The Long Walk Home, is a favorite of films regarding the 1950s American South. The storyline brings two women together to both play a part in the Civil Rights Movement. One of the women is Miriam Thompson, who is a white, upper middle class housewife with two daughters; the youngest, Mary Catherine, is seven years old. Her sister, Sarah, is in college.
The scenes begin with a Montgomery Alabama bus (1955) pulling up for three black women (all are domestic workers) to board. They walk with backs straight, put their money into the bus meter, then walk out and along the side of the bus to enter at the back. One of the maids, Odessa Carter, works for Mrs. Norman Thompson. Mary Catherine's voice-over describes Odessa, "I called her Dessy. As best as anyone knows, she was the first woman to rock me to sleep. There wasn't anything extraordinary about her. But, I guess there's always something extraordinary about someone who changes and then changes those around her."
Odessa arrives to the Thompson's family enclave, seasoned with its 1950s space age furniture, to meet her usual morning scene. Sarah is looking for her tennis racket so she can meet her boyfriend at the club, Norman asks Miriam to have his golf clubs repaired, as he is heading out to work, and Miriam asks Odessa to take Mary Catherine to the park, as there is to be a cocktail party thrown later that night.
Miriam drives Mary Catherine, Odessa, and two of Mary Catherine's friends to Oak Park. Odessa sits in one of the back seats. Miriam drops off Odessa and the girls, telling Odessa to meet her at the same spot at 3p.m., as she should be back from the beauty parlor by then.
The girls run and play, while Odessa puts lunch together. Then, a Montgomery Alabama police officer comes along. He is very tall and big, and as the children look on, he loudly informs Odessa the park is for whites only. Odessa and the children have to leave.
Miriam is incensed at the story of the children and maid's experience in Oak Park and she calls the police office to complain of the incident. It appears her husband (or father) carries a reasonable amount of weight in town as the officer comes to apologize, that very afternoon, to both the maid and the children.
Later that evening, at the cocktail party, Norman's brother, Tucker, hears about how his sister-in-law had the officer come out and apologize for what he did to Odessa and the girls in the park. Tucker tells Miriam, that for a white officer to have to express regret or demureness, to a black maid is, "just plain ol' wrong." Miriam becomes irate Tucker should judge her on any given moral synopsis, and responds to his stated perspective by telling him, she knows what is right and knows what is wrong, and she is not to be second guessed by a "wet behind the ears patrolman," nor by Tucker. She then walks off and Tucker can think of no better reply in turn other than to tell his brother he always thought Miriam was a, "hellcat."
Some time went by before an event occurred that really brought Odessa and Miriam together as people: the arrest of Rosa Parks and the boycott of the Montgomery Alabama buses by the African American populace. Parks was the second African American woman arrested for refusing to give up her seat for a white person.
And so, the boycott begins. Some black people had cars, but most did not. And this meant two things:
1. A lot more walking
The morning after the boycott is announced, the buses roll by Odessa's family home...(t.b.c. 08/01/2013) "That bus is as empty as my grave," Odessa remarks of one going by. Odessa has three children of her own, one girl and two boys. The youngest of the boys asks, "Mom, if we can't ride the bus, do we have to go to school?" Odessa responds with, "Boy, you ain't never took the bus in your life..."
With the boycott comes friction at work for Odessa sometimes arrives late and moves slow as she is tired from the lessened hours of sleep and all the walking. She even has bloodstains on her socks from poor walking shoes. Odessa cannot take the bus, even if she would like to, as a black person taking the bus by themselves is liable to attract a dangerous amount of attention in a small city where white police cannot be relied upon to protect the black community.
The boycott causes increased debates among both the black and white populaces. After walking miles and cleaning house all day, Odessa attends weekday night Church meetings, where the voice of Martin Luther King is heard over the loud speaker saying, "the only weapon we have in our hands this evening is the weapon of protest. That's all..."
Odessa, despite her innately strong work ethic begins to drag around Christmas time. Miriam feels bad and both out of empathy and as a business measure, she agrees to give Odessa a ride from Curb Market, twice a week in the mornings. Mary Catherine is a witness to the carpool agreement between the two women. Miriam informs her daughter, the matter is a secret between them, so there is no need to tell Daddy.
Christmas comes and Odessa, has in her pocket a little gift for Mary Catherine, the same size as the gifts Odessa gave her own children. Though, when Mary Catherine runs up to Odessa to show off her fancy new doll, just gotten for Christmas, Odessa puts the little gift back in her pocket. Mary Catherine will never know Odessa bought her a gift for that Christmas day.
Odessa walks home after serving the Thompson's their Christmas, and she walks because it means giving her children a better place in the world. Miriam decides to aid the boycott and carpools even further, perhaps to give her own children a better world, and for herself. Miriam has a good, loving husband, but as time goes by their distance grows over their perspectives of Odessa's place in their family. Miriam becomes part of the underground carpool movement: white women giving rides to African American, mostly domestic workers, in an organized pick up and drop off venue.
The carpool is crashed by white southern male fundamentalists, one of whom is Miriam's husband, and Miriam is caught in the act of aiding the Civil Rights Movement. Her car is vandalized while Mary Catherine looks on in tears and Miriam's own husband stands by, hopeless to make it stop. Tucker, who is at the scene, tells Miriam that she has lost this one. Miriam turns right around and in true spitfire fashion, tells Tucker,"Go to hell, you ignorant sonofa-" And she gets slapped across the face for it, but she stays. Her husband finally comes to Miriam's physical protection but it is obvious, she and Norman are on two different sides of one line. The women of the carpool, mainly African Americans, begin to sing in response to the white men's chants of "walk n- walk, walk n- walk." The women stand their ground and they sing a hymn.
By Sarah Bahl
The Help, (2009) by Kathryn Stockett is a portrayal of life in early 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. The focus is on the relations between white women and those "of color." The novel is written from three perspectives.
The first voice is Abileen, a black maid working for the Leefolts, a white family, that is undergoing financial strain. Abileen is calm, intelligent, and caring. She has worked for white families, nurturing and raising their children for much of her life. She is in her 60s and has cared for white child after white child, most of whom grow up to be as racist as their fathers and mothers.
The second perspective is Minny, a maid as well, with an alcoholic husband who beats her the same as her father used to during her childhood. Minny is vivacious, portly, and has trouble keeping a job in Jackson because of her tendency to respond frankly to her white bosses. She has children, a husband, and she spends all day cleaning other people's houses. There are woman in Jackson Mississippi, who are ready for change, such as a perfectly made bonfire, just waiting for a match.
Skeeter (third) is 23 and as an ambitious writer, she craves freedom away from 1960s plantation life and her mother, who thinks she can make up for her own petty life by overly controlling her daughter, with comments and suggestions to improve her looks, so as to find a husband, in a manner meant to be "helpful." Skeeter smokes, and applies for writing/editorial jobs, not in Mississippi. She hears back via mail from an Elaine Stein, Senior Editor at Harper and Row Publishers. And so the change begins.
Skeeter compiles a narrative of stories based on the lives of maids in Jackson. As a result, she becomes outcasted from every white person in the small city, with the exception of her family. Her mother is direly ill and her father runs the plantation, as a shell of a person, unable to believe his wife is dying. Skeeter is able to move to New York and begin her career with the help of a trust fund, once the book is published. The book's capital income is divided 13 ways because of the number of people whose stories Skeeter used.
The Help reveals the maids of 1960s suburban Southern life are not ghosts meant to care for white people; but that they are people themselves, with thoughts, feelings, and faults of their own. Some of the novel I was uncertain of in terms of racial representation because the author, Stockett, wrote the black characters according to phonetic diction while the white characters' southern accents are written in Standard American English. Also, with the African American narration, there are differences in wording while all white dialect is written in SAE. Rosa Parks (born 1913), a black Alabama seamstress, spoke in SAE. Is Stockett credited to know what African American speech would have been like
at that time and place in history?
The "white trash" character, Celia Foote, from The Help speaks in SAE rather than Southern American English. So, if Celia is speaking in SAE, why are the working class African American characters speaking in what seems a version of African American Vernacular English, (using double negatives and keeping intransitive verbs without converting them to third person singular) rather than SAE? The whole book should be written according to dialect for both black and white characters, or else all in SAE.
By Sarah Bahl
"Ballet's Greatest Hits–YAGP Gala" played at AFI Silver Theater last Sunday, is remarkable for bringing to life what people love most about ballet. The still shots of dancers perfectly embodied in mid-air remind one of how perfectly graceful these athletes are. Their grace brings an ethereal sense of power to a long standing dance profession which will hopefully never die out. The Nutcracker was delved into as one of the most popular ballets of all time, due to its storyline and the playful, elegant qualities of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's score that brings a person to another world, that is filled with sugar, light, and its own magical dangers.
The cross cultural affinities of ballet were addressed with discussions of Flames of Paris, a Soviet ballet of the French Revolution. Though, the dancers' movements were basic, (at least based on the clips shown) the intrinsic cultural values were of utmost precedence for the piece. The historical accounts of Giselle were interesting as the first dancer to play Giselle, Isabelle Ciaravola, is still so well known today. The lead dancer for the Willis was interviewed, and the otherworldly elements of the piece and the psychological meanings behind them are commented on by the dancer(s).
Overall, the film is fun, interesting, and of great cultural and historic value. That is, once one recovers from the horror of watching ballet via film and not live. The still shots of the dancers in air, helped balance the ballet on film aspect. For seeing the dancers' movement's on still shot reminds one of watching a cat jump ten feet up and land on top, perfectly poised, upon a 4 inch landing. Seeing is not believing, as one may see, blink, and still not quite find to be true, the wonderful love for life and beauty that is ballet.
