Poor Ailie
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#1: Poor Ailie Author: macyroseLocation: Great White North (Canada) PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2007 8:26 pm
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Does anyone else feel sorry for Ailie Russell who's constantly criticized for not being the gentle, sweet daughter that Madge wanted? There are numerous mentions of this throught the series:

From In Tirol, in a conversation between the triplets and Ruey:

Quote:
"I wish you could come to school with us," Con said. "Then you'd get to know Josette. She really is rather a pet!"
"Not so pretty as Sybs, though," Margot put in. "Sybs? She's the eldest girl in the Russell family-Sybil of course. Mother says she's the pick of us all for looks. Not that Josette isn't pretty, too."
"Or Ailie-she's the youngest girl," Margot put in., 'She's a young demon for mischief. Auntie Madge was so disappointed. She'd wanted one girl who would be gentle and sweet. Neither Sybs nor Josette could ever be described that way and she did so hope Ailie would be it. But she isn't."


And not only do they talk about this behind her back they actually say this to her!:

From Future, in a letter from Madge to Jo:

Quote:
“By the way, we’re staying with Con Stewart when we reach Sydney. You have the address. Write often, please, and let me know how my bad Ailie is progressing. I did so hope for one daughter who would be a gentle, domesticated little girl but I'm doomed to disapointment. Sybs is domesticated, but she’s never been very forthcoming. Josette is not domesticated, and seems to be all set for a scholastic career of some kind. And Ailie is a nice mixture of young demon and tomboy. Oh, well! Such is life!”
The letter had branched off after that, but Joey had chuckled over this part. All the same, she made up her mind to have a serious talk with her bad niece and see if some improvement could not be made before Madge came back from Australia.


And in Adrienne, Robin is talking to Ailie:

Quote:
"Good! Ailie, do something for me, will you? This is Adrienne Desmoines who is coming to the school this term. She's scarcely ever been at school before, so you people look after her for me and show her how we do things at the Chalet School. Oh, and while I think of it, I seem to remember that not one of you could ever be truthfully described as a little angel, so don't try to involve her in any of your wicked ways."
"Oh, Auntie Rob!" Ailie protested, looking as soulful as in her lay.
"No use, my child. I know you much too well to be taken in by seraphic looks. What a disappointment you have been to your mother! When you came along she was hopeful that for once she'd got a sweet, gentle little daughter since no one could ever describe Sybil or Josette like that - "
"Well, I'm sorry, but I'm me. 'Sweet and gentle doesn't describe me any more than it does Sybs or Josette and it's not my fault," Ailie protested, her grey-green eyes alight with mischief.


How could Robin, of all people, who's supposed to be so tactful and understanding, say something like that to her? While Ailie took the comment with good grace, it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

If this were real life, I can see Ailie needing years of therapy to convince her that's she fine just the way she is, and Sybil too since in Trials Sybil still has a complex about being pretty:

Quote:
"Still, it leaves fourteen not Old Chalet Girls, and it's quite likely that some of them act as well as any of ours, though I agree Sybs is a practical cert. for the 'Princess'. She's the St. Mildred Beauty Queen," Verity returned.
"I wish she could hear you!" Sybil's sister said feelingly. "She would tell you where you got off!"
"I should just think so!" Vi exclaimed. "You're right there, Josette! To hear her talk, sometimes, you'd think it was a positive crime to be pretty."
"Yes; I've noticed that," Hilary, now restored to her normal self, agreed. "I've always meant to ask what was at the bottom of it. Do you know, Jo?"
Josette shook her head. "Haven't the foggiest. I only know the quickest way to make her absolutely raging is to comment on her looks. She's always been like that, so far as I can remember."
"You're her sister; you ought to know," Hilary agreed. "A kink in her character, I expect. Oh, well, that's better than if she was all upstage about her beauty-for she is really lovely, you know. You and young Ailie aren't a patch on her, Josette, and you're neither of you exactly plain."
Before Josette could think of a sufficiently biting reply, the bell rang and they had to hurry off to classes again, so the subject was dropped more or less permanently.

