Like many others, I'm a big fan of SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY by the fabulous Susan Dennard. Now, when Susan announced on her blog that she would be starting a book club, I was instantly on board. I mean, who doesn't love book clubs?! So, here I am, ready to answer the first question in her new weekly series:
Question: Do you think, given the time period, Mrs. Fitt is justified in her demands of Eleanor? Why or why not?
My answer, in short; yes, she's entirely justified. Do I like it? No, of course not. But then again, I'm living in a world more than 150 years ahead of what Eleanor lived. Now, I'm no history buff and I'm not going to pretend like I listened to every single subject in my history classes (my apologies to my high school history teachers! They were great, I promise!) What I do remember is the vast difference in classes. The rich were always above everyone else and had to make a grand show of it. Otherwise, what was the point in being wealthy if one could not show it off to everyone else? The poor were always well beneath the higher class, and their lacking of the finest of clothes, jewels, homes, etc., marked them as being lesser than.
Mrs. Fitt, in spite of her family's dwindling finances, wanted nothing more than for her daughter, Eleanor, to marry above her class. With the loss of her husband and her only son missing, Mrs. Fitt was like any other woman, during that time period, and would do anything to stay in her social standing, even if it meant having Eleanor marry someone she could never love. Forcing Eleanor into binding, much-too-expensive clothing and parading her in front of wealthy, eligible bachelors, was not only Mrs. Fitt's solution to their financial woes, but also a practice done by countless middle-class families. For many, the only way for their family to increase their wealth was to marry their daughters off to a higher class. Could women own their own land or businesses back then? No. Could women obtain very high levels of education? Most could not. Did women have control over their families finances? Of course not. For a woman to have the best in life, unless she was born into it, she had to marry into it. Mrs. Fitt was simply following what was socially acceptable during the late 19th century and to ensure she, herself, would be taken care of, financially, for the rest of her life. She pushed what she wanted onto Eleanor: no decent young lady would ever have been caught in public without a beautiful pair of gloves, nor would she walk ahead of a gentleman, or wear a garish outfit that would call any particular attention to her less than desirable features. With that, and Mrs. Fitt's desperate need to keep up with her wealthier counterparts at any cost, it's completely understandable why she would urge Eleanor into a lifestyle in which she had no desire to be a part of.
Now, thankfully, our heroine Eleanor was one very smart cookie and was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. Unlike so many other girls during her lifetime (hello, Virtue Sisters!), Eleanor was able to think for herself and didn't desire to only have the finer materials things in life. Her mother was all-to-happy to drain most of their bank account in order to furnish their home and closets with the most expensive furnishings, silks and jewels, while Eleanor was able to see through the glitter and shine and find what truly mattered in life: love.
So, there's my 2-cents worth on the first question in the SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY book club. While I haven't been able to read A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY yet (sorry, Sooz!), I do look forward to future discussions and questions. Go HERE for more information on Sooz's new book club!