Monday, April 16, 2012

Woman in White Week 2: Curiouser and Curiouser

**DISCLAIMER: This post is part of a read-along, and I intend to ruin the entire plot in the most roundabout way possible.**

If the last section’s defining characteristic was foreshadowing, this one’s is FOREBODING. *ominous music and thunder and a touch of cowbell*

It’s pretty clear to me that every character has done the exact WRONG thing since this story started, and it’s a little hard not to wonder how none of them saw trouble coming, because Trouble is wearing a giant sign that says I AM TROUBLE, AND, LO, I AM APPROACHING.

Take Mr. Gilmore, for instance. Did he not think it a bit curious that Percival kept steering everyone toward a wedding date that just HAPPENED to be 3 months before Laura would come of age and be able to make her own decisions without troubling her poor uncle’s fragile nerves?

Ineffectual as he may be, I'm fond of old Gilmore. He’s probably the closest thing to a father that Marian and Laura have. He does TRY to fight for Laura, even though she can’t be bothered to fight for herself, and he almost treats Marian as an equal.

All that legal stuff was pretty fishy though. And Percival was so careful to act as though he didn’t care one way or another about getting all Laura’s money in the event of her "unlikely" death. WHO'S the clever girl NOW?

Oh yes . . . this was also my favorite Mr. Fairlie moment of the whole book (so far):
"'Man?' he repeated. 'You provoking old Gilmore, what can you possibly mean by calling him a man? He’s nothing of the sort. He might have been a man half an hour ago, before I wanted my etchings; and he may be a man half an hour hence, when I don’t want them any longer. At present, he is simply a portfolio stand. Why object, Gilmore, to a portfolio stand?'" (p. 193)
"You provoking old Gilmore."

Hartright slinks away in defeat to Central America, never to be heard of again in this section.

Laura marries Percival, of course.

Marian says this:
“No man under heaven deserves these sacrifices from us women. Men! They are the enemies of our innocence and our peace—they drag us away from our parents’ love and our sisters’ friendship—they take us body and soul to themselves, and fasten our helpless lives to theirs as they chain up a dog to his kennel.”
UNLESS, the man is named Walter Hartright . . . in which case, fasten all you like, apparently.

Then Laura begs Marian never to get married. Not that Marian seems all that eager to hitch herself to a man's wagon (see excerpt above), but you don't ASK someone to stay single for you so they can always live with you and YOUR husband. Inappropriate, Laura.

Let’s talk about Count Fosco. I know he’s evil and manipulative and basically the Shere Kahn to Percival's Kaa, but I think we can all agree that he is MAGNIFICENT.

"Percival! Percival! you deserve to fail, and you have failed." 
He even made some headway with steadfast and true Marian, who generally dislikes “corpulent humanity.” And any man who loves animals as much as that man does can't be ALL bad. He got my vote when he winced at Percival beating one of the spaniels.

I understand how a rotund gentleman with mice crawling all over his fancy waistcoat could be viewed as creep-tastic, especially since he’s some sort of super villain, but I care not. And he DOES have the makings of a super villain with his knowledge of chemistry and everything in general. He sees things the way they are, and he SAYS so . . . and, sure, maybe he's directing this profound social commentary to one of his mice, but it's still true.
“‘You marry the poor man whom you love, Mouse; and one half your friends pity, and the other half blame you. And, now, on the contrary, you sell yourself for gold to a man you don’t care for; and all your friends rejoice over you; and a minister of public worship sanctions the base horror of the vilest of all human bargains; and smiles and smirks afterwards at your table.’” (pp. 286–287)
Zing! Point, Fosco.

The most ominous thing about him, right away, was the extreme change he produced in his wife. She went from a mouthy firebrand to a silent cigarette-rolling factory. And that reminds me of a SUPERB moment for Marian.
“‘I wait to be instructed,” replied the Countess, in tones of freezing reproof, intended for Laura and me, ‘before I venture on giving my opinion in the presence of well-informed men.’
‘Do you, indeed?’ I said. ‘I remember the time, Countess, when you advocated the Rights of Women—and freedom of female opinion was one of them.’” (pp. 282–282)
BURN! Point, Marian.

If anyone is a match for The Fat Man, it's Marian. And vice versa.

Then there’s the shady matter of the signature. When Laura refuses to sign the mysterious contract without first reading it, Percival’s true character shows even more. Behold Percy's temper. Also behold Percy acting like a whiny little baby man. He irritates Laura into acting with the most backbone she's shown thus far, and he makes Marian consider punching him in the face.

I have to wonder what this story would be like if we took out Marian and Fosco. Percival wouldn’t have anyone to undo the damage his temper causes or to change his poopy diapers. Laura wouldn’t have anyone to remind her that being a woman is not the same as being a pudding cup. Without Marian, would Laura be just another wife battered into submission, or would she rise up and fight back on her own account?

This section also marks the triumphant return of the titular woman in white, who is comically adept at outsmarting Percival and outrunning poor fat Fosco. And she knows Percival's filthy secret, which is clearly how she ended up safely tucked away in an asylum. But what do we think the secret is? Is he Anne’s illegitimate father? Is he ACTUALLY a woman? Is he in love with Fosco? (Just kidding. We already know the answer to that last one.)

