Dorothy Allison's novel brings to light the details and realities of domestic violence. Bone, is the protagonist, "I've been called Bone all my life, but my name's Ruth Anne," and her longstanding nickname was bequeathed upon her while she was a baby, as when her mother brought her home from the hospital, her Uncle Earl said she was no bigger than a knucklebone and Deedee, her cousin, pulled back the blanket to see, "the bone."
Bone has a natural appreciation for God's given beauty, "Greenville, South Carolina, in 1955 was the most beautiful place in the world. Black walnut trees dropped their green-black fuzzy bulbs on Aunt Ruth's matted lawn, past where their knotty roots rose up out of the ground like the elbows and knees of dirty children suntanned dark and covered with scars. Weeping willows marched across the yard..."
Bone's mother was a hard working, non-drinking 15 year old girl who was devastated when her baby's father was never named, "So Granny gave one and Ruth gave another, the clerk got mad, and there I was - certified a bastard by the State of South Carolina." Her mother, Anne, pulls herself up out of bed, just eight days after giving birth and returns to work as a waitress. At the age of 16 Anne takes her baby and returns to the courthouse; she says her daughter's birth certificate is torn across the bottom and she needs another one. The clerk hands her a paper, with "Illegitimate," stamped across the bottom and tells her, "the facts have been established," while twittering women stare at her and one of them mouths, "some people."
Anne walks out of that courtroom with her baby held so tight she begins to wail. Anne comes back the next year to the immense enjoyment of the darkly perverse court clerk, to no avail. She even hires a lawyer who tells her there is nothing he can do, "Bastard," Anne hisses at the lawyer.
Lyle Parsons, a gentle, soft spoken, prettily handsome boy, takes Anne's hand and she quits work at his insistence, and is soon pregnant with Reese. Lyle dies, while on the route of one of his work shifts. It was one of those days when the sun shines as the rain pours down, and Lyle's truck spills over, with him falling out and onto the pavement with no obvious injuries. It was hard to believe he was dead, except the back of his head was crushed into the gravel.
Anne howls like a dog, when she sees the sheriff's car pull up. She knew already. Anne, is at 19, probably about the prettiest widow in South Carolina. Both her girls are at the funeral, Reese is still just a baby; and to support them Anne begins working the mills but her health can't take all the labor and the dust, so she goes to waitressing at The White Horse Cafe, where all the men, from truckers to judges like her. "Mama smiled, joked, slapped ass, and firmly passed back anything that looked like a down payment on something she didn't want to sell."
It is Earl, Anne's brother, who sets her up with Glen Waddell, a boy of 17 from a good family, but who was shy and unnervingly distant. The way Allison writes it, she makes it clear it is no one's fault when an abuser enters a family as it can be hard to tell, for some, right away and by the look in his eye, what kind of man he is. The Boatwrights are all infamous for their tempers and they seem to take to Glen just fine except a couple of them, especially Granny, who does not like Glen; saying there is something the matter with him.
None of the Boatwright men, with their dark hair and godly figures, seemed to have trouble with women, saying "no" to them. Earl's Catholic wife left him taking their three daughters with her. This earnestly surprised and embittered Earl as he didn't see what difference it made as long as he didn't marry any of the others. She seemed to think it made a difference and he never got over that she left him.
Granny speaks to Bone about Boatwright men, " 'Oh Bone!' she laughed. 'Maybe you should plan on marrying yourself a blond just to be safe. Huh?' " But for whatever hair color Glen has, and I don't think Allison ever says, only that his eyes are blue, there is something not right about him in a manner based on nuance at first. Granny never likes Glen and thinks there is something ill in his love toward people.
Bone, herself, cannot tell either way, as she describes him from a picture, "Mama's eyes were soft with old hurt and new hope; Glen's eyes told nothing. The man's image was as flat and empty as a sheet of tin in the sun, throwing back heat and light, but no details - not one clear line of who he really was behind those eyes."
Anne dates Glen for two years and in that time, Glen showed no signs of violence, other than there being something about his demeanor, that does not sit right with some people. Uncle Beau didn't like him as he didn't trust a man who didn't drink, "and Glen was as close to a teetotaler as the family had ever seen."
