Spring Break; My Drawings of Ann Radcliffe Characters; I’m Cold to Shawn and it Bugs Him; the Power Goes Out–and the Water–in an Ice Storm–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke: Or, How NVLD Affected My Life–March 1993, Part 2

Spring Break; My Drawings of Ann Radcliffe Characters

Spring Break was Saturday, March 20 through Sunday, March 28.  I had a lot of homework over the break, including a paper for my Space presentation.  But I also had time to start reading First Love by Turgenev, which I found in the Campus Shoppe in the textbook section, and The Italian by Ann Radcliffe, the same woman who had written Mysteries of Udolpho (from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey).

I drew pictures of the characters.  For The Italian, I based Vivaldi on pictures I found in a World Book encyclopedia article on Italy, and I based Ellena’s nose on a picture of a Grecian nose.  (This matched her description.)

My friend Becky saw the picture of Ellena and said she looked just like Eleni Andros Cooper, a beautiful, Greek character on the soap opera Guiding Light.  I had never seen this woman before.  (Cooper, by the way, was played by Melina Kanakaredes, who later starred in Providence.)  My pictures are below:

 

EllenaSmall

VivaldiSmall

Schedoni

****

I didn’t want to go back to school.  I didn’t know why.  Maybe I was just tired, and one week was not enough rest.  I was sick of my problems.

I wanted a guy, but at the same time I didn’t.  I wanted James, but at the same time I wanted to wait for things with Shawn to work themselves out.

Since Peter and I could now say “hi” to each other again, that wasn’t the spirit-zapper.  The culprit was probably the whole Shawn-situation, from start to present.  As I wrote in my diary, part of the problem was his judgmental attitude about me:

judging me to be what I’m not and/or certainly don’t intend to be, and saying his own opinion of me turns him off, even though his own opinion sounds so faulty to me and to so many others…

but just the fact that he’ll ask me over to play let’s-pretend-we’re-going-out, then tell me, as soon as he’s gotten what he wants, that he doesn’t want me.  How does he expect that to make me feel?!

Then he’ll criticize me for this and that, even when his own so-called ‘advice’ is probably not appropriate or even adapted to me!  How can he know what’s right for me?  I just get so angry.  I cry out to God for help and comfort.

So finally, I was furious at Shawn, which was necessary to help me break free of him.

I was so depressed that I didn’t want to do much of anything, except escape to the world of books.  Except for music, videos and probably writing, no other worlds appealed to me now.  I wished I could put studying and working on hold for a while.

But back to school I had to go.

It was time to apply for a work-study job for junior year.  To apply, you checked off the jobs you wanted out of a list on a form.  I did not check off Food Service.  I preferred the library, but had to apply for two other things as well.

I interviewed for all three.  The two clerical jobs didn’t interest me as much after the interviews.  I interviewed for the library job on April 27.  I was one of the first people to interview, if not the first.  The head librarian said she usually gave the job to the first six people who showed up.  So I was in, and of course, I took it.

It was just what I wanted: a job with my beloved books, where I could do homework when nothing was going on.  When I did have something to do, it usually involved books, magazines or newspapers.  And I could wear whatever I wanted to, even shorts.

****

MTV came out with a new cartoon, Beavis and Butthead.  Ren and Stimpy became more of a kids’ show, and was soon supplanted.

At first, I didn’t like Beavis and Butthead, especially after they executed a grasshopper with a chainsaw and sliced up Beavis’ hand.

I saw the infamous episode which supposedly inspired some kid to set fire to his house, and was never aired again.

It was funny to hear the fire-obsessed Beavis say, “Fire!  Fire!  Fire!”

In another episode, he watched a video of a fire-engulfed guy running down a street (“California” by Wax).  He could only sit there in convulsions.  After the show got censored, he said, “We’re not supposed to say that word.”

The show drew lots of criticism, even though it wasn’t meant for kids, so it soon got censored heavily.  Nowadays, after so many years of shows like South Park, you wonder what the fuss was about, why they gave in so readily to criticism.  So somebody didn’t like the fire references–so frickin’ what?

****

One day, in an 80s flashback show, MTV showed the Police video “Don’t Stand so Close to Me.”  Now I was old enough to understand it, and even knew that “the famous book by Nabokov” was Lolita.

