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#1: Ambition Author: RóisínLocation: Ireland PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 11:50 am
... in the shoulder-padded, 1980s, ruthless sense. I was trying to think of any Chaletian that demonstrated this quality and couldn't. Obviously it's hard to speculate what the characters who were still girls in the Swiss series would have done or become. Aside from maybe Pam Slater, I couldn't think of any mature character who had a sort of internal drive to succeed in their field. Miss Annersley seems to fall into the role of head, and she is sort of humble and modest about the whole thing when it does happen. Madge only become a headmistress from need, rather than the will to really be one.

Pam Slater and possibly Eustacia's parents were all I could come up with anyway, and these characters are portrayed in a very bad light. Was this EBD saying that she thought that pure, unadulterated ambition was a Bad Thing? Or that it couldn't be achieved without sacraficing a good life? Confused

ETA sacrAficing Rolling Eyes

Last edited by Róisín on Fri Jun 29, 2007 11:58 am; edited 1 time in total

#2:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 11:55 am
Perhaps Marilyn Evans fitted into that category? She obviously put her own career aspirations ahead of the "greater good", suggesting that she was very ambitious - and she was roundly criticised for it.

#3:  Author: leahbelleLocation: Kilmarnock PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 12:16 pm
Could you count Miss Bubb as ambitious? She certainly rode roughshod over anyone who tried to stand in her way.

#4:  Author: Sarah_KLocation: St Albans PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 1:09 pm
You could make a case for Nina Rutherford I think. I know it was her music that drove her but there had to be ambition in the mix too to keep her so focussed and obsessive.

I suppose if you look away from the girls Reg is quite ambitious when you look at where he is when we meet him to what he eventually becomes! Probably not quite in the shoulder-pads sense though Wink

#5:  Author: MelLocation: UP NORTH PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 3:47 pm
I think EBD encouraged girls to be ambitious as long as it was in the right field, ie the Arts or the professions. Though she considered money important, especially if you could inherit it, she never seems to consider that people went out in search of it, which was the 80s ethos. She tries not to be snobbish about 'trade!' but it is there underneath.

#6:  Author: TiffanyLocation: Is this a duck I see behind me? PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 6:04 pm
In the Tyrol books, it seems that the only ambition a girl should have is to be a good wife and mother. You're meant to want to do well at that, and to work hard to prepare for it. Mary Burnett is quite ambitious careerwise though, isn't she? I get the impression she had academic/scholarly ambition, though I'm not sure how much being a schoolteacher would have helped her...

There are girls later with ambition to be top of the form, get into a good college, etc, aren't there? But it seems to be for the achievement itself, not for the money or power they can gain from it.

#7:  Author: PatLocation: Doncaster PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 7:22 pm
The money and power type of ambition was very much an 80s thing, particularly where women were concerned. Ambition to do well in your career is very different, and that is what EBD promoted.

#8:  Author: XantheLocation: London PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 1:18 am
Perhaps it was that she objected to too much ambition - the whole Shakespeare thing about "vaunting ambition that o'erleaps itself and falls down flat"... Not quite like pride goes before a fall, but all tied in to ideas about modesty & appropriate behaviour...

#9:  Author: Kathy_SLocation: midwestern US PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 2:12 am
I think EBD considered putting one's ambitions ahead of the well-being of others as un-Christian, unwomanly or both. She did seem to want to show CS girls as successful in less traditional professions as well as motherhood, but couldn't avoid showing familial obligations as trumping them. However, I can't really fit Pam Slater into this bifurcation. The discussion of her leaving seemed more a poke at (or nod to) the CS mystique than a judgment on ambition per se.

(Off topic: Do shoulder-pads really have a manipulative connotation? I thought they were just one of those styles you couldn't really escape, particularly in suit jackets, where it would require at least the tailoring skill of a CS domestic science mistress to remove them.)

