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Buddy Reads > The Odd Women Chapters VI-X

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Elizabeth (Alaska) I was expecting to continue with the stories of Alice, Virginia and Monica. But in these chapters, there seems more a focus on the new character of Cousin Everard Barfoot and his conversations with Mary Barfoot and Rhoda Nunn.

I hope we'll get back to the Odd Women, but in the meantime the discussion of how women should be better prepared for marriage is fascinating, if only for its historical context.


message 2: by Kristen (new)

Kristen | 66 comments "'All my life I have wished to have a house of my own, but I didn't dare
to hope I ever should." Mr. Widdowson in chapter 7.

I thought this was interesting, speaking to what someone mentioned in the first thread about difficulties men would've faced during this time as well.


message 3: by Kristen (new)

Kristen | 66 comments "'In one sense, I am still a stranger to you. Will you give me the
Opportunity of making things between us more regular? Will you allow me
to meet some friend of yours whom you trust?'

'I had rather you didn't yet.'

'You wish to know still more of me, personally?'

'Yes--I think I must know you much better before I can consent to any
step of that kind.'"


I found this conversation very interesting, considering that this was almost a backwards way of doing things during this time. If her parents were still alive things would have gone quite differently. This is more like something a woman today would say.


message 4: by Kristen (last edited Jul 18, 2011 05:28PM) (new)

Kristen | 66 comments oops, having read further, i see Monica herself addresses this:

"'I have behaved very imprudently,' continued the girl. But I don't
see--I can't see--what else I could have done. Things are so badly
arranged. It wasn't possible for us to be introduced by any one who
knew us both, so I had either to break off your acquaintance after that
first conversation, or conduct myself as I have been doing. I think
it's a very hard position. My sisters would call me an immodest girl,
but I don't think it is true. I may perhaps come to feel you as a girl
ought to when she marries, and how else can I tell unless I meet you
and talk with you? And your position is just the same. I don't blame
you for a moment; I think it would be ridiculous to blame you. Yet we
have gone against the ordinary rule, and people would make us suffer
for it--or me, at all events."


That last sentence seems to me a little ominous. Does anyone else get the feeling this novel does not have a rosy ending?


message 5: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Jul 18, 2011 05:28PM) (new)

Elizabeth (Alaska) I thought this conversation quite in keeping with the times. Young women couldn't speak with, let alone step out with, men they hadn't first been formally introduced to. Monica essentially was a pick-up in this. How could she get to a position where it would be allowed that she knew this man? I think she had to figure that out, but more especially if she was going to admit to having been a pick-up, she needed to be ready for a very long-term relationship with Mr. Widdowson.


message 6: by Kristen (new)

Kristen | 66 comments Anna wrote: "Good points. This conversation also highlights the fact the Monica has been raised as a middle class lady, being the daughter of a country doctor, and is not able to move freely in social situation..."

women of a higher class were able to move more freely? can you give an example?


message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 19, 2011 05:50PM) (new)

#9 and #10. Probably not fair to you but I am going to give an example of a woman, in this novel, who can move freely. She appears in the section following this one: Edmund Widdowson's sister-in-law, Mrs. Luke Widdowson. Enough said, you'll see what I mean later. Gissing gives her situation a typical "spin" of the day and time, i.e. she can move freely, now that she is a widow with means. That opens up, of course, the fact that married women didn't have control of their own property after their marriage until rather late in the 19th century in Britain. (Can't remember exactly when but I think it was in the 1880's).
I think Trollope has several heiresses in his novels who could move freely in society, i.e. expecially in the Palliser series. I think the ladies on the lower social scale (except the very lowest) were rather restricted and of course young middle class women were especially limited in moving about "society".


