Monday, August 5, 2013

Something Strange and Deadly Discussion #1

First, let me introduce what this is. Basically, I just recently finished reading Susan Dennard's Something Strange and Deadly, which I'm going to review soon. She's hosting a "book club" discussion in the month of August, so anything with a similar title to this one is related to that discussion. (If you'd like to join in, check it out here!)

Note: These posts may contain spoilers!

So this week's discussion topic/question is:
Eleanor’s mother expects a lot from poor El. She wants Eleanor to marry and save the family from financial ruin (despite the fact that Eleanor is only 16), she wants Eleanor to become friends with the rich “cool” kids (like Allison or the Virtue Sisters), and she wastes money the Fitt family doesn’t have on new gowns and fancy house decor. She demands Eleanor behave according to “proper etiquette" and squeeze into a corset that deforms her ribs. Do you think, given the time period, Mrs. Fitt is justified in her demands on Eleanor? Why or why not?

I do believe that Mrs. Fitt is justified in her demands. If the setting was in the present day, I would have a different answer. But alas, the book does not take place in the present. While I can't say that I know much about the intricate details of society at the time, I don't think it's unusual. Something else to keep in mind is that Mrs. Fitt was probably brought up with these very same notions, so it's all she knows. Eleanor, as we all know, is very different from the other girls of "high society." Given the time period, her mother has every right to honestly believe that the only way they can get by is if Eleanor marries a rich man, such as Clarence. Mrs. Fitt isn't the only mother who wants her daughter to act and dress in such a manner (as far as I can tell). 

While I do think there are some faults to her way of thinking, such as wasting the little money they have, I don't think I could blame her. In that time, I'm pretty sure women of high society didn't work much outside the home. How else could they get money? They're used to living a luxurious lifestyle, at least compared to people like Daniel and the Spirit Hunters. Mrs. Fitt believed that the only way someone with a lot of money would want to marry Eleanor, therefore bringing in money for the Fitts, was if they seemed rich as well, and if Eleanor was obedient and what was deemed "pretty." If you think about it, even now, girls are encouraged by the media to look a certain way because they're often told that otherwise, who would want them? I think it's the same way of thinking. Wearing corsets and carrying a parasol was what Mrs. Fitt believed would make Eleanor more appealing to eligible bachelors. She spends the little money they have in the hopes that that too will gain them favor among the wealthy, despite their family reputation. 

All in all, while I can't say that I agree with Mrs. Fitt, I don't think she realized there was anything to do other than what she knew. Eleanor is clearly unique and rebellious, and I can't say I blame her, but I think Mrs. Fitt is justified in her actions, demands, and beliefs.
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