#10:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 6:59 am
Laughing Somewhere I've still got a red jacket with shoulder pads, which I bought in the mid-1990s and wore for my first ever job interviews (I was a huge fan of Dynasty when I was little!), but I never got any of the jobs concerned!

I think shoulder pads came to be associated with career ambitions for women because TV characters like Alexis Colby always used to wear clothes with them in?

#11:  Author: RóisínLocation: Ireland PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 8:10 pm
The shoulderpads description was tongue in cheek - I just mean ambition in its sharpest sense really.

#12:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 9:02 pm
Sarah_K wrote:
You could make a case for Nina Rutherford I think. I know it was her music that drove her but there had to be ambition in the mix too to keep her so focussed and obsessive.

That's really interesting - musical girls seem to be the only people who are really encouraged to focus on one thing. I know that Nina was old that she had to do other lessons as well and that she was encouraged to become more team-spirited, but people like her and Margia Stevens were allowed to spend a vast proportion of their time purely on music when they got to the VIth form. I appreciate that people aiming to go to a university rather than a music college would have needed good exam results in several Higher School Certificate/A-level subjects, so it wouldn't have been appropriate to let someone spend all their time on history/maths/whatever, but it seems to be accepted that it's OK to focus on music to the exclusion of other things in a way that it isn't with anything else ... er, if that makes sense.

Quote from Genius - Joey to Mary-Lou (who then made a very amusing comment about Bach with his 20 children being "worse than" Joey Laughing ):

"Don't forget what I said about genius. It isn't selfishness in the ordinary sense. It's just that music means more to her than everything else put together."

I wouldn't call Nina (or Margia) ambitious in the Dynasty/A Woman of Substance 1980s way, but they do seem to be very driven and people seem to accept that, whereas no-one seems able to understand Pam Slater's decision to leave to take on a better job.

#13:  Author: AlexLocation: Cambs, UK PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 9:55 pm
Mary-Lou is (I think) described as having a great ambition to be an archaeologist. With the music people, isn't it something they almost have a duty to pursue because it's a god-given talent, so to speak.

I think (seems to be a lot of that in this post) that shoulder pads and 80s power dressing are supposed to give women a more masculine shape (broad shoulders, narrow hips) which was supposed to enable them to succeed in a male dominated environment.

#14:  Author: jenniferLocation: Taiwan PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:51 am
It appears to be okay to pursue something singlemindedly if it is a 'calling' of sorts - being a musical genius is an example, although I'm not sure why Con's drive to write isn't viewed in the same way.

Having a genuine passion for a subject and following it seems to be admirable too - Joey and history, Richenda and her ceramics, things like that.

In no case is the ambition supposed to supercede duty to the school, to family, or to community service, and the posessor of the ambition is to remain modest about their skill. For example, Elfie drops out of school and gives up her ambition to be a PT mistress because her family needs her to keep house, and this is portrayed as the only choice a decent girl could make.

Doing something with the goal of becoming famous, rich, popular, well respected, etc. would be seen as unwomanly, and I suspect, unChristian. There is still a double standard for men and women in that area, where ambition and drive in men is seen as laudatory, but the exact same traits in a woman, in the same field, are often portrayed as hard, bitchy, or being a bad mother and/or wife.

As an aside, we're repeatedly told that ML is intent on archaeology, but she never seems to talk about it, or actively pursue it. She even drops maths early, which surprises me, as I'd expect that to be a prerequisite for archaeology, as it is a science.

#15:  Author: Mrs RedbootsLocation: London, UK PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:00 pm
Of course, it does change throughout the series, reflecting the enormous changes in society that happened during the years from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Back when the first Tirol books were written, marriage was the ultimate goal for most girls, and those from wealthier backgrounds had very little thought of a career of any type. Having said that, of course, there were an awful lot of "excess women" after the first world war, many of whom had lost boyfriends and fiancés, and many of those women did start schools, nurse, or do other work (think of Katharine Climpson!), but by and large, women from wealthier families didn't expect to work, or only as a way of filling-in until they got married. Many careers simply weren't open to married women anyway.