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

I'll be without computer access for a week (going on a trip and I don't have a lap top) so I'm going to post my thoughts on this section and hope to catch up with all of you next week.
I was especially interested in the interchange which takes place between Mary Barfoot and Rhoda Nunn
with regard to a trainee, Miss Royston, who ran away with a man, was abandoned and now, in terrible desperation, has written a letter to Mary Barfoot begging to be taken back. Mrs. Barfoot indicated a willingness to give the girl a second chance but through the influence of Rhoda merely sends a check and letter of refusal instead. What struck me was Rhoda's lack of sympathy, compassion and understanding that a mistake like that could be made. Rhoda does not believe in second-chances. She is judging a case without knowing all the details. And worse, she seems to believe that to take Miss Royston back would pollute the rest of the girls and ruin the reputation of Mary Barfoot's establishment. Doesn't this seem that the radical Rhoda is really a product of Victorian hypocrisy and false decorum that she constantly speaks against? What shocks me most of all, I think, is Rhoda's draconian attitude toward someone who made a mistake. Where is Rhoda's empathy? She evidently cannot or will not admit that she herself, might--just might--someday make a mistake and be placed in a position in which she, herself, must ask for a second chance.
I'll miss reading what all of you think of this wonderful novel! I'm taking it with me on the trip and will be reading steadily! Thank you, Anna, for suggesting it. Looking forward to checking in with everyone next week.


Elizabeth (Alaska) As for mobility, I was thinking young(er) unmarried women. You are quite right that the wealthier the woman, the more mobility. I think that is only because wealthier women were more feted and had a wider number of acquaintances. They weren't out walking on their own, and weren't going to be meeting men in such a way as Monica did.

To me, the shock in the Bella Royston situation was as much that Mary Barfoot gave in to Rhoda as Rhoda's position. Rhoda's argument was never that they could help only a limited number of women and Roylston had her chance, that they were now in a position to help others. That argument holds water, but wasn't made. I don't see how that is different than the choices any of us makes in terms of charity. But Mary Barfoot wanted to help her, and she was the one with the money. It was as much a surprise as anything that Rhoda had the kind of power over the expenditure of funds as this situation reveals. She was, in fact, a full partner.


message 10: by Kristen (new)

Kristen | 66 comments Anna wrote: "Kristen wrote: "Anna wrote: "Good points. This conversation also highlights the fact the Monica has been raised as a middle class lady, being the daughter of a country doctor, and is not able to mo..."

okay, i understand. i mistook your meaning in freedom. i thought you meant that women of a higher class were free to relate to men as they chose. but if you meant in terms of avoiding them, then yes i see what you mean. :P


message 11: by Kristen (new)

Kristen | 66 comments Anna wrote: "Kristen wrote: "I was specifically thinking about Monica's situtaion when I responded. If she had more money, she would have been able to meet appropriate men in appropriate situtions."

I suppose because with money, come social connections a lower class woman wouldn't have access to? I still think, however, being without family would make it difficult in either case.


message 12: by Mrsgaskell (new)

Mrsgaskell | 17 comments Kristen wrote: "oops, having read further, i see Monica herself addresses this:

"'I have behaved very imprudently,' continued the girl. But I don't
see--I can't see--what else I could have done. Things are so ...

Yet we
have gone against the ordinary rule, and people would make us suffer
for it--or me, at all events."


That last sentence seems to me a little ominous. Does anyone else get the feeling this novel does not have a rosy ending? "


I particularly have a bad feeling about Monica and Widdowson. I'm not sure that Alice and Virginia would be able to protect her much, they're so ineffective, but perhaps Miss Barfoot or Rhoda Nunn would be able to check that everything was on the up and up if they knew about him, before it's too late.


message 13: by Mrsgaskell (new)

Mrsgaskell | 17 comments Jim wrote: "What struck me was Rhoda's lack of sympathy, compassion and understanding that a mistake like that could be made. Rhoda does not believe in second-chances. She is judging a case without knowing all the details. And worse, she seems to believe that to take Miss Royston back would pollute the rest of the girls and ruin the reputation of Mary Barfoot's establishment. Doesn't this seem that the radical Rhoda is really a product of Victorian hypocrisy and false decorum that she constantly speaks against? What shocks me most of all, I think, is Rhoda's draconian attitude toward someone who made a mistake. Where is Rhoda's empathy? She evidently cannot or will not admit that she herself, might--just might--someday make a mistake and be placed in a position in which she, herself, must ask for a second chance.
..."


I agree that Rhoda seems a very hard and judgmental person. I think however that she is probably right when she says that taking Miss Royston back could put their entire enterprise at risk. They might indeed have trouble getting more families to entrust their girls to them - for fear of bad influence, corruption... It was an unyielding, unforgiving society. I hope we find out in what way Miss Barfoot will help Miss Royston.


message 14: by Mrsgaskell (new)

Mrsgaskell | 17 comments I have much more sympahy with Miss Barfoot's goals, "We have no mission to prevent girls from marrying suitably- only to see that those who can't shall have a means of living with some satisfaction." than Rhoda Nunn's more extreme views. However, I suspect that with the advent of Everard Barfoot, Miss Nunn's views will be put to the test!