#2:  Author: JayBLocation: SE England PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2007 9:19 pm
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Madge's daughters seem to exist only to be and do what Madge wants. They're not allowed lives and personalities of their own.

Ailie is no worse and no better than hundreds of other Middles who have passed through the school. She's a great deal better than her cousin Margot, which makes this piece of proposed interference by Joey all the more unwarranted:

Quote:
Joey had chuckled over this part. All the same, she made up her mind to have a serious talk with her bad niece and see if some improvement could not be made before Madge came back from Australia.


What badness, exactly, does Jo plan to reform? I can't recall Ailie doing anything beyond normal Middle mischief. It is, as you say, enough to give Ailie a complex.

#3:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2007 9:29 pm
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When Ailie was born, Joey, instead of congratulating Madge and Jem, just whinged about how she wished Madge'd had a boy instead!

I've never seen all those "sweet gentle" comments all together before ... it's a wonder Ailie turned out as well as she did.

#4:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2007 9:30 pm
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I always thought the 'disappointment to her mother' comments were very tongue in cheek and meant to be funny. Question

#5:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2007 9:49 pm
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Tara wrote:
I always thought the 'disappointment to her mother' comments were very tongue in cheek and meant to be funny. Question


Mmm, me too, like it was a family joke type thing.

#6:  Author: Kathy_SLocation: midwestern US PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 2:57 am
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Mia wrote:
Tara wrote:
I always thought the 'disappointment to her mother' comments were very tongue in cheek and meant to be funny. Question


Mmm, me too, like it was a family joke type thing.

I definitely agree.

One problem is, we can't hear the voice tones. To overcome this, the author can throw in adverbs and such ('she said lightly," "quipped X," ), try to make it obviously hammed up as with Jo's comments about quads, or try and show it by the characters' responses. Most often, EBD uses the third technique. If Madge were really disappointed, we'd know. There are certainly enough examples of how the girls respond to that comment when it's meant the other way!

Obviously jokes can and do misfire in RL, but I'm often surprised at how frequently CBBers take literally things that strike me as banter, very much a part of the genre.

#7:  Author: jenniferLocation: Taiwan PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 4:43 am
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Actually, the one I feel sorry for in those comments is Sybil. I can see the comments to Ailie being meant in fun, but the repeated protestations about really wanting a sweet gentle daughter are insulting to the one who actually is. Sybil (post scalding) is naturally domestic girl who isn't very good at academics, although she tries hard, she's good tempered and patient and responsible and good with the younger girls and well behaved - what more does she have to do?

#8:  Author: macyroseLocation: Great White North (Canada) PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 1:48 pm
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Kathy_S wrote:

Quote:
Obviously jokes can and do misfire in RL, but I'm often surprised at how frequently CBBers take literally things that strike me as banter, very much a part of the genre.


Obviously many CBBers interpret things EBD wrote differently (or we wouldn't have much to discuss here Very Happy ) and, speaking only for myself, I just don't see calling someone a disappointment as being a joke or finding it funny. Also, though Jo laughed at Madge's letter, if it was just a joke why would she go so far as planning "to have a serious talk with her bad niece and see if some improvement could not be made before Madge came back from Australia." Yes, Ailie herself laughed off Robin's comments but then it's hard for me to imagine EBD writing Ailie's response to Robin's remarks as Ailie stamping her foot in anger and shouting "Stop picking on me! Josette and Sybil aren't sweet and gentle either but no one ever says that they're a disappointment to mummy! Why can't everyone just leave me alone!"