The cliffhanger of the section is the conversation between Percival and Fosco. Although she had her suspicions, it’s certainly a revelation to Marian (who, might I add, donned all black to crawl onto the ROOF so she could eavesdrop . . . this woman is a ninja) to learn the extent of their money troubles and how much they depend on Laura to solve them. There is also more than a cursory reference made toward the possibility of Laura's death, which is what I’ve been waiting for ever since Gilmore's narrative.



    1. Jungle Book. I love you.

    2. Good point about Gilmore. We were probably too mean/dismissive of him this week. And he was all nice to Marian and Laura, unlike everyone else ever. Including that fat housemaid.

    3. "Also behold Percy acting like a whiny little baby man." Love. Along with Laura and pudding.

    4. Everything seems to be coming to a head, but...we have like half the book left. So 'hm' I say.

  2. Alright I'll give you Gilmore is nice and he does seem to really care for Laura & Marian. But his section just meant it took slightly longer to get to Marian and other than Mr. Fairlie's comment about how little he thinks of his servants nothing hilarious/ninja-y happened.

    I LOVE the image of Fosco has Shere Khan and Percy as Kaa, and now the movie version of this book playing in my head is even better/more ridiculous.

  3. Oh my GOD I hadn't even thought about Sir Percival being Anne's father but I LOVE it as a theory!! Even though it's not necessarily bad enough to be THE SECRET since, let's face it, he's not a woman (ha).

    I.. just... all of your points are good points! Other than Gilmore, who's boring. But, yeah, nice and all! Also we copied out the same Marian quote, so YAY! AND I nearly put in the Mr Fairlie quote too, but instead I forgot to mention him at all. Whoops! Still love his mentalness though.

  4. That FAT HOUSEMAID! She is my least-favorite person of EVER. Do you know who I picture every time I have to read about her stupid face? Annette Badland from Season 1 of Dr. Who...that infuriating Slitheen who just stood there grinning like an idiot all the time. I'm getting irritated just thinking about it. (Sorry, Annette.)

    Everyone be nicer to Gilmore.

  5. Poor Gilmore. He was doomed from the moment they decided to put his narrative before Marian's.

    I wish I could have found a picture of an overweight Shere Khan...or was talented enough to produce one. I would draw him in an embroidered waistcoat with a little mouse on his shoulder.

  6. I honestly can't think of ANY secret that would be bad enough to ruin his life completely...because who would believe a crazy woman anyway? Well, I suppose that was the idea. But then what does Anne's mother have to gain from keeping quiet and letting her daughter be incarcerated? I normally know what's going on by this point in a story, but I can't figure this one out even a little.

    BE NICE TO GILMORE. He would be nice to you, LAURA. *stern look*

  7.  Right?? WHAT'S UP WITH THE MOM?

  8. *raises hand* I also like Gilmore! He should've been the guardian. Mr. Fairlie should be declared legally unfit as Laura's guardian. '

    Glad you brought up Laura's request to Marian to not get married. I know she asked out of a situation of desperation, so I'll allow for that, but still, I was kind of taken aback by it.

    I have absolutely no idea what Sir Percival's secret is either. I kind of expect it to be underwhelming at this point. What he is doing now is dastardly enough - to think that there was something of supreme dastardliness that set him down this path . . . what could it possibly be?

    I like your description of Marian's rooftop surveillance as being ninja. I think I used the word 'scrappy' in my post which is a word I like, but I feel it has possible condescending overtones that I don't mean.

  9. "Laura wouldn’t have anyone to remind her that being a woman is not the same as being a pudding cup. "
    I LOLed.  And not in the metaphorical sense -- I LOLed for reals.  

    You're so right about Gilmore -- I'm sad that his narrative was really just a prelude to Marian's, because he is one of the few upstanding characters so far.  

    I completely forgot about Percival beating his dog! Arghh I loathe him!  (Although what does it say that Marian noticed that Fosco winced; apparently most people didn't bat an eye, let alone try to stop someone hurting an animal...)

  10. Kayleigh (Comma Enthusiast)April 17, 2012 at 8:14 AM

    Ha! It's the cowbell that lets you know things are getting serious. EXCELLENT CASTING IN THIS POST. Yes! to Bill Nighy as Mr. Fairlie. Infinite yes! to Shere Kahn and Kaa as Fosco and Percy. 

  11. YES! Gilmore would have protected everyone and fixed all the things if he could have just been their legal guardian. But I guess the story is more exciting this way...and also, what would we DO without Mr. Fairlie? We would be so very sad.

    Scrappy is a GREAT word. It makes me think of  women who climb trees and have pet alligators.

  12. There's nothing worse than vanilla pudding.

    YES Percival is cruel to animals! It would cause me great satisfaction if all the dogs in the house teamed up with Fosco's mice and birds and ripped Percival to shreds. 

  13. So far, our imaginary WiW movie has a raptor, a tiger, a python, and Bill Nighy. ..and maybe a pudding cup? If only we had the funding to make this a reality.