Comparisons: The Chalet School vs. other series
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#1: Comparisons: The Chalet School vs. other series Author: Kathy_SLocation: midwestern US PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 6:10 am
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I thought it might be interesting to compare the CS with other series. Thanks to the hair thread, I've been sucked into rereading Betsy-Tacy (Maud Hart Lovelace) for the umpteenth time. These were written during the 40s, but set in (and apparently closely following) the author's own girlhood. This time through, I began with the 1906-7 school year, since that's when Betsy (age 14) begins putting up her hair. The series ends with the American entry into WWI in 1917.

In some ways, this series couldn't be more different from the CS.
1. They not only talk about boys, but who's going with whom is a recurring plot element. Of course, it's made clear that no one in Betsy's family would "spoon" or hold hands, though her older sister does wear a fraternity pin on her corset cover at one point. Marry, yes: all of the major characters do so before the end of the series, beginning with Tacy, who's not interested in boys during high school.
2. There are major differences in what is and isn't honorable. For example, note-passing is rampant, and when Betsy is caught at one point she acknowledges that she's been silly, but considers it more dishonorable for the teacher to ask her to read the note aloud. She even discusses this with the principal! (who is tall and stately, has a sonorous voice and magnetic eyes, and is famed for her Shakespeare classes. Posh Boston accent, though.)
3. Doctors rarely figure, though TB isn't absent: the music teacher's nephew goes off to a sanatorium in Colorado, tragically following his late mother and brothers.
4. Fewer students have missing parents, though there are a few, including Betsy's future husband, as well as a classmate who has to drop out of school when his father dies. Invariably they struggle financially, compared to bereaved CS students. Of course the main two-parent characters are also less well-to-do in Betsy's world. (Her dad sells shoes.)
5. It's a day school lacking prefects, only boys' athletics are significant, dances are more likely to be waltzes and two-steps, the "swingeing punishments" that bother me in the CS are thankfully missing, and every year the "latest slang" is welcomed and adopted, though as seniors some of the girls do periodically take to Shakespearean phrases.

On the other hand, there are more similarities than in minor details such as Betsy's family's live-in helper being named Anna, Betsy's visit to Oberammergau, and the fact that Betsy sometimes adds cold morning baths to her hot evening ones an idea she's picked up "from novels, chiefly English," though she finds she turns more blue than rosy when doing so. Laughing The two that make the series come closest for me are:
1. As in the CS, religion is very significant in the protagonists' personal lives, though they are reluctant or tongue-tied about expressing it. There is likewise a high level of tolerance among Christian denominations. It's not just that Betsy is Protestant and Tacy Catholic, but that there are no complaints when all the young people go off to the Presbyterian youth group. Perhaps it's best articulated in the several pages after Betsy and her sister get up enough courage to tell their parents that they want to become Episcopalian even though their parents are pillars of the Baptist church.
2. There's a major effort to distinguish between German people both the ones Betsy meets on her later travels, and the German-Americans at home and the Kaiser's followers. Given when the books were written, I suspect the author wasn't just thinking about WWI, though that was certainly a period of virulent anti-German prejudice over here.

Any other comparisons with the CS? Of Betsy-Tacy, of course, but any other series?

#2:  Author: JayBLocation: SE England PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 8:21 am
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I suppose the two British girls' authors most comparable to EBD in terms of length of career and volume of output are Angela Brazil and Elsie Jeanette Oxenham. Both were established before WWI, so EBD must have been aware of their work when she was starting out.

AB wrote exclusively school stories, but unlike EBD she didn't write a continuing series. She rarely revisited the same school or set of characters. She wrote about boarding schools and day schools, High Schools and small private schools, characters who were wealthy and characters who were not. Like EBD she and her characters were interested in music (she had some musically gifted girls) and folklore and history. She also sometimes followed her characters on holiday. Clergy might feature as incidental characters, or her girls might be daughters of clergy, but religion wasn't a major theme of her books.

EJO's main series, the Abbey books, began when the characters were of school age, but followed them into adulthood. (So it's reasonable that EBD might have thought she could do the same with Joey) School is featured in the books when teenage characters are central, but the main focus is on Joy Shirley, her home, family and friends. The POV characters are usually mid-teens to early twenties, sometimes older.

EJO's characters are interested in folk dancing, almost obsessively so in some cases. It plays a much larger part than it does in EBD's books. Music is again a major theme, with several musically gifted characters, including Joy herself. Camp Fire and Guides feature strongly not just in the Abbey Books but many of EJO's other books.

The Abbey characters often discuss their personal faith, but there's none of the church/chapel going we get in EBD.

EJO's early books are quite egalitarian in their outlook - snobbery is frowned upon. But during the course of the Abbey series the attitude creeps in that people of wealth and high social status are somehow superior to others.

