects his biography and interests as an artist. And the director is Stephen Frears.

2. For his biography:  famously he lived through WW2 As the son of Jewish parents, he saw his mother die in a concentration camp, his father and a step-sister somehow survived; he did so by hiding out and passing as a Roman Catholic.  He went to live in France and became involved in the art film world.  Later on estranged from his father.  His first wife again well-known was murdered by the Manson gang in a peculiarly gruesome Sharon Tate, while pregnant. He's had some bad luck.  He himself is still in a state of limbo: having been accused of rape, which he did, and having fled from the court for 30 years now.

3.  From the beginning his work has been mostly dark and unsettling work, showing profound pessimism about human relationships with regard to the psychological dynamics and moral consequences of status envy and sexual jealousy. Repulsion explores psychological breakdown uncannily. He does sophisticated entertainments too. He does farcical and tragic films: The Fearless Vampire Killers is a parody of vampire films.  Gothics too:  Rosemary's Baby. I did lovo The Pianist but did not see The Ghost Writer. It's a thriller and plays on the idea of "ghost" in the ghost writer term: it's abuot someone who writes things for someone else which appear under their name.

4.  .Frears' work is wide-ranging and also remarkable. I've seen a couple of his first films, My Beautiful Laundrette is about two young men who try to make money opening a laundromat in London in the 1980s; another about ordinary people in an original way is Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. He had a big commercial success with a film adaptation of an 18th century satiric epistolary novel, Dangerous Liaisons, and it's not coincidence it starred Malkovich and Close.

5. Close and Malkovich often play transgressive roles, Roberts does tend to play the victim heroine.  Michael Gambon is a chameleon who you can hardly recognize from role to role but he can play with intense depth and persuasion. Michael Sheen (Bradshaw) is also a stage actor and played Mozart in Amadeus Mozart and in films big roles like David Frost and George Cole as Poole and Linda Basset (Mrs Reilly) and Kathy Staff (Mrs Poole) also superb character actors.

6. As film  See student model:  Bart Hart's Social Stratification and Class Consciousness in 19th Century England: Stephen Frears's Mary Reilly

    a   Worse thing about it:   Movie has wholly absurd sentimental claptrap at the end that Jekyll has killed himself to free her from him. Luckily rest of picture has nothing of this, and statement is not reiterated.  Film also solidly heterosexual in all its images.  It has cruelty but nothing you should excuse the expression kinky.

    b    I felt one aspect of the brilliance of John Malkovich's performance as Jekyll/Hyde was that as Hyde he was amused and evokes nervous laughter.  Julia Roberts does her vulnerable, worried, stalwart heroine very well.  Her facial features are mobile; with her long hair let down and the shawl and white gown, she's perfect Madonnna.  She weeps with sorrow for the world's miseries and her terrible past and memories. 
   
    c.  But Malkovich had the hardest part of Hyde:  he projected and encouraged the viewer in his or her sardonic laughter.  Malkovich did the same thing when he played Valmont in the film of Les Liaisons Dangereuses whose screenplay was also written by Christopher Hampton;
that too plays upon the dark sadistic aspects of our nature and people as tricksters of one another.

7.  Beyond switching the thematic emphases and what we are to infer, the film makes other changes from Mary Reilly and Jekyll and Hyde.

    a.  The film ties events together that are left apart in the original. The effect is to simplify yet also heighten the drama and give it new meanings.

    b. For example, Mary's father is seen as a variant on Hyde; when Mary flees her father, she flees Hyde; she also longs for Hyde.  Neither film nor novel go so far as to suggest  she longs for punishment from the brutal father. That's Hyde's idea.
   
    c. Mary herself moves back and forwards between Hyde and Jekyll and her experience connects little details in the
    original book that are not brought together.  It makes
    for an intensifying of the experience.

8.  Martin adds explicit scenes about death to Stevenson's tale and these are beautifully done in a mist and in a dungeon and Dickens-like (the landlord is a kind of Quilp from Old Curiosity Shop):  her mother dies, we go to funeral; we look at stiff body; we see it put in the earth.   Great suffering of life; connection of some afterworld of fearful malice captured in Hyde's appearances.  The universe is mysterious.  In the end of the film Mary walks away -- as does Frankenstein's creature in Frankenstein.

9.  Film strongly emphasizes women:  we see Mrs Kent, Annie, her fellow servant is added, Mrs Farraday is murdered unforgettably, and Mary's mother.   Thus a world of female realities comes more fully into play:  in type, Mary Reilly brings us right back to an original archetypal gothic heroine.  What are some of her qualities:  much put upon, very virtuous, very decent, also very sensitive and perceptive.
   
    a. In Martin's book & the film we are given the comfort to imagine Hyde doesn't want to hurt her.  I guess it would have  been too hard for the reader or a modern audience to take that. That's the Marquis de Sade stuff.

    b.  But Mary's reasonable, dutiful, virtuous, decent, reasoning character type is a recreation of the central much abject:  without pride, without rank, made to act without sufficient dignity for real; women are more powerless than men.


