Thursday, October 20, 2011

10/20 - Make Way for Feministes

We finally get a batch of letters that constitute a slight improvement over the usual lot recently. I predict that the first letter may well start a most interesting thread at Feministe, where there was recently a good discussion of the letter from Virgin-Seeks-Same's-Misleading-Fiancee. Some posters appeared to be the type of judge who would think decapitation a fitting punishment for a non-renewed dog license, but degree is not always the easiest think to settle. Some time before that thread, they had a long thread about adoption, in which it seemed that there might have been a plurality opinion that adoption is "worse" than abortion. (I can see easily enough how there might be a higher likelihood of regret among those who choose adoption than among those who choose abortion, but not all regrets are equal, and it is not easy to weight the positive outcomes.) That would seem to bode not-so-well for LW1's sister, but LW1 is S*-shaming, which should make for quite an interesting thread.

L3: He still has patients? This reminds me of Miss Marple in They Do It With Mirrors, in which she recounts how Edgar Lawson reminds her of a young dentist in practice with his father. When the old man's hands began to shake and patients preferred the son, he was so upset by how this hurt his father's feelings that he began to act drunk. Unfortunately, instead of their going back to the father, they went to the rival dentist. Not a very close analogy, but this is really a technical question.

L4: Some credit to the Prudecutor for recognizing that Disneyland is the root of all evil, although at least the original is vastly superiour to the Florida knockoff. If it will make LW4 feel any better, I doubt her or his immortal soul hangs in the balance of this potential lie, but I am inclined to give LW4 a few props. Advertently or otherwise, LW4 has called to mind Ring Lardner's story The Caddy, to which I believe I have referred on a previous occasion. Our narrator feels put upon when bank executive Mr Thomas calls upon him to lie in order to earn his quarter tip, as if carrying the bag with five heavy wood clubs that haven't been used in twenty years weren't enough. He doesn't mind telling Mrs Doane that winter rules are in effect so that she can take a preferred lie as she smiles at him and calls him her pal, but later feels troubled when he kicks her ball out of a rut to help her win a dress in a bet rather than have to pay $50 for it. When he wonders to his fellow caddy why Mr Thomas and other bad golfers cheat, his friend takes the view that it's more that good golfers can't; if they take two putts on a hole and make a par 4, they can hardly claim a score of 3, whereas a hacker can turn an 8 into a 7 with much greater ease. Towards the end of the story, the club champion, who was beginning a nice little career at the bank, absconds with $8,000 and a blonde secretary. Our narrator hears Mr Thomas and the other luminaries of the club regretting how Charles Crane has sold his soul. But the narrator thinks he got a good deal out of it, comparing $8,000 and a swell blonde to Mrs Doane not having to pay $50 for Miss Rennie's dress, or Mr Thomas claiming a lower score in order to finish joint first net on the back nine of a club tournament instead of second, and therefore winning nine golf balls instead of six. But his friend counters that, if he were to point this out to them, they would retort that, when he lied about Mr Thomas taking four shots to reach the green instead of five, he was selling his soul for a $.25 tip, or, when he kicked Mrs Doane's ball out of the rut, for a smile.

Unfortunately, as for LW4 wondering whether to die on this particular hill or not, (s)he loses a great deal of credit. Ar Dr Schlessinger frequently pointed out, upon which hill one happened to be willing to die was a personal and independent decision, and there is no point in LW4 expecting the Prudecutor to tell her the answer.

L2: Here I shall not bring up much of an analogy, but I shall point out the one thing that stood out for me in this letter. The two leaders went to LW2 and asked LW2 to remove his/her daughter from the troop because the daughter made an unkind remark to one of their daughters. The Prudecutor completely misses the boat on this one. Clearly the line for LW1 to have taken would have been to ascertain the strictness with which said Zero Tolerance Policy for Unkind Remarks had been enforced on previous occasions. Actually, now that I think of it, it's a bit like the recent case in Texas in which a male high school cheerleader was kicked off the squad, supposedly over a same-sex kiss which appeared on a security tape (why the tape was viewed being open to interpretation) when pregnant cheerleaders somehow have not violated the school code of conduct for the squad (and we say nothing about opposite-sex kissers). It appears that the school is now claiming that the dismissal had nothing to do with the kiss and that the parents accept this (how much if anything this might have cost again being open to interpretation).

L1: Now, the Prudecutor was actually doing rather well. She had a little fumble early on, stating with her usual prude-coloured glasses firmly in place that S1 made her decision on the basis of the life she would want to give her child. Possible. Clearly not disproveable on what we have. But certainly it is an Unwarranted Assumption, which comes perilously close to steering the reader into sympathy with LW1. But she righted the ship amazingly well and then proceeded on quite a good course. LW1's opinion is irrelevant, appropriate language, the evils of LW1 as a caretaker, and No Birth Mother Unchanged (true enough if not absolute). So far, so good. Perhaps a bit could have been added to the reference to entitlement, as LW1's definition of the same was certainly rather curious. And then, at the critical moment, the Prudecutor could not help herself:

But her choice does leave me thinking that when the time comes and she is ready, she will be a wonderful mother.

How on earth can the Prudecutor feel at all confident in such an asseriton? At least she does not say that she knows this. It would have been reasonable to say that one might feel more confident than usual, if S1 maintains her stance against such strong opposition from LW1 and F1, supported only by BF1, that the decision is more probably the correct choice for her. Far better to have ended this letter with reflections on LW1's future character as an aunt.

In Miss Austen's day, open adoptions seemed if anything rather more common than they are now, although the children in question more often went to family connections and the legal ramifications were considerably more loose. One of Miss Austen's own brothers provided a case in point. The whole of Mansfield Park begins with and concerns a sort of open adoption, when Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, urged by Mrs Norris, agree to undertake the raising of their niece, Fanny Price.  And a closer example to the modern day is provided in Emma. While we not only have the secondar example of Jane Fairfax being raised by her father's friend Colonel Campbell, there is the case of Frank Weston being so avowedly adopted by the Churchills as to take their name. The practice raises dual opinions in the bosoms of John and Isabella Knightley when, some twenty-odd years later, Frank sends his father's new wife a handsome letter on the occasion of the marriage. Isabella cannot imagine a child being taken from parent and home, and, while she is puzzled that Mr Weston could have borne to part with the little boy, she mainly cannot think well of anyone who could propose such a scheme. John counters that noone ever thought well of the Churchills, but his main opinion is that Mr Weston could not have felt what Isabella would have done in giving up one of her children.

Moral:  "Mr Weston is rather an easy, cheerful-tempered man, than a man of strong feelings:  he takes things as he finds them, and makes enjoyment of them somehow or other, depending, I suspect, much more upon what is called society for his comforts, that is, upon the power of eating and drinking, and playing whist with his neighbours five times a week, than upon family affection, or anything that home affords."

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