What's also interesting is that Jo comments in Wrong, after seeing Madge in Canada, that Madge is a different woman and Jo was so glad since she was afraid that Madge was "in danger of becoming 'that very sweet woman, Lady Russell'." Funny how it's not okay for Madge to be sweet (and gentle) but it's hoped (at least as I read it) that at least one of her daughters will turn out that way. It's never really explained why Madge wants a sweet and gentle daughter anyway. Maybe she needed a break after raising Jo! Wink

#9:  Author: skye PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 3:36 pm
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macyrose wrote:
Kathy_S wrote:

Quote:
Obviously jokes can and do misfire in RL, but I'm often surprised at how frequently CBBers take literally things that strike me as banter, very much a part of the genre.


Obviously many CBBers interpret things EBD wrote differently (or we wouldn't have much to discuss here Very Happy ) and, speaking only for myself, I just don't see calling someone a disappointment as being a joke or finding it funny. Also, though Jo laughed at Madge's letter, if it was just a joke why would she go so far as planning "to have a serious talk with her bad niece and see if some improvement could not be made before Madge came back from Australia." Yes, Ailie herself laughed off Robin's comments but then it's hard for me to imagine EBD writing Ailie's response to Robin's remarks as Ailie stamping her foot in anger and shouting "Stop picking on me! Josette and Sybil aren't sweet and gentle either but no one ever says that they're a disappointment to mummy! Why can't everyone just leave me alone!"

What's also interesting is that Jo comments in Wrong, after seeing Madge in Canada, that Madge is a different woman and Jo was so glad since she was afraid that Madge was "in danger of becoming 'that very sweet woman, Lady Russell'." Funny how it's not okay for Madge to be sweet (and gentle) but it's hoped (at least as I read it) that at least one of her daughters will turn out that way. It's never really explained why Madge wants a sweet and gentle daughter anyway. Maybe she needed a break after raising Jo! Wink

Maybe Ailie gets the joke and doesn't have a chip on her shoulder?

Most families have in-jokes about a boy or a girl being born and wanting the opposite sex, or about one being the black sheep. Never meant to be taken seriously, or as a slur on the child, but simply affectionate teasing.

#10:  Author: TanLocation: London via Newcastle Australia PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 3:49 pm
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While some of the comments may have been meant as a joke, I always felt sorry for Madge's daughters. For several years after the accident with Josette, Sybil was reminded of it (I always thought it was a bit much that Joey tells Sybil that if Josette had died it would have been her fault).

Similarly, both Sybil and Josette were denied their opportunities to further study - a real shame as Sybil had worked hard for her chance to study, and Josette had a real intellectual talent. And how could you not describe Sybil as gentle and sweet? As she gets older she shows a real tact and understanding (I am thinking of her making sure that neither Jo Scott nor Josette gossip about the behaviour of the prefects). There are comments made about the other Seniors listening to her opinions carefully and being interested in her points of view. After the incident with Josette she loses the selfish streak that she had developed.

As for Ailie, I would have liked to see more of her. She comes across as a healthy, mischievious girl!

#11:  Author: Kathy_SLocation: midwestern US PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 3:51 pm
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macyrose wrote:

What's also interesting is that Jo comments in Wrong, after seeing Madge in Canada, that Madge is a different woman and Jo was so glad since she was afraid that Madge was "in danger of becoming 'that very sweet woman, Lady Russell'." Funny how it's not okay for Madge to be sweet (and gentle) but it's hoped (at least as I read it) that at least one of her daughters will turn out that way. It's never really explained why Madge wants a sweet and gentle daughter anyway.

The thing is, that Madge has never been "sweet" -- she was the sort to be climbing trees even as a headmistress -- so the personality transplant is worrisome. By the same logic, it would be hysterically funny for the real Madge (as opposed to the aberrant "sweet" one) to expect a "sweet and gentle" daughter. That's the joke. Confused

#12:  Author: LizzieLocation: A little village on the Essex/Suffolk border PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 4:58 pm
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I've always felt sorry for Ailie as well, she was always described as a "feather-headed irresponsible" or something to that effect, and was always compared with Sybil and Josette. I also never liked the way in which girls treated their little sisters at the school, even if they had been up to mischief. Josette especially, I remember being really horrible to Ailie.

