EBDs mores

Author:  Tor [ Sun Feb 15, 2009 7:24 pm ]
Post subject:  EBDs mores

following on from the number of different topics currently being covered in the triplets and dick and mollie threads in FD, I have been wondering how much people perceive the CS as good evidence for EBDs own moral code, or whether they think she is trying (successfully or otherwise) to give a broader representation of society.

For example: should we take the authority of the author as the only reference of EBDs opinion (i.e. the asides about parental responsibility). These are rare. More often such opinions are put into the mouths of authority figures or recognized heroines...

Thus, should we treat Joey/Mary-Lou as mouth pieces for EBDs own opinions, and what does this tell us about her (EBD) as a person?

Is there a perceptible shift in attitude during the series?

Or do you read the series as being a self-contained universe that developed much along its own lines, independent of EBDs own views (rather like a super-version of the characters that go their own way)?

Not sure if that makes any sense, but I guess I can't hep but feel fascinated about what kind of person EBD was (I suspect she may have been a rather complex, difficult, contradictory person).

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Feb 15, 2009 7:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

Personally, I would err towards her trying to write the series independently of her own views, but maybe slipping them in either because she couldn't help it or not realising that she did it. For example, in the earlier books it is considered proper and correct that the girls should marry young - for example Marie, or Frieda who is expected to stay at home until a husband comes along - whereas later in the series we do see characters who have a career - Kathie Ferrars, or Daisy before she marries. This could be read in two ways, if we accept that EBD is not merely voicing her own opinion. Either, as a career woman herself, she thinks women should be allowed to have careers, but earlier in the series the context - Austria - made it unrealistic for her not to write like this. Or, she believed that women should settle down and have big families - note Joey! - but because of attitudes in society come the later books, as well as needing a reason to keep characters such as Bill and Miss Annersley in the series to add cohesion (and stop having to invent names and familial links for staff), she chose to write about some women who didn't to try and give an accurate representation of society.

Not entirely sure where my point got lost in all of that :oops: I think I am trying to say that maybe EBD was trying to fit her views into society and context, but also keep the books suitable for her intended audience - so nothing deeply ammoral, or anything that is being heavily punished.

Author:  Nightwing [ Sun Feb 15, 2009 8:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

Actually, I think that as the series progresses she is less open to other views, and we see her own views coming increasingly through her characters - I think Joey suffers the most from this, but the triplets, as her main 'young' character, also spurt views which sometimes seem at odds with their age.

Possibly, as people have mentioned elsewhere, as EBD gets older she finds it harder to change with society, or else she sees society changing in ways that she doesn't like. Her writing also lacks something that it had earlier - she lapses into telling, rather than showing, and this adds to the feeling of being 'preached at' later in the series.

There's one particular passage which really bemused me in Summer Term, when Joey and Erica see some girls on the train dressed in whatever the latest fashion is (mods? I really can't remember), and Joey remarks that girls dressed like that can't be trusted, and then hastily adds that that's what people will assume, anyway. It seemed to me to so obviously be EBD's own opinion that it took me out of the story completely.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Feb 15, 2009 8:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

Is this what you meant?

Erica glanced up to behold a couple of young women clad in tight jeans, big jumpers, and with hair that looked as if a rake had been pushed smartly through it. She was a fastidious creature and she made a face as she noticed tha the scarlet nails of both had black rims...

Noticing Erica's start at the pair, Joey touched her ankle under their table.
"Must you stare at them? she asked in an undertone. "They might be snakes and you their coming victim!"...

When finally they rolled into the Gare du Nord, they lost their messy companions, much to Joey's relief. She was no prude, but she did object to the downright profanity the pair saw fit to use with every other sentence. And she did wish someone had told them that there were more adjectives than one in the English language!

Personally, I don't find it that unusual - even on a train today, someone dressed it something a little out of the ordinary would be stared at, and I would also object to someone who uses profanity a lot.

Author:  Nightwing [ Sun Feb 15, 2009 9:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

I must have got it confused - isn't there a passage where Joey comments on their trustworthiness and directly relating it to their appearance?

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Feb 15, 2009 9:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

Skimming through, I couldn't find a mention, although I did stop reading after it mentioned that they left. It goes on from the snake comment to describe in far too much detail what they were having for lunch, after a bit of window-viewing, and then it just says that they left the train. Oh, and during the first paragraph describing their appearance, it mentioned a nylon stocking...

Author:  andi [ Sun Feb 15, 2009 10:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

Nightwing, I think this is the bit you mean (it starts with Joey speaking):

"...beatniks are plain dirty and nothing else - unless you reckon plain dirty and clearly untrustworthy."
"Why? -Untrustworthy, I mean?" Erica asked, startled.
"My dear girl! If you've so little self-respect you don't care what a sight you look, you certainly can't be trusted to respect other people. At least," Joey modified her dictum a little, "that's the impression you give."