I was first introduced to Fried Green Tomatoes at the movie theater, in 1992. My mother thought it would be a good film for my grandmother, Mary McGraw, and for my sister and myself to enjoy; and it was. My grandmother, born on August 6, 1917; grew up as part of a large family in a small Irish town, in Western Maryland. The film would remind my grandmother of what she was used to growing up, my mother explained. The film is filled with those old large wooden houses, with the wrap around porches and the sound of a large noisy family.
My grandmother took after her mother as the family beauty, and was graced with singing, musical, and artful talents. As a child I knew she loved films and TV shows and she always had the radio on to classical music. My grandmother has been for some years now, buried in Arlington National Cemetery with my grandfather, Dennis McGraw.
Every family has its own dramas, hopes, and legacies. My grandmother grew up in a small town, South of the Mason Dixon line. This might be considered an old fashioned stereotype: but if there is one thing Southern American women can do: it’s talk. As well as cook…and eat…and talk some more. And so from this premise is born Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. The novel begins with the Whistle Stop Cafe news bulletin announcing the 1929 opening of the town’s only cafe. The writer’s name is Dot Weems. There are few things cuter than a little Southern woman named, Dot, working at the post office and writing weekly news bulletins in which she makes fun of her own husband half the time.
Now, if one is the kind of woman who eats ice cream sandwiches for breakfast, (me), then she would want the writer to skip to the good stuff…cafe? A Southern cafe? What is on the menu? Well, here we are:
“For lunch and supper you can have: fried chicken; pork chops and gravy; catfish; chicken and dumplings; or a bbq plate; and your choice of three vegetables, biscuits or cornbread, and your drink and dessert – for 35 cents…the vegetables are: creamed corn; fried green tomatoes; fried okra; collard or turnip greens; black eyed peas; candied yams; butter beans or lima beans. And pie for desert. My other half, Wilber, and I ate there the other night, and it was so good he says he might not ever eat at home again. Ha. Ha. I wish this were true…Dot Weems.” The Weems Weekly, Whistle Stop Alabama’s neighborhood information letter, gives all the needed information for everyone in Whistle Stop.
Then, the narrative flips to December 1985; a woman, Evelyn Couch who, with her husband, has just arrived at Rose Terrace to visit her mother-in-law, Big Momma. Evelyn cannot stand sitting around and watching television with them, so she takes the only sweet thing in her life at the moment; a candy bar, then goes to silently and singularly shove her face in the cold, sterile, visitors’ lounge.
But instead of sweetness and solace, Evelyn finds herself next to a large boned, chatty old woman; “Now, you ask me the year somebody got married…who they married…or what the bride’s mother wore, and nine times out of ten I can tell you, but for the life of me, I can’t tell you when it was I got to be so old. It just sort of slipped up on me.” The 86 year old woman, is a Mrs. Cleo Threadgood, “It’s funny, when you’re a child you think time will never go by, but when you hit about twenty, time passes like you’re on the fast train to Memphis,” Mrs. Cleo Threadgood, a.k.a. Ninny, continues. Ninny, who never had a driver’s license, and had never lived anywhere but Whistle Stop until she is at Rose Terrace.
Ninny came to keep Mrs. Otis, her friend, company. And it is a good thing she did, because Evelyn Couch needed a friend for herself more than ever. Though friendship is not what Evelyn initially sought when she entered that visiting room, but it is what she found.
Evelyn was 48 years old and had discovered the world was not as she had always been taught it would be. The bad girls in highschool who had gone “all the way,” had not ended up living in ruin and disgrace, but were either happily or unhappily married like everyone else. Evelyn had waited until her wedding night and found out it hurt. But, not nearly as much as giving birth. The doctor told her she would forget the pain as a natural defense mechanism. The doctor, was either a fool or a liar. Evelyn remembered every bit of the pain. And birthing pain hurt just as much the second time around.
She had two children, a girl and a boy. When her daughter had grown up, she wanted to know how many men Evelyn had slept with. Evelyn had only ever been with her husband. Her daughter was shocked, “Oh mother, how dumb. You don’t even know if he is any good or not. How awful.”
And her daughter was right. Evelyn had no idea if Ed was any good or not. Evelyn had been part of her highschool’s golden circle, in the 1950s. A smiling cheerleader, Evelyn never knew the names of the boys in the band nor those of the girls with the see-through blouses. She never cared to know.
And now, at 48, Evelyn Couch had woken up. Not that she hadn’t tried to be a fuller person along the way. She tried to raise her son to be sensitive but Ed told her he would turn out, “queer,” so she stopped. And her son became only an apparition to her; a stranger.
Evelyn thought about the War in Vietnam but Ed had told her that anyone against the war was a communist. So, she never argued, but it did occur to her sometime after the war was over that maybe it had not been such a “good war” after all. One day in her mid forties Evelyn, with her shopping cart, stared into a vast array of TV screens, all for sale. Evelyn honestly wondered who the fat, pretty little woman was and what she was on TV for. Then Evelyn realized with horror it was her own reflection. Time had taken Evelyn with it, and she never once demanded an answer from Time, nor ever even asked Time any questions.
Evelyn was lost. She had awoken from the dream of her life, to realize she did not know where she was nor what she was doing there. The dull torpids of Americana, stared her in the face: TV, grocery shopping, air conditioned car, a husband who spends hours at the Home Depot looking for nothing. She wanted to seek comfort from Ed, but he was just as lost as she was.
At their 30th highschool reunion Evelyn prayed for an answer. A true connection in the dark, nebulous emptiness that was her life. But all the other wives looked just as scared and confused as she felt; clinging to their drinks and husbands as if they were about to plunge over a cliff.
Evelyn had spent her whole life doing everything because someone else told her to. She feared names. She never had more than one drink at a party, as she did not want a reputation. She got married as to not be thought of as frigid, she waited until her wedding day, so she would not be called a slut. Evelyn had done everything she was supposed to her whole life…and she now had no real girlfriends nor job. She went to Christian women gatherings were she was told all those successful career women were secretly lonely and miserable. Evelyn had a hard time picturing Barbara Walters giving it all up for Ed Couch, but alright.
It was her duty to save her marriage, as far as she knew. Ed, at one point was having an affair with some woman from work and Evelyn tried to sex up her marriage by dressing up in nothing but saran wrap and answering the door for Ed. (It was what the Christian womens’ circle told her to do.) Ed just pushed her to the side when he came in from work and asked her if she had gone crazy. Self-esteem was not coming to Evelyn from all directions, to say the least.
Ed’s affair ended and the situation settled down, but still, Evelyn did not have enough for herself. Instead of them working on losing weight together, Ed would look at Evelyn “whenever she had anything fattening to eat and said in mock surprise, ‘Is that on your diet?’” So, Evelyn ate in secret, alone with whatever she could find that was sweet. “Evelyn stared into the empty ice cream carton and wondered where the smiling girl in the school pictures had gone.” She bought the ice cream from Baskin Robbins, telling the sales clerk, it was for her grandchildren. She did not have any grandchildren.
But, if Evelyn had not escaped for something sweet she would never have met Ninny Threadgood. Ninny, with her stories of times gone by. So, when Evelyn came the following Sunday and all other Sundays, clutching her Almond Joys and her Snickers as if they were the Bible, and sat down in the visitors lounge, she really had no choice but to listen to Ninny with her stories of the Threadgood family.
“The front yard had an old chinaberry tree. I remember, we’d pick those little chinaberries all year long, and at Christmas, we’d string them and wrap them all around the tree from top to bottom.” Ninny was raised by the Threadgood family, who was the prime family of the small Southern town. Families in general, were much bigger in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, than now.
The two main characters of the family in relation to Ninny, are Buddy and Idgie, short for Eugenia; as well as Cleo, who she married. Buddy is the family darling, with a million dollar smile and the personality to match. Idgie, born a tomboy, might have been out of sorts in the family, if it were not for Buddy’s protection, for when Buddy had a football game, Idgie sat on the bench right there with him and his teammates. Buddy was popular with everyone.
When he began seeing a woman from the other side of the tracks, Buddy did what no other man in town would do. He took her right home to meet the family. It was a tragedy for everyone who knew him, when, Buddy was hit by a train while he was too busy flirting with yet another girl in town to notice the train pulling up right behind him. Trains in those days claimed, fingers, legs, and lives. Children would play on the tracks and yes, one can hear the trains coming behind from behind, but not always, and especially not always fast enough.
Ninny had been kissed by Buddy, but she was one of many. Ninny always had a crush on Buddy, (who didn’t?) but she married Cleo in her 17th year. Ninny points out that the one wanted is not always the one gotten, but one can still be happy. Cleo fell in love with the tall, sweet woman who had been adopted by the Threadgood family when her parents died years before.
Evelyn learned to love and look forward to Ninny’s stories, about Idgie and Ruth especially. Ruth came into Idgie’s life the summer of 1924. Ruth was from Valdosta Georgia and was put in charge of all the Baptist Youth Activities for Momma, Mrs. Threadgood. Ruth was truly one of the most beautiful women anyone had ever seen, and Idgie was in love with her at first sight.
For some reason, for a small Southern town so viscously racist, there is little eyebrow raising toward lesbianism. It is treated the same as heterosexual love on a social basis. At least in the novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe it is. And is Idgie ever in love with Ruth.
Idgie wakes up Ruth very early one morning and with her brother’s stolen car keys, Idgie drives them both out to the country so Idgie can take Ruth on a romantic picnic. Idgie also wants to show Ruth a secret. She picks up an empty jar, walks over to where a beehive is and sticks her hand right in, to pull out some honeycomb. The bees cover Idgie head to toe in layers but by the time she walks back to where Ruth is panicking next to a tree, they have all flown away. Ruth is hysterical that Idgie might have killed herself. But Idgie was only charming bees. For Ruth, that is.