#13:  Author: skye PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 5:58 pm
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Tan wrote:
While some of the comments may have been meant as a joke, I always felt sorry for Madge's daughters. For several years after the accident with Josette, Sybil was reminded of it (I always thought it was a bit much that Joey tells Sybil that if Josette had died it would have been her fault).

Similarly, both Sybil and Josette were denied their opportunities to further study - a real shame as Sybil had worked hard for her chance to study, and Josette had a real intellectual talent. And how could you not describe Sybil as gentle and sweet? As she gets older she shows a real tact and understanding (I am thinking of her making sure that neither Jo Scott nor Josette gossip about the behaviour of the prefects). There are comments made about the other Seniors listening to her opinions carefully and being interested in her points of view. After the incident with Josette she loses the selfish streak that she had developed.

As for Ailie, I would have liked to see more of her. She comes across as a healthy, mischievious girl!

I don't know. If one of my daughters had almost died as a result of something another daughter had done I would find it difficult to forget. I know from personal experience that when a child is close to death it is an experience that stays with you for a very long time and is definitely not something that passes into history within a couple of days. The family are quite close-knit so would be equally affected, and all of them would hope to avoid a repetition of events by maybe being a bit more judgemental of Sybil than they would do normally.

I don't suppose having a year or two out of school would have seriously jeopardised their future careers and when they returned to England they would have picked up where they left off. Most people would be thrilled to have the opportunity to travel for a year or two before going to university.

I don't see Madge as the type to say a woman should not follow her career goal if she really wanted it. After all she continued to have her interest in the school even after marriage and occasionally taught there even after having children herself. So she seems to have pretty modern viewpoints especially at a time when women were automatically expected to cease working when they married.

#14:  Author: MelLocation: UP NORTH PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 6:08 pm
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I think Madge got into a kind of broken-record groove over the sweet daughter business - as a feeble joke? Sybil goes through a bad patch, but is later very quiet and domesticated. Josette is always good and becomes Head Girl! It is a pity no-one (Jo or Hilda?) ever challenged Madge about this.

#15:  Author: ClareLocation: Liverpool PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 9:41 pm
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skye wrote:
Most families have in-jokes about a boy or a girl being born and wanting the opposite sex, or about one being the black sheep. Never meant to be taken seriously, or as a slur on the child, but simply affectionate teasing.


'Tis true, but it does grate, even when it is meant in jest or as affectionate teasing. I was always the 'quiet, studious one,' my sister more of a 'wild child'. Therefore my 'wilder' moments (e.g. staying out until three o'clock in the morning with my friends before we all went to different universities) are still up for discussion in the family now, whereas no one bats an eyelid when she falls in past midnight.

Ailie may have felt frustrated by the comment but never let it show. Like I'm not allowed to react to comments about me being out of character... Evil or Very Mad

#16:  Author: skye PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 11:10 pm
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Clare wrote:
skye wrote:
Most families have in-jokes about a boy or a girl being born and wanting the opposite sex, or about one being the black sheep. Never meant to be taken seriously, or as a slur on the child, but simply affectionate teasing.


'Tis true, but it does grate, even when it is meant in jest or as affectionate teasing. I was always the 'quiet, studious one,' my sister more of a 'wild child'. Therefore my 'wilder' moments (e.g. staying out until three o'clock in the morning with my friends before we all went to different universities) are still up for discussion in the family now, whereas no one bats an eyelid when she falls in past midnight.

Ailie may have felt frustrated by the comment but never let it show. Like I'm not allowed to react to comments about me being out of character... Evil or Very Mad

Tell me about it! I was always cast as the 'responsible' one! I wanted to be the wildly beautiful one who had everyone falling at her feet in awe at her intelligence, beauty and wisdom!

#17:  Author: PadoLocation: Connecticut, USA PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 12:42 am
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Perhaps it reflects EBD's own disappointment that her characters took on a life of their own? Maybe Ailie was "supposed" to behave differently than she turned out?