The VJ said that when the song came out, there had been a big controversy about whether or not students should date teachers.  The final decision was that it’s okay if the teacher doesn’t have that student in a class.

This was only one warning sign against pursuing Wesley.  Along with what happened to Craig, there was another: An episode or two of Class of ’96 showed one character sleeping with her teacher and getting in trouble for it.

I don’t know when my friend dated Wesley–it could have been fall semester–but it’s funny to think I had so many warning signs, while she just went ahead and dated him.

****

On Friday, February 12, I wrote in my Media class journal about a new video Clarissa and I had just seen: “Funky Ceili” by Black 47.  VJ’s said the song was popular with young people, though I only heard it on MTV and Chicago’s Q101.

Clarissa and I loved it because Black 47 was an Irish band.  Here we’d just been learning about Irish culture over Winterim, and this video comes on using words like “da,” “porter,” “stout,” and “jigs and reels.”

The music mixed traditional Celtic folk instruments with modern rock stylings.  And the song was funny.  Clarissa and I got to watch the video quite a bit over the next few months.

The song was about the lead singer’s ex-girlfriend.  He lost his job, found out she was pregnant, and had to tell her “da.”  The da gave him two choices: stay in Ireland and get castrated, or go to New York.  (What about a third option: marrying Bridie?)  At least, that’s the story in the song.  The singer lamented over losing Bridie and wanted her to come to New York.

I thought it was sweet; I hoped the video would get them back together; I wondered if Bridie was the girl in the video.

Years later at Summerfest in Milwaukee, though, I picked up another CD by Black 47, and read in the lyrics to “Green Suede Shoes” that “Bridie” got the singer into deep trouble with Bridie and her family.  Also, reading the real story in the singer’s autobiography, showed that the only resemblance to reality was her name.

I’m Cold to Shawn and it Bugs Him

Diary entry for March 30:

12:09am
I’ve, just today, recorded “Jeremy” and “Ordinary World” (the videos), back to back.  Why do I like them so much?  Because they’re me, for one thing.

I like the second one because of Clarissa, first of all, but maybe my subconscious picked up on the personal meaning before my conscious did.

“Jeremy” is me in my childhood, especially elementary school and junior high.  “O.W.” was me right after Peter, but now it’s me with Shawn.

You should’ve seen Shawn tonight at Bible study.  I was half-hoping he would come.  About twenty minutes into it, he came, and I cringed.  I kept my jacket closely wrapped around me in the cold room, to hide my figure.  I had trouble looking at him or laughing at his jokes, especially at first.

Then he started a long speech that started off with, “The big trouble on this campus is acceptance.”  I looked at him as he talked–right into his eyes, because most of the time he was looking right at me.

I remember this more than what he was saying, but I think he was talking about such things as people wanting to be accepted, and people avoiding and not wanting to talk to certain individuals (even then, I didn’t see the connection).

Clarissa tells me that another time, when she thinks I was looking down instead of at Shawn, out of the corner of her eye she saw him staring at me.  Then he saw her, and looked away.  I might’ve caught this, even, by glancing up once.

I never greeted him or said good-bye.  I was thinking and hoping he might either try to talk to me afterwards or call me up later, but it’s 12:34 and he didn’t do either.

When I told a friend my plans to avoid him, she said, Yeah, treat him like you did Peter, and see if he comes after you; if he doesn’t, you’re better off….I think he might.

And she also said, when I said I thought I saw signs that he liked me, “You probably did.”  But she can’t figure him out, either.

Why do I believe him so easily?  I feel so gullible….Once, when I rushed downstairs (where he was) to go to the bathroom, he said “hello” (maybe to be funny; we’d been in the same room for 45 minutes already), and I said nothing.  –12:43am

–1:49am
It doesn’t matter how long you pray, but that you do it and that you get something out of it….

I have to act this way so I can see if Shawn comes after me and proves to truly be my friend.  But I hope he does so soon!

Oh, the agony of my heart, seeing him help Pearl with her crutches without being asked, and hearing them talk about a couple weeks ago when he lifted her scooter out of a snowdrift, with them not being around to tell him a much easier way to do it, pushing a certain button.

Seeing a guy do such helpful things, like when Peter helped the blind girl, seems to be high on my subconscious list of what makes my heart go pitter-patter….