But their love was not to last that summer as Ruth was already engaged to Frank Bennett; one of the more notable lowlifes in all of literature. Frank Bennett, owned a fair amount of land from a town in Georgia and knew all the ladies. He knew them, whether they wanted to know him or not. Frank, supposedly scarred from some childhood trauma, had grown a cold heart and didn’t care what he took and who he took it from. He raped at will, with his buddies nearby, enjoying the scene or “helping” Frank Bennett along. Before the days of DNA tests and scientific proofs…if a man wanted to take in such a manner, there were only social repercussions to really stop him. And in Georgia, at that time, no one seemed to be stopping Frank Bennett.
So, when Ruth married Frank, he treated her no better than usual. All women meant one thing to Frank, including his wife. Idgie had kept an eye on Ruth since Ruth left, asking about her to the local townspeople. And when she heard from a store clerk that the clerk was not so fond of men who beat their wives, such as Frank; Idgie, went right up to Frank while he was getting a shave in the local barbershop and threatened to kill him. Then Idgie got in her car as fast as she could and drove away. The barber thought Idgie, though technically a pretty woman, must have been some crazy boy.
There was nothing more to do, until Idgie received a note from
Ruth, “Ruth 1:16-20:
And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from
following after thee; for wither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
Idgie, not the symbolic sort, had no idea what the note meant. Momma Threadgood, tells her, “Well honey, it means what it says.” And she orders Idgie to take Big George, who worked for Idgie in the Cafe, and her brothers and go over to get Ruth and bring her back to Whistle Stop.
Idgie did just that, but her rescue effort met with repercussion years later when Frank ended up missing and Idgie had to stand for a murder trial in 1955. The judge threw the case out, as there was really no evidence, and in either case, the judge's daughter had died, "old before her time and living a dog’s life on the outskirts of town, because of Frank Bennett; so he really didn’t care who had killed the sonofa-.”
And so here we have a case of Southern justice. Though, Frank Bennett’s legacy is carried on in his son by Ruth, Buddy Jr., who lost an arm to the trains but not his life. Buddy Jr., then called Stump, grows to be a football hero with only one arm. And when Peggy, a highschool girl with glasses asks Stump, back from college, to the highschool dance, Stump laughs at her and tells her to come back when she’s grown some t-ts. Idgie lets Stump have it about that one, after Peggy runs into the Whistle Stop Cafe in tears and blurts the whole story out to Idgie.
Idgie outright tells Stump she did not raise him to be white trash and what if Peggy’s brother had been there? Stump said Peggy’s brother was there and he laughed too. Idgie takes the highroad and says Peggy’s brother should have had his butt whipped as well.
Idgie inquires as to Stump’s lack of dates and points out that Stump does not want to end up like Smokey Lonesome, the hobo who takes up at the Cafe from time to time. Smokey spent his childhood, or his growing years at least, in the mountains. His mother had his father arrested for making moonshine and then was bit in the face by a rattlesnake during a preaching event. Smoking and his sister were separated by surviving family, then Smokey took off for the rails and never again looked forward nor back.
Stump eventually admits to Idgie that he is afraid of being laughed at, by the girls, because of his arm. Idgie solves the problem by taking Stump over to Eva Bates’s, the same woman who Buddy loved so long before. It seems to solve the problem as when Peggy wants to go to her spring dance with Stump, despite his prior way with words toward her, he accepts.
Ninny tells this whole story and much, much more to Evelyn and it helps Evelyn connect, to raise her esteem and get through a hard part of her life. Ninny tells Evelyn she should sell Mary Kay cosmetics, with Evelyn’s great skin and good personality. Evelyn goes out and does just that.
After Ninny passes away, Evelyn goes to her gravesite and also receives from Ninny's old neighbor the last few items of Ninny’s life; all in a shoebox. Evelyn finds pictures and she realizes and is startled by how truly beautiful Ruth was. One of the most beautiful women to live on this earth and she breathed, loved, and died in two small towns. Ruth probably never went so far east in Georgia to see the ocean. Evelyn sees Buddy in the photo, who she can recognize from his smile. Evelyn cries because she will never understand why people have to grow old and die. On the way back from Ninny’s grave Evelyn notices a jar of honey with a card by Ruth Jamison’s stone. The card is signed, “I’ll always remember. Your friend, The Bee Charmer.”
By Sarah Bahl
All quotes taken from Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
Margaret Mitchell begins the initial statement of one of the world’s best selling novels with, “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it…” If Scarlett, with her pure green eyes, black lashes, dark hair, and ivory skin was not beautiful, then it is hard not to imagine that she must have been at the very least quite attractive and attracting. Scarlett’s looks reflect those of Mitchell herself. The novel begins with Scarlett, at her family’s plantation, Tara, on the front porch, gossiping with two twin beaux of hers, the tall red headed Tarletons.
Scarlett was bred to be a lady and to catch a husband. Wealthy Southern women during the mid 1800s were expected to be ladies and businesswomen. As soon as their coming of age, at about 15 or 16, they could be wed and running plantations of 100 persons or more including husband, children, slaves, and personal staff.
Though, on the day of the start of a Georgian summer, the sixteen year old Scarlett is thinking less about the ins and outs of plantation life as she is about Ashley Wilkes, (the man, women of the novel seem to have a crush on though, as a reader, I simply find him annoying). Ashley is tall, with large grey dove like eyes and blond hair. He sports the rare affiliation among Southern aristocrats: a Harvard education. Ashley; with his books, poetry, and dreams. The most likeable quality about Ashley is his admitted imperviousness toward reality. He sees the world around him, and neither likes nor dislikes the people in it. He simply prefers the beauty of his music and his books and after doing a once about gaze toward life, shrugs then returns to his most natural element; a world of dreams. Reality just isn’t his thing. Scarlett and Ashley have nothing in common other than they are exact opposites. Scarlett can never understand Ashley’s wisdom nor his poetry. Though, he seems to understand her perfectly well. Which is why he decides not to marry her. Scarlett is not the type to have affairs, at least she never does throughout the entire 1023 page novel, but she does attract attention wherever she goes. And Ashley needs the quiet comfort of someone who he knows would be all about him, the constance within a wife, who he can depend on as a woman to him, though he lacks manly capabilities, in a man’s world. This woman of his chosen suit is also his cousin, Melanie Hamilton.
Melanie with her large brown eyes, small bust, and small hipped figure resembles a Calvin Klein waif of a beauty. She never fully develops her figure and for woman at the time this is no more of a dilemma for child bearing than for small hipped women today. It simply makes it harder to carry and birth a child when a woman's hips are too small. And not only harder, but more medically dangerous. Despite her physical setbacks, Melanie does understand Ashley in a way Scarlett never could. Melanie can share with Ashley and support him and his perspective of the world, in a manner no other woman could.
Though, she dreams of Ashley, Scarlett, could literally have any beaux in the county. In the next three counties for that matter. Scarlett’s overall attitude toward men is predatory, calculating, and expansive. She sports a post corset, 17-inch waist, a developed bust, and the curves to match. Wherever Scarlett went, so did the men. Scarlett is not one to trouble herself with thoughts toward books. Libraries depress her. She enjoys people, the country, and open air. It is hard not to fall in love with Scarlett by the end of the first page. For Scarlett is neither a man nor a woman. She is Scarlett. She is herself. It is likely the state of Scarlett’s universal appeal that makes Gone With the Wind one of the most widely read novels of all time.
From Scarlett’s French aristocrat mother she inherits her penchance for math. For adding up numbers quietly and favorably. From Scarlett’s Irish father she inherits her spirit, including her love for land. When her mother, Ellen Robillard, prize daughter of an elite Savannah family, tall, of beauty, and graceful agrees to marry Gerald O’Hara, the plucky self made Irish man 28 years her senior and a head shorter, Gerald simply could not believe his luck.
“That was the year when Gerald O’Hara…came into her life-the year too, when youth and her black eyed cousin, Phillippe Robillard, went out of it. For when Phillipe, with his snapping eyes and his wild ways, left Savannah forever, he took with him all the glow that was in Ellen’s heart and left for the bandy legged Irish man who married her, only a gentle shell. But that was enough for Gerald, overwhelmed at his unbelievable luck in actually marrying her. And if anything was gone from her, he never missed it.”
Their love affair is one of marked humor and infinite sadness. Ellen found it to be a man’s world and she listened to Gerald drone on about politics, raised her daughters with care, fed and clothed an entire plantation, smelled of lemon verbena sachet; and was the perfect martyr in every way. She never really loved her husband, yet it never mattered that she didn’t. Her dying words were for “Phileep! Phileep!” But God, did Gerald love her.
For when the Civil War came and Ellen, always caring for others, was unable to pull through Gerald quite simply lost his mind. “He would never be any different and now Scarlett realized the truth and accepted it without emotion-that until he died Gerald would always be waiting for Ellen, always listening for her. He was in some dim borderline country where time was standing still and Ellen was always in the next room. The main spring of his existence was taken away when she died and with it had gone his bounding assurance, his impudence and his rest-less vitality. Ellen was the audience before which the blustering drama of Gerald O’Hara had been played. Now the curtain had been rung down forever, the footlights dimmed and the audience suddenly vanished, while the stunned old actor remained on his empty stage, waiting for his cues.” (The mental image of Gerald O’Hara, the bandy legged Irishman, on his dark empty stage listening for a cue that will never come will forever break my heart.)
And the moral of this heartrending love story? Do not ever actually need anybody. For to need is to run the risk of one becoming a daft wandering fool. Scarlett inherits from her mother a certain quality- she utilizes chimeras, muses for her love, while caring less about those who are actually around her. Scarlett, is the opposite of the sad little match girl, and is made for survival in every manner. Scarlett is born into a loving family and has a small waist, large hips, full breasts, never catches ill easily, recovers from births quickly and has never once actually needed anyone in her whole life. When she needs a husband she marries one. She never once actually needs the husband, himself.
