This month the awesome Susan Dennard is hosting a book club for her novel Something Strange and Lovely. If you haven’t read the book yet, I can only recommend it!
This week’s question is:
Do you think, given the time period, Mrs. Fitt is justified in her demands on Eleanor? Why or why not?
First off, I think what Mrs Fitt is demanding of Eleanor is not untypical for the time period. At that time women, especially in the social class the Fitts belong to, were supposed to marry respectably and advance their family’s fortunes in doing so. They also weren’t supposed to have a profession and their reputation was paramount to their future.
So when Mrs Fitt demands Eleanor marry a rich gentleman to save the family’s financial situation, I think she is acting within normally accepted behavior for her time’s society. It reminds me of Titanic, where Rose’s mother insists Rose marry that bad-tempered gentleman whose money could save their family. I don’t think Mrs Fitt is intending to do Eleanor harm, I think she actually thinks she’s doing Eleanor a favor, when it becomes clear that Daniel will not be supporting the family financially (as I’m sure he’s supposed to by that time’s society’s standards).
However, there is a selfish component to Mrs Fitt’s behavior. She keeps spending when the money is (almost) gone and that is not only incredibly stupid, but also shows she’s more interested in keeping up appearances than looking for a solution to the problem which doesn’t involve Eleanor being married off to the next best wealthy gentleman. Mrs Fitt doesn’t make sacrifices herself, yet she asks Eleanor to sacrifice her choice of a husband.
Mrs Fitt is also incredibly snobbish. When she wanted to toss the parasol Daniel had bought for Eleanor I was near tears. I’m sure Daniel got Eleanor the very best parasol he could afford although he didn’t have to (I don’t even want to think about how many hours of work he put in for that money) and it’s just heartbreaking that Mrs Fitt wants to get rid of the parasol because it’s not expensive. That is very telling of her character. She cannot see the value of a gift given of a true heart and how much more precious than anything else that can be. She also doesn’t consider how much effort Daniel put into getting Eleanor home safely, with a parasol; she only cares about the family’s reputation and fears Daniel might become a stain on said reputation.
In the end I find that Mrs Fitt is not justified in her demands on Eleanor. Surely, the society of that time is to be blamed to some extent, for making women pretty much entirely dependent on male relatives/husbands to support them. I also do have some understanding for Mrs Fitt’s personal situation, but I think she needs to grow up and go beyond what she’s always been used to. If she was willing to let go of her expensive and superficial lifestyle I’m sure she could discover the things in life that are more important than money and reputation. It wouldn’t have to be her ruin, if only she was willing to make a sacrifice or two.