The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

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2016 Group Reads - Archives > A Pair of Blue Eyes - Ch 30 - Conclusion

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message 1: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4467 comments Mod
Hardy has once again captured the challenges and twists in life.

Which man would have been the better husband for Elfride?

What do you think about her decision making throughout the story?

Were you surprised by the ending?


message 2: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1818 comments Mod
I was very surprised and somewhat shocked by the ending-not that she married Lord L. (I saw that one coming a while back as a possible outcome)-but that she apparently pined away and died (of a broken heart?). However I had also found the misunderstanding between Elfride and Knight to be unbearably frustrating to read-I couldn't understand how this pair, who had seemed to share so much and become such intimate friends during their courtship, could so misunderstand each other. Why couldn't Elfride see that her refusing to tell her story was the worst thing she could possibly do to poor Knight who, whatever his life experience in everything else, was clearly very inexperienced and therefore somewhat anxious about love and courtship, and why couldn't Knight get over his priggish upset about his sweetheart having had a previous lover?

I felt most sorry for Stephen, who clearly had remained steadfast in his love for Elfride, and had done everything in his power not to stand in her way once her happiness seemed to lie with someone other than himself. For him to suddenly be given hope of renewing his relationship now that he had succeeded in making his name and fortune, and then to have that hope dashed was heartbreaking to read.

The scene of the two men racing to see who can renew his addresses to Elfride first was comical, with a devastating ending when the mystery carriage turns out to be carrying the coffin of the woman they both love.

I think the best husband for Elfride would have been the one she loved the most (and therefore Knight) although I think Stephen would probably have treated her best. I was also really disappointed by Elfride's choosing to bury her own personality and to take on all Knight's views and opinions. I would fear that as she grew older and started to reassert her independence and/or to turn her attention to her children would have caused significant stress in the relationship. It also sounds as if Lord L had treated her very well so perhaps she got the best husband in the end.


message 3: by Bill (new)

Bill | 12 comments Yes, I agree that Elfride disappointed more in her abandonment of her separate personality than in her decision-maklng. Of course this, I think, was not her own fault, but the result of Hardy using the popular Victorian formula of women lacking any resiliency, so much so that disappointment in love can end up killing them. My memory of his other novels is hazy, but I don't believe he again went in for this type of weak female character.

It seemed a bit shabby that when the two men found that Elfride had died, they competed over whom she loved in the end.

There was also an element I think I saw in which the matter of Elfride's virginity was the crux for Knight. Since she had been with Smith overnight, the assumption Knight made when she admitted this was that they had slept together. And that was a deal-breaker, understandably in terms of the times. Knight later laments that Elfirde didn't bother to explain that they were traveling all night back to Endelstow, so nothing had happened. He implies that he would have believed her if she had told him these details. I think Elfride did not offer any defense because she was convinced that even as much as she did do was very shameful in the eyes of society--or in the evil eye of Mrs. Jethway. Please correct me if I'm wrong about this; I don't have the book in front of me.


message 4: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
At the end of chapter 30 I realize that I miss the old Elfride. The constant submission to Knight can't be good for either of them.


message 5: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1818 comments Mod
Bill, I think you're right in your assumptions about Elfriede's reasons for not saying what happened-she felt guilty enough just for having left her home overnight without a guardian, whereas I'm sure Knight felt she had lost her virginity. I'm not sure that, at the time, Knight would have forgiven her for the lesser "transgression" which she did commit-he seemed upset enough that she had had a lover of any sort, much less one that she had kissed many times, agreed to marry and even left her home for. After his 15 months of wandering and then realizing he loved her still he was ready to overlook this, but I'm not sure he would have accepted it at the time of their initial engagement, or if he had "overlooked" it I suspect it would have been an ongoing sore spot in their marriage.