Her first husband is Charles Hamilton. Melanie’s brother, who she marries out of spite, since Ashley is marrying Melanie. Charles does love Scarlett, though, she does not seem to care that he does. He proposes to her while at a Twelve Oaks barbecue on the eve of the Civil War, and when he does, he gives her the most pure and noble look from his brown soft eyes, that Scarlett ever has or ever will receive from a man. Though, Scarlett does not realize this. She merely equates his ethereal gaze to that of a dying calf, and a swift calculation plays in her head. Then that is it. She thinks nothing more about it.
Scarlett’s first husband gives her Wade, named after a general as was popular in those days. She cannot believe she is a mother and has no particular natural motherly instincts, though she provides for Wade as is necessary. She is also no more than 17 years old and still thinks very much like a teenager. Charles dies shortly into the war, and Scarlett becomes a bewildered widow. She moves to Atlanta with her Aunt Pitty and Melanie for a change of scene. She stays in Atlanta until the war comes to her.
Melanie is pregnant, and gives birth while Atlanta is besieged and burnt down by Yankees. The birth is hell, Scarlett is drenched in sweat, Prissy, their house slave is of no help, and the only Doctors in town are caring for the hundreds of dying men. The birth nearly kills Melanie but doesn’t. Scarlett, with the help of one of her beaux, Rhett Butler, gets Melanie, Prissy, Wade, the new baby, and herself out of Atlanta and to Tara all in one piece somehow.
Once at Tara Scarlett becomes the protector, the overseer, of her lost father, her two ill sisters, the recovering Melanie, and the children, with the help of the house slaves, including Mammy and others. (It’s odd to me, that the beloved Mammy never seems to want a husband or children of her own. I also find it comical, that when the time comes for picking cotton, everyone argues about who has to do it, because even the house slaves are horrified at the idea of doing field hand work). Yet, Scarlett troops along. She does the books and finds food somehow. It’s actually amazing any of them lived at all considering the food shortages and from what is described, they could not have been living on more than 500 calories a day each during the darkest parts of the war. But all of them survive, in one way or another. And the house also lives in constant fear of Yankees returning to steal what they have not taken already. Wade is certain that Yankees are coming for him, and Scarlett does not have the time or inclination to calm his child like fears.
She tries to prostitute herself to Rhett to pay the taxes on Tara, but when that doesn’t work, she marries Frank Kennedy, a beaux of her sister, Suellen. Rhett claimed his assets were frozen, but it was probably more that he simply loved her too much. Scarlett, moves to Atlanta and takes lumber mills from her husband’s control to expand their profits immensely. Frank is stunned that his pretty little wife, can do math so much more quickly and accurately than he can. He is even more stunned by her incentive to do business. Scarlett is prone to rages when she does not have her way and there is no one in Atlanta to cross her path on that count. She does business with Yankees, drives a carriage by herself, until Rhett gives up watching her and drives her about town himself. In short: she acts like a man to the point of outcast. The pretty little bell of the ball, is now doing what it takes to make it through, regardless of gender based propriety. And the whole town talks about it.
Frank Kennedy is killed defending her honor after she is molested during one of her carriage rides by herself. Rhett, himself an outcast, protects the rest of the men, by claiming they were all drunk at the local whore house at the time of the shooting. For at the time, all white shootings were investigated by Yankee officials.
Melanie remains Scarlett’s best friend throughout. For really Melanie knows that Ashley is useless and she must be married to Scarlett in order to survive and provide for Beau, her child. Scarlett gives Ashley a job at the mills, but he blunders it and the Wilkes household is always skimping by. But Melanie does pay Scarlett back. She does not have the physical strength but she does have the connections. For Scarlett just does not think politically or abstractly. She is a calculation machine to the extent of outcast. Melanie tends to think in terms of people, sex, and ability. She weighs the merits of humanity with the same efficiency as Scarlett plays cash machine. Melanie is as political as Scarlett is financial. The two make a fine pair.
And when Scarlett is caught in the arms of Ashley Wilkes (nothing actually happened…but it was enough to scandalize the town), it is Melanie who defends her and prevents Scarlett from being more of an outcast than she already is. For if Scarlett is entirely outcasted then the mills would lose too much money and how would Melanie then provide for her family?
Scarlett wears the crown of King Rat and she is too busy to feel its weight. When her third husband, Rhett, walks out the door on her with the famous line, “My dear, I don’t give a damn,” it is a lie. For Rhett very much still did give a damn. It was truly Scarlett, for all her beaux, babies, and money, not once in her life did Scarlett O’Hara ever truly give a good god damn. (Perhaps for the love of her mother, but that was it.) She would not be Scarlett if she did. And in her heart of hearts it is hard for one to believe Melanie ever gave a damn either. They were both little women, who were born into a certain world, at a certain time to a certain way of life. Both needed to survive and that they did.
Melanie’s legacy is carried on in Beau, and for Scarlett, her true legacy, lies in Wade, her child by the man, Charles, who she so coldly related to a dying calf. Her other surviving child is Ella, by Frank Kennedy. But somehow, it is of doubt Scarlett will ever realize what she has in Wade, just as she will never realize what she had in that soft, pure gentle brown eyed look that boy gave her that day at the Twelve Oaks barbecue. And the worst-best part of it all is that it will never really matter that Scarlett will never know. For Scarlett did more than know, she survived.
By Sarah Bahl
All quotes are taken from the novel, Gone With the Wind.
“Liberia, a West African country of 3 million people, was founded in 1847 by freed American slaves. Their descendants formed an elite class, which dominated indigenous ethnic groups for more than a century. Rising tensions finally erupted into civil war in 1989. From then on, Liberians suffered a prolonged period of violence. At times, fighting was congregated to the countryside. Other times, conflict raged through the capital, Monrovia. By 2002, over 200,000 people had died. One out of three people had been displaced. There was no end in sight. Then, ordinary women did the unimaginable.”
The Liberian Civil War began on Christmas Eve 1989. Charles Taylor began in full earnestness, his bloody ascent to absolute political and financial power over Liberia. Taylor utilized whatever means necessary to formulate his path to a most vile form of power imaginable. Taylor had The Small Boys Unit, consisting of youths from the ages of nine to fifteen commissioned as child soldiers. They were fed drugs and given weapons. The war to, “Reconstruct the minds of the people,” went on for years. Leymah Gbowee, a Social Worker, states, “Liberia had been at war so long that my children had been hungry and afraid their entire lives.”
The war was blamed on many factors including ethnic tensions, resources, and wealth. But Gbowee states, “There is nothing in my mind that should make people do what they did to the children of Liberia.” Gbowee, had at one moment, to tell her three year old son that she had no food, no donut, to give him. Her son replied, that he hoped for a piece of donut all the same. This was after Gbowee, while five months pregnant, traveled with her three-year-old son and two-year-old daughter under a rain of bullets to her parents’ house.
The next series of scenes are of a boy, holding a skeleton in his hands and dancing with a group of other boys. The skeleton is of a human skull. A boy with his arm cut off looks ahead, his eyes accepting and full of fear. Another boy holds a gun to his head, the gun sounds, while a group of adolescents stand around. One of them smiles.
Charles Taylor, in a filmed interview says, “We had an opportunity, starting from 0 to reconstruct the minds of our people.” There is a group of boys; none of them seem to be over 17. Incredibly disturbing that their faces are those of frightened lost children, and at the same time, they brandish huge weapons. According to headlines, Taylor terrorized Liberia into electing him, in 1997. “We lived in fear,” Gbowee states. She prays for the killings, the shootings, and the hunger to stop. Gbowee says, “I had a dream and it was like a crazy dream, that someone was actually telling me,” to gather the women of the village in order to pray for peace.
The following scene occurs at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Monrovia, June 2002. Gbowee is a speaker for a congregation. She states, “We are tired…” and from the fear and exhaustion is born the Christian Women Peace Initiative; out of mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts. From the ordinary women of the village was born a great organization. Asatu Bah Kenneth, Assistant Director of Liberian National Police attended the service as the only Muslim in the Church. “We’re all serving the same God,” Kenneth states. She promises to move the movement forward with the Muslim women. “I wanted it to be an initiative that was going to continue,” Kenneth adds. The message the co-joined womens’ forces took on was, truly a question with an obvious answer: “Can the bullet pick and choose? Does the bullet know Christian from Muslim?”
In opposition to Taylor is the mens’ movement, LURD, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. “Taylor does not listen to any peace, any negotiations. That is why we are in the bush,” says National Chairman Conneh. The Warlords of the opposing council commission male child soldiers. “The Warlords would just give these boys guns and send them off. They just told them to take whatever they wanted along the way,” Gbowee states. The countryside is terrorized.
Janet Bryant Johnson, Journalist, says, “These boys would go to your home and they would rape you in front of your children, in front of your husband, and they just do anything because, they had guns.” The Warlords are said to come for absolute power in opposition to Taylor and by March 2003, LURD controls most of the countryside. Taylor is Christian and LURD is Muslim. Refugees pour into Monrovia, in overwhelming flocks with their possessions piled on their heads. People in the camps live in absolute poverty. Complete, entire, and abysmal poverty.
The womens’ group came to the camp to overview the conditions. There were tears, as there seemed no hope in terms of positive outlet for the Liberians. Tales of rape and horror by soldiers abound among the camp’s occupants. (United Nations Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000, notes that, ‘civilians, particularly women and children, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict, including as refugees and internally displaced persons, and increasingly are targeted by combatants and armed elements’…In 2008, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1820, characterizing sexual violence as a tool of war and demanding its immediate cessation.) Discussion Guide, Teachers College, Columbia University.