Monica finds Widdowson's first love-letter "dull and prosy". "He was old, and looked still older to a casual eye. He had a stiff dry way, and already had begun to show how precise and exacting he could b. A year or two ago the image of such a man would have repelled her. She did not think it possible to regard him with warm feelings; yet if he asked her to marry him - and that seemed likely to happen very soon - almost certainly her answer would be yes." How depressing that women should be so desperate to contemplate marriage in such circumstances. It brought to mind Charlotte Lucas's acceptance of Mr. Collins in P&P.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

At first I thought Gissing was poking fun at the attitudes of certain members of the reading public ie. the strict reformers like Rhoda, since Gissing, himself is a novelist and yes, we are actually reading a novel---his novel! Then I remembered only one novelist mentioned by name in The Odd Women: Ouida. Mr. Newdick censures the Widdowson's possible travels to the continent based on what he has read in Ouida's novels:

"An immoral lot there", smiling and shaking his head, "Queer goings on".

"Oh, but that's among the foreigners, isn't it?"

Thereupon Mr. Newdick revealed his acquaintance with English literature.

"Did you ever read any of Ouida's novels?"

"No, I never did".

"I advise you to before you think of taking your wife over there. She writes a great deal about those parts. People get mixed up so, it seems. You couldn't live by yourself. You have to eat at public tables and you'd have all sorts of people trying to make acquaintance with Mrs. Widdowson. They're a queer lot, I believe". (Pg. 159 in the Norton Edition)

Gissing seems to be hinting at the type of novels people read (and believe to be realistic) and thus condemn. Rhoda does it as blanket condemnation. Just as Anna enjoys the occasional entertainment value of novels, some of the Victorian reading public obviously did not. If the work didn't uplift and improve, then it was valueless and a waste of time.

Yes, I've read some Ouida. Funky!


message 16: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) Seems to me there's a lot of foreshadowing going on... Miss Dunn's rigidity and unforgiving attitude towards a woman who has been less than she can be, and Miss Barfoot's warning tone when she notes how young and inexperienced Miss Dunn is. Enter Cousin Everard -- and the plot thickens. I see trouble on its way for Miss Nunn :)


message 17: by Lily (last edited Sep 25, 2012 07:06AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments Ms. Barfoot seems the most savvy woman about the balance of economic and relationship needs of (most) women in this novel so far. I am still concerned about both her cousin and her assessment of him, however. I enjoy both her dependence on Miss Nunn and her independence of her; she plays the boundaries to and fro.


message 18: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments Mrsgaskell wrote: "...I think however that she is probably right when she says that taking Miss Royston back could put their entire enterprise at risk...."

Interesting assessment of the need to minimize risk in certain areas while taking them in others. When is the larger endangered by being consistent on principles, so let some fall by the wayside?


message 19: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Janice and Lily,

I apologize that the discussion folder under the book listing pointed to these threads from 2011. The main group discussion has been taking place in the folder at the top of the group page, "The Odd Women."

I will have to check to see if moderators can move individual comments to a different folder, but I am not seeing it right now.

Please do visit that folder to continue discussion of the book from this point out though. Sorry about the confusion. That was my fault for never removing the old folder name when I set it up.


message 20: by Lily (last edited Sep 25, 2012 07:17AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1290 comments SarahC wrote: "That was my fault for never removing the old folder name when I set it up. ..."

The confusion is the confusion, but no need to pull a blame game on yourself, Sarah. (Blush, if you must. But don't sweat it!:-)) It has been a wonderful discussion, even if some of it got left in the stairways and halls, instead of occurring in the main classroom.


message 21: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments I can move threads, but would then have to rename them to distinguish them from the new threads, etc. -- and I doubt we could avoid confusion with that too. If you two so desired, you could copy and paste some of your comments into the folders of the new discussion or reiterate some of your points. Either way, please, please join us in the other threads!

Thanks for saying it, but it is ultimately my fault for forgetting about that -- earlier when the book was posted, I had not posted the new folder -- then after posting the new folder, I forgot to make the switch.


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