Sometimes, the friends you’re always with know you better than you know yourself, or else why bother asking them what your faults are?  So I trust the opinions of my closest friends.

But Shawn isn’t with me so much, and he’s proven himself and admitted himself to be wrong about me in one way or another, so why trust him over Pearl, Rachel, Sharon or my roommate Clarissa?   –1:59am

Diary entry for March 31:

–12:19am
I saw Peter yesterday [by the Campus Center] and said hi, and I think he smiled and said, “Hi, how ya doin’?”–except I had my headphones on, and I don’t think I caught it in time to answer.

What I want is for Shawn to realize how much he’s hurt me and that it’s going to take something special to fix that.

Tonight at dinner, Shawn was sitting at the same table as I went to sit at.  When I got to my strawberry shortcake, everyone but him and Clarissa had left.  Then she got up, probably to take her tray up.  She thought I might not like being left alone with him.  She seemed to be away for a long time.

After a silent minute or two, during which I ignored him and ate my cake, he said, “So how ya doin’, Nyssa?”

I sat silent for a moment, contemplating whether or not I should answer, then I shrugged my shoulders as a half-answer.  Then, to make sure he knew I had answered, I mumbled, “not too good.”

After all, I’d just come from a meeting with the counselor, which mostly dealt with my relationship with him.

Then Clarissa came back, and she thought he seemed to want to get away.  (She also didn’t see him stare at me during dinner; it seemed to her that he was trying to avoid me.)

He said to her, “Are you going to stay here and keep Nyssa company, Clarissa?  ‘Cause I have to go.”  I grumbled, “Don’t let me keep you.”

Yes, I was offended.  [My translation of it was] “You’re not secure enough to eat by yourself; somebody has to keep you company.”

It’s not just what he said, but a compound of things he’s said in the past in different situations, that gave me such an impression, such an interpretation of what he said now.    –1:03am

My counselor wanted to talk with Shawn to get his side of the story, and he agreed it was a good idea.  He was supposed to show up at one of my counseling sessions, but never did.  He later gave some reasons, I forget what, but it upset me.

The Power Goes Out–and the Water–in an Ice Storm

On Wednesday, March 31, there was an ice storm.  At about 9:30 and right in the middle of the latest episode of Star Trek: TNG, most of the power went out, leaving on only our two desk lights.  Then even they went out.  Soon after that, the water went out because it came from a well and required a pump.  The rooms grew cold.

We all gathered into the suite lounge.  I brought my afghan and can of pop, put away the bag of M&M’s I was eating, and sat on the couch with my rechargeable flashlight ready for use.  Our suitemates put on coats and snuggled into blankets.

Daphne, the RA, got freaked out all alone in her suite, and came over to ours.  My suitemates lit candles, contraband but useful.  A couple of guys dropped by and kept going in and out of the suite.

Some guy we didn’t know looked in the window and said something.  Daphne told Clarissa to shine her flashlight in his face and ask what he wanted.  Clarissa did; he said something else and left.  It was funny.

I’ve mentioned before that Georgina, a sweet and beautiful girl with a gorgeous soprano voice, was unfortunately still hung up on her ex-boyfriend, the brother of my pledge sister Jennifer.  He called and told her about a tornado warning, so we searched for information on the radio.  We found none, so we assumed there wasn’t one.

This was Hell Week; the fraternity and sorority pledges kept shouting their little chants and making noise.  Somebody probably yelled at them to shut up, a common thing.

The ice storm had trampled down a wire, and a transformer blew up.  Only the emergency lights in a few buildings were on.  We were told the transformer probably wouldn’t be fixed until three or four the next afternoon!

We prepared for a night and morning of no electricity or water.  At least Clarissa had two milk jugs of spring water, so we could wash our hands after using the toilets.  The toilets started filling up and getting really nasty.

We played a game called Outburst, then went to bed, Daphne staying over.  I went to bed a little after 12, and had been asleep for about half an hour or more when light woke me up.

Was it morning already?  I looked at my watch–it was only 12:56am!  The power had come back on, after all.  I went and flushed one of the toilets, Clarissa and I plugged a few things in, and we went back to bed.

We expected our classes to be cancelled, the same as for the local public schools, but they weren’t.