The night Anne was giving birth to her third child, Glen's son, Glen sat in the Pontiac, outside the hospital, smoking Pall Malls and talking to Bone, who is in the backseat with blankets, cokes and her sister Reese; as if Bone were an adult. " 'I know she's worried,' he said. 'She thinks if it's a girl, I won't love it. But it will be our baby, and if it's a girl, we can make another soon enough. I'll have my son...' "
Then, Glen molests Bone in the car, by masturbating against her and bruising her. Bone never tells anyone and instead develops an enclosed world of shame and masturbation, at an age where she should hardly know of such sexual encounters much less be experiencing them. It is unknown if Reese is abused in the same manner as Bone by Glen, as Bone never talks to Reese about it, but Reese also develops a private life of extreme fantasy, masturbation and orgasm at an abnormally early age. The girls have too much of a private life.
The baby Anne has dies at the hospital and Anne can no longer have children. Anne does not know her daughters are being molested but she does know her daughter is being beaten black and blue. "My collarbone fused with a lump the second time it was broken - ...In the hospital the young intern glared and ordered lots of x-rays. 'How'd she break her coccyx?' He demanded of Mama over the sheaf of x-rays when we were ready to go home...'Her what?'
'Her tailbone, lady, her ass. What have you been hitting the child with? Or have you been throwing her up against the wall?' "
Bone cannot tell the doctor she is being abused because she does not know him. She knows her mama; her smell, her fingers, the way her eyes crinkle when she smiles, the sound of her voice. " 'You can tell us,' he said in his stranger's voice." Anne takes Bone and Reese to aunt Alma's but two weeks later they were back with Daddy Glen who swore he would change.
They move from house to house every several months as Daddy Glen cannot keep a job or positive contacts for very long with anyone he works with. He gets into fights with peers at work and never seems to have his jobs come together. Bone goes from school to school, house to house, and the only friend she keeps for very long is an albino outcast, who is just a very ugly child. It is never described what exactly makes her ugly as albinism is unusual but should never make anyone less beautiful. There is just something about the way Shannon Pearl comes together that turns people's stomachs to look at her.
Shannon is bullied by the universe with the exception of her parents and Bone. Her mother sews costume decorations for members of gospel revivals. Bone pulls Shannon into the same seat as herself and Raylene, while they are all on the schoolbus. No one would let Shannon sit next to them and Bone pulled Shannon down next to her with Raylene looking at Bone as if to say, "Have you lost your mind?" Bone figured the Boatwright reputation would protect from the other kids doing anything about it, and she was right.
The two girls have a very adult view of sex considering they are about 10. "Shannon giggled and waved me out on the porch. 'Sometimes Mama needs a little hand on her throttle. You know what I mean?' She laughed and rolled her eyes like a broken kewpie doll.' Daddie has to throttle her back down to a human level or she'd take off like a helium angel.'
I couldn't help myself. I laughed back, remembering what Aunt Raylene had said about Mrs. Pearl - 'If she'd been f-cked right just once, she'd have never birthed that weird child.' " But Shannon, with all her patience and all her hatred, was not long for this world as she picks up lighter fluid while at a BBQ and sprays the fire so that it connects to the liquid canister, gets sucked inward for one silent second, and then explodes outward in a huge ball of flame. Shannon inhales the flame as it simultaneously encompasses her body, takes a few swaying steps as she stumbles from side to side and then collapses.
With the loss of her friend, Bone becomes even less secure of her world. Shannon did seem smart. She had a connection with Bone, that when lost, left the latter more isolated. Also, Bone was the only witness of the event in its entirety.
Bone's uncles are shown her bruises, as Aunt Raylene catches Bone in the bathroom, notices blood on the back of her panties and lifts up Bone's skirt. "Sweet suffering Jesus!" Bone is made terrified by the bruises being discovered. Glen is beaten up severely in turn, but that doesn't seem to stop him from coming to find Bone and hurt her even more.
Allison shows a lot of practicality and courage in detailing her story. Bone is removed to live with an aunt, who lives in a rural location. The family is divided as wherever Anne goes, Glen will follow and it makes more sense for them to split up than to stay together. Bone gets good grades at school, this entire time. She is not yet thirteen when the novel ends.
By Sarah Bahl
This novel, by Alice Walker takes a little getting used to for a couple of reasons. The first being that the violence is so harsh it is hard to digest. The second is that the speaker writes so calmly about it. The combination of the stoic and the horror is a contrast that is hard to swallow. The voice is of Celie, a 14 year old girl who is writing letters to God about her mother giving birth to Luciana. I suppose one can more easily write an objective letter to God than to anyone, as what has God not seen? When her mother leaves to visit a doctor in Macon, Georgia, her father rapes her. "He never had a kind word to say to me. Just say You gonna do what your mammy wouldn't." It's like reading about a bad dream.