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Frances wrote: "Why couldn't Elfride see that her refusing to tell her story was the worst thing she could possibly do to poor Knight who, whatever his life experience in everything else, was clearly very inexperienced and therefore somewhat anxious about love and courtship, and why couldn't Knight get over his priggish upset about his sweetheart having had a previous lover?"

This will be a slight spoiler for those who haven't read Hardy's Tess, so I'll put it in spoiler brackets. And it will be meaningless to those who haven't read Tess.

(view spoiler)


message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Bill wrote: It seemed a bit shabby that when the two men found that Elfride had died, they competed over whom she loved in the end.."

Shabby is the perfect word for it. Is this what their love for her amounted to?


message 8: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments I had thought of the potential for a LordL marriage earlier in the book, but I had let it slip out my mind -- she seemed so committed to the two men she had engaged herself to that I didn't think she would turn yet again. I can't imagine that she actually loved Lord L; if she did, she's perhaps the most fickle woman in Hardy's oeuvre. Did she marry him just because he was the last man standing? Because she liked his girls? Because marriage to him was better than spinsterhood?

Would she have died if she had remained unmarried?


message 9: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
End of Chapter 34: Knight has shown himself at his most judgmental. Poor Elfride. She isn't perfect, but she is human. Knight loves with his head, not with his heart. Now Elfride feels the way Stephen felt, only worse, because she also feels guilty for keeping so many secrets.


message 10: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1321 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "At the end of chapter 30 I realize that I miss the old Elfride. The constant submission to Knight can't be good for either of them."

Right, and that's another reason I didn't think Knight was right for her. A person needs to have a life partner they can "be themselves" around.

I'm glad she married Lord Luxellian. I don't think it was too fickle in her. At first, she accepted him to make her family proud (and to get out of the house), but I wouldn't be surprised if she was able to love him after seeing that he is a better man than Knight, and treated her like a lady instead of a child. She was young and could have recovered from a broken heart, especially with Lord Luxellian treating her so well.

I also didn't understand why she died. For some reason, when I first read it, I had the idea that she'd had a miscarriage and not recovered, but I don't remember seeing it this time.

The "chase" at the end was kind of comical, and I thought it would have been even better if the guys had arrived at her wedding party instead of her funeral! But of course, it's Hardy, not Dickens.

There's an interesting book, "Women and Sexuality in the Novels of Thomas Hardy." I read it a few years ago, after the Hardy marathon. If I remember correctly, her assessments of Angel Clare and Henry Knight were spot-on, although I didn't agree with her readings of Gabriel Oak and Diggory Venn.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...


message 11: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1321 comments Mod
This will be a slight spoiler for those who haven't read Hardy's Tess, so I'll put it in spoiler brackets. And it will be meaningless to those who haven't read Tess.

I want to respond, but how do you make the spoiler brackets?


message 12: by Bill (new)

Bill | 12 comments Lori, toward the end of Chap. 40. we're told that the cause of her death was a miscarriage. The note says that the earlier texts read simply "was taken ill,' but in a later edition Hardy added "with a miscarriage."

I think Frances is correct that in Elfide's mind there was no sense in protesting to Knight that she hadn't had sex with Stephen. Knight had already made it perfectly clear that elopement would be bad enough by itself, even without the sex.


message 13: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4467 comments Mod
Everyman please help Lori with directions on how to label a spoiler - I can't do it from my iPad.

My copy of the book, which is very old, did not mention a miscarriage, just an illness.

I think Elfride was smart to marry. She was being treated coldly at home, and needed to move on. I agree that as far as Hardy's female characters, she's weaker than most.


message 14: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4467 comments Mod
I really enjoy Hardy, but did not enjoy this book as much as some of his other titles. Other than Elfide's weakness, I'm not sure why the book was less enjoyable for me.


message 15: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
Here is a quote about Knight that describes him accurately(from ch. 35):

The moral rightness of this man's life was worthy of all praise; but in spite of some intellectual acumen, Knight had in him a modicum of that wrongheadedness which is mostly found in scrupulously honest people. With him, truth seemed too clean and pure an abstraction to be so hopelessy churned in with error as practical persons find it.