 

Index 

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

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Book Review: Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe–Part 2

 

Part 1

Around p. 435: Madame Montoni has met her fate, not by Montoni’s direct hand but indirectly, as she languished from illness in the east turret.  And now her estates have passed on to Emily, making her the next target.

After advising her aunt to give up the estates for the sake of her own life, now that she has the estates herself, she won’t take her own advice: She hopes the estates will be a source of income for herself and her beloved, Valancourt.

But this means that Montoni withdraws his protection from her, while the castle is full of various rough characters, mercenaries who fight battles for whoever sponsors them.  The Italian political system is chaotic at this time, so battles aren’t just a matter for the state.  The state turns a blind eye to sponsors of the mercenaries, as long as they don’t cause too much trouble.

The thought of Valancourt keeps her going through all this, as she deals with terror, apparent phantoms frightening the guards, a siege, and having to run from men who keep trying to grab her in the hallways while the others carouse.

Before the siege she’s sent away to a peasant’s cottage in the countryside, a haven where she makes friends with the teenaged daughter.  But she’s kept under constant guard and finally brought back to the castle again, back to dread.

As I said, the thought of Valancourt keeps her going.  But she has no idea that while she’s shut up in the castle, his fellow comrades-in-arms have lured him into gaming and various other entertainments to get his mind off things.

The funny bit is Annette, Madame Montoni’s servant, a talkative, sweet and dimwitted girl who attends her needs while informing her of the latest castle gossip.  Annette’s informant is Ludovico, a charming household servant who has taken a fancy toward her.

The funniest part is that every time there is some danger in the castle, Emily finds Annette locked up in some obscure room, and Annette tells her that Ludovico put her there to keep her safe.  And now, finally, Emily has met Ludovico, who promises to help her escape.

On page 464, after Emily has escaped the castle, we go to the villa belonging to Count De Villefort, a villa which he has just inherited and by which Emily was freaked out on her travels with her father.  We leave Emily for quite some time to read about new characters, including a Blanche who is much like Emily, and to read endless pages of description of the villa and surrounding landscape.

I suppose the readers of the time loved this sort of thing, especially since they had no photographs or videos, and travel took much more time and was far more wearing on a body than it is in our modern world.

But I find the description to be overwhelming: I have trouble holding the pictures in my head for long, so it becomes more a series of unconnected images which I’m constantly changing through a great deal of effort and re-reading, rather than the full panorama which I’m sure was intended.

Oftentimes I’ll just skip over something because I’m tired of reading the same paragraph over and over for the past 10 minutes.  So I do hope the action will soon pick up again.

Around p. 530: Now that Emily is safely home and has sent for Valancourt, it seems everything should now come together with a happy ending.  But no.

For one thing, there are more than 100 pages left, so unless this turns out like Tolkien’s Return of the King, there should be more plot left.  For another, she discovers that Valancourt has gotten involved in gambling, shady characters from the gambling underworld–and a woman.

She demonstrates that even the dumper–whether in romance or friendship–may seem heartless to the dumpee, but actually be full of grief herself.  She feels she has no choice, as anyone would have to feel, who still loves the person they are breaking off a romance or friendship with.  Otherwise why do it?

Naturally, he is upset; naturally, he tries his best to change her mind.  If a dumpee doesn’t do this, you have to wonder if they truly cared in the first place, and “respecting her wishes” from the outset rather than at least trying to change her mind would seem almost insulting.  But finally he understands why she’s doing it, and leaves her alone with her grief.

This poor girl hasn’t been happy in ages: First her mother dies, then her father dies, then Valancourt is taken from her when they were supposed to get married, then she has to spend months in a gloomy and terrifying castle, and now she loses Valancourt again, but this time for his own sins instead of somebody else’s.

Which is probably why Jane Austen was so ready to parody the book in Northanger Abbey.  The book’s notes have already pointed out two scenes which were parodied in “Northanger”; I’m anxious to re-read those scenes, but have to be patient, because all must be done in the proper order.

The ending of Udolpho takes many pages as more twists and turns keep coming about.  But finally everything is tied up, all the mysteries of Udolpho and elsewhere are explained, misleading information is cleared up, and Emily ends up with her One True Love ™.