Of course, that changed gradually during the century - my generation, who left school in the late 1960s/early 1970s, expected to work but possibly only until we married. Few of us undertook anything requiring a lengthy training (doctor, accountant, lawyer), and many of us didn't even go to university. Of course, many of us rectified that in later years - but a lot didn't.

I don't know whether life has changed more in the last 40 years than it did in the previous 40, but certainly life in the 1920s and 1960s was very different, and different again to our life today!

So if EBD doesn't portray many girls as being ambitious, it's because they weren't! Even those who were would have had to choose between a career and marriage/family - I know "having it all" isn't easy, but it is at least possible, in a way it would not have been throughout almost all of the series.

Obviously, of course, this only applied to the wealthier sections of society - the "Protestant work ethic" of Father at work earning the family's living and Mother the quiet centre of the family at home never applied to the poorer areas!

#16:  Author: JayBLocation: SE England PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:34 pm
The Parable of the Talents is the reading at Prayers on the first night of every year/term - forget which. So it's acceptable, good, even, to want to develop your abilities and to have goals.

But I think another message EBD consistently puts across is the necessity for hard work in order to achieve your ambitions. There are various examples of girls who are a bit flighty, or not very academic, but who knuckle down when there's something they really want to work towards. Sybil, Ailie and Joan Baker come to mind.

So it's all right to want to succeed in your chosen field, just don't expect it to happen easily or overnight. Unles you're Joey Bettany, of course, published at your first attempt while still in your teens. Not a realistic role model for any aspiring writers out there.

#17:  Author: lizarfauLocation: Melbourne PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:23 pm
JayB wrote:
Unles you're Joey Bettany, of course, published at your first attempt while still in your teens. Not a realistic role model for any aspiring writers out there.

Oh, I don't know ... The new star of Australian publishing is a young teenager . Read about her here:

She's getting lots of publicity at the moment. An amazing achievement for such a young girl.

#18:  Author: Lisa A.Location: North Yorkshire PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 5:27 pm
While there are many examples of girls with high aspirations, I can't think of anyone who committed any sort of treachery to achieve a career ambition. It probably never entered EBD's head. I could imagine someone like Margot or Grizel in a storyline where they somehow scupper the chances of rivals to get a position they want, but it wouldn't have been very CS. Outside drabbles, I can't think of any of any staff with dominating ambitions either - surely there must have been a bit of professional rivalry and backstabbing somewhere along the line?

#19:  Author: TanLocation: London via Newcastle Australia PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 7:21 pm
I think the only long-term staff member I can think of that was ambitious was Pam Slater. I actually had quite a bit of sympathy for her - as she pointed out, she was unlikely to progress much further career wise at the Chalet School.

In terms of the girls, Nina is probably the closest.

#20:  Author: Sarah_KLocation: St Albans PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 7:36 pm
Pam Slater does suffer for her ambition, even though it's actually very tied to her desire to teach and so I'd have thought as acceptable as Richenda or Mary-Lou's. I suppose it takes her away from the Chalet School though and that's never a good thing in EBD's book (well that's a bit of an exageration of course!)

I'm imagining transferring the school to the 1980s now, I wonder which characters would go into business in that "shoulder pads" way. I can imagine Emerence might, possibly Mary-Lou though I'm not sure.

Without moving the school I suppose someone like Cecil or Marie-Claire would be of an age to be business women in the 80s (and what would Joey say to them if they tried that!)

It is very much against the ethos of the school though where family and friends seem to come first alongside using your talents. Ambition for it's own sake (or for money) is really not a very Chalet thing.

#21:  Author: KatherineLocation: London, UK PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 12:26 pm
Both Daisy and Julie Lucy are ambitious in the sense that they aim for ‘good’ (and masculine) careers. But then they give it all up when married. Does that make them ambitious?
But they aren’t’ ruthless. I can’t think of much ruthlessness and I can’t see EBD approving of it.

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