message 16: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1321 comments Mod
I think I figured it out. (spoilers if you haven't read Tess)

(view spoiler)


message 17: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
I also don't understand why she had to die. She is not as fully rounded as most of the Hardy female heroes, perhaps because he was still finding his way artistically. The mood through most of the book was fairly light and dramatic. Her visit to Knight in London surprised me, but stylistically there are parallels to her elopement with Stephen, only this time she wants to stay and Knight doesn't want her.
In my version of the book it said she had a miscarriage.
There is a German author, Heinrich von Kleist, who believed that the most thing in a relationship is trust.
Knight was so judgemental, and Elfride was so convinced of her guilt and so dominated by him, that a marriage with Knight would have been a disaster for her. Stephen was unaware that Elfride had not married Knight, but I question whether she would have married him if he were not in India.


message 18: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4467 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "I also don't understand why she had to die. She is not as fully rounded as most of the Hardy female heroes, perhaps because he was still finding his way artistically. The mood through most of the b..."

So maybe she married the right man after all


message 19: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1818 comments Mod
I don't think it at all surprising that she married Lord L. She had been abandoned for at least 9 months by Knight with presumably no word from him in all that time, and no word from Stephen either (although I admire him from quitting the field when his love made it clear that she was planning to marry someone else). It appears she was no longer being treated well at home (presumably she was blamed for losing Knight, and therefore kept on a short rein) and even if the circumstances were not known, to have an engagement broken by a man would be extremely detrimental to a young woman's character. Finally, if she loved the little girls, was made to feel welcome and at home at the great house and Lord L was kind and handsome, it is hardly surprising that after a period of time she would accept his offer.

I'm not sure what Hardy's view on female "morality" was at the time, but he could so easily have made this a triumph for Elfride-to have Knight return to find her happily married to a better man than he. This certainly shows Knight the folly of his actions, but I'm not sure what the "message" was for young women-I rather liked Elfride and did not feel she was guilty of anything worse than changing her mind in love.

In the end, it seemed a sharp change from a lighthearted, romantic tale of innocent lovers courtship and misunderstandings which changed too suddenly into heartbreak and despair.


message 20: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Lori wrote: "I thought it would have been even better if the guys had arrived at her wedding party instead of her funeral! But of course, it's Hardy, not Dickens."

Great comment! I'm glad I wasn't taking a sip of my jasmine tea when I read it, because it would be all over my keyboard.


message 21: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Lori wrote: "This will be a slight spoiler for those who haven't read Hardy's Tess, so I'll put it in spoiler brackets. And it will be meaningless to those who haven't read Tess.

I want to respond, but how do..."


at the start of the comment you just write spoiler enclosed in brackets <>, and at the end you write /spoiler, again enclosed in brackets. You can try it and then click on the preview button to see whether you did it right. If you click on the (some html is ok) link above the reply box, you'll see it and other things you can do in a message.


message 22: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I also don't understand why she had to die.."

Hardy is a great believer in fate. I wonder whether he killed her to reflect her failure of constancy and her dishonesty; that after what she did to Stephen and Knight she had no right to live a long and happy life, but had to get a glimpse of what that life could be, but then pay the fates the price of her wrong behavior.


message 23: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Frances wrote: "I rather liked Elfride and did not feel she was guilty of anything worse than changing her mind in love.."

Well, I think it's a bit worse than that. She was, after all, engaged to Stephen, they had a marriage license and she had left home to marry him which she would have if the license hadn't only been good for London. Engagements at that time were taken very seriously (you could be sued for breach of promise and made to pay damages if you broke an engagement without just cause). And she was on her way to see Stephen's ship come in, and had an appointment to see him that very night when she jilted him and switched her affection to Knight. I would say that's a bit more serious than just changing her mind in love. She didn't even have the decency to send him a note telling him it was over. (Overall she was not very good about telling people things they had an absolute right to know.)