One woman was told by soldiers; to sing, to dance, and to clap, while her husband’s head was slowly sawed off and her 12-year-old daughter was raped. The woman survived but she kept singing and clapping the same tune she sang and clapped for the soldiers that day. Her daughter became pregnant from the rape.
Many women showed unusual resiliency despite the atrocities. “These woman had seen the worst of the wars, but they still had that vibrance for life.” Hope baptized the women into their movement for peace. Taylor gives a sermon regarding his mission in life and God’s protection. But his statements do not click together, and ultimately his speech makes no sense. Gbowee: “Taylor could pray the devil out of hell, and we said if this man is so religious, we need to get to that thing, that he holds firmly to.”
The women pressurized the pastors to place influence on the bishops, so it would travel to the leaders. The women of the mosques were to place insistence for peace on their imams, who would pressurize the Warlords, in turn. Both womens’ groups spoke for an end to the violence with their religious leaders.
Still, the war was closing in and only ever increasing in violent velocity. “We needed to do something more forceful, more dramatic. We decided to have a protest,” Gbowee states. The women utilized Christian radio to get their message for peace across. The Christian women seek inspiration from The Bible, particularly Ester, who wore ashes and a sackcloth. Ester says, “I mean it.” The Liberian women then put on plain white clothes and tied their hair, to symbolize the goal for peace. Thousands of women congregated to the fish market to pray for peace. For the first time in Liberian history, Muslim and Christian women joined forces. They held a banner with the slogan, “The Women of Liberia Want Peace Now.”
Over 2,500 women lined up with the placards for peace. President Taylor’s convert slows, as it goes by on the road, but does not stop and the women are left unharmed. The woman sang for peace. And danced for peace. Still, neither Taylor nor the rebels would come to the peace table. The women then presented a position statement to the government of Liberia. The women demanded peace. They were not appealing. They continue to protest wearing white.
Finally Taylor agreed to the peace talks. The talks are strained, as with Taylor it is known he could be smiling at you and the next moment order the recipient of his gaze to be killed. Peace talks occur in Ghana while Monrovia is engulfed in war. Everyone is trapped inside, away from the gunfire, without proper food supplies. Still, the women continue to sing, “Liberia is my home.” Though, the peace talks turned into discussions of how to divvy out the power, rather than how to employ peace. The missiles rain down as the women still sing and pray.
Some of the women went to Ghana and held the men inside with their protests. One of the warlords came to the door to exit and was pushed back by the women. The women wanted peace. Finally, it is agreed at the discussions for Taylor to be exiled to Liberia and for a UN peacekeeping force to enter Monrovia. A transitional government is established. On August 4, 2003, International Peacekeeping forces enter Liberia. Taylor leaves for exile, saying; “God willing, I will be back.”
The women come back from Ghana celebrating. One woman was asked how she managed and dressed in white, she replied: “With this T-shirt, I am powerful.” The violence is hard to forgive. Liberia becomes the first country in Africa with an elected female president. After 2 ½ years the womens’ peace campaign comes to a successful end.
By Sarah Bahl
All quotes are taken from Pray the Devil Back to Hell.
Now we turn our thoughts to the less than fun loving world of The Magdalene Sisters (2002), directed by Peter Mullen. The film's setting begins in the county of Dublin Ireland; the year is 1964. It is a film based on the reality of thousands of women, who worked within the Magdalene asylums.
The first series of scenes takes place at a wedding. A priest sings a beautiful Irish song to the new wedding couple while they hold hands and the guests smoke and listen intently to the beauty of the drumming and the priest's melodic voice. At this wedding, there is Margaret, the first represented of a set of girls who will soon become well acquainted with a Magdalene laundry asylum.
Margaret is adorable and simply pretty without being of any particular or unusual beauty. She wears a blue dress, a cardigan, and a blue ribbon sits in her hair to off-set her simple, large, brown, and trusting eyes. None of the women in the scene, are wearing makeup or at least very little of it, though they are dressed for a wedding.
Margaret speaks to a woman who sits next to her, and her manner of doing so evokes the sensibility of longstanding acquaintance between the two women; either as relatives, friends, or both. Margaret's acquaintance is larger than her, a very pretty woman with blond hair and large dark eyes. Her hair is done up in a braid with flowers twisted through. The way her hair is done reveals a sentiment toward the beauty and natural rhythms of life that match with the words of the music; a song of green groves and lilies, down in the valley. The priest plays the drum as if he were making love to it. It is a very sexually charged scene.
The song ends, the bride and groom kiss and the audience applauds with fervor. Margaret is spoken to by a guest, Kevin, who leads her upstairs, as he has told her he has something to show her. She follows him upstairs, honestly believing there must be some secret he has to show her. He of course, has nothing but begins to kiss her forcefully. Margaret pushes him away and slaps him, reminding him they are cousins, "What would your father say?" she tells him.
Kevin appears to admit defeat, and leaves but just as Margaret opens the door to leave after him, Kevin rams the door back open, hitting her strongly in the face with it and stunning her. Kevin proceeds to rape Margaret, while the music and dancing continue below. Margaret comes downstairs after Kevin. He takes a drink of beer and watches the dancing. He is uncomfortable to watch, as his gaze is vacant and he stares too long at things. Margaret sits down and though she is watching the dancing too, she is obviously shaken up. Her plain, unmade face is tearful and lost seeming. Margaret doesn't know what to do.
Margaret's friend, with the flowers in her hair, approaches her and asks her questions. None of the spoken words are evident as all the viewer hears is the music. The setting is very realistic in this manner. The viewer is a watcher of a scene, as it would be playing out in real life.
But, despite the lack of verbiage, it is obvious her friend is asking Margaret what happened and a tearful Margaret informs her of the rape. Her friend immediately springs to action, approaching Kevin with direct and outright anger as well as disgust. The friend then also tells the priest, Margaret's father, and another man, perhaps Kevin's father. And while Margaret looks on with embarrassment, sadness, anger, and hope in her eyes; the male relatives and the priest escort Kevin into a separate room for questioning and then out of the house. Margaret looks, as if to say, "It is going to be o.k., right?"
What is odd is Margaret's mother's behavior. She coolly watches the scene, takes a sip of her drink and looks almost entertained. The mother does not get up to ask why her daughter is in tears nor why a cousin of Margaret's is being led by other men, out of the house. The mother simply sits and watches. It seems an almost unnatural reaction.
The next scene is of a car, driving up a country lane with Queen Anne's Lace on either side of the unpaved road. Margaret's father wakes her in a room she shares with a couple of siblings. Margaret quickly rises out of bed and puts on a simple and comforting skirt and sweater. She seems trusting though Margaret's brother does not look so certain of what will happen to her.
Her brother asks Margaret what is going on and she says, "I don't know," then nods toward her sleeping siblings, and tells her brother to hush. After going downstairs, Margaret is placed in the car, being driven by a priest. Her bag has already been packed by her parents. She looks angry, confused, even shattered. Her brother shouts out the window, "Da, where is Margaret going?" There is no reply as the car's engine tunes up and the vehicle pulls away.
The mother gazes out the window at the scene, her lips pursed yet smiling. She appears jealous of Margaret and glad to be rid of her. Only, when her son asks, "Ma, where is Margaret going?" does the mother close her eyes in regret. Sweet, trusting, loyal and put together Margaret, was raised this whole time by parents who never really loved her. Margaret's brother loves her, but he is too young to do anything for her yet. He can only ask questions, that for now, go unanswered.
Then next, there is Bernadette, a beautiful girl, who also happens to be an orphan at St. Attracta. Bernadette, has raven dark hair, enormous eyes, arched eyebrows, and a pouty mouth. She is awoken by two other orphan girls, who look to be of about nine years of age. They wake Bernadette up, demanding to use her brush. One of them farts in Bernadette's face, in order to obtain the item. "Jesus, how do you do it?" Bernadette asks the farter. Bernadette then gives in and pulls the brush, a beautiful item, made of silver and a portrait on its back, out from under her pillow. "Here, take the damn thing," she tells the rambunctious pair.
Bernadette has her hair brushed by the little girls, who fight over whose turn it is to brush based on whether or not the count has gotten to twenty. One of them asks Bernadette whether it is a sin to be beautiful and Bernadette intelligently replies, "No, it is a sin to be vain," and cites the Virgin Mary as an example of beauty. Bernadette is down to earth and tolerant of the little girls who so want to brush her hair.
Later, on the school/orphanage's playground, Bernadette has attracted a group of teenage boy admirers, and though she is wasting her time talking to them, there is nothing wrong with doing so. Bernadette is the type to stand up for herself and she is just as curious as the boys are. The school principal, a very severe professional appearing woman tells the boys to move it or she will call the guards. But, as soon as the principal leaves, the boys flock right back into place by the fence and start paying attention to Bernadette. The bell chimes, and everyone returns back to their place except for Bernadette, who remains by the fence with the boys. The same two little girls appear and tug Bernadette toward the school.
Watching Bernadette this whole time, is the school principal and an unknown man, standing next to her. Next we see see the brush, underneath Bernadette's old bed, with other scattered belongings. The bed has been emptied and the mattress and sheets are all rolled up. The little girls rush toward the bed as is their usual morning routine but this time stop and gaze at the scene a moment for it is clear Bernadette is gone. Then after their pause they swoop in and one of the little orphan girls takes the brush. They do not seem to question that Bernadette is gone, which is not abnormal for their age.
The next series of scenes takes place at the maternity section of a hospital. We see a woman, still in bed, holding a newborn. This is Rose, who has just given birth to a newborn son. Rose begs her mother to just look at her grandson, as her mother sits, stiffly upright in a chair next to Rose's hospital bed.