One way in which AB's books and EJO's earlier books differ from EBD is that AB's and EJO's teenage girls are shown having friendships with boys and this is seen as quite normal and natural. I think they do it very well. When EJO's main focus switches to romance and marriage for her older characters, however, some of the men are just as two dimensional and authoritarian as some of EBD's men. Sir Jem Russell and Sir Ivor Quellyn have much in common.

Jay B. (Waiting for a delivery, so with time to compose long messages.)

#3: Re: Comparisons: The Chalet School vs. other series Author: JayBLocation: SE England PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 8:26 am
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Quote:
Thanks to the hair thread...


Re-reading this, I'm reminded that Putting Your Hair Up was quite a big thing in the Abbey books, but I don't recall it featuring in AB. I don't think she wrote much about girls of 18 or so, so it wasn't an issue for her characters.

(I made a new post instead of editing the other one, because i thought that one was long enough already!)

Jay B.

#4:  Author: jenniferLocation: Taiwan PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 8:39 am
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I'll add LM Montgomery's - set in the late 1800 -> beginning of WWI and written in the same general time frame. [The Anne Series, the Emily series plus The Story Girl and the Golden Road, which are all set in a similar environment]

There is also a great deal of talk about boys, and who walked home with who from school or church events, but an obsession with beaus and appearance is seen as somewhat shallow, instead of a sign of low breeding and vulgarity. Characters often have more than one romance before marrying - Anne's romance with Roy Gardiner, Emily's several failed romances and one broken engagement.

Religon is also important but fairly uniform - different Protestant variations only - but is also a social centre of the community, with prayer meetings, Sunday school picnics and so on. The children save their money to contribute to missions. There are atheists and agnostics, who are generally regarded with shock and dismay.

The school is a one-room schoolhouse until the age of about fifteen, when most of the students leave school to return home or start work on the farm. A few of the top students go to high school in the city, generally staying with relatives or in a boarding house for the two years. Even fewer go on to university, typically with an ambition to train as a doctor or minister (boys) or more advanced teacher (both boys and girls).

There are one parent families who, if not struggling financially, are at least somewhat neglected. Large families face the prospect of being broken up in the event of a death and children with no relatives can be sent to the orphan asylum.

Unlike the CS there are mentions of single parent families due to separation or abandonment, and estranged couples. In some of her later books [Jane of Lantern Hill and The Blue Castle] there are direct references to divorce and unwed mothers. There are also plot elements involving infant deaths, neglected children, alcoholics and abusers, and unhappy or abusive marriages.

There is less interaction with different cultures and languages. Politics and elections are directly mentioned.

The economic class is much lower - farmers and local craftsmen and shopkeepers. The doctors are small town general practitioners rather than 'big men on TB'.

#5:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 8:47 am
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I'll add Laura Ingalls Wilder's books because I was thinking about them the other day! Cool Obviously these were based on real life, but I suppose they still class as GO. People aren't as interested in the opposite sex at school as they are in Anne of Green Gables, but by the time they're 15 or 16 or so it's considered OK to have a "beau". & most of the families are very strictly Protestant.

In the Sadlers' Wells books, written in and set in the 1950s, nearly everyone seems to have met their future spouse by the time they're about 14! These do have some similarities to the CS, though - the fictional Balkan Ruritanian country, and Ella being packed off to Switzerland for her health - but they feature a wider range of people from a social viewpoint.

#6:  Author: TiffanyLocation: Is this a duck I see behind me? PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 9:45 am
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JayB wrote:
Camp Fire and Guides feature strongly not just in the Abbey Books but many of EJO's other books.


Another EJO and EBD similarity is that EJO wrote books set in English schools established in Switzerland for the children of TB patients at a nearby Sanitorium. Very Happy

EJO and EBD both have characters that link different series: anyone EJO is fond of turns up at the Abbey at some point, regardless of which series they started in, just as EBD non-Chalet characters go to, or send their daughters to, the Chalet.

The main difference seems to me that EBD chose to focus on the school, and thus has a much wider set of characters. The original characters (apart from Joey) fade into the background. EJO chose to stay with her pet characters, and focus on them, their friends and their children, with the school in the background.

#7:  Author: JayBLocation: SE England PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 10:01 am
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Quote:
Another EJO and EBD similarity is that EJO wrote books set in English schools established in Switzerland for the children of TB patients at a nearby Sanitorium. Very Happy


I thought of that after I posted!

Neither AB's nor EJO's characters are particularly career minded. In AB's case probably because they tend to be no older than mid-teens. She did have one character who had musical training and is mentioned in a later book as a well known professional violinist. Her friend reappears as a teacher with a BA.

Most of EJO's characters don't need to work. The very wealthy ones consider it an obligation to do Good Works, even if they sometimes find it a bit of a bore. Those who have a talent such as singing or dancing or writing develop it. Several lesser characters train as nannies, but that's for the convenience of the central characters who have hordes of children. This is partly where the snobbery appears - all these characters were at school together, and friends, but once the nannies go to work for the others, they're definitely not regarded as being the same class.