#18:  Author: jenniferLocation: Taiwan PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 3:15 am
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Even in Real Life, jokes like that can be a sensitive issue. If a child is told that they should have been a boy, or should have been sweet and gentle, or should have been the smart one, if there is even a grain of truth to the jest, it can cause damage. A small amount of lingering disappointment or resentment, repeated endlessly in semi-jest, can add up.

Similarly, kids can get stuck with labels - the responsible one, the wild one, the irresponsible one, the creative one, the difficult one - and can get pressed into maintaining that role for much longer than wanted or appropriate, even when the tag was at one point accurate. How many people go home for Christmas and suddenly finding themselves slotted back into their teenage roles.

I wonder if Madge wanted one of her daughters to be like Peggy Bettany. Peggy was basically Madge's daughter for 13 years, and she was sweet and gentle from a very young age, helping around the house, looking after the little ones, never getting into trouble etc. Plus, she wanted nothing more after finishing school than to return home to help out and keep her mother company. None of Madge's daughters fit that description - even Sybil had definite career plans. That would fit with the insistence that they go to Australia - Madge wanted a daughter who would be a companion and helper to her.

#19:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 6:50 am
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Joey labels her 6 eldest kids in pairs! Len and Steve are the responsible ones, Con and Charles are the quiet ones, and Margot and Mike are the naughty ones.

David Russell seems to get "labelled" as the perfect son - wants to be a doctor, plays for the school rugby team, etc - I think he's described as a "jolly, straightforward boy" somewhere.

However, it happens in all families.

#20:  Author: Fiona McLocation: Bendigo, Australia PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 6:52 am
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jennifer wrote:
I wonder if Madge wanted one of her daughters to be like Peggy Bettany. Peggy was basically Madge's daughter for 13 years, and she was sweet and gentle from a very young age, helping around the house, looking after the little ones, never getting into trouble etc. Plus, she wanted nothing more after finishing school than to return home to help out and keep her mother company. None of Madge's daughters fit that description - even Sybil had definite career plans. That would fit with the insistence that they go to Australia - Madge wanted a daughter who would be a companion and helper to her.


She may very well have done and part of me agrees but when you add in Jo being more or less her first and then she has Robin and Peggy both quiet, lady like kids, she probably enjoyed it after dealing with Jo.
She says this in Three go

Quote:
Madge Russell laughed ruefully. 'I did so hope to have one quiet, gentle little girl, but Ailie shows every sign of being the worst of the lot. I must say I think I've had my share of imps, what with you as a kiddy, and now my own'


This is the earliest mention I know and was said just before her daughters cover themselves in red ochre with their cousins and play red indians. May be after all the hair raising experiences that Jo gave her she wanted someone completely different who wouldn't worry her so much but she could do things with that she was interested in. Ailie was only four in that book and already she was turning into a wild child.

#21:  Author: CarolineLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 10:45 am
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Kathy_S wrote:
Mia wrote:
Tara wrote:
I always thought the 'disappointment to her mother' comments were very tongue in cheek and meant to be funny. Question


Mmm, me too, like it was a family joke type thing.

I definitely agree.

One problem is, we can't hear the voice tones. To overcome this, the author can throw in adverbs and such ('she said lightly," "quipped X," ), try to make it obviously hammed up as with Jo's comments about quads, or try and show it by the characters' responses. Most often, EBD uses the third technique. If Madge were really disappointed, we'd know. There are certainly enough examples of how the girls respond to that comment when it's meant the other way!

Obviously jokes can and do misfire in RL, but I'm often surprised at how frequently CBBers take literally things that strike me as banter, very much a part of the genre.


Colour me in complete agreement, Kathy.

Lizzie wrote:
I've always felt sorry for Ailie as well, she was always described as a "feather-headed irresponsible" or something to that effect, and was always compared with Sybil and Josette.


Hmmm. Aren't younger sisters always compared to older ones? Especially when attending the same school? It might not be right, but it's a pretty accurate reflection of the real world, IMO. Certainly, it was true for my sister and me.

