Jan Scott

Dec. 13th, 2005 06:13 pm
[identity profile] childeproof.livejournal.com
Jan Scott - gorgeous, glacial Sabrina Fair; psychopathically uninvolved?

I was reading The Cricket Term lately, and noticed particularly Jan's response to Nicola's attempt to thank her for having been kind when N is shocked by her mother's letter telling her she's possibly in her final term at Kingscote. Nicola says (again, I haven't got my copy to hand, so am not claiming accuracy)'Thanks, Jan [...] I know you don't like to be bothered.' Jan is portrayed as being genuinely bemused by this, as apparently she has been by various staff comments down the years to the effect that she is uncommitted, uninterested (plus a couple of adjectives I can't remember). Certainly, she is always portrayed as utterly neutral, apparently contentedly isolated, completely self-reliant. Is she really so unaware of her own effect, given that she is presented as an excellent reader of others, whether Lois's machinations, Nicola's sensibilities, or staff moods?

Also, do we intuit a subtext giving some context for Jan's isolation? I can't remember which novel includes the reminiscence about her refusal to do voluntary weeding and being marked down thereafter as an unco-operative type, but in Cricket Term we get Rowan's brief account of Jan's background (father a surgeon in Lincolnshire, presumably why he doesn't attend the play, leaving Jan to talk briefly to Rowan and make her 'unobtrusive exit') and her apparent motherlessness, with the possibility that the absent mother is not dead but Mad or Criminal, or Adulterously Elsewhere? (A propos of not much, AF can be rather harsh on mothers - Esther's is 'no nicer than Nicola expected', Helena Merrick is a cypher, also disliked by N, Edward Oeschli's mother doesn't come up trumps, Miranda is dubious about her mother, Pam Marlow is another cypher, and Madame Orly is from hell...)

In a set of novels full of characters getting madly involved in everything from the tidiness picture to the diving cup, and where people are continually looking at lists to see if they're in plays or on teams, the only other character who at all resembles Jan for uninvolvement is Latimer, the gorgeous Jersey cow, too lesirely to scold, but both are depicted as admirable.

Anyway, thoughts on Jan?
[identity profile] res23.livejournal.com
Hello all. I'm new here. I posted a comment a while ago anonymously as a response to another post, but hadn't realised that people don't really go back and continue older discussions. So now that I've got a proper log-in name and can start a new post, I thought I'd copy it here.

I've just been on a re-read of my books, and something struck me about the Marlow parents - they don't actually seem to know their children all that well. Maybe it's just a generation gap, or mabye it's because the children are away at boarding schools so much, or maybe it is something about their characters - they are not very observant or involved parents, at the least.

For example: Mrs Marlow gives the twins the lovely party dresses in Run Away Home, because (paraphrasing) "Karen/Rowan(?) commented how awful it must be for the two of you always having second-hand clothes". Why was it one of them who needed to point that out? Surely any fairly obvservant parent might have noticed that fact herself? Another example: When she writes to Nicola about leaving Kingscote, while she knows Nicola enough to know that she's the more sensible one and the better choice to have to leave, she doesn't really know how Nicola will react - again, it's Rowan who tells her Mum that Nicola would rather know if it was a possibility. Even back in Autumn Term and the twins are describing the Court of Honour, it's one of the others (can't remember who) and not the parents, that "suddenly sees how it had been", how the filthy full dress and formality of it all had made Lawrie tearful and Nicola tongue-tied, and the parents have to have it spelled out. It's Ann who notices that Nick is upset by the other laughing at their efforts to be credits to the family. There are various other examples as well, including some about the other children, where the parents ask "dumb" questions and the other children fill them in on what the other one is thinking or feeling. I can't think of many right now, as it's the Nick ones that stick in my mind, since I have most sympathy for her being misunderstood, but I remember noticing them when I was reading that it happened to the others as well.

The parents don't seem to have nearly as good a grasp on the emotional lives of their children as I might have expected: they don't know why they're reacting in a certain way, they don't see beyond the surface, they aren't as good at predicting how a particular one will react, etc.

On the other hand, I have never been to a boarding school, and I've never had children, so the separation from the parents/lots of time spent with sisters, and the generation gap, might have much stronger effects than I realised, and maybe it's not specially the parents' fault.
[identity profile] carmine-rose.livejournal.com
I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on the fair/unfair treatment of the Marlow young by their parents. I'm thinking specifically the treatment of Nicola by her parents/mother in Cricket Term. Is there anyway this could have been handled better? Should it actually have been Nicola who was going to have to leave? Should they have told her or dropped it on her in the summer holidays? Should they have removed all the girls, or perhaps just both twins?

For that matter, should Lawrie have been given the Prosser? (I know this wasn't her parents' decision, I'm just interested whether people think it was a good judgement call on the part of the staff.)

In a similar vein, what about the horse business in Peter's Room? Was it fair that their mother bought Ginty a horse for her birthday, and said no-one else was to ride it? Was it reasonable to buy herself one before ensuring the children all had equal access to a horse for hunting? In effect, she created a situation where one daughter was the only one in the family who was unable to go hunting (without hiring a horse), which seems harsh to me. But then, I'm from a small family where such unequality with gifts never happened - is this normal for a large family? Was Lawrie's reaction reasonable, or did other readers take it as just one more example of her throwing whiny tantrums?

These two occasions seemed to me to best illustrate Mrs. Marlow's failings as a mother (and also perhaps where the children got their selfishness) - I wondered if anyone else felt the same.

Can anyone else think of any other examples of this kind of thing? Or of fairer treatment?
[identity profile] tabouli.livejournal.com
Reading through people's comments on the last post, I found myself musing on the fathers depicted in the Marlow series. Even though none of them play a major role, there's quite a range.

The omniabsent Commander Marlow seems the kind of father who sees putting an expensively framed cabinet portrait of the family in his room as a substitute for taking leave to see them (see also Nicola's preference for a photo of Giles' ship and Nelson over photos of her family members?), but otherwise appears a friendly, no-nonsense sort of fellow. You have to smile at his pragmatic military preference for Nicola's crew cut in Falconer's Lure.

Arguably the most negative depiction of a father in the series is Mr Hopkins. When Berenice proclaims Meg's tormented family life to the masses, Meg shifts from being a workaholic nonentity to a disturbing reflection of her father's abuse, reinforced by his brief, dour cameo near the end of The Cricket Term (in which Forest hints that he also abuses his wife). On the subject of pastoral care at Kingscote, it's faintly reassuring that the school did attempt to intervene on Meg's behalf, even though it didn't succeed.

Mr West is warm and engaging; Mr Merrick is wry and genial, and seems to have a pretty healthy relationship with his son, where Patrick respects the boundaries he sets and wants his approval without fearing him. Our fleeting glimpse of Mr Todd suggests to me a conservative pillar of community type who indulges and secretly enjoys the eccentricities of his wife. Then, of course, there's Edwin, who is the only father whose parenting we see centre stage in the series.

There was a very interesting discussion of Edwin on Girl's Own in 1998 or so, which revealed a divide among Forest fans. Some would have happily had him locked up for the riding crop scene; others agreed that this was appalling behaviour, but allowed him more leeway. He is certainly a stern and authoritarian parent, though when he see him he is under a lot of stress and seems used to being the disciplinarian half of the parental team: see Rose's appeal to Mrs Marlow when he pushes her to stop reading and go outside. I'm not sure what I think of him as a parent, but he's certainly an interesting and complex character.

What do other people think about Edwin, and Forest fathers in general?


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