Sunday, January 26, 2014
to hear you talk
Eric Hansen is so obviously the hero that Anne shrinks down into his personal sidekick and Kombo is now the sidekick of a sidekick. "'No, no," she cried, 'I'm very stupid and ignorant, but I love to hear you talk.'" Hansen gives her a Kombo-diminutive and calls her Chummy. "Bear up, Chummy." "She was very dear to him, this little Chummy." Chummy has no diminutive for him. She calls him by his name.
She hands over the reins so willingly that this was the point where I began to wonder if she'd really done anything to help herself at all in this book, besides pose as a goddess by singing "Ave Maria" and trudge through the bush with Kombo; in summary, and, again, in spite of this "brave, noble," etc, language, was her behaviour made of nothing but walking and singing? From what is she prohibited by her position, from what is Kombo prohibited, how are they hedged, what barriers and boundaries exist discreetly there in what is not said, how are those boundarylines presented or formed?
(Say that Kombo behaves bravely without being allowed to keep hold of the word "brave" while Anne is always attracting the word "brave" but rarely gets to behave in ways that would have earned it. So that there always appears to be a split in Rosa Praed, between the way she thinks the character should be, and the way they are. There is an unconfronted essential division.)
It has taken all of her strength just to bear up through the advanced strolling activity plus the shock of the surprises that she comes across, which is not very impressive for the protagonist of an adventure novel though it would be reasonable in real life -- hiking for days through steep scrub and bushland would wear you out, of course it would but she is not really doing it, she is a thing in a book and a thing in a book can walk for as long as it wants without being tired since it is not walking or even moving a step -- so then I started to have idle theories and ask myself if it was likely that Rosa Praed found herself sympathising physically with the idea of Anne and asking, through the medium of the book, for authentic help from the other characters, which she felt, as a genuinely hurting person, she deserved. "Hansen turned from the gaze of the Priestess to meet Anne's pathetic eyes looking appealingly from her little white face, so child-like, and now so weary."
Anne is tired like this on several occasions, the other characters noticing her tiredness and responding to it -- Kombo fetching her food for example -- heroines in Praed's other books also feeling wrung out by their excursions (Lady Bridget in Lady Bridget in the Never Never Land "did not seem able to bear any more. Her head drooped upon her hands, her shoulders heaved convulsively," and the narrator herself wilts desperately in the autobiographical Romance of a Station) -- there's something about the spectacle of a worn-out woman that moves Rosa Praed, or haunts her: she returns to it; even lying in a deck chair is too much for the woman in the first chapter of Countess Adrian and she goes down to her cabin forsooth. I think later she gets attacked by a vampire but I haven't gone that far.