When I start to hurt and then my stomach start moving and then that little baby come out my pussy chewing on it fist you could have knock me over with a feather. Ain't nobody come see us. She got sicker and sicker. Finally she ast where is it? I say God took it. He took it. He took it while I was sleeping. Kill it out there in the woods. Kill this one too if he can.
As a reader, I had to intake the first letters to God a couple of times, because my reaction was, "Did I just read that? She had babies by her father?" And she did. The novel is very direct in terms of action. There is no explanation of character, no outline of environment nor setting. The reader gets thrown into a world as if snooping among a teenage girl's letters.
Celie's mother dies and her little sister, Nettie, is her only loving family member. Once Celie's mother dies she has a new mammy almost immediately. Her father, she calls "He" and for some reason she can't have children anymore. Celie is given away by her father to a man, she calls Mr. ________.
Nettie's boyfriend is also Mr. _______.
Celie was taken out of school early because of her pregnancies. Nettie tries to keep teaching her. But soon Celie is given to Mr. _______, and she cares for him and his four brats; the oldest boy busts open Nettie's head with a rock, on her wedding day. Mr. ______ has sex with her when she's still bleeding from the head. Celie was shown a picture of Mr. ______ 's girlfriend, Shug Avery who is beautiful, but Mr. ______ told her to leave as she was too much trouble for him. Celie is thin, homely but she works hard and ducks and dodges to survive.
While at the dry goods store, Celie sees her little girl, Olivia. The Reverend and his wife have adopted her. So, at least her children are not dead. Celie follows the Reverend's wife and asks, "How long you had your little girl?" Later, after he is done with his errand, Mr. ______ finds Celie sitting in their wagon laughing to herself.
Nettie moves in with Celie as she ran away from home; and tells Celie she should not let the children rule her like that but Celie says they have the upper hand. Nettie tells her to fight, "But I don't know how to fight. All I know how to do is stay alive."
Mr. ______ /He tells Celie that Nettie cannot stay there anymore and so Nettie leaves and they do not know where to. Celie tells Nettie to ask the Reverand's wife for help as she is the only woman Celie has ever seen with any money. "I say, Write. She say, What? I say, Write. She say, Nothing but death can keep me from it. She never write."
Mr. ______ sisters come to visit, their names are Carrie and Kate. The latter takes Celie shopping for a dress made just for her. A navy blue one as red is too happy for Mr. ______ and the store doesn't have the color purple. "Buy Celie some clothes. She say to Mr. ______ . She need clothes? he ast. Well look at her. He look at me. It like he looking at the earth. It need somethin? his eyes say."
Harpo, the eldest who busted in Celie's head; doesn't want to work as he is a man and work is for women. Celie does all the work for the family. She plows, cooks, cleans and raises the children to actually have morals. Harpo falls in love with a girl, Sophia from church. Sophia becomes big soon enough. Neither set of parents of either Harpo nor Sophia think the other is good enough, so Sophia goes to live with her sister until she and Harpo can marry.
They do marry and live well enough together for three years, but Harpo comes to Celie and Mr. ______ to ask what he can do to get Sophia to do what he tells her to all the time. Celie tells him to beat Sophia. The next time they see Harpo, his face is cut and bruised. Everytime he beats Sophia, she gives it right back.
Sophia gives Celie back a gift of curtains and thread. And a dollar extra for their use. Celie says they were a gift and Sophia should keep them.
"You told Harpo to beat me, she said." Celie admits, eventually, that she did say this and says it's because she is jealous, of Sophia for fighting. Plus, if something is done for so long to a person it's hard for that person not to do the same thing to somebody else. Hence cyclic abuse.
Celie felt horrible and could not sleep from the pain of the guilt, but she said it all the same. Sophia forgives Celie and they talk about their lives. "All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousins and my uncles. A girl child ain't safe in a family of men."
But men are a part of things. And when Shug Avery Mr. ______ 's old girlfriend becomes sick he takes her in as no one else does, for Celie to care for. "She look me over from head to foot. Then she cackle. Sound like a death rattle. You sure is ugly, she say, like she ain't believe it."
Shug and Mr. ______ commence with their biblical relations and Celie does not mind. Celie is more attracted to Shug than her husband. She and Shug find Nettie's letters together in a trunk of He. Despite that Mr. ______ and Shug have had three children together... "But what was good tween us must have been nothing but bodies, she say. Cause I don't know the Albert that don't dance, can't hardly laugh, never talk bout nothing, beat you and hid your sister Nettie's letters. Who he?"
Celie knew her husband to beat her and treat her like dirt, but to hide letters, to keep her from her own family, she never thought he would do. Nettie wrote to Celie for over thirty years. Nettie, with her education and missionary work writes to Celie with all her ideas of the world and her travels. Celie begins to write Nettie back, about her love affair with Shug and about her work designing pants. Mr. ______ tells Celie that she's ugly and worth nothing but she leaves him anyway.
Nettie cares for Celie's children. And they continue to write each other though, for some reason they don't receive each other's letters. Celie gets a telegram saying Nettie's ship was destroyed by a German mine and that Nettie is probably dead. But Celie does not believe it and the two write each other regardless. Celie finds from her sister that their father is not really their biological father, though this should not lessen in any manner his crimes toward Celie.
They are all eventually reunited as a family. And though they are older now, Celie does not feel old. "And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this is the youngest us ever felt." And so is the last statement of The Color Purple, which I do not think represents domestic violence accurately. I've never been given bruises by a man, but with true abuse, the violence just usually never ends. And there is really nothing to learn from it or gain from it. Abuse is actually pretty boring in the sense, that there is nothing new about it to the world. And that in the end the man who rapes Celie when she is 14 is not actually related by blood to her, should not devalue the horror that a father took advantage of his child in such a manner.
I really loved reading this book for its themes related to education, connections as family, the reality of sexual relations, and the victory of independence in the face of abuse. Maybe the ending is a matter of triumphing as a family over violence, but in doing so it also seems to excuse the inexcusable somewhat. It is as if the author is mocking Shakespeare's, "All's well that ends well."
My favorite part is in the middle of the story, when Celie is talking to Shug about the world and God's perspective. Shug says, "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." I think the real point is not whether it all ties together happily in the end, but whether or not a person notices the color purple as a gift from God, wherever they happen to go.
By Sarah Bahl
The first time I saw A League of Their Own was in a movie theater during the summer of 1992 when I was in junior high. My family was at the theater as part of a group of AAU families as it was during one of my older sister Sheila's team basketball tournaments taking place in the South. She played for the Lady Classics, an all girls basketball team, that was the best in the nation, including Alaska and Hawaii, for two years in a row. There really can be something special about being part of a team no matter the sport. To be part of something higher than oneself and that those girls, who are women now, were the best ball players in the country is one thing to read about. It's of whole other moment to see. Jewel, Peppie, Moe...it was incredible to see them move. I'll never forget the way Jewel could dribble and spin, as if she was born with a basketball in her hands. She was an unbelievable athlete. When she'd shoot, she'd jump with her spine straight but forward, her legs under her and up to two feet or so in the air in a poise she seemed to hold for a full second before the ball even left her hands in a crisp and clean shot that would almost always go in. A time toward the end of the team she missed a shot, as it veered off the back of the rim, and the crowd went silent as Jewel never missed. She just didn't. I still remember the smell of the gym, the sound of the crowd, and the sweet tangy taste of Starbursts and the comforting taste of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, as I was always getting snacks from the simple table top stands. Or reading books curled up in the backseat of the car on the way to and from games.
The film begins with Dottie Hinson, as an old woman living in a suburb with her daughter; Dottie taps her fingers on a doily covered dresser top, her wedding ring shines still and then she pulls unusually well organized and starched shirts out of drawers as she begins to pack. Hers is a cheerful room with sunflowers. Dottie is elegant looking, tall with sloping shoulders and wearing pearls, a long plaid skirt and cream colored sweater. Her beautiful red hair is cut short. Her daughter enters the room and playfully tosses an old fashioned catcher's mitt onto Dottie's nicely laced cream colored clothes. Her daughter comments that the glove needs oil, after Dottie slams her fist into it, impressively hard for an elderly lady, "Who doesn't?" Dottie quips back.
Dottie, the Queen of Diamonds, is shy about going to an event celebrating the All American Girl's Professional Baseball League. When she gets to the ball park with her old colleagues playing baseball, she remembers back to how it all began. With men off to fight in World War II it was found that to keep baseball going, women needed to play. According to a black and white newsreel, Mr. Lowenstein, a businessman, is given the job by Mr. Harvey of the chocolate bar company, to be the brain child to figure out how to keep baseball going.
The scene changes to Willamette, Oregon 1943 where young women are playing dairy business sponsored softball - two pretty and red haired sisters: a young Dottie and Kit, argue about how Kit should swing at high pitches. Kit strikes out and Dottie hits a home run. There is never ending competition between the two. Dottie is taller than Kit. Perhaps prettier too. Kit complains, while they are on a walk back home to their farm, how their father introduces them to people, "This is our daughter, Dottie. And this is our other daughter, Dottie's sister." Dottie seems to win at everything as the sisters race through the farmyard like little girls.