And yes, there are plenty more poems and commas, so never fear the lack.  And plenty more faintings by Emily or Blanche, her new friend.

It’s about time Emily got a friend.  Other than chatty servants and nuns, she had no friends through most of the book.

Annette the chatty maidservant could be called a friend, except that Emily kept having to assert her superiority by telling Annette to stop falling for superstitious nonsense, and to get to the point already woman.

Though of course, Emily would never do this meanly, but always with the utmost kindness and grace.

In the last two paragraphs, we discover that there is a moral to the story:

O! useful may it be to have shewn, that, though the vicious can sometimes pour affliction upon the good, their power is transient and their punishment certain; and that innocence, though oppressed by injustice, shall, supported by patience, finally triumph over misfortune!

Well, considering that in real life this often does not happen, and that this is just a novel, it’s hard to say it has shewn or proven any such thing.

And, if the weak hand, that has recorded this tale, has, by its scenes, beguiled the mourner of one hour of sorrow, or, by its moral, taught him to sustain it–the effort, however humble, has not been vain, nor is the writer unrewarded.

Oh, geez, there’s a moral to the story!  It couldn’t have just been for fun: It had to “teach” us something.

…Though, yes, come to think of it, I did read it the first time after a breakup from a boyfriend…

and the second time after a breakup from a best friend…

so it did in fact beguile me during many hours of sorrow…

and maybe it did sort of teach me to sustain it….

Oh, bugger all, it has successfully conveyed its moral to me.

These 672 pages have been enjoyable over the past 6 months, re-reading a book I first read in the winter or early spring of 1992.  Back then it was a very old copy, found in the college library, actually two little red hardback volumes, now one big paperback by Oxford World’s Classics.

I look forward to seeing (again, after many years) how Jane Austen skewers them in “Northanger Abbey.”  Well, that is, after I first read the 20-page introduction by the editor.  I didn’t want to read that until after reading the book….

[1/2/11]

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Book Review: Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe–Part 1

Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe; review posted to my Facebook friends between July 2010 and January 2011, in the first throes of my grief over my ex-best friend:

p. 5: Ann Radcliffe loves talking about the “sublime” in her works. I just read the word twice in the same paragraph. It brings to mind this video from college:

Nearing p. 100: It amazes me how, lately, the books I’m reading keep matching my mood.  I read the last chapters of “Gone With the Wind” on the night of a terrible e-mail argument with my former best friend.  I apologized and we tried to patch things up, but it left a pall over the evening, and the next few days as well.

(Incidentally, in an attempt to finally fix things and restore our friendship to the kind and sweet way it used to be, several days later I sent an e-mail–which, unfortunately, got taken wildly out of context and misunderstood, and left me vilified and the friendship in shambles, much like Shirley Sherrod without the later apologies.)

At the same time, in between e-mails that evening, I was reading about Scarlett’s devastating last night before Rhett left her for good.

First Melanie dies, just as Scarlett realizes she loves her and Melanie has been her strength.  Then she finds out that Ashley was only infatuated with her, that his true love was for Melanie.  Then she realizes that her own true love is Rhett, and she’s been terrible to him.

She goes out into the night, which is foggy and appears supernaturally terrifying.  Her long walk finally leads her to her safe place, Rhett–only Rhett is fed up and leaving her.

Now I’m reading “Mysteries of Udolpho,” which–now that it’s finally gotten past the endless landscape descriptions and the plot has started–describes Emily’s grief.

First her mother died of a fever, and now, after a long trek through the Pyrenees, her father has also succumbed to the fever.  She’s grieving the deaths of both her parents.

The author goes into just as much detail about the grief as she did about the landscape, which powerfully brings across what Emily is dealing with.

Not only am I reading this while dealing with the loss of a friendship, but the first time I read it, my first college boyfriend had just broken up with me.  It seems that grief is the same whether it’s over a death, a lost romance or losing a best friend.  And Ann Radcliffe is a master at writing about it.  For example:

Emily sat for some time, given up to sorrow. Not an object, on which her eye glanced, but awakened some remembrance, that led immediately to the subject of her grief.

Her favourite plants, which St. Aubert had taught her to nurse; the little drawings, that adorned the room, which his taste had instructed her to execute; the books, that he had selected for her use, and which they had read together; her musical instruments, whose sounds he loved so well, and which he sometimes awakened himself–every object gave new force to sorrow.

