Thursday, February 10, 2011

Whalebone or Steel

Reading for school has encroached a bit on the reading I've been doing for my next comic, but to-day I finished reading the chapter in Judith Flanders' Inside the Victorian Home called "The Parlour," a chapter somewhat extraordinary for having nothing to do with the parlour. In fact, the word "parlour" only occurs once, towards the end of the first paragraph;

A good marriage allied families, reinforced caste, and upheld the morality of social norms. It was, for all society's insistence on private domesticity, a public act, one that was planned and executed in the public areas of the house: the parlour, the less formal reception room, when planning the match en famille; in the dining room when entertaining the prospective suitor; and in the drawing room for the formalities of the ceremony.

So the parlour is only one of several rooms to play a part in the 37 page chapter's true subject, marriage in the Victorian era and the unjust position women had in terms of the perceived necessity for them to marry by a relatively young age and their tremendously inferior social position compared to their husbands, who were expected to treat them somewhat like children. This was all interesting, and, in fact, intensely useful to me, as I doubt I'm spoiling much for those familiar with my comics by saying the main characters are going to be women. Why not simply call the chapter something like, "Marriage and What It Meant to Victorian Women"? Well, that would break up the pattern of each chapter being named after a specific room in the Victorian home. Though all previous chapters, while sometimes featuring interesting and relevant tangents about Victorian culture, had mostly been about those rooms. The immediately preceding chapter on the drawing room had gone into great detail about how drawing rooms were decorated, maintained, and what sort of behaviour was expected from people in the drawing room. I would have liked more information on the parlour aside from the fact that it was "less formal."

Mostly the impression I get is that Flanders' attention wandered to something she found more interesting, but she seems to have felt some strange obligation to at least appear like she was adhering to her originally chosen subject matter. Once again I'm getting the impression of a neurotic author somewhat dominated by her insecurities. The fact that the last portion of the chapter is about how women who didn't concentrate on the home were considered insane by society almost felt like Flanders indirectly saying, "So I'm not concentrating on the home! Are you going to call me hysterical, you pompous neanderthal?!"

Again, I say, easy, Flanders. Relax. You're doing fine. Write about whatever you like, you're free now.

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