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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 20 Aug 2012, 22:23 
judithR wrote:
With microbiologist hat on - erm actually it's a virus.


Thank you, judith!!!!! I get these things wrong at times, strange as it might seem from my usual brilliant brain-work evident to all ...

Minim wrote:
EBD wanted Phil to have a severe type of illness, she chose Polio, so consequently, Phil got Polio. EBD probably wasn't aware how it was spread. She wanted a side plot to make Joey worried, and this was it.

I'll let others discuss the possibilities of whatever in the range of the CS universe if they want to. But that's not how I think.


But minim - what's the point of any discussion about fiction where the author is no longer around to put us right on our ideas if we keep saying, 'this was it'?

I understand that you think that Elinor wanted Phil to have a severe illness and chose polio to fit her plot and so on, but I wonder why you think this? Is there any evidence elsewhere that might support a hypothesis that Elinor Brent-Dyer's writing was so functional - that 'this is what she wanted and this is how she made it happen', I mean?

See, I've asked questions about the whys of Phil's polio because I have no personal idea of why on earth she chose this (or thrush, for goodness sake - I still think that one's just weird). And having asked the question and then discussed it with other people who have different slants on things, I can move myself towards a sustainable theory of my own - which I might be able to support from Elinor's other writing.

It's not about taking one book and one incident in one book in isolation, is it? It's important to be able to take things within the broadest sense possible. I know that might sound a bit odd coming from me (sorry Miss A, but 'I' just sounds wrong), when I can get frozen by the tiniest details ... but in gathering lots of tiny details we can begin to understand the books more. No?


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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 20 Aug 2012, 22:39 
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julieanne1811 wrote:
It's not about taking one book and one incident in one book in isolation, is it? It's important to be able to take things within the broadest sense possible. I know that might sound a bit odd coming from me (sorry Miss A, but 'I' just sounds wrong), when I can get frozen by the tiniest details ... but in gathering lots of tiny details we can begin to understand the books more. No?


But often in writing the tiny details are just what happens. I mean, you don't think about why they happen, or why you have chosen that particular tiny detail rather than any other one. That's just the way the story works in your mind. Maybe something's lodged in your mind from something that happened today, or last week, or ten years ago, or maybe you make assumptions about the way the world is...

There are two broad ways of looking at fiction, I think. From outside it, in what we like to think of as the 'real world' - so we say 'why did EBD choose this thing to happen? Why didn't she choose something else? What does this say about her as a writer and a person?'. Or we can look it as though the fictional world is the real one and say 'Why did Joey choose this? Why did Phil get this disease? How did these events come about rather than some other events?'. I think when we mix the two ways of looking at stories, we can get very, very confused.... :D

*stops dragging the thing off topic*

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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 06:56 
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I think that's very well put, Abi :D.

With minor incidents and minor plotlines, sometimes - like when Joey moans about the Mods on the train - it can be very interesting to speculate about what they say about both EBD's views and the character's views, but not at the same time or you just end up saying "Well, Joey is just acting as EBD's mouthpiece," which spoils the discussion about Joey. With others, it's quite possible that they're just there as plot devices and that EBD, who can't ever have dreamt that the books would one day be analysed in so much detail, didn't intend them to have any deep meaning or background at all. That doesn't mean that we can't still get a lot out of interpreting them from the characters' viewpoints. For example, I find it much better to think that Matey hauled Len off to tidy her drawers as a way of asserting her authority because she was convinced that she wasn't given as much respect as the teaching staff than to think that it was just a way of leaving the younger girls without supervision so that they could get up of mischief. It's also quite possible that EBD did intend them to have deep meanings, but we can't know that ... but that doesn't mean that we can't wonder :D .


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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 08:44 
Abi wrote:
There are two broad ways of looking at fiction, I think. From outside it, in what we like to think of as the 'real world' - so we say 'why did EBD choose this thing to happen? Why didn't she choose something else? What does this say about her as a writer and a person?'. Or we can look it as though the fictional world is the real one and say 'Why did Joey choose this? Why did Phil get this disease? How did these events come about rather than some other events?'. I think when we mix the two ways of looking at stories, we can get very, very confused.... :D


Beautifully put, Abi!!!! And this is where we sometimes run into rough water when we're all talking about things, isn't it? And it's fine that there might be two ways of looking at the fiction being discussed as long as we don't then use one way against the other - that's when, as Alison points out, things come to a sudden halt :lol: .


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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 09:08 
Alison H wrote:
It's also quite possible that EBD did intend them to have deep meanings, but we can't know that ... but that doesn't mean that we can't wonder :D .
/essay :D



I don't think EBD's intentions matter particularly, and as you say, we can't determine them anyway. There is always more to a text than its author consciously intended to put there - as we've discussed before, it seems to me that there's a deep, rather sad fantasy about being able to collapse, cry and be taken care of, and having all responsibility taken off your shoulders, running through the series, and I don't think EBD consciously put it there. I think it's probably unconscious wish-fulfilment by a woman who sounds as if she had to be self-reliant and independent her whole life, and who couldn't resist continually giving her characters something she longed for. (Also that she views marriage as a matter of 'being taken care of' - Joey's declaration of love to Jack isn't about attraction, but about what a comfort he is to her when she's in distress etc).

