Sunday, July 7, 2013
termed Hollow's Cottage
The characters in Shirley have been written so that they push, push, push, into a future where they will be better-known, better-seen, better-realised; even the obnoxious clergyman who insults Shirley in her home is trying to reach a better future state. The author has decided that this clergyman doesn't deserve to succeed, her opinion manifests itself fictionally in the hostess who tells him to leave. Charlotte Brontë is one of the condemning authors, like D.H. Lawrence.
They push steadily, either a thrusting shove or a stymied thrusting shove (see: Caroline in despair), and there is always more that could be revealed to the reader if these people could take another step in their lives, if Caroline could convince Robert to marry her, for instance, then the reader would be allowed to experience a relaxation of tension and a wedding. They butt against the frustration of being poor or being jobless, they thrust and stew until force is the main character in the book, it is there all the way through, it is there on every page; it even fills the clouds and the weather. "Rain has beat all day on that church tower."
This frustration and pushing is very steadily applied, "the revolt of its pride was seen in the heaving of her heart, stirred stormily under the lace and silk which veiled it," and Shirley is not spasmodic like Irene Iddesleigh, the author's sympathy doesn't suddenly come and go; her withdrawal of interest in Caroline after Shirley has arrived does not happen immediately, the newcomer gradually increasing her grip on the real estate of pages, she is rich there too and not only in her inherited property, "an excellent cloth-mill, dyehouse, warehouse, together with the messuage, gardens, and outbuildings, termed Hollow's Cottage;" O she gets chapters, page-property, Caroline shrivelling away in the background for the love of Robert until her long-lost mother decides that she is going to provide this weakening and declining part of the story with a modicum of filler. Darling, she cries, starting from her blind.
This mother comes so close to the land of utter revelation that all the characters are straining for that she goes from a mild character into a ferocious one and seizes her child carnivorously. "I am your true mother. No other woman can claim the title; it is mine."
But the love for Robert will be answered eventually, X will marry Y, the characters are galloping towards the end of the book, when they will be terminated, the pages are holding them back, the characters are trying to bite through, all Very Hungry Caterpillars, and shortcut their way, Caroline pining and trying to die because she is not allowed to reach the final chapter. She has to be restrained so that two engagements can happen more or less at the same time, hers and Shirley's: the author wants it that way, and holds her back temporarily from that oblivion.
I know that Brontë wants it that way because that's the way she does it, very starkly, not in a confused subliminal way but deliberately as if to plan, even though it means she has to fade her old main character out of the story nearly utterly. Caroline becomes sick, she has to go to bed, she receives her mother like a consolation prize or muzzle, keeping her so satisfied that she doesn't have a place among the strivers any more, surrendering with an exclamation, "My mother -- my own mother!" She can be left to her rest, which is like a small version of death, everybody gradually forgetting you.