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Feb 15, 2009 10:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

:oops: Sorry, I stand very corrected.

Author:  Sunglass [ Sun Feb 15, 2009 10:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

I think it's clear that EBD is quite hostile to certain aspects of modernity, some of which she gets around by setting her stories abroad and praising things like 'picturesque' Tirolean peasants still wearing traditional dress/having a 'simple faith', and the Continental habit of training children to 'instant obedience' etc. Her internationalism and ecumenism to some extent contradict that by being quite progressive, ditto her insistence on the importance of female education, and the fact that the series demonstrates that women can live happily in an all-female environment where female achievement is valued. (Although that in turn gets diluted by the fact that she continually represents marriage as the ultimate reward for her characters...)

I do think EBD becomes far more explicitly didactic later in the series, perhaps because she feels increasingly dissatisfied with the real world's changes - the reader feeling preached/lectured at is one of the weaknesses of the later Swiss books for me. It's obvious that she is strongly spiritual all through the series, but whereas in the earlier books this is integrated and unobtrusive, by the later part of the series, the deeply unrealistic insistence that all of the CS girls we meet are religious, and chunks of rather clunky preaching from central characters, damages the story. As has come up on the Triplets thread, it's the difference between the 'gentle Sundays'/Grizel happening to pray desperately when she's in danger of death in the early books, and OOAO's lectures/Jack and co falling to their knees in the middle of an escapade in the later.

I think this is a failure in the late books - it's entirely possible, as Antonia Forest does, to write repeatedly about religion and strongly-felt religious belief in a school story setting without making every character religious, or implying that the unreligious are deluded or warped (or even particularly unusual). I mean, I honour EBD's religious beliefs, and she clearly has a perfect right to introduce them fictionally as and when she pleases, but as I think Tor said on the Triplets thread, the late books edge towards propaganda for me - and I say that as a practicing Catholic.

Author:  Alison H [ Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

There's certainly a change in the later books. I find it hard to believe that an intelligent person like Mary-Lou would be so wholly unable to accept Naomi's views on religion, however much she may have disagreed with them. I certainly can't imagine that she'd have gone off and "wondered what sort of home the girl came from". Nor can I imagine any of the characters in the early books shrieking "But what am I to do with you?" if someone explained calmly and politely that they didn't consider themselves to be either Catholic or Protestant.

Had Joey made a remark like "They're only beatniks - that means people in need of a capable nanny and a good tubbing," (OK, there were no beatniks in the '20s or '30s, but just as an example) and then gone on to say that people were obviously untrustworthy because their hair was messy, or had someone taken an immediate dislike to someone because of their "cheap prettiness" (as Richenda does with Joan), in one of the early books then I would have expected Madge to react by saying sharply that it was really shallow to judge people whom you knew nothing about purely on their appearance.

Author:  jennifer [ Mon Feb 16, 2009 2:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

It's kind of hard to detangle which mores were EBD's in particular, and which were the mores of general society. For example, regarding women, marriage and careers, I find her more modern than general society in the early books, but getting old fashioned by the later books.

Some things stand out though as things she sees as important - a sense of piety and reverence, a strong work ethic, cleanliness, modesty, multiculturalism and a desire to help other people. I also see her as rather anti-pop culture. In the early books she is disparaging about jazz music, and popular music is pretty much completely absent in later books. She's very much against anything seen as 'fast' - makeup (except for a modest bit of powder and gloss on older girls) perms, trendy clothing, beatnicks, dating, ponytails, and the like. There are a few references to movies, but they come across as rather stilted.

Author:  Caroline [ Mon Feb 16, 2009 10:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

I think perhaps it's worth remembering that by the end of the series EBD was an elderly lady. Isn't it inevitable that her views are going to have become outmoded and out of touch with society? Effectively, she has been overtaken in her views, as jennifer says:

jennifer wrote:
It's kind of hard to detangle which mores were EBD's in particular, and which were the mores of general society. For example, regarding women, marriage and careers, I find her more modern than general society in the early books, but getting old fashioned by the later books.

I think it's a pretty common scenario for people to be more radical and progressive in their views when young, and then become gradually more and more conservative (with a small 'c') as they age?

Conversely, I know people who cling to views which were common when they were growing - those views voiced now are - well, not exactly PC is probably the most diplomatic way of putting it! The world has moved on and they haven't.

Author:  JS [ Mon Feb 16, 2009 1:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

Erica glanced up to behold a couple of young women clad in tight jeans, big jumpers, and with hair that looked as if a rake had been pushed smartly through it. She was a fastidious creature and she made a face as she noticed the the scarlet nails of both had black rims...

Interesting discussion. Just on this point, don't you think it's the fact that the nails are filthy (black rims) rather than their being painted which is making Erica come over all 'fastidious'? Presumably we couldn't be blaming the 'soft coal' they use on continental trains at this date?

