Three Novels of Love-Compact Edition-Volume 5-The Dark Flower, Beyond, Saint's Progress
“The Dark Flower:-
The dark flower as a concept used in the title and elsewhere in the work by the author is symbolic of passion, not represented by any particular flower but by the dark colour representative of the dark area where a person's reason and other sights of consciousness...”
“The Dark Flower:-
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The dark flower as a concept used in the title and elsewhere in the work by the author is symbolic of passion, not represented by any particular flower but by the dark colour representative of the dark area where a person's reason and other sights of consciousness fail to guide one, and a dark force pulling and pushing one takes over.
Galworthy here takes stages of an artist's life, symbolised by three seasons (he refrains from exploring winter as a season for passion, leaving one to imagine that one is finally settled into one's marriage and not available any more for passion outside it), and the passion is of the variety not likely to come to a happy solution all around, hence dark all the more.
Over and over there is characterisation of English life as that bound by "good form" when freed from other bindings such as those of religion, and thus not allowing the freedom one speaks of or assumes for a person and especially an artist or thinker when it comes to passion.
The tale begins with an involvement of spirit between young Mark Lennan and his teacher's wife Mrs. Stormer whose husband, a don at Oxford, is far too dry and intellectual to answer his wife's needs of love and adoration but is rather more likely to deal with it by humour and standing aside in spite of awareness of it. Sylvia, the young fair girl Mark has protected and known since his childhood, solves the dilemma for the older woman (who is really young by the standards of today but was a century ago looking at her last chance for romance, passion, beauty in life at mid thirties), by simply coming to her attention as a younger person on the horizon who might not be an equal opponent but is simply younger.
Mark is not involved with Sylvia romantically yet, and goes on to become an artist, and happens to subsequently meet and become involved deeply with a young married woman desperately unhappy in her marriage in spite of wealth and respectability, with most of the involvement consisting of an innocent - by today's standards - togetherness and a passionate awareness of one another that is clear to everyone around. With a husband who is just as passionately in love with the wife as Mark being in the picture, and violently jealous one at that, it is bound to end in a separation, and one expects a chase when the young woman in question make sup her mind to go away with Mark. But the end of this part comes rather suddenly and shocks one, being so at odds with what generally one is led to expect of an English spirit. Then again, of course, the husband is characterised long before that by the wife's uncle musing about his being an adopted heir to his father and hence an unknown factor, unlike Mark whose very deep propriety in his following the form is observed and satisfactorily so by the uncle.
The autumn chapter brings a stormy turmoil of an involvement with an illegitimate daughter of a schoolmate to Mark's life and threatens to destroy the peace of his now wife Sylvia's life and mind, and while he is tossed about in this storm seemingly far more, the concern and responsibility for Sylvia who is more than only a wife but rather the innocent person he is used to protecting since she was small, brings him to port to safety. The end is abrupt, since one is rather led to expect a chapter on winter, but perhaps the author could not imagine passion in winter and made subtle allusions to Sylvia asleep by fire to indicate that would be the winter of life of Mark Lennan.
A slight lessening of quality of Galsworthy comes about by the usual excuse to the passion inappropriate to age being led by the woman in question, and while it might be likely in the first it is a very transparent excuse in the last, a bit reminiscent of the far more unpleasant Nabokov. It is always possible of course, only, with the striking beauty of the young girl in question, one wonders if it is due to her being an illegitimate and therefore hidden daughter of a not very high caste English man that she is thrown on the society of a man in his mid forties and being the one to take a lead in the affair, declaring her passion and holding on and so forth rather than being one to be surprised by his declaration of love and considering it for reasons of her situation in life. It does not quite fit except as an excuse for his passion to be reconciled with his status - he cannot offer her marriage and a safe home and respectability, being married - and thus must be propositioned rather than the one to lead. Thin excuse, at that.
Spring and Summer are haunting parts, with autumn rather more troublesome and stormy with one wishing he would sooner come to his senses. Perhaps it could not be otherwise in any way, but with quality of Galsworthy's works in general one goes in expecting him to do better, and is a bit disappointed. Still, all in all perhaps it forms a work preparatory for the far more satisfying and wonderful Forsyte Saga and Forsyte Chronicles, and perhaps it ought to be read before them, not after.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Reading Galsworthy brings a kaleidoscope effect after a while with themes and characters familiar yet not quite the same, and of course the every living beauty of countryside.
In Beyond he centres it on the father and daughter duo, the daughter born of love and claimed jealously by the father post death of the mother and the husband of the mother, with great care to avoid any blame for the mother but only until he could claim the daughter. The theme explored is love and marriage, togetherness and solitude, in marriage and in a live in situation.
A virile male might corner a young woman as a great serpent would a rabbit, and gain her hand in marriage or her body for his pleasure, but love is another story. If she is not in love with him, all the social propriety and financial security and all her compliance with his needs will yet not make him happy; nor will another younger woman with all her beauty and her being desperately in love with him if he is not in love with her.
Gyp's father is able to live on his memories of the only love he ever had, Gyp's mother, whom he saw but rarely during the one short year they had together; his life is devoted to his daughter and he is happy in his memory of his love, his integrity and faith with his love and his creed, his utter love for his daughter.