Mary at mother's funeral

VI. What kind of gothic?

I.  . What Mary Reilly being a fantasy gothic is able to do is let us inside the dream world and deeper motives of the girl, show how abuse can be horrifying and startling, show how it affects her whole life, makes her depressed, sad, dark center, and how gradually she copes with this wild figure who she gets to meet.  In the book I noticed this time that just about all her conversations are with Jekyll that are philosophic (about action, violence, consequences, our second self). We meet Hyde much more than in Stevenson's brief tale, but he remains an eratic terrifying figure. 

2.  It's like "Afterwards" a story of terror gothic, and there is no sex in the story overtly, Mary never desires to be punished or have pain nor is she in love with Hyde. She's in love with Jekyll and at the end of the story it's not clear who killed himself Jekyll or Hyde. The one who did we are to sympathize with.  Sympathizing with suicide is taboo by the way.

C. Now this film has altered things strikingly: it's a horror gothic with body taboos and we will see a lot of ghastly imagery.  What Frears and Hampton (director and screenplay writer did) was to re-insert much of RLStevenson's book back into the Martin's: the story of the trampled girl becomes central (the trampled girl is Mary); they retake the werewolf motifs and most of all they center on Jekyll and Hyde again.

D. Female gothics often center on female figure -- but can center on male. Usually written by women but also written by men.  The paradigms are the Psyche myth where the heroine/hero is curious and goes forth on an adventure in a labyrinth that is imprisoning or it's a Bluebeard tale with a murderous father/husband/brother.

E. Male gothics which mostly have male figures at the center.  Written by men more frequently but women do write them: female hero detective.  The protagonist usually enacts an Oedipal story about a man growing up fighting within himself.  Also Frears and Hampton take a porn motif: women like to be punished and pain, masochism.

F.  That is not in Martin. It is not uncommon in our culturel  So we have a horror film whose premise is a woman who loves a man who is fighting this urge to tear her to bits. 

G. Grief, loss, concern with death, metaphysical realm common to them all


Mary thinking, near sleep and dreams

VII. Among the reviews of film a phrase kept repeating itself:  true Gothic.  Mary Reilly is a true Gothic.

    1.  Why would it be a true gothic?

    2.  How's about the heroine?  Again and again in true Gothics we get this depiction of women as submissive and virtuous; the one who is vulnerable, in danger because she is good.  We can also find an evil woman.  All the more are we excited, allured.  Often these gothics are anti-sex, and the evil that Hyde and Jekyll do is centrally sexual in this book.  It seems essential the heroine be either a Mrs Farraday who is destroyed, Lilith, ultimate sex object, or good at heart or a Mary Reilly, utterly chaste.

    a.  Martin tries to escape this by having her at the end of various chapters talk of her longing for her master; sexual innuendoes; she talks of her whims.  pp. 15, 61

    b.  Very interesting are all the references to her deep sadness. She is depressed since her experience with her father.  A great hole of sadness in her heart.  Not in touch even with her hatred.  Martin aware that gothic is expressive mode of depression at some level.  It's a psychological genre.  Heavy heart.  She hates this or that.

    d.  A real personality type:  the serious introverted sensitive person, p. 164.  The person who prefers it to be quiet and respectable.

    c.  The garden:  what role does it play?  Therapeutic.  Work is our salvation.  Physics pain.  Reminds me of Frances Burnett's story for children, The Secret Garden. p. 73

    3.  Another motif is to release passions and fear, to play upon uncanny dreads.  Like all true Gothic heroines, Mary Reilly cannot sit still in her bed where it's safe.  She continually gets up and runs about fearful labyrinths which no sensible person would come near.  The labyrinth image and the tunnels, the underworld of our nightmares.