Rose is a large girl, fair, with pale blue thoughtful eyes. Her mother stares ahead coldly. Rose, says she knows what she did is a sin, but surely the baby boy cannot be blamed for something he has nothing to do with. The mother is unmoved.
Rose is then called out into the hallway and with her father sitting next to them, she is coerced by a priest to sign the paperwork, waiving all known rights to her son. Rose signs, but then quickly regrets the decision and fights her father, crying out, "I want my baby." The father appears to feel bad, but still keeps Rose from seeing her newborn son. A nurse, holding the baby, walks away, down the hall with the priest next to her. They both ignore Rose's heartfelt cries, as does Rose's mother.
The three girls are taken to what is a combination of a convent and laundry asylum. They now wear shapeless long brown dresses. They no longer have any worldly possessions. No books, no journals, no personal brushes, no photographs. Nothing. Everything that is theirs belongs to the convent.
The three newcomers, Rose, Bernadette, and Margaret are paraded up a staircase and into Sister Bridget's, (the head nun), main office room. Sr. Bridget gives her newbie lecture to the young women as she counts bills with a rubber thimble on her finger that makes it easier to accurately shift through all the bills.Saint Mary Magdalene, was a sinner of the worst kind, Sr. Bridget informs the girls. Magdalene gave of her flesh to the lustful and depraved, in return for financial compensation. So, in the spirit of Magdalene, the philosophy is a simple one; here at the order of Magdalene the fallen may rectify their bodies and souls for lusts of passion and sins of the flesh through penitence and ritual labor. Salvation came for Magdalene by her forsaking all pleasures of the flesh and working beyond all human withstanding.
It is ignored that even if society did have a right to judge these women; Bernadette is a virgin, Margaret was raped, and Rose, though a sinner would have made an excellent mother all the same. The facts are the least of the knowledge base by which the Magdalene Asylums were run. Sr. Bridget, after her less than welcome speech, stands up and faces each girl individually. She reminds each of them directly how they are stupid, whoring outcasts. To Bernadette, she informs that she is acquaintances with St. Attracta's head principal and has heard all about Bernadette and her wayward manner. Sr. Bridget renames Rose, Patricia, as the asylum already has another Rose. Patricia is Rose's confirmation name.
After, Sr. Bridget has completely insulted the girls' sexuality, intelligence, social standing, as well as integrity at large; the three are quickly sent to work in the godforsaken laundry rooms. They are made to wear large blue aprons to cover their shapeless uniform dresses. And so, they work; scrubbing, ironing, and sweating in silence. Sr. Bridget as part of her "welcome speech" informs them the laundry is not just clothes and sheets but is the same as their souls and the girls must work to remove from the clothes, the stains they see before them and in doing so they are removing the stains from their very souls for all the whoring sins they ever committed throughout their short teenage lives.
Later that night, Patricia wakes up Bernadette and asks Bernadette to help her to the bathroom. Patricia is shuffling and hunched, Bernadette gives Patricia some water by cupping her hands, once they get to the bathroom, but Bernadette, doesn't really know what to do. Patricia says it is so painful and she is probably going to faint then she sinks to the ground.
Another woman comes in to pee, and asks Patricia if her milk is stuck. Patricia says she doesn't know but the pain is terrible. The girl, on the toilet tells Patricia not to touch her breasts because if Patricia does, she will start leaking, and the nuns go crazy if anyone leaks, so it is best to take the pain that should be gone in a couple days.
Bernadette helps Patricia back to bed and there is nothing more to be done. The girl, also warns both Bernadette and Patricia not to talk or be friendly for the nuns will be enraged if they catch the girls conversing in any manner and for any reason. The next morning, bright and early before breakfast the girls are awoken by an obnoxiously perky nun who demands to know if any of them saw Una O'Conner leave or heard anything during the night. It has to be before six am and the girls stand there in their bedclothes, either unable or unwilling to answer.
The girls are then piled into two lines and down the long hallway, following a nun to breakfast they go. While sneaking in breakfast the same girl who warned Bernadette and Patricia about talking, recites the daily morning prayer. She tumbles over some of the words and one wonders as to her level of education.
Prayers are recited for most, if not all of breakfast. The girls eat, what looks like some sort of yogurt or porridge. While the nuns have deli meats and fresh bread. The nuns argue in whispers over what happened to Una O'Conner.
The day is spent in the sweat shop of a laundry in silence, except for Crispina, a homely woman who has some sort of speech or learning disability, either organically or through abuse. An old woman, Katie, still wearing the brown dress she probably initially donned as a young girl yells at the girls for talking. Crispina keeps on chatting, no matter what it seems. Though, no talking among the inmates is allowed at the laundry. Probably to keep them from sharing information or forming bonds.
Most of the girls do not know each others' names. (In reality probably no one ever really knew some of the girls' names after awhile. Many were buried un-named, in unmarked graves.) They are never introduced to each other, they are just thrown into work.
Crispina has a son, her sister brings to the asylum, though of course not actually within the asylum, to visit. The sister, with her nephew stand at the back gates and sometimes, when there is laundry to be hung outdoors to dry, Crispina gets to see her son. She loves her son and exclaims, "Isn't he the biggest boy you've ever seen?" to Patricia. Crispina's son is two and when he comes Crispina pulls out a Saint Christopher medal so she can talk to the boy, as he holds the same type of medal. It is heartbreaking.
(In reality, many "Magdalenes" worked next to the orphanages where their bastard children had been placed and women would beg to see their children. Just to know what the child looks like. Some Magdalenes would spend much of their lives working next to their child and would never get to see him or her.)
Later that night, Margaret puts on her day dress under her nightdress and prepares to sneak out on her own but hears shouting and noise outside the locked door, so she shuffles back into bed and throws the covers back over herself. Margaret watches as the lights go on and Una O'Conner, her face bloodied, is dragged back in by her father. Una screams that she hates it there, and the father returns to beat her with his belt, as Una hides under the blankets in her bed.
Una's father then tells her while holding her face close to his, that she doesn't have a mother or a father anymore. He blames Una for killing them both. Sr. Bridget, in her nightcap, tells the father to leave. It's odd to see Sr. Bridget act as if she had compassion, no matter how little.
The next day, Bernadette and Crispina end up in Sr. Bridget's office. Bernadette for demanding to see Sr. Bridget, after a working boy, Brendan, who came to collect the laundry asks her to suck his cock and Crispina, for asking a nun the symbolic name for the use of her St. Christopher medallion. The word being, "telephone."
Sr. Bridget is in the process of shaving Una's head, to keep her from running away again. Una tries to pick up the pieces of her own hair, causing Sr. Bridget to ask Una if she has lost her mind, as her hair is no good to her anymore. It is to be sold and the money will go to the black babies, Sr. Bridget states.
(Perhaps Sr. Bridget is telling the truth but I doubt it. There were so few black babies in Ireland in the 1960s. The nuns probably sold the hair and kept the money.)
Bernadette wants to know why she is there in the first place, as she has never been with a boy. Sr. Bridget informs her that wanting to be with a boy and being with one are the same thing and since Bernadette shows interest in boys she is automatically a sinner. And beside, Bernadette is stupid, according to Sr. Bridget, and therefore it is more likely for boys to get their fingers inside of her the same as with Crispina.
Crispina agrees, though she admits she was not listening, which could be a sign of lack of intelligence or more likely a simple reflection of her environment; as it really does not make much of a difference if Crispina listens or not, they are all still stuck there for invisible reasons. Sr. Bridget switches Bernadette and Crispina on the back of the legs for their insolence. Bernadette decides that if she is a rotten whore as a virgin, she might as well sell herself to get out of there. The next day Bernadette gives Brendan, a look at what she has in exchange for him to come later that night with the key to let her out.
Katie, the simple minded silencer, witnesses the scene and runs, threatening to tell the nuns. Bernadette and Katie get involved in a dramatic moral argument. Bernadette is arguing with Katie as an adult would bargain with a child. Bernadette tells Katie that if Katie tells the nuns, then Brendan will never marry her, and if he doesn't marry her, then Katie will have committed a sin on both their parts. Katie informs Bernadette, that if she does tell the nuns, then Bernadette will be punished most severely, kept by the nuns forever and all her sins will be erased by the punishment. Bernadette counters by telling Katie, that if Katie rats she will kill herself and both of them will go straight to hell, as suicide is a huge mortal (as compared to venial) sin.
Katie does not tell and Brendan actually does come by himself on his bike at night. He opens the door and then shuts it again, nervously jiggling the key, waiting for Bernadette to come. She has to break out of the dorm, they are locked in and get down multiple flights of stairs. The convent is huge. Brendan tells himself, that it is madness, what they are doing, and just before Bernadette gets to the door, he changes his mind and locks it.
Brendan tells Bernadette that he has changed his mind and that he literally does not even know her name. "Bernadette. My name is Bernadette!" But it is too late. Brendon tells her, that his brother was put in jail for a term of six years for stealing apples from the nuns. What would they do to him if he were caught letting Bernadette out? He says he is sorry but he cannot. Bernadette loses it and starts chipping at the door with an iron bar, all in vain, as the nuns have come and are watching her, as she turns to them, temporarily at a loss for what to do. Though, once captured by the nuns, Bernadette keeps on fighting. She is bloodied as they chop off her hair.
Bernadette, Crispina, Patricia, Margaret, as well as the other girls have to endure a continuous lonely and grueling life at the Magdalene laundry while the nuns rake in the money. Before tea the girls jog, naked, in silence, in front of two of the nuns. The nuns decide which girl has the smallest breasts, the biggest breasts, the biggest bottom, and the hairiest pubic region. Crispina is the hairiest and when given this honor directly and verbally by one of the nuns, Crispina begins to cry. The girls gaze at the nuns as if they are executors, (which they really rather are). The nun honestly does not seem to understand why Crispina is crying. The nun tells her, "You've won. It's a game."
