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2015 Group Reads - Archives > Zuleika Dobson - Ch 17 - 20

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message 1: by Silver (new)

Silver I haven't caught up in the reading yet so please post your thoughts and questions and I will join in as soon as I can.

message 2: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
And so hundreds drown for her. He passes up the love of Katie, although he appears to have been flattered by it. And drowns himself instead. I kept getting a weird picture of what the river would look like after this event. The only thing that made me smile in this section was the Duke swimming and managing to his his barge hit the other one.

It seems the author is poking fun about traditions that seem to hold no meaning, dandyism, and romantic novels. The touch of the Duke putting on his full regalia in order to die was a bit odd to me. I know it showed he was of a very high order, but it still seemed odd. The belief in destiny seems to also be a target of the satire.

message 3: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 598 comments I have to confess to rather liking the Duke in the end. He is a creature of arrogance and vanity, sure, but also pretty self-aware and devoted to honor. I was thrilled when he turned on Zuleika.

Am not sure whether chapter 20 is the last, so I won’t comment on the last page of the book yet.

message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Deborah wrote: "It seems the author is poking fun about traditions that seem to hold no meaning, dandyism, and romantic novels. "

They have a great deal of meaning to some.

message 5: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Abigail wrote: "Am not sure whether chapter 20 is the last,."

It's not. Chapter 24 is the last.

message 6: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 598 comments Thanks, Everyman! The curse of an edition with unnumbered chapters.

message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Abigail wrote: "Thanks, Everyman! The curse of an edition with unnumbered chapters."

I have the same, but use the Gutenberg edition on a tab in my browser to get the chapter divisions.

message 8: by Emma (last edited Apr 23, 2015 01:07AM) (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments Wow. As Deborah said, the idea of the river full of hundreds of dead young men is quite an image. Initially I didn't think Beerbohm would go through with the mass death.

I doubt if he could have published this book after WW1...

message 9: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments Very true Emma. I remarked earlier on the irony of this being written only a decade before WW1. But are we meant to see it as a literal death or a death of young minds who have forsaken their studies for the pursuit of an impossible dream?

message 10: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments Good point Madge. I don't think it's possible to see it literally, as the whole book is effectively a fantasy, but I find it a haunting image all the same - not least because it's treated as an opportunity for more humour (eg the fact that the Warden hasn't actually cottoned on to what's happened)

message 11: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 598 comments One of the funniest parts for me—perhaps because it translates so well to any university situation—is the depiction of the way campus politics operate when faced with this unimaginable crisis. The people groping for “normal,” following their routines, the groupthink, nobody really wanting to speak up or acknowledge reality.

message 12: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments I had been a bit confused by the bumping of boats that Beerbohm mentions, since international racing is done in lanes and bumping another boat would get you disqualified.

Apparently it's mostly a Cambridge and Oxford tradition. Their rivers are too narrow for the side-by-side racing process, so they developed the bump process where the boats line up in a long line, at the signal start rowing, and try to bump the boat in front of them while avoiding being bumped by the boat behind them. (A bump doesn't apparently require physical contact, but can also occur if the bow of the trailing boat passes the coxswain of the boat ahead of it.

Here's a description from the Wolfson College (Oxford) Boat club:

Because much of the Isis is too narrow for side-by-side racing, the bumps format was developed. At the beginning of each division, thirteen crews line up front-to-back down the river, with one and a half boat-lengths of clear water between them. When a cannon is fired, the crews start rowing, and each tries to bump the boat in front before being bumped by the boat behind.

In Torpids, a boat that bumps successfully stops rowing, and is safe from itself being bumped. However, the same is not true for a boat that is bumped, and so occasionally crews can be bumped multiple times over the course of a single race. The start order for subsequent races is adjusted to move successful boats up, while unsuccessful boats move down. Over the years, boats aspire to reach “head of the river”, first place in the first division. Trophy oars termed “blades” are awarded to boats which successfully bump up on each of the four days of racing without themselves being bumped.

I love this quote from the Wolfson coach:
I don’t know who decided to take nine people from each college, put them in a boat, and see who can go backwards down the river fastest. But we might as well be the best at it.

message 13: by Madge UK (last edited Apr 23, 2015 11:40PM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments I had put explanations and photographs of 'the bumps' in Background Information at the start of our reading so that there wouldn't be confusion and because it is referred to a lot. Oxford started the tradition in 1815 and Cambridge followed suit in 1827. There are other universities which do it but not so famously. Wikipedia has a good description and some history:

The races being referred to in ZD are The Eights for 'first division' boats, not The Torpids which is slower and for 'second division' boats, with slightly different rules.

message 14: by Silver (last edited Apr 26, 2015 12:28PM) (new)

Silver The whole chaos of the scene with hundreds of men jumping into the water calling Zuleika's name amid the bumping of the boats and Zuleika watching in the rain storm made ma think of Helen of Troy particularly with all the Greek references.

I also couldn't help but think of lemmings going over the cliff as the rest of the Oxford men where basically just mimicking the Duke.

I really started to find the Duke insufferable in these last few chapters leading up to his death. I started out sympathizing with him but his whole determination to kill himself when he no longer actually wanted to die and didn't even love Zuleika anymore out of some sense of honor or destiny I did not find to be an endearing trait.

I think dying for love is more admirable than doing it just because everyone else is going to do it now and you don't want to look bad by not doing it.

message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Silver wrote: "I also couldn't help but think of lemmings going over the cliff as the rest of the Oxford men where basically just mimicking the Duke. "

I had the exact same image in my mind.

message 16: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1800 comments Mod
Just caught up to this section. It is certainly becoming more and more ridiculous with the Duke killing himself in full regalia, finally taking the plunge before the rain ruins his velvet. The little vignette with the undergraduate trying to get his Aunt and sister not to look at the Duke walking by in splendour (when he is clearly dressed to be stared at) and the suggestion that he is thought to be mad were amusing. Poor little Katie needs to settle for being the tragic heroine (a role she appears to be relishing).

Zuleika is beginning to show her true colours as she mentions being bored by the MacQuern and his friends all professing their intention to kill themselves for her, and asking the Duke not to let on that she knew about all the young men planning to kill themselves for her.

I'm looking forward to the denouement!

message 17: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments I also liked the Duke near the end. And I really didn't think that Beerbohm would be able to pull off the satire when hundreds of men drown for this extraordinarily silly woman. But he did. And he pretty much threw everything in there, from the tragedy of unrequited love to fate vs. free will to traditions, etc.

Just picturing the Duke walking down the street in full regalia was amusing. And then jumping off the boat yelling the Zuleika's name because he promised her that he would, even though he recognizes her to be the shallow, superficial woman that she is.

This would make a good Hollywood farce.

message 18: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments I still had Bertie Wooster in my minds eye as he jumped:)

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