    4.  The movie edges into thes pornographic and implicitly sadomasochistic

        a.  Valerie Martin gives us the male who is excited about this:  in the novel and film adaptation of Mary Reilly we have a scene where Jekyll lingers lovingly over some horrible scars Mary has from childhood; it's more tactfully done in the book, but it's still there.

        b.   She also makes the reader feel pity and terror not a thrill when she presents the father terrorising the child -- and beating her and  threatening her sexually too.  So she uses this motif as part of a vein in the book which shows women as submissive to men, used by them, powerless.  The mother can protect Mary from her father only by putting her into service:  the father is not punished as he probably would not be in life.

        c.  Mrs Farraday is:  in film note her horrifying comeuppance.  I would like to believe there's a moral here, but I think the lesson is not the point, but rather the lurid horror of the cruelty.  John Malkowitch gets off some funny jokes in the film (nervous humour) as when in the film Hyde says to Mary your mother is not the only one who died today.  A joke.  Our mischievous self is invited to laugh, the Hyde in us. Comedy:  Mary Reilly Malkovitch running about clutching his drawer is a drug addict image

    5.  So depiction of heroine is part of true Gothic.  The landscape of dungeons, labyrinths, going into the dark corners of our souls and minds.  What else?  Death itself hovers near.   When Mary's mother dies, the man who played her landlord made me remember Cruikshank's pictures of Dickens's Quilp (Old Curiosity Shop).  A fearful limping troll.  The mother's body was placed in the bare light of day; all stiffened, again in a closet.  This is mixed up with money seen as a kind of blasphemy against existence. lots of flesh, blood, meat, primal scenes and colours.  .

    6    Gothics often anti-science and ultimately anti-books.  Jekyll a mad doctor; Mary's reading does not help her much in life.

    7.  Indictment of human nature.  Gothic romance can be anti-progressive, reactionary, and pessmistic even though it often is used by radical writers.  They use it to show up the evil that men do and blame it on the system, but if we look at their books carefully we find the evil that men do is the result of a system which grows out of their natures.



Malkovich as Jekyll thinking: made to resemble Stevenson

VIII. Martin herself

A. Autobiographical Facts: when a writer is still writing most of the time they shield their private life so we know little about it. I can make connections by telling you about her love for Stevenson, fantasy and gothic.  I've added two online interviews with her.  So you can read them too.  Show additions to course materials.

B.  She was born on March 14, 1948 (so she is two years younger than me).  Valerie Metcalf.  In Sedalia, Montana.  Her father was one John Roger Metcalf, a sea captain; her mother was another Valerie, Valerie Fleischer.  Her first husband was the sea captain.

    1.  So Valerie Metcalf was her maiden name; has been twice married; her first husband was an artist (painter), Robert M. Martin; they were married in 1970 and divorced in 1984.  She has remarried James Ellsworth Watson, March 30, 1985; she has one daughter, Adrienne, from her first marriage.

    2.  She received a B.A. from the University of New Orleans in 1970; she received an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) from the University of Massachusetts in 1974.  Her career has been wholly in academia and as a writer.  She has been a lecturer and professor of writing or literature much of her life.

C.  Writing Life:  I have read a good deal of her work beyond Mary Reilly and will tell you a little about a couple.  These are: 

1.  The Consolation of Nature (1988) is a spooky book.  It connects human beings to animals (as does her novel The Great Divorce -- we are divorced from our deeper natures which are animal and dangerous); terrible sufferings; it's hard to find any solace anywhere.  Macabre,
disturbing images.

2  I liked The Great Divorce (1994) very much.  It is several stories interwoven.  One tells of Ellen Clayton, a veterianarian whose husband leaves her for a younger woman.  It is the 'norm' or tonic story.  Many of its events are paralleled in another story of Camille, a desperate young girl who goes to bed with any man who asks her to, and is herself brutalized and hurt again and again.  She finally commits suicide.   A third is set in the 19th century and tells of Elizabeth Shlaeger who murdered a cruel brutal husband; based on real woman who lived during time of great slave plantations in Louisiana.  Again the events in this third plot mirror those in the first.  All three stories reveal to us the wild passionate nature that is in us just below the surface.  Very southern.  The depiction of New Orleans evocative. Vampire tales in US literature occur in New Orleans

3.  Italian Fever.  It's the story of a bad writer who dies in Italy, and whose literary assistant, a woman, comes to where he died to bury him. Occurs in Tuscan countryside:  it's has the qualities of a ghost story. She won the Orange prize (prestigious woman's prize) for Property:  about a white woman who is a brutal man's wife and his black slave concubine who is his property. Both are his property; they are equivalents, double selves.

4. Property won the Orange prize (best book by a woman given out in the UK);  it's about two women, the white wife and black slave of a southern plantation owner. He treats them both as his property.  It's a bitter hard book, effective, startling.

5.  Criticism:  what do people say about her work?  That she writes stories in the tradition of Edgar Allen Poe; she can communicate extreme states of mind and make them yield startling psychological truths.  Her books swerve towards violence and despair.   Many women critics treat her work with disdain because she writes romance, for women, costume drama in books

Ellen

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Vic Sanborn
Oct. 3rd, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
I have the VHS film, and am now tempted to see it. Thanks!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

August 2017
S M T W T F S
  12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Tags

Page Summary

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow