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Archived Group Reads 2012 > Odd Women Ch. 15, The Joys of Home - Ch. 17, The Triumph

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message 1: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (SarahCarmack) | 1436 comments Please discuss this section of the reading. Spoilers may be found.


message 2: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (SarahCarmack) | 1436 comments So we may all having ranging views of Monica, however, are we starting to see that she as a character illustrates the woman more of the world than the Edmund-type, narrow-viewed male had anticipated?

Chap 16
Monica - "I should like to make more friends, and to see them often. I want to hear people talk, and know what is going on round about me. And to read a different kind of books...Life will be a burden to me before long, if I don't have more freedom."

She wants no part of his imprisonment-style of relationship.


message 3: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (SarahCarmack) | 1436 comments By chapter 17, how well-acquainted are we with Rhoda Nunn? Does anyone have any specific thoughts of her?


message 4: by Becky (new)

Becky | 174 comments Today I wonder if Widowson would be diagnosed with OCD, he seems so upset that Monica is constantly upsetting his little routines. He cannot seem to handle surprises or variations, no wonder Monica is already feeling suffocated.

Its interesting that Monica seemed to think that she had little to learn from Rhoda, but Gissing points out that she is able to convey her need for freedom in a more clear and concise argument because of the time she spent with an educated set of girls. I also wonder how much of this desire to be a bit modern and rebellious was awakened in her by Rhoda.

I think Rhoda is certainly a conflicted person (who isn't?). She seems so eager to despise women who sleep with men out of wedlock. I think she is going to face the sexism of her views on sexuality sooner or later in the book. I appreciated her recognition of her almost girlish enthusiasm at being appreciated by a man, along with the recognition of her power over him.


message 5: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (SarahCarmack) | 1436 comments Rhoda is the pinnacle conflicted character of the story, I believe. It seems that she has chosen a too-narrow path for herself. I read another essay about this novel -- I will have refer back for the author -- but it was a good description of the movement of that day -- which Rhoda illustrates perfectly -- of women promoting a celibacy movement -- against men basically -- to bring around the social, political, and legal currents to reform in favor of women.

The essay author referred to this as the "silent strike." Some followers of the movement went as far to promote the idea that "the male body was responsible for social degeneration, disease, prostitution." They also believed in "women's inherit moral purity and spiritual superiority to men." By denying men, women would gain the power they needed. Remember Rhoda and Mary at the end of Chap 8: "But we -- we are the winning souls, propagating a new religion, purifying the earth!" (It seems Gissing was pretty well reporting this portion of this particular women's movement.)

Therefore, marriage came under attack (so in Rhoda's thinking --Everard's idea of free union or marriage otherwise would not be considered -- see their conversation in Chap 14)

Perhaps Rhoda will find, in the next chapters, the difficulty of a narrow social and political path of this kind and living as a human at the same time.


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2552 comments I love the difference between the title of Chapter 15, The Joys of Home, and the actual description of life at home. Hardly any Joy to be found there!

We see a lot more of Widdowson's character and views of marriage here, in such passages as:

"You ought to be more methodical, Monica. Each morning I always plan how my day is to be spent, and it would be much better if you would do the same. Then you wouldn't be so restless and uncertain.'"

'You ought to be more methodical, Monica. Each morning I always plan how my day is to be spent, and it would be much better if you would do the same. Then you wouldn't be so restless and uncertain.'

Widdowson hated the slightest interference with domestic routine, and he had reluctantly indulged Monica's desire to go to Chelsea this afternoon. Hunger was now added to his causes of discontent.
'Let us have something to eat at once,' he said on entering the house. 'This disorder really won't do: we must manage better somehow.'

Though for all his desire for total control of Monica's life, he is not ungenerous:

"Widdowson hated the slightest interference with domestic routine, and he had reluctantly indulged Monica's desire to go to Chelsea this afternoon. Hunger was now added to his causes of discontent.
'Let us have something to eat at once,' he said on entering the house. 'This disorder really won't do: we must manage better somehow.'"

So he is a control freak, but a generous one. If Monica would only content herself with being his dutiful and obedient wife, she would have a life of physical luxury. But for the time being, it looks as though that trade-off is one she is not willing to make.


message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2552 comments Becky wrote: "Today I wonder if Widowson would be diagnosed with OCD, he seems so upset that Monica is constantly upsetting his little routines."

I don't see it as OCD. I think life in Victorian days was expected to be much more structured than life today. At many levels of society there were strict rules, expectations, and structures; British schools were run this way, as were the army, navy, and diplomatic corps, society was highly structured, and the factories, offices, apprenticeships, and shops offered little of the freedom that we expect in modern workplaces.

Yes, he's a bit more structured than Barfoot, but I think he's the exception rather than the rule. I don't think he would be looked on by his compeers as expecting an unusually high level of structure (and with no microwaves or take-out meals, but servants having to labor over wood or coal stoves, it made sense to have a very structured set of meal times, for just one example.)


message 8: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2552 comments In Chapter 16, is Gissing setting up something with Monica and Bevis? There are some pretty suggestive comments relative to someone she has just met:

Foolish as Mrs. Bevis undoubtedly was, she perchance had not praised her son beyond his merits. He looked the best of good fellows; so kind and merry and spirited; such a capable man, too. It struck Monica as a very hard fate that he should have this family on his hands. What they must cost him! Probably he could not think of marrying, just on their account.