Jay B.

#8:  Author: claireLocation: South Wales PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 5:17 pm
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Don't forget the hordes of twins that abound in both EJO and EBD (While Joey may have triplets, Rosamund does have 4 girls in 11 months (2 sets of twins)

#9:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 5:28 pm
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Anne (of Green Gables) lived with someone who had 3 sets of twins in succession before she lived with Matthew and Marilla Rolling Eyes .

#10:  Author: Kathy_SLocation: midwestern US PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 5:50 pm
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I forgot to mention that, for Commencement, Betsy & Tacy's chorus sang that CS favorite, "Hark, Hark, the Lark!" Smile

I'd love for someone to make a CD collection of all the songs from these series, especially CS, Betsy-Tacy, and Little House. I've heard rumors that there's a CS songbook, but even if I found it I'd need someone to read the music for me. Embarassed

#11:  Author: MelLocation: UP NORTH PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 7:52 pm
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What about Dorita Fairlie Bruce's Dimsie books? Dimsie is like Jo (the spirit of the school) and in the early books looks like the Robin (bobbing curls). Miss Yorke (the Head) is well-loved, young, with dark curly hair (like Madge). Also, they both, irritatingly use the expression "with scant regard for grammar" which tells the reader that it is the character, not the author who is being so wicked!

#12:  Author: ChangnoiLocation: Milwaukee, USA PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 12:28 am
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Thinking about the Betsy-Tacy books:

I remember in one of the earliest books, there is some sort of competition for who will be May Queen, Betsy's sister or Tacy's sister, and B and T go to "Little Syria" to collect petitions.

Kathy_S, did Syrians really live in Minnesota way back then? I was always so confused about this as a child. And obviously still am.

Chang

#13:  Author: Kathy_SLocation: midwestern US PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 2:51 am
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Chang- Sharla Scannell Whelen's The Betsy-Tacy Companion indicates that members of the "Syrian" colony in Mankato, Minnesota came from what we would today call Lebanon. However, they called themselves Syrians because they were from the "Lebanon district" that was part of Syria until 1948. "Little Syria" was actually called Tinckomville, after the prototype for "Mr. Meecham," James Tinkcom.

If you haven't read it, you might be interested in Emily of Deep Valley. Emily (class of 1912, two years after Betsy) becomes something of an activist on behalf of the Syrian community.

Jennifer- Thanks for the information on the school system in the Anne books. I'd interpreted Queen's as the Canadian equivalent of a "normal school," the two year teacher training institutions that eventually morphed into four year state teachers colleges in the U.S. (At least by my grandmother's time, normal school came after high school. She began her teaching career in 1920, in the classic one-room schoohouse.)

#14:  Author: CarolineLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 8:30 am
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Tiffany wrote:
The main difference seems to me that EBD chose to focus on the school, and thus has a much wider set of characters. The original characters (apart from Joey) fade into the background. EJO chose to stay with her pet characters, and focus on them, their friends and their children, with the school in the background.


EBD's cast of characters might be wider in numbers, but is much narrower in other ways - all girls, typically all of school age, mostly from similar backgrounds. EJO often has a very wide age in her books - from small children, through teenagers and to adults of all ages - there are prominent male characters, her girls have boy friends as well as girl friends, and there are characters from all kinds of backgrounds (although admittedly the focus is more on the super rich towards the end of the Abbey series).

School is just one of a dozen or more interests for the Abbey girls - it's the main focus of the Chalet girls.

Caroline.

#15:  Author: TiffanyLocation: Is this a duck I see behind me? PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 11:34 am
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Caroline wrote:

EBD's cast of characters might be wider in numbers, but is much narrower in other ways - all girls, typically all of school age, mostly from similar backgrounds. EJO often has a very wide age in her books - from small children, through teenagers and to adults of all ages - there are prominent male characters, her girls have boy friends as well as girl friends, and there are characters from all kinds of backgrounds (although admittedly the focus is more on the super rich towards the end of the Abbey series).

School is just one of a dozen or more interests for the Abbey girls - it's the main focus of the Chalet girls.

Caroline.


*nods* You are quite right: I'm sorry i wasn't clear. What I meant, I think, was that EBD has vast numbers, and a foolproof way to introduce any new ones she please, as long as they can be a schoolgirl or parent. EJO has to have other ways for new characters to mee the old crowd, so she's more limited in how many she can drag in.

#16:  Author: KathyeLocation: Staines PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 12:23 pm
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Yes I have always thought that the CS series is unique in the large number of characters it has, most other series follow a charcter over a number of years often to the end of their school days in detail and then often into the years after and you are not left in any doubt as to what is going to happen to them

With the CS characters are often introduced, focused on quite intently for one book and then only mentioned in passing ever again.

I always think that this gives such a large number of characters whose future / past is unknown that this is why CS fan fiction is unlike any other series I have known, for its sheer quantity if nothing else, because we have SO many characters to choose from



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