Speaking of breach of promise of marriage, I can't help linking to
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuPwT...
It's not the greatest performance, but the D'Oyly Carte is only the vocal and not a video.


message 24: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) I have a book Thomas Hardy's World in which his life and influences are discussed. From this I understand that the book is very autobiographical and that Elfride is Emma (Hardy's 1st wife). I am not sure why he killed off Elfride. He wrote the book before he married. As it turned out they never had children as Elfride never had children. A prophetic novel.
I think Lord L was a good choice in the circumstances and that there would gave been some love there.
If it is autobiographical then I would think Hardy was portraying himself as Stephen, the honourable architect. Hardy being an architect himself at the time and was also deemed to not be suitable for the woman he loves by her father. He had to wait 4 years.
For Deborah: The words 'with a miscarriage' was added to the text in some editions.


message 25: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1321 comments Mod
Tracey wrote: Hardy being an architect himself at the time and was also deemed to not be suitable for the woman he loves by her father.

I noticed that there were a lot of architects in Hardy's books :-)


message 26: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Here's a fairly brief discussion of the possible autobiographical link. Not a spoiler since we've finished the novel.

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/h...


message 27: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) Thank for that Everyman, it was very interesting. I liked the idea of Elfride's last name being swan-court as he was courting at that time Emma or even swan-caught. :)


message 28: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1321 comments Mod
One thing I've noticed in Victorian novels is how people can just up and go to the continent whenever they need a change of scenery! How times have changed! I don't think any of us can just take a year off and have the money to wander around Italy and France.


message 29: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4467 comments Mod
Lori wrote: "One thing I've noticed in Victorian novels is how people can just up and go to the continent whenever they need a change of scenery! How times have changed! I don't think any of us can just take a ..."

Keep in mind, only the wealthy could do this which seems to be the same today. I don't think you'd find middle class people or poor being able to do this. For many couldn't even travel within England.


message 30: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
Stephen went to India to make a name for himself and earn money quickly. He couldn't afford to travel in Europe until his journey back. Before the age of trains, a big outing was to the local market town or once or twice a year to larger places, like the hiring fair in The Mayor of Casterbridge.


message 31: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) Yes most people back then thought travelling to the next town as 'going abroad'. Times have changed


message 32: by Lynnm (last edited Mar 04, 2016 05:12PM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments I'm late in finishing the book, but I've appreciated reading all of your comments.

I liked Elfride as well. On the surface it would appear that she was flawed, falling in and out of love easily, but she's young - that's what young people do. And they learn more about love with each love.

And as for her other "flaw" - if a person is afraid they will lose a person's love (and this is a topic for many novels), they are rather blinded and can't see that being dishonest has far more risks than being honest. (Plus, there would be less of a story if they were honest).

But I also was disappointed that she became so subservient to Knight. She had started off being a bit audacious, and that is what I liked in her.

I also find it difficult to be hard on Stephen and Knight (except where they were fighting about her even after her death). Stephen truly loved Elfride, and sacrificed so much to become "worthy" of her financially. And Knight was inexperienced with women. Although I was probably more unhappy with Knight than Stephen. He was a bit too judgmental for my taste.

All the characters were flawed in their own ways, but as someone posted, I would have liked an ending where Stephen and Knight arrive and she is happily married to Lord L, especially for its affect on Knight.


message 33: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4467 comments Mod
Lynnm wrote: "I'm late in finishing the book, but I've appreciated reading all of your comments.

I liked Elfride as well. On the surface it would appear that she was flawed, falling in and out of love easily, b..."


We appreciate your insight.


message 34: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
Lynnm, I like your comment about young people: they learn more about love with each love.


message 35: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Lynnm wrote: "Although I was probably more unhappy with Knight than Stephen. He was a bit too judgmental for my taste.."

Judgmental and, I think, a bit arrogant.


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