At length, she roused herself from this melancholy indulgence, and, summoning all her resolution, stepped forward to go into those forlorn rooms, which, though she dreaded to enter, she knew would yet more powerfully affect her, if she delayed to visit them (p. 94-5).

p. 131: This book is not all doom and gloom (or landscape descriptions).  Once we got past the trip through the Pyrenees, the plot began to pick up, beginning with the death of Emily’s father so soon after the death of her mother.

She is now an orphan left to the care of her father’s sister, a proud and vain woman who just assumes her niece is a silly, disobedient girl, without even knowing her.

Her father met the young Valancourt in the Pyrenees and approved of him…, but her aunt has made up her mind that he’s not worthy to court Emily.  She takes Emily to a dance, where she discovers Valancourt has also been invited.

He’s dancing with another girl he seems to know, and considering he only just confessed his ardor for Emily and his request to court Emily was only just today rejected by Emily’s aunt, Emily doesn’t know what to make of this.

But the funny part is something my SCA dance practice friends will appreciate: Count Bauvillers, in speaking of the girl Valancourt is dancing with, says,

She is handsome, and her fortune will be very large. I hope she will make a better choice in a partner for life than she has done in a partner for the dance, for I observe he has just put the set into great confusion; he does nothing but commit blunders.

I am surprised, that, with his air and figure, he has not taken more care to accomplish himself in dancing.

It’s good to see that our hero is not painted as perfection itself.  And he has more flaws which show up later.

As for Emily herself, I think she’s meant to be shown as having too much sensibility–which, in those days, meant being enslaved by sentiment and emotion–but so far she seems normal to me.  But then, maybe I’m one of these “sensible” people, too….

“Have you got to the black veil yet?” asks Isabella in the 1986 film version of “Northanger Abbey.”  I have got to the black veil, and it’s on page 248.  We don’t know what’s behind it yet (though I actually remember it from the first time I read it nearly 20 years ago).

It has been encountered and mentioned a chapter or so back, but Emily did not have the courage to lift the veil until now.  In the book “Northanger Abbey,” the conversation goes like this:

(Isabella:) “But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all this morning?  Have you gone on with Udolpho?”

“Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the black veil.”

“Are you, indeed?  How delightful!  Oh! I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world!  Are not you wild to know?”

“Oh! Yes, quite; what can it be?  But do not tell me–I would not be told upon any account.  I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina’s skeleton.  Oh! I am delighted with the book!  I should like to spend my whole life in reading it.  I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.”

“Dear creature!  How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed!  How glad I am!  What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook.  Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries.  Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

“Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them….”

I’ve read “The Italian,” though I haven’t read the other books listed.  I loved “The Italian,” which had a delightful Black Monk character who was also the Grand Inquisitor tormenting the main character and her beau.

And as luck would have it, I read this book about the same time I first saw the videos for “Man in a Box” by Alice in Chains (with a black monk) and “Patient Eyes” by PM Dawn (with a young woman praying in a church, wearing a veil, reminding me of the protagonist of “The Italian”).

I’ll have to read it again sometime, though after I re-read “Northanger Abbey.”

Around page 310: Montoni has begun to show his true colors to Emily and her aunt, who is now Montoni’s new bride.  Turns out his supposed riches are nothing but show, because of his heavy debts, and he thought Madame’s own wealth would put him back on solid footing.

But her riches are not what he expected, either, so he wants to marry off Emily to the highest bidder.  First he promises Emily to Count Morano (despite her refusals, based on her love for Valancourt), but he discovers that Count Morano has money problems as well, so at the last minute he packs Emily off to a distant and crumbling castle.

Count Morano tries to steal Emily away, using a secret passage which leads into her bedchamber–a passage which, naturally, causes her constant worry, but Montoni refuses to move her.

When Montoni discovers Morano in her bedchamber, they fight and Morano is mortally wounded.  Now Emily wonders what will become of her, while Montoni insists that his wife sign away to him the estates she kept to herself in the marital contract.

Because of Montoni’s cruelty, his wife hopes to get away from him; she refuses to sign away the estates, so Montoni threatens to lock her in the east turret.