Ernie Capadino, a portly scout for Walter Harvey takes a keen interest in Dottie's skill. Both girls are milking cows when Ernie enters the barn and recruits Dottie, or tries to as Dottie isn't interested. She is married, her husband is at war, and she does not want to cause any disturbance to her current way of life or marriage.
Neither Ernie, nor the girls are on friendly terms with each other, though there are mutual interests involved as Ernie needs to recruit the best and the League, if they made it would pay the girls $45.00 more per week than what they make at the dairy. Dottie goes to tryouts in Chicago because Kit, the less appreciated one really wants to see the world in a different way than can be done from the perspective of a small town farmworker. On the way to tryouts they stop, with the scout, in Colorado to see another girl Marla, play. She can hit incredibly well, both left and right sides, but Capadino does not want her because she is not as pretty as most of the girls chosen to play baseball for Harvey.
Dottie and Kit both, put their suitcases down in protest at Capadino's choice and so Marla ends up coming with them to Chicago. The girls are in awe of Wrigley Field, when they arrive, and the ever sarcastic scout says, "Hey cowgirls, see the grass? Don't eat it." The girls tryout and the scenes accompanied by band swing music are a lot of fun. Both Kit and Dottie make the list of those who will stay and play for the year. One woman, Shirley Baker cannot read, not even her own name, and another girl looks on the list for her to tell her, if she made the team. The girls applaud and it seems a supportive atmosphere. The women are not happy about playing baseball in short skirts. Beauty and charm school are mandatory. The girls are to be chaperoned with no men or alcohol allowed.
Jimmy Dugan, a once prime professional player, is lowered to the stance of coaching women's baseball (God forbid) and for their first game as a team he stumbles into the locker room, pees, then leaves but not before he tears up a baseball card given to him to sign. The card belonged to a girl's husband. Jimmy steps out of the dugout, and smiles while waving his hat in the air and cursing the fans under his breath. Dottie takes over as coach, given Jimmy's inebriated state and general attitude. It continues to go harshly as there are not so many fans as expected and the girls are heckled but one shows spirit by knocking out the heckler with a ball. The Rockford Peaches win and when Lowenstein, who was watching the game, asks Jimmy why he wasn't coaching and just sat there scratching his balls instead, as there are some pretty good ballplayers among those women, Jimmy responds with, "I haven't got ballplayers. I've got girls."
But it is hard for a group to live, travel and work together without seeing each other as people at some point, otherwise there would not be a team. Jimmy and Ms. Cuthbert, the chaperone get to know each other as Ms. Cuthbert becomes quite ill from food poisoning, as Mae, who plays center, poisons her dinner so they can all go out for a night of swing dancing, drinking and fun. Lowenstein also oversees the team as their general manager. Dottie stays in at first as she is married, but leaves to the Suds Bucket to warn the girls that Lowenstein is coming out and if they get caught they are out of the league. Dottie has the natural personality of a shepherd. She wants to make sure everything is in its place. And that people are all together just right.
Kit and Dottie continue to fight as Kit feels that as long as Dottie is around then she is nothing. This is not true, but it starts to feel that way. Dottie nearly leaves the league altogether because she doesn't like disagreements or for anyone to be upset with her; just when ticket sales are hurting the worst. But she talks to Lowenstein about it, and he trades Kit rather than Dottie to raise scene. At their group house Kit throws a ball near Dottie's head and calls her a bitch as Kit never wanted to be traded. The ball breaks through a window. Dottie is shocked and told Kit she told them to trade her. Kit responds with, "Oh yeah, they'd really trade you. Miss Star. Miss Perfect!" And then Kit runs upstairs to her room with Dottie after her and the whole house listening in. Dottie tells Kit to "Blow it out your rear end. I'm the one who got you into this league goddammit." And so it goes between the two. Already simmering tensions hit a crescendo and Kit leaves to join the Racine Belles. (Though one wonders if team members were allowed to be that bratty during the 1940s). She will always be emotional and being around her sister made it that much more so. But she had a lot of spirit and without Kit, Dottie would never have had the time of her life playing ball like she did. The two meet each other in The World Series and for once, Kit hits a high pitch, to make it a home run. She knocks out Dottie who is catching at the home plate, Dottie drops the ball and the Belles win.