I certainly don't think EBD intended Matey to be an obsessive drawer-meddler because she was frustrated at her lack of status, and to specifically enjoy hauling Seniors out of class to put one over on the teaching staff - but it's a reading that absolutely fits with the evidence in the books, and is a really amusing take on her character, especially when I can't imagine anyone else being allowed to continually take girls out of class for a minor reason! :D

To go back on topic, I think it's interesting to think about what illnesses EBD chose to give characters, given how obsessed she is with frailty and disease. At least, I'm interested that she seems to have a more 19thc and slightly romantic/dramatic approach to TB than the one that was prevalent in my grandparents' generation, which was that it was a disease to be ashamed of, associated (however unfairly) with urban poverty and over-crowding. Giving Phil polio seems like a slightly odd decision, given her comparative isolation and the way in which the disease is transmitted, so it's interesting to think about how EBD might have encountered polio when she was writing that storyline.


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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 12:48 
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Thank you, Cosimo's Jackal, I think that was in part what I was driving at - why polio, why then and not even mentioning the issue of vaccination.

I also find it hard to accept that those late Swiss stories were meant to be set in the mid-50s. By then I would suppose EBD's grasp of the CS timeline to be quite loose, but given her attempts at comtemporary slang it would seem that she meant the books to be 'set in the present'. I've never bought the argument that she invented fab, for example, I'm sure she was putting it in as a contemporary reference. I would stll place Challenge in at least the early 60s in feel.


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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 13:54 
Veering to one side for a minute, in Barbara there's an outbreak of German measles and the trips et al are quarenteened at Freudsheim, and Joey is in the early stages of pregnancy.

I know this has been mentioned before, that it wouldn't add to the story to have Joey concerned about the possible damage to her unborn child (although I don;t personally agree with that - I think it could have been an appropriate story-line, if it was handled lightly).

I suppose she chose German measles as an illness with a well-defined time-line, and not being too serious in itself. But then, why have it at all? I suppose to keep Barbara at School and not able to talk to Beth except at a distance. So that episode has a very definite function. But Phil's polio - why, I wonder?


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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 14:11 
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I've often wondered whether Phil wasn't also intended to enter religion - this only happens to Joey's children who've had health problems! But that sounds quite crazy, so I think her illness may have been meant to introduce a note of realism - that Joey did have to face up to some problems in attempting to raise eleven healthy children. After all, it's likely that Elinor would have been familiar with some families who had to face considerable problems with the situation.


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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 14:28 
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I was just going to say the same thing Noreen. It's extremely unlikely that Jack and Jo could raise all their children without some sort of disaster striking in the form of illness or accident, beyond Margot's childhood fragility. Just thinking about a family of eight children I knew well in the fifties and sixties, one child died young of leukemia (which would probably have been totally treatable today) and another was killed in a car accident.

As for why polio - as someone has already said, the threat of it was all around in the fifties, causing the same sort of panic reactions as bird/swine flu, (though not quite as widespread and frenetic since the media behaved differently in those days) and the vaccine was not yet there for public use.

I find it a little hard to see how one could handle a story line about possible damage to an unborn child lightly. Anyway, the link between Rubella and birth defects was only posited in the 1940s. It was not until the sixties that a clear link was accepted, the virus discovered and then later a vaccine developed.

So it is perfectly possible that EBD might have been completely unaware of any connection.

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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 15:37 
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I fully agree that it's unlikely that Joey and Jack could have raised so many children without at least one of them suffering health problems, but I find it strange that it's only mentioned in passing. I always feel as if I'm missing a book in which Phil falls ill, the illness is diagnosed as being polio and we then see Joey, Jack and their other children having to cope with it, and I think that EBD missed an opportunity to show us adult Joey dealing with that sort of scenario.

I know that it was a children's series and she might not have wanted to go too much into upsetting subjects, but we're shown numerous characters, including Joey herself on several occasions, suffering from serious illnesses, so it wouldn't have been out of keeping with the general tone of the books.

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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 17:13 
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In a way, seeing Joey's and others' reactions to Phil's illness, and indeed to her mastoiditis (?), and also how people like Hilda then react to Joey's fears, does bring the illness to the forefront on occasions. No real necessity to go into it more deeply when writing for children.

As to German measles, in the fifties parents used to organise get-togethers with other children if you had it, so they could get it out of the way. My mother certainly did when I was about 8 and caught it. The general population didn't seem to grasp, then, how dangerous it was. And talking of other illnesses Jo's children could have caught, my best friend died, aged 7, of meningitis, another illness that was more or less fatal in the early fiftes. She was there playing one day -and dead more or less the next! It had a big impact on me even at that young age.