"'I don't see that he [Bevis] has done anything more than his duty,' remarked Widdowson at the end. 'But he isn't a bad fellow.'
For private reasons, Monica contrasted this attitude towards Bevis with the disfavour her husband had shown to Mr. Barfoot, and was secretly much amused."

What is amusing in that? Is Gissing suggesting that Widdowson is worrying about the wrong man, and Rhoda knows it? Or am I reading too much into this encounter?


message 9: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2552 comments Mrs. Bevis would get along just fine with Widdowson: speaking with Monica of her daughters, when Monica says

'Now they are just the kind of women who ought to find something to do.'

She replies:

'Something to do? Why, they attend to their mother and their brother. What could be more proper?'
'Very proper, perhaps. But they are miserable, and always will be.'
'Then they have no right to be miserable. They are doing their duty, and that ought to keep them cheerful.'

Now, isn't that JUST the way Widdowson thinks about his wife? If she would just do her duty, she should certainly be cheerful.


message 10: by Clari (new)

Clari (clariann) | 496 comments Everyman wrote: "Is Gissing suggesting that Widdowson is worrying about the wrong man, and Rhoda knows it? "

I interpreted it the same as you, a subtle hint that Monica is attracted to Beavis not Barfoot.


message 11: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 1277 comments Everyman wrote: "...'Let us have something to eat at once,' he said on entering the house. 'This disorder really won't do: we must manage better somehow.'..."

I know Widdowson says "we", but the implication towards Monica seems so clear. How far many working couples have traveled in sharing household responsibilities, despite the distances still remaining!

I get little sense in Gissing of the role of the wifely head of the household vis-à-vis servants. (Probably Gaskell has more of this than most Victorian writers.)


message 12: by Lily (last edited Sep 20, 2012 01:50PM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 1277 comments Everyman wrote: "...Now, isn't that JUST the way Widdowson thinks about his wife? If she would just do her duty, she should certainly be cheerful...."

Given his generosity, there seems some justification from his viewpoint! But he forgets that he met this young woman in a rather unconventional way for his time. He didn't have the social savvy to pick that up as a clue that she might not be "typical" nor the savvy to test his assumptions prior to marriage.


message 13: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 1277 comments What, if any, are the interpretations of the names Gissing has used for his characters?


message 14: by Lily (last edited Sep 20, 2012 01:47PM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 1277 comments @2 SarahC wrote: "...Monica - 'I should like to make more friends, and to see them often. I want to hear people talk, and know what is going on round about me. And to read a different kind of books...Life will be a burden to me before long, if I don't have more freedom.' ..."

One of the problems/questions I have with Gissing's character development is whether he keeps the characters consistent as he develops them. Certainly, one can expect some characters to have unexpected twists in who they are and good development of main characters exposes multiple sides of personality. But, somehow I would sometimes use the word "jerky" to describe how I learn about the people in this book. For example, having observed Monica on the train, in the dormitory, out on her walks, with her sisters, do I really expect her to "read a different kind of book" or even to seek out people for conversation and friendship. It's not quite inconsistent, but felt almost to me.


message 15: by SarahC (last edited Sep 20, 2012 01:58PM) (new)

SarahC (SarahCarmack) | 1436 comments I thought about that too, Lily. Monica's development does have some gaps in the flow. I do read her as a person who would make this speech. I remember her original goal of coming to London was to have a more interesting life than she had in the country. So I think you can interpret that she would like to be among people and meet people, especially as she has the social status now to do that. I thought that her comment about reading was in response to Edmund pushing those uninteresting books on her. She chose some penny novels ("blue covers" or something) when they were at the inn and he disapproved. He seemed to need to approve her reading material in general -- and it seems he believed that was a man's role.


message 16: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 1277 comments SarahC wrote: "...So I think you can interpret that she would like to be among people and meet people, especially as she has the social status now to do that...."

Perhaps if Gissing had given us just a bit more about their growing up years, especially since Monica was the youngest of them. He does make the point early in the book that Dr. Madden read to his daughters, although Monica must have been pretty young. (Sidebar: Rhoda was ~15 when Dr. Madden died.) Monica was 5 years old as the story opened.

There might also been a bit of a class issue that dissuaded Monica from mingling with the other girls in the dormitory, which adds credibility to your suggestion that now that barrier to making acquaintances is lowered.


message 17: by Silver (new)

Silver I have to say that I am starting to grow upon Monica in these chapters. I was quite surprised with her. I would not have thought she would have it in her, the way she stood up to her husband. As well it seems that I was unfair in my presumption of her as being a bit on the dull-witted side. I found the views she expressed, and her opinions unexpected. She has much more of a mind of her own then I would have presumed from what we have previously seen of her.

In the case of Widdowson, while I strongly disagree with him and his opinions there is a part of me that cannot help but to feel sorry for him in a way. He is quite pitiful I think. I believe he really is just a lonely old man, and I think that it is both the age difference and maybe what his sister said about women be willing to marry just for his money that makes him so doubtful of Monica. In his own way I think he truly does love her, but he is stuck in his ways and his view of things and his married to a woman whom he knows is young and attractive and wants a different life that his own ideal.


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