The film really grants insights into the time and how much baseball was an outlet financially and socially. It raised up a lot of women who had little education during the hard times of The Great Depression. Though, it made clear during the film that women known to be of color at the time were excluded, the AAGPBL broke many barriers for how women were viewed physically and in society.
By Sarah Bahl
Little Women, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, is a tale of how human relations and love among family members, especially sisters can overcome any loss of luxury during hard times. It is also a story about the river of time and how it changes people and families in common and great ways. The March family is riding out the holidays without their father, who enlisted in the army during the Civil War. Jo (for Josephine) is the character of most focus. The novel explores the characters in more individual detail as they beset each other, in a manner very hard if not impossible to capture on film.
Jo is accompanied by her three sisters, Meg, Amy, and Beth in a world of sophisticated make believe, as Jo writes plays and stories for the amusement of herself and her sisters. The elder March girls who are out, attend their next door neighbor's (the Laurence's) holiday ball. The young ladies, Meg and Jo, do not have the finest of attire, but they are well suited enough to come and enjoy themselves among the ennobled guests of the Laurence's, a family comprised of the elderly James and his grandson, Theodore, who was born in Europe, and had recently come from there.
At the ball, Jo meets Theodore, nicknamed Laurie, and they get along famously. When Meg sprains her ankle it becomes apparent, the March family has a true friend in Laurie as he has Meg and Jo driven home in his own carriage. Laurie becomes the girls' playmate and they have great fun, horsing around with him in the winter yard.
Jo works for her wealthy aunt to supplement her family's meager income. Beth is caught crying, by Jo, after one of Jo's reading sessions with Aunt March. Beth tells Jo, that she was struck at school for bringing limes to class. Limes were in great fashion among the school-children and anyone without a lime was a loser. So, Beth was caught with the limes, and corporeally punished, for her efforts to engage in a harmless schoolyard right of passage.
Marmee writes, Mr. Davis a letter denouncing physical punishment and pulls Beth from school. Within Alcott's novel, Beth studied writing, drawing and math. She particularly loved to draw. The 1994 film version does not reflect her artistic temperament as much as it places a forward light on girls' education. It is implied by Jo and Marmee that Beth will receive homeschooling to further learn Latin.
Over time the girls grow up to learn what the meaning is for themselves in their own lives and who they would be best paired with for husbands. And in accordance to one of the most cliched storylines in all of English literature, Jo works as a governess and exhibits her love for writing and an inner craving for immortality by composing fake and unknowing vignettes of world's and people she does not understand but seems to find romantic. Jo learns the true story is that of her own life. She writes of her world as she truly best knows how to portray it; and this is the published story to truly make an impact. (Which makes the Bronte sisters all the more prodigious.)
The original book, brings to life very detailed themes among the world of siblings and how a person's home life is markedly different from yet feeds back to their school and work life. This truth relates to the higher perspective revealing how fragile the average human identity is to the whims of fortune. The 1949 film repeatedly focused on what was to become of the girls financially with a father at war, minimal current income and questionable future propriety. The girls' survival via marriage is commented on considerably by other characters within the film. The 1994 film version is starkly "feminist" in places and the language flows from a colloquial version of what was spoken at the time to colloquial modern. The original book version is a personal favorite though one cannot decide if it is sugary sweet (at least in parts) in a realistic manner or no.
An adorable tale of the ups and downs of sisterhood according to the impeccably mannered wording of Jane Austin. "The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex. Their estate was large, and their residence was at Norland Park..." and within their esteemed habitation of placid respectability a change of course was to ensue upon the demise of the owner of the estate, a man who had long lived upon the premises with a sister who had died ten years hence. So as not to be so lonely, he received his nephew Mr. Henry Dashwood, his wife and their children who made fine pleasure with their company out of sincere kindness and good natured companionability.
Mr. Henry Dashwood all told had four children, one son by an initial marriage and three daughters by his current wife. Henry's son John was married and secured in manner of fortune upon the will of his mother executed at his coming of age and via his marriage by which a vast addition of wealth was appropriated. Mr. Henry Dashwood's daughters were in need of bold ramifications of the will procured from the elderly bachelor, as their father merely had 7,000 pounds for living and their mother nothing. "The old gentleman died: his will was read, and like almost every other will, gave as much disappointment as pleasure," with the majority of pounds and the entire estate going to a bratty grand nephew of the age of four, who had managed to charm his uncle.