#22:  Author: MelLocation: UP NORTH PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 10:45 am
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I agree with Jennifer that Peggy is Madge's perfect daughter and is very like her. She probably looks like her in all but colouring, is pretty in a non-showy way, is very well-behaved always, devoted to her twin, frequently Form Prefect, responsible for younger siblings and is a very stern Head Girl. I never liked Madge or Peggy very much.

#23:  Author: CarysLocation: London PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 12:25 pm
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I think that the part of the series that sums up Ailie and Madge's relationship for me is in Prefects when Ailie is the May Queen and Madge doesn't know. It certainly shows that Ailie is unable to confide in her Mother.
Ailie is one of my favourite characters, as is Sybil, and I wish more had been written about them.

#24:  Author: macyroseLocation: Great White North (Canada) PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 2:00 pm
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Thanks, Fiona, for that quote from Three Go. I had written in jest in an earlier post that maybe the reason that Madge wanted a sweet and gentle daughter was because she needed a break after raising Jo and I had completely forgotten that Madge actually said something very much like that! Very Happy

#25:  Author: Sarah_G-GLocation: Sheffield (termtime), ? any other time! PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 5:37 pm
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Sorry, but this bit caught me eye in the quote from Future:

"Sybs is domesticated, but she’s never been very forthcoming."

Which means what exactly, in this context? She is, actually, a sweet domesticated girl but somehow doesn't count because she's "not very forthcoming"? This probably does back up the previous points that Madge wanted a daughter like Peggy- someone who was not only sweet and domesticated but also was a companion to her mother and (presumably) always confided in her. It just seems a bit harsh to Sybil, in my opinion. She's become sweet and domesticated but still isn't what her mother says she wanted. And even if it was just an ongoing joke (as I don't doubt that Madge loved all her children very much), I bet that grated on her.

#26:  Author: brieLocation: Glasgow, aka the land of boredom PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2007 9:38 am
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I like to think that Madge was a good mother... i mean she brought up squads of kids and most of them werent her own.

I think it was probably a joke, and that her children took it as a joke, for we never see them reacting badly to it. And EBD has critiscised some of madges mothering (through joey) i.e. sybil in the early years if that makes any sense

#27:  Author: PhilLocation: London UK PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2007 9:16 pm
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The whole downgrading of AIlie as a person does make me feel sorry for Ailie. That was a wonderful trick she played with the lost property box. We shjould have seen more of Ailie. But Jack (evil one) Lambert has to come along and practicallly push her out of the way.

Peggy and Bride Bettany are given some good stories, as are the triplets (obviously) but the Russells don't: Sybil is damned because her aunt clearly doesn't like her, Josette is in OOAO's shadow.

#28:  Author: Loryat PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 2:28 pm
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I have always read the 'sweet gentle daughter' thing to be a family joke. I joke about wishing that one of my brothers (I've got four, all younger than me) had been a girl but it doesn't mean that I'd actually prefer a sister to one of them now. You get jokes like that in families and you also get labels. I'm responsible, my first brother has less responsibilities than the next one cos he 'isn't' responsible, the next one is the 'funny' one and the youngest is of course the baby. These things happen and I think in the main people are not too bothered by them.

As regards Jo telling Sybil it would have been her fault if Josette had died, well, it would. CS is very much about taking responsibility for your own actions. But in this scene Sybs is clearly aware of this and IMO Joey's not actually telling her she would have been responsible for Josette's death but saying, well, yes that is the case but she didn't die and now we've all got to move on. Actually I think this is a lovely aunt/neice scene! Also, IMO Sybil is the most domesticated but although she's keen on needlework she's also a rebel, and not just until scalding (which I think is really interesting). Look at Peggy. She's my no means sweet and gentle there.

I think it's a shame Ailie didn't getso much limelight but if she had we'd probably all say why can't EBD write about someone other than a Russell for a change? Very Happy



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