Gyp has inherited the integrity and the nobility of character, and the immense capacity for intense love, but love has its own life and cannot be summoned like water on tap. She is cornered and unable to escape the attentions of the handsome artist Fiorsen, but with all her will to go forth is still unable to love him, and is only able to comply with his needs and take care of him and home. This is not good enough for the artist who knows what love is and knows too that the wife does not quite love him, he does not have her heart. His dalliance with a beautiful young dancer brings danger and shame to the women and no solution for him, either, until it is too late for him to have another option - and even then it is a falling backward into something available rather than appreciation of what he has or had.
Gyp finds love unexpectedly after she has left her husband for sake fo protecting their daughter - the husband couldn't care less for anyone other than Gyp, and not only antagonises her relatives and what few friends she might have, but is callous enough that he terrorises their daughter and hurts her physically while she is still a baby - and Gyp lives in an era when separation was social stigma enough, divorce difficult and often impossible if the partner did not comply. She realises her love is all to her, is fortunate enough to be given her daughter back after being kidnapped by the husband to blackmail her into returning, but the interlude of her bliss with love is short lived albeit as deep and complete as her father's.
It is not that the man who loves her is short of courage to love, or any the less in love, or likely to tire of her, or any of the possible dire disturbances to love and bliss whether marriage is possible or not. It is that even with the best of all circumstances - her father supports her socially, she cares not a fig for other society, she is financially independent, they live in seclusion in country and he works three days a week in town - still, there are other possibilities of a wedge, and he is young enough to not avoid it soon enough.
As the author clarifies, the distant cousin is familiar enough that her society is not avoided before it is too late and not close enough to be a sisterly repugnant association, and while Summerhay sees the justice of Gyp's need of him avoiding the cousin and other such temptations, he does not see how he can or why he should, since his love and faithfulness are entirely with Gyp, the love of his life.
This tragedy could in life draw on and exhaust the people concerned; the author's narrative turns to another twist reminiscent of Summer part of The Dark Flower, and Gyp remains the fortunate tragic heroine albeit not quite as artificially forced so as Anna Karenina - she has read it and cannot understand why Anna is unhappy due to social stigma and forced reclusion status, she is all too happy to be not required to be social and to comply with necessities of formality, happy to be with her love and with nature, books, music, and her daughter. She thinks unhappiness of Anna Karenina is forced as moral lesson to comply with social need, and in this she is not incorrect. But life and love and one's nature is another story, and such happiness or love as one may find might be disturbed by a thousand factors in as may ways, albeit it has little to do with being married or single or living together in perfect situation where only the two people matter.
One keeps being reminded of various other works of the author, and the similarity of characters or their situations - Soames and Fleur of Forsyte Saga and its sequel, Charwell sisters of Forsyte Chronicles, Summer part of The Dark Flower, and bit of The Country House as well, with a ghost of Irene in background (art, music, taste, integrity of a sort, passive softness, ...) - and yet here too the characters and their story do manage to make a mark individually.
Monday, November 11, 2013.
Galsworthy touches real ground of the time and place in this work more than his usual - which is beautiful dreamy landscapes and problems of heart, of individual travails of love, and of individual rights, especially those of women, and conflicts thereof with social norms and rules. All of which appears here too, in a central way and surrounding every character, every other problem. But the main theme is something we all are familiar with - the devastating and at the same time liberating effect of the first world war on lives, especially in Europe.
The first and foremost effect was the growing awareness amongst the young who paid the greatest price for the war with their lives and love and marriages and more, of future and children and limbs and lives disrupted, that one really could not trust norms of expectations any more, one could not trust time and social rules and life, and life was to be snatched here and now whatever way possible. Young people refused long engagements and if they did not, often they paid the price with the boy dead and the girl left alone for life. Lucky were the brides that conceived before their men went to the war. Not so lucky were everyone else.
So young couples denied a quick marriage could part with death looming, or snatch a few moments of love before that, and the latter resulted in what the then society stupidly called war babies. Babies and innocent no matter what and in this situation so were the parents, and the real guilt of stupidity lay with those elders that refuse to let them marry before the boy went to the war. Young were correct in this and the elders wrong in every way.
This work is about the devastating effect of just such a situation on a family and other people related one way or another to it - the young girl in love and the young boy about to leave for the war in a couple of weeks, the priest father of the girl who considers a quick marriage unwise and refuses to consider it and expects them to come to their senses and wait, the death of the boy very soon in the trenches and the pregnancy of the girl (who is wisely pointed out by a cousin that this means she has not lost her love after all, and has him with her as the child), the effects of this on the girl and much more so on her father the priest who is the titular saint that progresses from refusal to see facts and horror of the situation to fierce protective attitude for his daughter and her baby son, to more.
Nature's beauty here is not missing, but rather more of London in wartime than of English countryside, the usual favourite of Galsworthy. And he shows his mastery in this too, with poignancy of the story reflected in the moonlit Thames and the dark parks and the flowering trees of London.
Monday, November 16, 2013.