The three girls; Elinor, the oldest at nineteen, as well as Marianne and Margaret, were left with a thousand pounds a piece. Which could be construed to be as of true insult for, it helps with expenditures in just enough time for them to be married, while the bulk of the will, really the entire estate and all its liquid pounds goes to a four year old boy. Though, their father planned on securing a larger fortune for his girls via the produce of his estate, such was not to be, due to ill constructed tidings consisting of his demise within a twelve month, leaving his wife and daughters with 10,000 pounds.
The estate by decree of the late-late elderly gentleman went into the hands of Mr. John Dashwood and his ill charactered wife. Mr. John Dashwood, himself was, "not an ill disposed young man, unless to be rather cold hearted and rather selfish is to be ill disposed." And Mrs. John Dashwood, as a mean spirited caricature of her husband, decided right away would be a good time to move into the recently widowed Mrs. Dashwood's abode, before she and her daughters had, to themselves, not really only a moment of reflection upon present circumstance but a chance to move out.
Mrs. Dashwood and her children, did all told manage to amalgamate together effectually as, "Elinor, this eldest daughter, whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgement, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence." Marianne, though capable of Elinor's sense cognitively, differed from her elder sister by way of personality, in being much more tempered with unconstrained emotive stance in a manner near equal in similarity to the mother. And Margaret, at the age of thirteen resembled Marianne's unbound penchant to lack emotional moderation, without having either sense of both her older sisters.
Mrs. John Dashwood established herself as mistress of Norland, forcefully, with the horrific awkwardness of the situation only being mildly quelled by the fake offer of John to his mother and half sisters to consider the estate their home. How kind, considering they were already living there.
Mrs. Dashwood accepts her son's offer, not only so as not to further ruffle tides but because any other house in Norland Park is too large and expensive to live on for her and her daughter's current financial backing. It is Elinor who disproves houses far too grand and expensive, that her mother would have otherwise readily accepted. Mr. John Dashwood wanted to grant his sisters a share of fortune in the will but his wife forbade it by means of seemingly cogent argument. Perhaps had Mr. John Dashwood been able to give his sisters the three thousand pounds then they might have afforded a house in Norland Park and have been able to move out of the doubly occupied home.
Mr. John Dashwood's father did not purposely leave his widow in such dire straights. It seems more that he misjudged in trusting the bulk of his estate, liquid assets and all pounds to his son, with the assumption that his son would care for Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters as requested. What Mr. Dashwood did not foresee was the control, construct and design Mr. John Dashwood's ice princess of a wife would have over the situation. Mrs. John Dashwood's assumptions were that John's half sisters were only that; half and therefore of no relation at all. And aside, "To take three thousand pounds from the fortune of their dear little boy would be impoverishing him to the most dreadful degree."
Added to the mix is Mrs. John Dashwood's brother, Mr. Edward Ferrars, a wishy washy sort of fellow with no estimatable inclination for future employment of any sort; "But Edward had no turn for great men or barouches. All his wishes centered in domestic comfort and the quiet of private life. Fortunately he had a younger brother who was more promising."
It is Marianne who most thoroughly notices the full dimensions of Edward's character, "I may consider it with some surprise. Edward is very amiable, and I love him tenderly. But yet- he is not the kind of young man - there is something wanting - his figure is not striking; it has none of that grace which I would expect in the man who could seriously attach my sister. His eyes want all that spirit, that fire, which at once announce virtue and intelligence. And besides all this, I am afraid, mama, he has no real taste."
Elinor had taken a strong liking, even attachment to Edward, which seemed to go vise versa in an equal degree and Mrs. Dashwood hoped for a marriage to be produced from the connection. But Edward's sister, "took the first opportunity of affronting her mother in law on the occasion, talking to her so expressively of her brother's great expectations, of Mrs. Ferrar's resolution that both her sons should marry well, and of the danger attending any young woman who attempted to draw him in; that Mrs. Dashwood could neither pretend to be unconscious, nor endeavor to be calm. She gave her an assurance that marked her contempt, and instantly left the room, resolving that, whatever the inconvenience or expense of so sudden a removal, her beloved Elinor should not be exposed another week to such insinuations."
Fortunately, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret would no longer be susceptible to the suffocating bullying of John's sister as a relative offers them a home in the cottage upon his estate. Mrs. Dashwood is able to accept the offer quite promptly and has the added benefit of relating to John and his wife that their move requires them to go to Devonshire, far from Norland and within four miles of Exeter.
The women move into the cottage quite well and one should hope so, as Barton Cottage, is a four bedroom, two garrett house. "They were cheered by the joy of servants upon their arrival and each for the sake of others resolved to appear happy." Upon living on 500 pounds a year, the ladies deemed it best not to refurbish the place entirely but rather to create a home by means of unpacking familiar pieces from their prior establishment, such as Marianne's piano-forte and Elinor's drawings, the latter of which were attached to the sitting room walls.
