Last night we had our second of three discussions on George Gissing’s The Odd Women (my notes from part 1 are here). We talked about important topics such as:
- How does Gissing feel about his female characters? Does he like them? Are they caricatures? And specifically, how does he feel about working-class women? Is the book ultimately hopeful about the odd women finding purpose and happiness?
- Who are the most redeemable and positive characters? (At the moment, Mary Barfoot, Mr. and Mrs. Micklethwaite.)
- Is Monica’s marriage a cautionary tale? Was she right to leave her job and was Widdowston a viable alternative?
- How scandalous was Everard’s “free union” proposition (e.g., Rochester’s offer to take Jane Eyre as his mistress, Mary Wollstonecraft’s tumultuous life, etc.)? And how repentant did Everard seem when discussing his scandalous past?
- Where does Rhoda’s passion for her social reform come from since she is also unsympathetic to anyone who won’t adhere to her code (e.g., the young woman she turns away who later dies of suicide)? Was her fight with Mary caused by the same things as her fights with Everard? And is Rhoda an example of what literary scholar Laura Wexler called “tender violence“?
- How did the language in Monica and Widdowston’s wedding scene reference virginity?
- What is the book’s political message and is it uncut by Gissing’s artistic choices (e.g., whose point-of-view we get)?
For next week, I want to know if Everard truly changed. Will Rhoda agree to “a free union”? Will anyone find happiness? Will Virginia say, “Screw you all” and go read “feebler fiction” and drink brandy? See you for our conclusion Monday!