There are constant hints that the nuns did not begin as total abusive psychos. It is indicative they became this way over time. The girls are born into a culture of sin and guilt. (The Catholic Church ruled and contraception was banned.) A person is either an abuser or victim. There seems little room for anything else. The world is as black and white as the robes and head-dresses of the nuns.
The seasons go by and in the late spring/summer Father Fitzroy, the priest who says mass and hears confession at the convent, is caught enjoying a blow job from the simple Crispina, by Margaret, who stops to tie a shoe and sees them through a window. Margaret tells Crispina, "He is not a man of God." Crispina soaks her nightdress before bed one evening and tries to die of the flu. The ever sweet Margaret takes care of her, but in falling from her illness, Crispina loses her St. Christopher. Margaret promises Crispina she will find the medal. It is Bernadette who has it, as she found it on a table.
Bernadette would have given it back but she decides Crispina is probably not going to make it anyway, and so it is best to just finish her off. So Bernadette keeps the medal. Margaret, spurred on by accusations from Crispina goes through Bernadette's few items and finds the medal. The two, Bernadette and Margaret, get into a fight over it, as the medal is the one real thing Crispina has. Even after receiving the medal Crispina tries to kill herself by hanging with sheets. Margaret catches her and the girls are able to lower Crispina down in time. Margaret asks Crispina, "Why would you want to kill yourself?"
"Jesus, that's a stupid thing to ask in this place," retorts a watchful Bernadette, who further says she does not know why Margaret is bothering to save Crispina. Each girl reacts differently to being in that place. Bernadette is aggressive and realistic to the point where she becomes a bully herself. Margaret is aggressively protective and sweet, which is why she butts heads with Bernadette. Patricia is helpful and caring wherever she can be. Crispina seems to know her odds and is losing it. Una goes from escapee to nun to be, and the system carries on.
Margaret is eventually rescued by her brother. Bernadette realizes that unless she gets out, she will become just as abusive as the nuns. The tolerant girl who got her hair brushed at the orphanage is disappearing. Bernadette breaks free with Patricia's help. Patricia does find her son, 33 years after he was taken from her. Bernadette becomes a hairdresser. Crispina is the only one who did not make it, to have her own life. Her real name was Harriet, and after being placed in an insane asylum, she died of anorexia at the age of 24.
And so, I have not relayed all the scenes in exact order, but give much of a thorough and accurate portrayal of the film as is fitting. And of the women who saw the film, the remaining Magdalene laundry survivors, according to reports online, said the reality was far worse. "Tragically, it seems that there may indeed be truth to these charges. While The Magdalene Sisters is a work of fiction, the abuses it depicts are allegedly based on credible survivor accounts of life in the Magdalene institutions, which are said to have taken in as many as 30,000 women between their inception in the 1880s and their final closing in 1996. In fact, there are reports that, according to some survivors, the abuses depicted in The Magdalene Sisters actually fall short of the worst that really happened, and the director himself has commented that he refrained from recreating the most terrible reported incidents for fear of overwhelming and alienating the audience." -Steven D. Greydanus
The director, Mullen, is reported to have been inspired to create the film after watching, Sex in a Cold Climate, a documentary depicting the conditions within the walls of such places. And please; let this writing not be a reflection of nuns as a whole. I have known some incredibly sweet and sincere nuns, who have done great things for me. I was raised to be Roman Catholic. It is more a revelation of the abuses that come when any given group has absolute power within the bounds of a confined world.
By Sarah Bahl
Teenage girls in an actual Magdalene asylum. Exact date unknown.
For any little girl who ever loved horses, or any woman who loved horses as a little girl (me) National Velvet is a treasure. Played by Elizabeth Taylor, Velvet, is a little brunette girl, who (in the early 1920s) jots about her English village as if she were riding a horse. (Doesn't every little girl?) Her retainer makes her adorably awkward and Velvet is dreamy, off on a world of her own, much of the time as proper little girls should be.
Velvet differs greatly from her older sister, Edwina (played by Angela Lansbury) who is curvy and in love with boys rather than horses. Edwina attempts to explain her love for boys to Velvet, but Velvet cannot understand how anyone could feel for a boy what should be felt for a horse. While galloping down a country lane Velvet meets a wandering fellow, (played by Mickey Rooney), a former jockey on the outs with life. As they talk, Velvet and her new friend, then see a horse, a large bay gelding, as it jumps a fence and runs down the lane.
The next, is a scene that would make anyone vomit up cheese, as Velvet, stands in front of the horse, and says, "Woah." The horse then rears on his hind legs and comes to a stop. She, as a small girl, has wooed the beast with her aura. (They don't make cheese like they used to.) Velvet names the horse Pie, and the owner, Farmer Ede agrees to the name, as he says the horse is like a pirate.
Farmer Ede does not like the presence of Velvet's vagabond friend, and tells him, to find greener pasture elsewhere. Velvet defends her new buddy, by saying he is invited to dinner. Her yet unnamed friend also happens to have her mother's name, Brown, written in some notes and says he is in the village for business.
The stranger, has dinner with Velvet and her family. He says his last name is Taylor and his deceased father knew the Browns. The Browns are suspiciously polite to Mi Taylor. Velvet seems very happy for the new company. She has nothing in common with her siblings, as aside from her older sister Edwina, she has a sister Mally who loves canaries, and a younger brother Donald who keeps dead bugs in a jar around his neck.
Velvet's mother, is a tall and athletic woman, once a famous swimmer of the English Channel, who truly understands Velvet. Mi watches Mrs. Brown put away her family's savings after working on the books. He steals the money and would have left town with it, except Velvet invites him to stay, upon her parents' permission; mainly on her mother's insistence. Mi is then hired by Mr. Brown, the village butcher to help with the family business.
Shortly later, Mi tells Velvet about his past, while they traverse on a simple cart together, to deliver meat to a customer. He tells Velvet he no longer likes horses because of a spill he had. While they are talking, Velvet sees Pie in a field, and Mi stops the cart for Velvet to gaze at Pie some more. The family dog is also traveling with them, and jumps out of the cart to chase Pie.
Pie, then jumps over a fence and when Mi measures the jump, he realizes it's the size of a steeple chase jump and that the horse must have unusual talent. Pie keeps running through the village and trashes a few neighbors' properties. Mr. Ede is fed up by the time and expense the animal wastes and puts Pie up for auction. Velvet desperately hopes she has the right number come auction time, but she does not.
She faints from the stress and is brought back home to rest. Velvet looks out the window from her resting place and sees Pie being lead to her by the whole village. Velvet believes herself to be hallucinating but it is not so. They really are leading Pie to her.
And so Velvet is made immeasurably happy now that she has Pie and can ride him and jump him with freedom. Though, not all is calm and clean cut for the Browns now that Velvet has Pie. Mr. Brown has all the same complaints of the horse as Farmer Ede.
Racehorses are meant to run within the same realm of sentiment as sled-dogs die facing North. It's not just an urge but a need. A necessity meant to be acted upon. So, the Pie, without papers or ribbons, given to a little girl with braces by the town as no one else in the town has the temperament to keep the animal. Pie is a racehorse. He loves to jump and race, the same as he needs to breathe.
When Mr. Brown harnesses Pie to his butcher cart to deliver meat, the Pie does not react calmly and the cart is smashed, as the Pie dashes away. Velvet is delighted with whatever Pie does. Mr. Brown hems and haws over the dollar and cent fluctuations caused by the latest member of the household.
Mi supports and watches Velvet throughout her adventures - he goes from a thief to a guarding sheepdog type personality due to Velvet's kindness to him. Mi loves Velvet because she trusts him. Velvet does not care what Mi has done in his past, in terms of judging him at least, for she is simply so happy to have a friend who knows and understands horses as she. No one, in a long time had trusted Mi, but Velvet did, which in turn makes Mi trustworthy. Plus Mi, has a place to stay, food to eat and income to earn now, due to Velvet's trust and her family's support.
It is Mrs. Brown, who is the most protectively pivotal character in the film. Mrs. Brown is far ahead of her husband in terms of athleticism and intelligence. She is a very gifted woman. Mr. Brown is a caring man, not the most forward thinking, but a normal well rounded person.
All the Brown children are normal, enough, except for Velvet. Mrs. Brown loves Velvet for her personality, spirit, and tomboyish athleticism. She has a connection with Velvet and is protective of Velvet and supportive of her in achieving her goals. Out of her three children, Mrs. Brown only sees Velvet as an extension of herself. Though, she is a kind, thoughtful, and practical mother to all.
So, when Velvet shares with her family that she has successfully entered Pie in the Grand National, it is her mother who sits with Velvet in the attic, going through clippings and talking about her past as a swimmer to Velvet. Mrs. Brown then pours into Velvet's lap the 100 pounds she won for swimming the Channel. The money is given to Velvet to cover the expenses of the Grand National.
The winter before the race Velvet is sent home from school to find Edwina crying in the living room. Velvet asks Edwina what has happened to find Edwina is sobbing over a boy. Velvet is relieved to find this is all it is until Mi enters the room and tells Velvet, that something is wrong with Pie. Edwina, still sobbing shoats out to Velvet, who is rushing out the door, that she can't understand why Velvet would value a horse so much over a boy and she hopes Pie dies.
Velvet and Mi nurse Pie back to health and begin intensive training all spring and summer. Pie recovers and is ready for the Grand National, early the next spring. They do not have a professional jockey, so Velvet does all the training runs, herself. Before daybreak, Pie, Velvet, and Mi pile into a horse trailer and off for their long journey to the race they go.
During the journey, Velvet worries about the jockey they will hire. Will the jockey like Pie and understand him the way she does? Once they arrive at the racing grounds, Mi and Velvet meet with the Latvian jockey, who they plan on racing Pie. The jockey is dismissive of their attempts to introduce him to Pie to the extent he flat out insults both Mi and Velvet.
