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Remarkable Creatures > Question 1. Spinsterhood

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message 1: by Ashley (new)

Ashley | 384 comments Mod
THE VICTORIAN SENSIBILITIES AND THE RELEGATION OF WOMEN TO A CLASS OF GENTLE, "AIRHEADED" PETS SEEMS TO BE IRRITATING TO ELIZABETH PHILPOT AS WELL AS OTHER HEROINES OF NOVELS SET IN THE 19TH CENTURY. SHE, SIMILAR TO LOUISA MAY ALCOTT, SEEMS TO FIND A FREEDOM AND A SENSE OF EMPOWERMENT AS A RESULT OF HER SPINSTERHOOD. ANY THOUGHTS HERE?


message 2: by Julie (new)

Julie | 168 comments The role of the "wife" seemed to be very clearly defined as far as roles and expectations. The spinster was more of an oddity and did not have specific societal expectations. This would allow quite a bit of freedom in daily life. There was no husband or children who needed to be fed or cleaned up after. Without children to birth and tend to, or Assembly Rooms to parade around at, the spinster can do with her time what she wishes. Whether that be wandering the beach or writing stories, she is able to decide how to spend her days.


message 3: by Diana S (last edited Nov 02, 2011 10:11PM) (new)

Diana S This also reminds me of Jane Austen's life. Even though, her heroines all married at the end of her books. Austen chose an unmarried life to retain the freedoms that came with that life. If a married woman who wrote in some professional matter would have brought shame to her family. It was not acceptable. Life would had been very hard under such pressure from the society surrounding her. As Jane put it in one of her novel: " The sooner she learns the way of the world the better."


message 4: by Carol (last edited Nov 02, 2011 02:12PM) (new)

Carol  Jones-Campbell (cajonesdoa) | 640 comments Mod
It's very obvious that my lack of reading Jane Austen's books (only read one) has proven that I'm missing out on an interesting "take" you all have on many of the works you and we have read. My bad. I was intrigued by your choice/quote of the word airhead, as that is one of my favorite words, and the connotations it has. As I've stated before, I was secure in my singleness as I didn't get married until I was 46. If something happened to my husband, I don't think it would take too long to get back in the same "sense of freedom and empowerment" I felt before. Julie commented that "wives" are clearly defined, where the spinster was the exception, not the rule. The era of today vs. the 1800's is so different. People didn't live together, like they do today, so by in large it was a lot simpler then than it is now.


message 5: by Ashley (new)

Ashley | 384 comments Mod
Yes, Miss Philpot and Louisa May find empowerment via their spinsterhood, but they also have a deep interest in something else (fossils, writing) that makes spinsterhood totally worth it. If all you ever wanted were marriage and babies and had no other talents or interests, well, spinsterhood would be somewhat of a bummer.

That said, Miss Philpot has a stereotypical, disapproving, spinster-like air about her. I mean, lighten up! She asserts herself as oh so knowing of the world, and protective of Mary as a result, but she has been more sheltered than Mary, in my opinion. I mean, the woman essentially retires at the age of what? Twenty-something? The lady has nothing TO DO but develop some hobbies and talents and manage other people's lives.


message 6: by Ashley (new)

Ashley | 384 comments Mod
I was JUST ABOUT TO SIGN OFF when I had this super exciting thought, which is piggy-backing a bit on my response to Auntie Cheryl's question about the metaphorical nature of fossils and fossil hunting. Remember how Miss Philpot has great disdain for fossil COLLECTORS versus the far superior HUNTERS? As a spinster who dodges becoming an objectified "pet" for some dude, Miss Philpot is a hunter both literally (duh, fossil hunting) as well figuratively, as she "hunts" (read: SEEKS) a greater purpose for her life. She refuses to be a passive, pretty, COLLECTED object, belonging (yes, BELONGING) to some man. Spinsterhood, in short, gives her the space to hunt.


message 7: by Lauren (new)

Lauren | 251 comments Ashley: I LOVE that theory. I just wish Ms. Chevalier had more strongly underlined that point throughout the book. Personally, I felt that she pitied the Philpot sisters and their unmarried state, whereas it seemed like the characters rather liked being unmarried women, able to be hunters rather than collectors.


message 8: by Ashley (last edited Nov 07, 2011 01:42PM) (new)

Ashley | 384 comments Mod
Lauren, I don't know that Chevalier needed to underline that point. (For starters, she might not have even realized that hunting vs. collecting theme had worked its way into the novel.) I mean, having these two women, in the early 1800s, rah-rahing over spinsterhood would have given the book too much of a modern tilt. In fact, I thought the tone of Remarkable Creatures read far more realistically than Louisa May's rather modern take. I imagine Miss Philpot would have SOME regret not having the safety and security of a guy, not to mention the other perks males offer, as her crush on the colonel shows. As much as it pains my feminist sensibilities to type it, I think both women would have had a certain longing for a guy. But perhaps in a very conflicted, complex way.


message 9: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl | 134 comments EMILY AND ASHLEY! I AGREE WHOLEHEARTEDLY. ARE ANY OF US AFFORDED THE LUXURY OF JUST "HUNTING"? I'M RETIRED, AND I STILL DON'T HAVE "HELP". I DO LIKE HAVING THE SECURITY OF A MAN IN MY LIFE TO TAKE CARE OF THOSE PESKY X/Y CHROMOSOMAL DUTIES, TO LOVE, HONOR, CHERISH, ETC. HOWEVER, I DRAW THE LINE AT "OBEY".


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