I agree with most of what's been said - would only add that while EBD is often inconsistent in her views, that's pretty much like the rest of us. Okay, so the basics tend to stick, but how many of us can truly stay we maintain the same views about everything all the time? So in answer to Tor's original question, yes, we probably are getting EBD's own views and morals, but they probably changed quite a lot (day to day as well as over the 40-ish years she was writing).

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Mon Feb 16, 2009 7:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

I think EBD is probably very much like most of us, very progressive for her time in some ways and very conservative in other ways.

Author:  KatS [ Tue Feb 17, 2009 3:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

I've never read Summer Term, but was really interested in that quote in light of the discussion about school uniform. The Chalet girls who are presumably used to seeing the beatniks in their tight jeans are still thrilled at the chicness of their new smocked dresses... :roll:

Author:  Tor [ Tue Feb 17, 2009 4:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

after posting this, I went down with some nasty 24-hour bug! Such fun to come back to all the responses.

I think I definitely see the books as channeling EBDs own opinions, and suspect that is why, as and adult, I often loose patience with the Swiss books and their tone. As - I think it was Nightwing - said, she moves from showing to telling, so whilst in the early books there were characters who may have behaved/held opinions at odds to my own I accepted that as being the characters opinions, and it just added to their depth. In the later books, however, the 'telling' just grates.

But, like jennifer mentions, even in the Tirol books there is a definite antipathy towards modern innovation (jazz springs to mind, but the focus on folk-dancing and a romantic idealism about 'simple peasants' also smacks of someone who was already looking back to 'more innocent times'. OT there was a fascinating bit on Woman's Hour a few weeks ago about the revival of the English Folk-dancing scene in the early 20th century).

In Future, when they are driving to Tirol in Minnie, they sing all different types of songs, including (led by the boys) some of the "latest pops". This sums up, for me, EBDs feeling about the Chalet School - the Platz was a special place, buffered from the progressing world. The boys leave it to go to school, and bring back outside influences that the girls don't have. I sometimes think EBD needed to move the school to Switzerland, and then further isolate it from the outside world by making it a complete ex-pat (well more of an idealogical) enclave, to create the self-contained environment she could be happy writing about.

I wonder if she felt sad, or was more cantankerous. The snipey aspects of Joey, and the beatnik comments makes me think the latter!

Author:  Josette [ Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

I think in a sense there was a backsliding in attitudes, specifically towards women, during the mid-part of the twentieth century, and perhaps EBD reflects this to a certain extent. During the twenties, the young male population had been devastated by WWI and young women would have (a) been much more likely to have to support themselves for life, (few eligible bachelors) and (b) been positively needed in some walks of life to fill the gaps left by the men. During WWII, this need for women to fill in at the "ordinary" jobs, as well as doing war work themselves, becomes even more acute. Then along come the Fifties and moral panic, both about women "taking" men's work and about them being potentially less keen to fulfil their "function" of reproducing the next generation. So there was a concerted effort to insist on women's primary role as wife and mother, as well as their duty to be "decorative"! What I'm trying to say is that I think EBD's sense of morality possibly does reflect the overall feeling of the time she is in - women as strong, empowered individuals in the 20s/30s/40s; women as wives and mothers providing stable domestic backgrounds in the 50s. True, in the 60s, everything swung quite quickly back again - possibly too violently for EBD who was by now in her late sixties and early seventies (?) so quite understandably doesn't move with the times by this last decade.

Author:  JS [ Wed Feb 18, 2009 1:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

Gosh, Josette, what a succinct and convincing summary. You've won me over.

Author:  Josette [ Thu Feb 19, 2009 2:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

Thanks for that, JS - I always know what I mean in my head but it's nice to know it came out the right way!

Author:  Tor [ Thu Feb 19, 2009 3:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: EBDs mores

Yes, that is very true Josette (to your earlier comment!!)

Which begs the question, was later EBD actually far more revolutionary than early EBD, particularly in her attitude to women?

In many ways, as Jennifer mentions, she is very consistent in her attitudes throughout the series.

In a more permissive 1920's, much of which, like the Jazz scene and 'fast' behaviour, EBD definitely does not seem to have liked, EBD is part of a much more general social movement encouraging female emancipation and learning and independence (within reason :D). A young lady starting a school (ok the location is exotic) was probably not that unusual.

Fast forward to the 1950s and EBD is still extolling much of the same virtues, but in a more lack-lustre way. However, she is still setting her characters on the path to challenging careers, when the rest of society might be frowning on a woman taking a 'mans' place on those courses.

Her attitude to marriage doesn't change, and she *still* doesn't like fast behaviour, but neither does her emphasis on the importance of independence, learning and careers, despite a more conservative shift that one might expect would sit well with many of her other conservative leanings.

Hats off to her!

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