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Archived Group Reads 2012 > Odd Women Ch. 12, Weddings - Ch. 14, Motives Meeting

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message 1: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Please discuss this section of the reading. Spoilers may be found.


message 2: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments There are some fascinating interactions going on in this portion of the book. The discussion between Mary and Rhoda to try to resolve their conflict was a great scene. Mary believing Rhoda to feel her a weak woman with too much emotion. But also her statement that to help women you had to maintain your womanhood.

I feel that reading Everard is reading one of Gissing's best characters. He seems to speak and observe so fully. The scene of meeting Widdowson was a good one. Everard with his experience of the world is an effective contrast to many of the other characters -- this becomes more effective as the story goes, but it is noticeable here as a beginning.


message 3: by Becky (new)

Becky | 170 comments In Chapter 12 Everard buys Mrs. Mickelwaite a piano since her husband cant afford it. he notes that Mrs. M is terribly worn down from her hard life but has somehow managed to keep her happiness in her eyes. I had to wonder if that was because she was a particular woman or because she always had the hope/knowledge that someone would marry her eventually, a knowledge and hope that Virginia does not have.

In Chapter 13 I was actaully a little shocked at Rhoda's lack of pity and empathy. I can't decide if her vehemence comes more from her anger that the girl left her opportunity behind or because she engaged in adulterous and unvirtuous behavior. Rhoda seems to make the argument that the girl got what she deserved, and that Rhoda sided with society in that such conduct was contemptible. Somehow I feel that this shows Rhoda is a bit more traditional than she'd like to think she is.

Chapter 14- I'm glad to see that Everard's interest in Rhoda has gone beyond his desire to "trick" her, but now I have to wonder about Rhoda tricking him. Seems to me like they deserve each other. Also, this is the first time that we have a character actually noting Widdowson's inflammatory jealousy.


message 4: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Becky, I agree, the complexity and the imperfections of the characters are certainly arising. This is always the point in the story that I love. The reader really has to get on board and begin thinking about where we are going with this. I think the differences between Rhoda and Mary about Bella Royston give us the turning point to really start seeing these two characters -- they didn't seem to differentiate until now. But that seems a good natural progression to the story. I think it presents us the question of how much hardness to you have to accomplish the work they do and how much humanity. A very universal question.

I don't feel that either Ever or Rhoda had a real motive to trick the other. I interpret these thoughts as fueled by genuine interest in each other. Fascinated by these strong personalities they each encounter and wondering what to do about it. I think, for me, concluding they deserve each other is a bit too early in the story. I don't know enough about them yet. Ever is defined by his checkered past and Rhoda with her outer coldness. I am sure we will see an evolution here.

Ah, Widdowson's jealousy -- yes, he is losing control.


message 5: by Sera (new)

Sera I've finished the book but will be super careful about revealing any future spoilers.

Rhoda's coldness toward the young woman mentioned I believe reflects her view that energy should be spent on those who are the most worthy of it and who are most likely to benefit from the program. It always concerns me, however, that people who lack empathy towards others are truly able to help them. I do believe that this is a universal question as Sarah had indicated.

As for Widdowson - it appears that all of the creepy feelings that we had for him early in the book were on point. Here, his conduct started to make me as a reader difficult to side with him in regard to his point of view on things.


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments I loved this passage about Mrs. Luke losing her husband: "The money-maker died much sooner than she could reasonably have hoped, and left her an income of four thousand pounds. Thereupon began for Mrs. Luke a life of feverish aspiration."

I don't like Mrs. Luke, but I think she may really become a positive influence in Monica's life. She certainly represents the epitome of the woman marrying for money and having the good fortune to get it sooner than she deserved. Yet another of the many portraits of possible female lives that Gissing offers us.


message 7: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments SarahC wrote: "...Everard with his experience of the world is an effective contrast to many of the other characters -- this becomes more effective as the story goes, but it is noticeable here as a beginning...."

When we get there, I wonder if we might discuss the extent to which Gissing allows this characterization of Everard to influence Everard's eventual decisions. I think your point is well taken and continues to play itself out, but I wouldn't have framed it or thought about it in quite the same way without your comment here. Thx!

(I left my ebook where I was vacationing; a helpful person and UPS got it back to me yesterday, so I have been spending the morning playing catch-up.)


message 8: by Lily (last edited Sep 20, 2012 12:56PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Becky wrote: "In Chapter 12 Everard buys Mrs. Mickelwaite a piano..."

I have a sense that Gissing has every character in the story for a purpose, but still I come to feel this one seems a bit over-run with personalities -- who, while unique, appear for too short a time or as too peripheral for it to be easy to make their acquaintance and remember their role in supporting the story-line.

It would be interesting to attempt to describe the role that Mary plays in terms of story structure, but I'm not sure I know enough about writing and plot development to do that. Here she seems a bit of a foil to Rhoda on sensitivity and interests of women towards marriage. But, I am particularly interested in how to characterize her role relative to the triangle of Everard, Rhoda, and herself. Certainly she is the vehicle to introduce E&R. But, later, .... (To be revisited.)


message 9: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Yes, more to come on Mary later, but for now -- I see Mary of course as the provider for these women who she helps to train. From the more personal aspects of this story though, I keep thinking of her as the matriarch of the family. It seems there are early deaths in her family which have left her heir and kind of the connecting female force. She communicates the family issues, and these visits and discussions with Everard are very family-type settings. We are very similar in my family as there have been early deaths that have left me the female in charge -- representing it in many ways. It really dwells in me (not always comfortably) and maybe that is why I pick it out in characters and other people. And it is not something you are prepared for sometimes, but it seems to me that Mary does it well. She is reconciling with Everard, and Tom's as well as Mrs. Tom's communications come through her.