Sir John Middleton, the landlord to the cottage is also a cousin of the girls. Though his last visit occurred when they were so young, none of them recollects Sir Middleton, who is now a good looking man of about 40. He sincerely welcomes his guests, by inviting them to dine daily at Barton Park, and sends them a large basket of garden plants and fruit as well as a game. Morever all their letters would be carried to and from the post on his account and his own newspaper to be delivered daily.
Here the Dashwoods find quite agreeable accommodations and it is Elinor's sense that prevents her and Marianne from being unnecessarily taken advantage of by men given their father's permanent absence. The dashing yet essentially evil Mr. Willoughby, who meets the sisters upon his visiting of an elderly relative at Allenham Court, preys upon Marianne for sport. He offers her a horse, yet they are not formally engaged (though back then they did not have rings so much as it was a spoken agreement) and Elinor makes Marianne deny the gift as firstly Marianne and her supposed suitor have not known each other long enough for such gifts and secondly, the Miss Dashwoods have absolutely no where to keep a horse.
One morning Willoughby is found in the house with Marianne by Elinor and their mother though rather than catching the lovers in any explicit act, Marianne is found in tears and Willoughby tells, in response to Mrs. Dashwood's inquiries that he must go on business to London, that very morning. Mrs. Dashwood says how sorry she is for this but that their door is open and attempts to solidify an agreement of his return to their cottage. Willoughby responds with, "My engagements at present, are of such a nature, that I dare not flatter myself."
To anyone with any sense it would appear Marianne, horse or no, has been dumped. In the meantime, Edward Ferrars makes entirely awkward visits to the cottage, and is always in a sort of spoiled state of melancholy, as if his mind were really elsewhere, whenever he does. Colonel Brandon also likes the beautiful Marianne, but she in turn was flummoxed by the very idea of marrying a man at his age of 35, when she was just seventeen. Especially when, while at a dinner party he spoke of chronic aches and wearing flannel waistcoats. Marianne could not conceive of herself without horror, being chained to a man who wears flannel waistcoats. Acting as if she, at the age of seventeen might as well throw herself into the pit of death right away than succumb to marriage to a man wearing fuddy-duddy underclothes.
Instead of considering the reasonable and courteous, Colonel Brandon with his 2,000 pounds a year, Marianne instead chases after the coldly charming Mr. Willoughby while visiting with Mrs. Jennings, a friend of the family's, in London; writing Willoughby repeated letters, all of which go unanswered until he responds with a letter stating his intent to marry another woman, and instead of even apologizing for any confusion, he indirectly yet thoroughly denies ever having a connection of more than mere acquaintance with Marianne. (Thank God Marianne had her sister to advise her on the equestrian matter, otherwise without Elinor's sense, the whole family might have been ruined.)
Edward Ferrars is found to be in love with a pretty girl from the country, Miss Lucy Steele, who is of relation to the Miss Dashwoods in the sense she is a cousin of their cousin, Sir John's wife. Lucy is limited in education but is found to be agreeable, even charming, but Edward's mother denies the couples' ability to wed, and Edward refuses to terminate the engagement. So, Roger Ferrars, Edward's younger brother visits the girl in order to clearly dissuade her from marrying his brother. He comes once and then again, and instead of him successfully cutting Lucy from all potential ties to his family name, he marries her himself. Edward then can marry Elinor which he does and, "they had in fact nothing to wish for, but the marriage of Colonel Brandon and Marianne and rather better pasturage for their cows." One does wonder by such outcomes if Edward, was never so vapid as he seemed but rather a patient and entirely masterful negotiator of a sort.
Marianne weds Colonel Brandon despite his appalling taste in under-garments; and Willoughby despite his own marriage, (and a love child in relation to a charge of Colonel Brandon's, on the side) states Marianne to have always been the prettiest. The two sisters, one Sense and the other Sensibility live close to each other, one at Barton, the other at Delaford and Margaret remains with her mother at the cottage, yet is now at the age suitable for dancing.
By Sarah Bahl
Austin, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. 2011 Edition. Michael O'Mara Books Limited. First Published 1811. Print.
Artist Unknown. Costume Parisien. 1809. Web. November 7, 2010. < athousandpix.blogspot.com >
Artist Unknown. Untitled. 1790-1820. Item ID: 411pmred. < rubylane.com >