Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Victorian Short Stories of Troubled Marriages

Victorian Short Stories of Troubled Marriages
authors: Rudyard Kipling, Ella D'Arcy, Arthur Morrison, Arthur Conan Dolye, and George Gissing.
4/5 stars

This is a selection of five short stories with the common theme of unhappy marriage. As they are all five written during the Victorian era, they give the reader a good picture of what was and was not considered tolerable by social mores in a marriage of that day. For that historical purpose alone, there is much value to reading this collection. Some of the stories are particularly well written as well, though, given the collection even more merit.

THE BRONCKHORST DIVORCE-CASE By Rudyard Kipling (published 1884) 1/5 stars
"Bronckhorst was not nice in any way. He had no respect for the pretty public and private lies that make life a little less nasty than it is."

Mr. Bronckhorst was verbally ugly to his devoted wife, making her life a misery and degrading anything that gave her pleasure. When another officer, Biel, is kind to his wife in public, Bronckhorst bribes his servants to give false testimony and takes Biel to criminal court for dallying with his wife. His friends call a man they known named Strickland to come and take care of the situation with the native servants, which he does, and Bronckhorst hasn't a shred of contrived evidence left. Mrs. Bronckhorst stays devoted to her husband and they leave India and return to England.

I can't help but think that the character of Strickland must have been known from other stories, because otherwise his appearance and working of miracles makes no sense. As it is, without any background knowledge, this is a very weak story. The marital dynamics are glossed over and the entire point seems to be about Strickland's genius. With the exception of a few well written lines, like the one quoted, it is a very unimpressive story.

IRREMEDIABLE By Ella D'Arcy (published 1893) 5/5 stars
"Every affront or grievance, real or imaginary, since the day she and Willoughby had first met, she poured forth with a fluency due to frequent repetition, for, with the exception of today's added injuries, Willoughby had heard the whole litany many times before."

This is a well written story from beginning to end. D'Arcy describes her characters and their emotions effortlessly and intimately. The plot is gripping and emotional. The reader watches as Willoughby makes the mistake that will cost him his happiness, an inappropriate marriage, but D'Arcy's writing keeps the reader still hopeful til the last heart wrenching sentence. After reading this story, I most certainly am going to search for more of her work.

'A POOR STICK' By Arthur Morrison (published 1894) 4/5 stars

This story is a quite different from Morrison's detective fiction (Martin Hewitt, Investigator) and shows an emotional range I would not have expected, having read the other first.

Mrs. Jennings is a no-good woman who doesn't keep house or take care of the children and is often off drinking. Mr. Jennings "never grew out of his courtship-blindness" and wouldn't hear bad spoken of her; he just came home from work and did her duties as well as his own. His devastation when she runs off is sad to see, and Morrison does an excellent job of portraying the broken man.

THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE By Arthur Conan Doyle (published 1897) 3/5 stars
This is another of those Holmes tales where the great detective solves this, that and the other through his knowledge of things like train schedules and wine vintages. While I admire Doyle's often complex mysteries, his way of solving them has always been annoying.

The marriage element enters through the victim and his widow. He is found dead and she states that thieves broke in, tied her up and bashed in her husband's head. Holmes not only comes to the truth of the matter, but chooses to play the part of the law as well. It's an average story, with the solution no surprise except for how Holmes gathers and deduces his evidence, generally unknown to the reader.

THE PRIZE LODGER By George Gissing (published 1898) 4/5 stars

This short story is a study of vanity and it's effects. Gissing, while not using a lot of detail, still gives a solid picture of both parties, and Mr. Jordan's emotions in particular. The ending is somewhat amusing, as Jordan has to face his vanity and accept a solution that is destructive to his ego.

~~Read for the Victorian Literature Challenge.~~

No comments:

Post a Comment