The two friends walk out in disgust, keeping with them the jockey's papers, and leaving with the jockey, the payment they had given the jockey in advance. Mi looks elsewhere for another jockey but cannot find one at the last minute. Velvet tells Mi he should run the race and Mi then confesses to Velvet the details of his true fears about racing. Mi was involved in an accident, killing another jockey and did not have the courage to race anymore.
It is late at night, when Mi decides to bring Pie back from the stables, as it appears they will have to scratch the race. While walking Pie back to the horse trailer Mi passes a small race track under a full moon. He gets over his fears as he races Pie, barebacked. Mi tells Pie they will race the next day. He goes to the trailer to tell Velvet that he's found a jockey, but Velvet's response surprises him.
She is already dressed in the jockey outfit and she states her hair and eye color matches the jockey's papers. She wants her hair cut, and she really wants to win. Mi loves Velvet so much he never tells her, he is the jockey, he is referring to, who can ride Pie.
So, Mi cuts Velvet's hair and begins to describe the course to her, so she will be better prepared but Velvet stops Mi from explaining, telling him it is no use. Every other jockey will be so much more practiced than her regardless, so she might as well just get on Pie, when the time comes and go.
Velvet looks very much a girl still, with her hair short and in her jockey outfit. She comes across as softer and smaller than the other jockeys even though they are all the same height, but for the sake of cinema, she is a plausible male jockey. Mi and Velvet, both pretend Velvet is Latvian, by acting as if Velvet does not understand English. This creates a comical air for the scene as Mi gestures dramatically to Velvet in order to explain things, such as how to sit on the weight chair, while he is speaking English. Velvet gives off the persona of someone who does not understand, as she blinks and reacts slowly to things.
The race begins. The Grand National is a real life race consisting of a 4 1/2 mile run with 30 measurable jumps. It is a harsh and grueling ride for both horse and rider. The racing scene, is an actual live event and as any Grand National race would be. Horses fell and jockeys were brutal and I was amazed at the shocks both horses and jockeys walked away from.
Switching back to "real life," according to a Time article by Jenny Wilson, in 2011, only 19 of 40 Grand National competing horses, crossed the finish line. Two horses were killed. These numbers should support one's imagination in recognizing how harsh the race is, at least for those who have not seen the film nor the race.
Mi watches the race from the ground level, by the holding fence, or at least he tries to watch. Anyone who has been to a steeplechase race knows that one doesn't get to see the whole event, but instead one's vision is sectioned to a rush of horses bursting by, before they disappear around the nearest bend. And Mi is short as well as lacking binoculars. Mi demands information about the race from the gentleman standing next to him, who is wearing a black coat and top hat. The gentleman also has binoculars and when Mi, asks about Pi, the race compatriot states, "Don't know, can't see a thing," while gazing through his binoculars. The two men who could not be more different in terms of wealth, fashion, nor height and they are both sharing the moment of a lifetime together.
Mi is worried for Velvet and when she wins the race, he is ecstatic. Mi rushes onto the field as Velvet faints from exhaustion and falls from Pie. A red objection flag is raised, because according to the rules, the jockey must remain on his mount for a certain duration of time after crossing the finish line. Velvet, though she won the race, came off too soon.
Velvet is put on a stretcher and while being examined, the Latvian jockey is discovered, to be a girl. This is all to a sense of comedy, as the Doctor states to the officials, "I'm a Doctor and believe me sir, that's a girl!" as if being able to recognize a person's gender depends on a medical degree. The film is filled with many such oddball quirks. Velvet is allowed to keep her prize and recognition for winning the race, despite being an adolescent female, but she is forfeited the rights to the winning purse.
Velvet returns to her hometown, as a local hero. Her father is excited by proposals to turn Velvet and the Pie into American film stars, but Velvet refuses as she believes Pie would not be happy living such a lifestyle. Velvet's mother, remains objective to the conversation between Velvet and her father, though it is clear Velvet and her mother agree entirely that the potential extra money would not be worth the possible negative ramifications to the quality of life for both Velvet and Pie.
Mr. Brown is a good man, just not quite as insightful as Velvet and her mother. He throws all the papered proposals into the fire and that is the end of the matter. Mrs. Brown married him because he is a good man, as she makes clear to him, while they sit by the window and ponder their lives together.
Shortly, they are interrupted by Velvet who wants to know where Mi has gone. Mrs. Brown explains to Velvet that, all parts of life have a beginning, an end, and a continuance and now Mi is back on his feet and ready to face the world after turning his back in anger on it. Velvet as always sees this end as really, a potential for beginning. She, then in response, asks her parents' permission to tell Mi, how Mi's father knows her parents. The secret behind the connection is never revealed in the film, that ends with Velvet catching up to Mi to tell him the news, on a lane similar to the one they first met on. And so Velvet, is made truly happy, by having the type of personality, that looks for what matters and carries on with it.
By Sarah Bahl
My grandmother, Margaret Bahl, makes the best oatmeal cookies. Ever. She grew up in the Midwest, and was born in 1916. When she was Margaret Koons, she heard others, other women in the town gossiping about her behind her back. They made snide comments about her height and looks, causing my grandmother to fear she would become a homely old maid.
My grandmother worked very hard. Every day. She ran a farm in Northwestern Iowa with my grandfather, who she met at a roller skating rink. Not only did my grandmother run a farm and raise three children all of whom graduated college and then went on for either masters or law degree(s); but she taught second grade for 27 years.
My grandma worked. She read the paper, the entire paper, everyday. She still loves to read, though she needs the larger print books now. She writes direct and down to earth letters. My grandma.
A few years ago, I was going through a photo album and saw a photo of her. A black and white one. She was sitting back straight, eyes smiling, with dark waiving hair, and surrounded by schoolchildren.
My grandmother was, (and is) stunning. Homely? Were there not mirrors in Iowa? No. Her beauty was such that she looked out of place among the less than glamorous elements of a schoolhouse.
Thin, angular, cuttingly so, with a Slavic look to her, especially the shape of her eyes. No grandma. Those women were just mean. You were beautiful.
By Sarah Bahl
My Fair Lady, the 1964 film, is a musical adaptation of the Lerner and Lowe stage musical production of the same name, based on the book, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. The book is said to be themed based on the poem, London Bridge.
The poem tells a simple rhyming story of a woman, a fair lady, who has London Bridge, but it is falling down, and no matter how she builds it back, with silver, gold, or any other material, she will not be able to protect it on her own, so a man has to sit to watch all night. But, even the man might fall asleep and need a pipe to smoke. It is a poem about retaining resources based on gender and politics, within a cold, hard world.
Eliza Doolittle, is the fair lady, (played by Audrey Hepburn) as a flower girl, with a drunkard father and a cockney accent. She is caught out in the rain selling flowers to wealthy theatergoers in Edwardian London. Eliza insists, “I’m a good girl, I am,” as her only defense from prostitution with her skill set is to be a flower girl.
While selling flowers Eliza is met with the pompous, snooty, and outgoing Henry Higgins, a professor of elocution. Higgins takes note of Eliza’s diction while mocking her class simultaneously; fellow elocution expert Colonel Hugh Pickering notes the scene. The three, all meet outside of a theater on a rainy London night.
Eliza, later though, not long after her interesting encounter with these two men, puts on her finest dress, a hideously tacky purple ensemble and appears at Higgin’s door. Eliza comes to ask for speech lessons, so she may go from a street flower seller to a respectable girl in a flower shop. She offers to pay Higgins a decent amount for the lessons.
Though, the spoiled, selfish, and abominable Higgins does not see a future pupil before him. He sees a toy. Neither Higgins nor Pickering, overlook how much fun a strikingly beautiful girl, sadly wearing her tacky dress with such pride and her cockney accent, will be. Only the housekeeper lectures Higgins, “Do be sensible,” she tells him. The housekeeper reminds Higgins he actually has to think through how his actions might affect Eliza’s life.
Higgins takes Eliza on for free, including room and board, to teach her, not to be a girl in a flower shop, but to teach her to be a lady of rank equal to his own. Higgins works Eliza to the bone and she fantasizes of his death. But somehow Higgins, Eliza, and Pickering all plod through it together.
Eliza’s father comes to Higgin’s establishment to demand payment for allowing his daughter to stay with Higgins. Higgins, though appalled at first, finds he enjoys the man’s world philosophy and gives in. So, though Eliza gives herself to Higgins for lessons for free, her father sells her to Higgins postdated. It is darkly comic of a man’s world philosophy. And really, just sad.
Higgins trains Eliza to act a certain role among his high society acquaintances. During an event at the races, Eliza meets Freddy, who is everything Higgins is not: charming, sensible, and protectively understanding of Eliza in a playful and conversational manner. Eliza remains friends with Freddy.
Higgin’s ultimate test of Eliza is to take her to a ball and have her interact with a fellow elocution expert, to see if the expert can tell where she is from. The expert decides without a doubt Eliza is hiding an accent and is surely Hungarian. Higgins and Pickering find it all to be a charming joke. Neither of them pays any attention to Eliza after the deed is done. They simply boast to each other of their grand alliance and the outcome it produced.
Eliza is disgusted by the two insufferable a-clowns she is dealing with. She also dislikes her transformation because she has lost her financial independence. She cannot be a girl in a flower shop now. Higgins took her training too far on purpose.
Eliza states she will marry Freddy, as she is fed up with Higgins, yet is still searching for a partner in life. Freddy is in love with Eliza and he is very much the sensible alternative to Higgins. But in the end, Eliza returns to Higgins, as in one way or another, they have grown to become a part of each other. And so, the transformation is complete.
By Sarah Bahl