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Reactive defiance or fulfilled life?

Dear friends and readers,

One of the comments I got on my blog yesterday prompts this companion blog: "The trick is to love who you are ... "

That was a generous thing to say, and it strikes me as true (a belated response as I thought about it a little). I like the suggestion for a way into writing a memoir and maybe sometime in the 20 or so years left me I'll try it.

What I want to rejoin in a separate blog (it's worth it), is this feat of loving oneself is more than a matter of will or egoism, or self-blindness which many seem to have -  I've lived with people (not my Admiral who maybe I should start calling my Captain) who pamper themselves to the point I'm startled. My sense is the rhinoceros skin some people display in social interaction (or on listservs) comes partly from this firm self-love. Now many such people are working hard, spending their lives trying to achieve or look they are achieving what the average person admires. I haven't or don't or can't.

My point is it's hard really to forget the world's valuation of you. I try hard and talk about it a lot, and perhaps go further than many in going my own way in my own style (another road chosen and all that), but finally the world's view cannot be shut out. It stares at one in faces of others as one goes about the world, and the utterances grate.

Trollope has a sharp insightful bitter chapter on just this inability to shut out the world in his Lady Anna. The hero, a tailor, wants to marry the lady of the book's title. He visits the poet Southey (poor Southey, ever the icon for conservative rhetoric) in his old age. Southey tells the young man that if the two marry at first they will succeed in ignoring how others scorn him and look down at her for marrying him, but eventually it will affect her view of him especially if he does not succeed, and that will in turn affect his of her.

So the marriage will be a struggle.

The lesson to be learned is not to marry. Nonetheless, Trollope has his pair marry anyway and go to Australia as a place where they may escape the rigid class hierarchies of England. He found he could when he went to Ireland -- Anthony Trollope never went to university, and got his job only by his mother nagging someone incessantly through the patronage network to give him a lowly post in the post office at age 19. His father was mad and probably violent, his mother had a lover and wrote publicly and her older son lived off her. So not very respectable.  Trollope's biographers say he intended perhaps to write more novels about this couple's history in Australia but gave it up. Another cycle of books. See my Trollope section on my website.

It's not a lesson I would learn from this, only that the future may be blighted and hurt by what others allow and say. I imagine that Trollope meant to show his new chief couple succeeding very well anyway.

One of the early encounters of Drake and Morwenna on the seashore coast of Cornwall: she's a governess for her cousin Elizabeth's son, he's become the boy's friend. See my Poldark archive on Ellen and Jim have a blog two.

In Winston Graham's Poldark novels he has a couple who similarly fall in love across class lines: Drake the youngest brother of Demelza, carpenter by trade, he cannot write very well but can read, falls in love with Morwenna Chynoweth, daughter of a dean, of an ancient Cornwall family which has fallen into bankruptcy but prides itself on its rank and marrying into rich families who are buying this (imagined)  heritage. Really bad things happen to this young couple including a coerced marriage for her, nightly rapes, and a severe beating nearly to death for him, but it being a novel the bad husband dies, Drake recovers enough, and the couple do eventually defy everyone at considerable cost to their psychic energies. She gives up all income from the ex-hustand, is relieved to give up her son but is despised for it.. How do they survive? Well by help from sympathetic relatives on his side, mostly Ross Poldark who ever has access to yet another cottage, yet another farm, and enough money to start yet another small business, and their willingness to turn away from the world, really retreat. But they are a side couple, secondary characters, not the chief couple (Ross and Demelza) who do succeed at least enough by the later books: he becomes an MP and she is respected enough though she does find she can't take the abrasive aggressive encounters of London or navigitate its people-shark infested parties and returns to Cornwall for good.

I've done the first Poldark book (Ross Poldark) twice now and shown selections from the first season, Parts 2-4. One of my cleverer students called the attitude of mind of the books "reactive defiance:" I think it's better than that. It's considered holding to an authentic self, but the results are not always fairy tale ... which is part of the reason I like them so much.

Morwenna and Drake's story is probably my favorite one.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 25th, 2012 11:14 am (UTC)
Another friend endorsed Bob's statement:

There has to be an upbeat part. Why else have you gone on all
these years doing what you clearly love to do?

The way I experience my choice or life is this: what I do fills my time and my mind; it's something I can endure and keep at, and yes sometimes is very fullfilling, but I do it because either 1) I can't bear the other choices many people seem to prefer (various kinds of jobs, shopping, many kind of socializing, much having to do with motherhood), 2) can't do it (lots, like traveling but other stuff), or 3) have not been given an opportunity to try to do what I might excel at and enjoy (such as teach advanced courses in literature, or write professionally regularly)

I remember when my ex son-in-law got a job for a AP I felt so envious: it was to write up news stories all the livelong day and it was unionized so good pay; it was a gruel or grind because he was supposed to do so many a day but it was terrific training. He got it because he was a personable white young man who had gone to the right college. (End of story: he quit, threw it away after a year or so, didn't value it because I suppose he thought he'd get another like it and probably did.) For this latter one must interview well and I'm very bad at that.

I make what I can of my lot.
Jun. 26th, 2012 11:50 am (UTC)
On on-line life:

I'm persuaded that the image some people on listservs or who read my blog or website get of me is all wrong. When I've met people for the first time face-to-face they are often startled. I'm not impressive :). Or when they hear me speak: the vowels and accent they attribute to what they read are not mine.

Sometimes people come away with the conclusion I'm a strong rebel in life. That's not true. Someone else suggested I went off on a tangent in this blog.

I am talking about an attitude of mind which I felt I could characterize by referring to characters and situations in books.
My second friend put his words in a way I could answer better. After all it's not something I can do to write an autobiography, nor what I'd really want to do. I'd have to have a real commitment by someone to publish it conventionally.

My reply is I make do with what I have and what I am. At times it is painful to be on some list-servs, Austen-l, for example. I'm aware people will think a lot of what I do is so counter-productive and "gets nothing" (no prestige, no money), worse than a waste of time as I show myself to be different. It's not good for one's self-esteem (see above) to think of yourself as laughed at.


Edited at 2012-06-26 11:56 am (UTC)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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