It is almost as though Gissing is making another illustration that women can be powerful in the domestic and family sense too, and it has nothing to do with being "wifely" and subordinate. That is true in my case too. My actions as a pivotal female in the family now have nothing to do with my role as wife to my husband. It is a different sort of role.


message 10: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments SarahC wrote: "Yes, more to come on Mary later, but for now -- I see Mary of course as the provider for these women who she helps to train. From the more personal aspects of this story though, I keep thinking of..."

Wonderfully insightful set of comments, Sarah! Thanks for sharing.

You describe a role that we may see play out in a couple of contrasting characters as the story unfolds -- enough foreshadowing for now.


message 11: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Lily wrote: "Becky wrote: "In Chapter 12 Everard buys Mrs. Mickelwaite a piano..."

I have a sense that Gissing has every character in the story for a purpose, but still I come to feel this one seems a bit over..."


I see her as the exemplar of the ideal Victorian woman/wife against which Rhoda is perpetually railing, and the couple as exemplifying that two people could be content and live well enough on a much lower income than Everard considers conceivable. Both the Mickelwaites showed the Victorian attributes of loyalty, steady love, and willingness to wait patiently for life to bring them together, and show these attributes being rewarded (unless something bad happens to them later in the book). I have to wonder whether any of the other characters will come off happily in the end.


message 12: by Lily (last edited Sep 22, 2012 06:49AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Everyman wrote: "...I see her [Mrs. Mickelwaite] as the exemplar of the ideal Victorian woman/wife against which Rhoda is perpetually railing, and the couple as exemplifying that two people could be content and live well enough on a much lower income than Everard considers conceivable...."

Useful comments, really helped place the significance of these two characters for me. Thx, Eman!


message 13: by Silver (new)

Silver Becky wrote: "In Chapter 13 I was actaully a little shocked at Rhoda's lack of pity and empathy. I can't decide if her vehemence comes more from her anger that the girl left her opportunity behind or because she engaged in adulterous and unvirtuous behavior...."

A part of me was surprised by her reaction because it is not what I expected from one who seems so unconventional in many other regards, and yet at the same time I cannot say I entirely disagreed with her reaction.

I loved it when she states:

"Human weakness is a plea that has been much abused, and generally in an interested spirit"

I have to say that I feel the same way. I have myself often been accused of being too harshly judgmental of characters in books and people always try to use the human weakness plea as an excuse for their actions, but I just never have been one to buy into that excuse.

I think that Rhoda's anger does come from the way in which the girl had thrown away the opportunity which was offered to her, And instead of committing herself to the work and the difficulties which might come of that, she took what at the time seemed like the easier way out. She proved herself to be a weak woman in Rhoda's eyes and not dedicated to achieving independence from men. Rhoda saw her as being unreliable and whom could not be trusted to set a good example for other girls.

I also rather like Rhoda's expectation that some personal responsibility be taken. The girl was the source of her own problems, she made bad choices for herself, and so she must face the consequences of those choices she made.


message 14: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments It seems to me that it is possible, but oft difficult, to not be judgmental and still definitely know and acknowledge and affirm that choices just will have consequences, yet sometimes continue to walk alongside people in those circumstances. Rhoda seems to want to (pre)rescue people and steer them clear of what she considers the shoals of life. Mary definitely supports Rhoda in those charitable and worthy aims, but seems to understand that all they do to make lives independent and supportable for women on their own may not be adequate for every girl/woman with whom they work. To teach and train how to accomplish "all" presently seems beyond the scope of their vision, except in these very individual cases and ways.

(For the past couple of years, I have provided a short seminar on life planning to young women in a local Homeless Shelter. I don't know if I or it make any difference, but I do ponder its role among seminars on budgeting and parenting. What we discuss here feels relevant to me in that pondering.)

Do (good) authors just simply ask us to walk in the moccasins of others for the proverbial mile, whether of Rhoda or of Mary or of Bella Royston?

It is forward in our story, at the opening of Chapter 21, so I won't quote here, but the first paragraph there for me was one that helped contrast Mary and Rhoda.


message 15: by MichelleCH (new)

MichelleCH (lalatina) | 6 comments Lily wrote: "It seems to me that it is possible, but oft difficult, to not be judgmental and still definitely know and acknowledge and affirm that choices just will have consequences, yet sometimes continue to ..."

Great observations! The mile that we walk with the author here is in my mind within the context of individual strengths or weaknesses. If a woman is worthy/smart enough/or determined enough she will benefit from Rhoda's charitable aims. There is not enough momentum yet to look at systems and the reasons behind the lack of opportunity for these women.


message 16: by Lily (last edited Sep 30, 2012 04:51PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments And Mary is wise enough to understand that what Rhoda offers in terms of obtaining economic independence may not be all some (many?) women want or need. (view spoiler)


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