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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 17:28 
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How awful, Mary - hugs to your childhood self (and your grownup self too, if needed!). It's natural for children to think that they will never die at all.


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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 18:02 
cestina wrote:
I find it a little hard to see how one could handle a story line about possible damage to an unborn child lightly.


Sorry - it sounds rather callous, put like that and I didn't mean it to. I was thinking more along the lines of having characters say things like, 'Joey and Jack are worried about their baby' (although that would be difficult considering people are only described as 'busy' until the moment when the new one appears!) 'and have decided to consult the Great Doctor X', and then great relief when all is well post-birth, maybe with occasional references to 'you know what we feared for Y'. And so on.

But I take on board what people are saying about what was known about German measles at the time, and given that Elinor was generally behind times in medical understanding anyway, it makes sense - for the time - that it was treated with no concern whatsoever.


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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 21:04 
MaryR wrote:
In a way, seeing Joey's and others' reactions to Phil's illness, and indeed to her mastoiditis (?), and also how people like Hilda then react to Joey's fears, does bring the illness to the forefront on occasions. No real necessity to go into it more deeply when writing for children.


I don't think it's depth that's missing, exactly - just that, even if we don't get scenes of Joey hanging over Phil's bed and praying for her to live, as Madge did with younger Joey, it feels odd that we don't get Joey's reactions, fears etc, while Phil's initial diagnosis and crisis is actually happening, rather than after it's clear Phil will live....? Like other people, I thought for years there was a book I'd missed in which Phil became ill.


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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 21:25 
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Cosimo's Jackal wrote:
I don't think it's depth that's missing, exactly - just that, even if we don't get scenes of Joey hanging over Phil's bed and praying for her to live, as Madge did with younger Joey, it feels odd that we don't get Joey's reactions, fears etc, while Phil's initial diagnosis and crisis is actually happening, rather than after it's clear Phil will live....? Like other people, I thought for years there was a book I'd missed in which Phil became ill.

Me too - and I knew I'd been given a more or less complete set! There definitely feels like a huge chunk of story is missing, as if it was written but then never published or something.

Agree that meningitis was common and deadly back then - my grandmother lost a sister and a daughter to it, within 10 years of each other. When her 3-year-old first became ill in 1942, she knew immediately what it was because her sister had had the same symptoms, but there was still nothing that could be done. She was heavily pregnant at the time and gave birth 6 weeks later - she always said that she had no memory at all of my Aunty Ruth's first few months because she was still grieving for little Hazel, who'd died. I've seen pictures of Hazel taken just days before she died - she was a bonny little thing. It was very quick.

Erysipelas is another disease that was a real killer when EBD first started writing - we've barely even heard of it today, but it's an acute streptococcus bacterial infection. I've a friend who is now retired, she's in her 60s, and apparently her mother lost several siblings to the illness.

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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 22:31 
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Historians are sort-of-experts on erysipelas, like we're sort-of-experts on porphyria! Queen Anne had erysipelas, as did various members of the Hanoverian dynasty of British royals.

Margot, Felix and Felicity all get scarlet fever in Trials, but no-one seems to be seriously worried about any of the people affected: the one who comes off worst is Rosalie, and even with her there are no complications. So presumably EBD was aware of medical advances there, and that it was no longer as serious as it'd been before penicillin was in use.

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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2012, 22:32 
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Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side has a story line about the link between rubella and birth defects - it was published in 1962; Barbara was in 1954.

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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 23 Aug 2012, 16:19 
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If EBD had thought about it at all, she may have just decided that Joey had had rubella herself in childhood, as was pretty likely (it's a very mild infection), so there was no risk to her baby?

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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 23 Aug 2012, 17:08 
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I suspect it just didn't occur to her. Joey - for once!! - isn't at the heart of the action there: the German measles outbreak is just a way of enabling Barbara to be a boarder rather than a day girl.

ETA - come to think of it, I don't think Joey - again, for once!! - was expecting in Barbara. IIRC, Cecil was born, in Genius, in the April of the school year after that, not the April following Barbara which would have been Does It Again. Hilary was the one who was about to have a baby, and she presumably did keep well away from Freudesheim.

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 Post subject: Re: Phil Maynard's polio
PostPosted: 23 Aug 2012, 17:39 
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Kate wrote:
Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side has a story line about the link between rubella and birth defects - it was published in 1962; Barbara was in 1954.


I think the effects of rubella were known about before the 60s. When I was a child & had it (in the 50s), I was kept away from pregnant women. Ironically, the most damage would be done before the woman (in those days) could be sure she was pregant & certainly before she was "showing". The idea of the parteis IIRC was that grirls should get it over with well before puberty (and therefore preganacy). Natural immunity lasts well - 20 or so years after I had a clinical infectio my antibody titre was off the scale. The immunity conferred by immunisation isn't as long lasting.

My sister (Bbess her) had rubella when we were on a caravan holiday in the Lakes. Mother rang the GP & he said to carry on with the holiday but to keep her away from women of childbearing age. Great fun in Keswick in approx 1959.

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