Emily intercedes with Montoni for Madame, since Emily is the virtuous, pious heroine who can put aside the fact that Madame has been mistreating her.  But he says,

She suffers by her own folly, and is not to be pitied;–she knows how she may avoid these sufferings in future–if she is removed to the turret, it will be her own fault.  Let her be obedient, and sign the writings you heard of, and I will think no more of it.

How like the classic abuser he speaks!  The abuser doesn’t see fault in his own self, but blames the victim for his own rages, threats, curses, put-downs, beatings, or whatever he has inflicted on the victim.

And if she does give in, he will rage at her again over another incident later on.  Fortunately, Madame is too stubborn to accept the blame.

But for those of us who are more willing than Madame to find fault in ourselves in general, such emotional blows worm their way into our psyches until we start to believe that we are to blame, even though we know we are not, that only the abuser is responsible for his own lack of control over himself.

And of course, the abuser refuses to apologize, thinking he has done nothing wrong, that the victim needs to “obey” or “grow up” and accept the responsibility and consequences for “her own behavior.”  I know these charges all too well from past abusers, and how they cut into your mind and heart and will not let go.

Montoni’s character is, unfortunately, all too realistic, even though most of us don’t have elaborate castles in faraway lands or bands of followers to do our bidding.  His evil is far too common even among everyday, ordinary people.

Emily advises Madame to give in because of Montoni’s temper, but she will not budge.  The author represents it as a stubborn character failing, a lack of good judgment.  I’m torn as I read this.

On the one hand, yes, it is true that land is not worth throwing away Madame Montoni’s life, and not giving in will lead to Montoni’s vengeance.  She will probably die in that turret.

Still, how can anyone tell her the best way to deal with her tormentor?  If she gives away that land, she won’t have the proceeds to live on after escaping and legally separating from Montoni.  She could escape her abuser, only to end up in poverty in a time when ladies like her were not supposed to get a job.

On the other hand, abuse targets are warned that giving in to an abuser’s threats, rages and control only leads to more and worse abuse, because the abuser now knows he/she can get away with it.  I have seen firsthand that there is no way to win when dealing with an abuser of any type.

When I refused to give in to my abuser’s tyrannical will, back in college, he raged at me and cut me down, trying to break my will.

Another abuser’s spouse started giving in to the rages; the rages keep happening, and the abuser keeps chasing away any of the spouse’s friends who see him/her for what he/she is.

Emily believes that there is no way Madame can escape the castle, so she must give in.  But I think that Madame should take any chance she can to escape–along with Emily, whom Morano claims is also in danger, though Emily doesn’t know how.  Escaping the abuser is the only way either of them can get out of this.

But–as if Radcliffe meant a metaphor for the domestic abuse victim who is trapped by financial circumstances, wanting to keep a family together, or even strong and fervent love despite all the abuser has done–Emily and Madame are trapped inside a crumbling, drafty castle in the middle of the Apennine mountains, with a tyrant.

Steve Taylor’s “Svengali” says, “He’ll try to steal your body but he can’t touch your soul.”  However, even if Montoni can’t kill their bodies, he will murder their souls with psychological torment that will break them apart.

Run, Emily and Madame!

But, of course, shortly afterwards, Madame is locked in the east turret, and Emily doesn’t know what has become of her.  She strongly suspects Madame has been murdered.

On page 336, when Emily hears a “chorus of distant” voices from within the castle, she asks Annette, who says it is only Montoni and his guests carousing.  Emily’s response is

can this man’s heart be so gay, when he has made another being so wretched; if, indeed, my aunt is yet suffered to feel her wretchedness?  O! whatever are my own sufferings, may my heart never, never be hardened against those of others!

And Emily is so right.  I have seen people rejoice in deliberately hurting others.  This is considered one of the signs of abuse.  For example, from Patricia Evans:

Why does it seem that after he abuses me verbally he is happy, like he feels relieved? Also, he will act like it never happened. It’s like he has no memory of it….

This is what verbal abusers do. Verbal abusers almost universally act like nothing happened, like they feel fine and the relationship is fine.

This is because they feel they have more control. Maybe they got you to back down, believe them or doubt yourself.

If you doubt yourself then you might go with what they tell you, be more compliant and more slave-like. This makes them happy.

 

To be continued…..

 

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