Morwenna (Jane Wyman) about to be raped by her husband, Osborne Whitworth (Poldark 1977-78, second season)
Near casual execution of a group of men who happen to have Ross among them (also season 2)
Dear friends and readers,
As I didn’t want to make another over-long blog, I’ve divided up what I want to say about this book into two parts (see Part 1). That the first fourth or so of Black Moon showed Graham getting back into Poldark’s Cornwall after a 20 year pause and the second half of the book two central stories made it easy. Graham once half-apologized for the too strong optimism of his Poldark novels; that’s not true here, what happiness people have is snatched from the jaws of death and violence, and the bleak undercurrents of the first four book come into prominence.
I get such comfort from this book. Each night I reach for it – or another by Graham. It’s the ethical awareness of the darkness that does it. One night Jim looked at my Black Moon book and said “you’re coming to the end, what will you do?” I said “Read the next. And I’m nowhere hear running out as yet. As I read a new one I buy the next two books on” [so I’ve just bought Stranger from the Sea) Then I’ll reread them once during the day. And there’s the film adaptation to study a bit too. Not to worry …”
An outline of the whole novel, see comment. For those interested in the mini-series, Season 2, Parts 1-5 more or less correspond to The Black Moon.
Morwenna under strong pressure from Elizabeth Warleggan (now) to marry Whitworth
Book Two, Chapters 4-5: What an arranged marriage means
I left off with Ross ploughing weekly “through the snow and ice to see Aunt Agatha ..” (p. 260)
Graham has brought home to me for the first time the full sense of horrified shrinking away, terror, and then if and when forced bodily disgust a girl forced to marry a man sexually unappetizing (to say the least of it) to her. I’m now aware how in most if not all of these 18th and 19th century novels the novelist does not really imagine the girl going to bed with the guy. The only scene I know where we are invited into the bedroom is George Sand’s Valentine where the girl locks the man out, he gets in, and she jumps out of the window and won’t live with him. It does bring home what’s happening in an arranged marriage (Trollope does say Lady Glencora Palliser was driven like a cow to a stud or some such words but he does not make us feel it).
A great deal of Bk 2 chapter 4-5 is taken up by two stories of experiences happening at Trenwith. Ross continues to visit Aunt Agatha once a week and by his implicitly threatening presence wring better treatment for her: a clean bed, clean room, no smell, attentions. He cannot get her to return with him to his home. We have scenes between them (e.g., pp. 261-63).
Ross (Robin Ellis) trying to persuade Aunt Agatha (Eileen May) to come back to his house and live with him and Demelza; in the film and book Caroline Penvenen (Judy Geeson) comes with him the first time
At Cardew and now at Trenwith intense pressure is put on Morwena to marry Osborne Whitworth. It’s introduced by the scenes of hard negotiation between George and this man. What’s so good is the banal reality of this horror. They haggle and now the price is driven up and now down. George recognizes the man is a shit but he knows he’s a shit too. He even begins “rather to dislike this conceited young man,” but we see George’s desire for the connection overrules all and how he can persuade himself he is doing right for Morwenna because the illegitimate norms encourage what he’s doing (p. 271-72). It’s very ugly.
It’s followed by the scene between Elizabeth and Morwenna pictured above (first still of blog). Elizabeth inwardly (says Graham) sympathized, but hides it. She commits this kind of cop-out complicity throughout this novel. Much evil occurs in the world because people say and do nothing against it. She is driving Morwenna in order to keep her own marriage with George going on the terms it’s started; and when asked if she doesn’t value love she lies: she says she loved Francis and the love was gone in a year. She never did. If she is capable of tender love and affection — or intensely sensual enjoyment — she’s never been sufficiently aroused by a man to keep it up; the sense (I admit) is that night with Ross could have had sequels of love but since he did not return, she never knew anything beyond what she acquiesces with George (pp. 274-8).
Then we have a long letter from Enys (latter part of Chapter 4) which reaches Caroline telling of the prison conditions (pp. 279-82). Most powerful are how it is one of the letters embedded in the novel’s passages about the weather and movement of time. In the earlier novels he had had discipline just to use enough history to really bring scenes alive, now he seems moving towards a geological or deeply felt rhythmic recreation of this older world, e.g,. opening of Chapter 6, p 300. This intermingled with the reports of so many dying in the wars, eg., 276-78. It’s such a passage that introduces Enys’s letter. There are caps here but not so many (they do jar as they would not be used so sparringly).
Back to Trenwith and the Warleggans’ plans. The problem is Morwenna buys into these people’s values;that’s why she cannot fight them forcefully enough. She cannot get herself to be firm in any direction. This is what will destroy her; the brilliance of this is this is the novel shows her her compliance is what people use after extractng it and then blame her for not wanting to keep to it — it’s touched on deeply in Austen’s Persuasion when Wentworth blames Anne for her hesitation, but what she hesitates on is not a direct threat. It’s in fact someone urging her to protect herself by not marrying.
Here the reality of people trespassing on women is felt at its core. In the scene where Osborne now satisfied (just) with his payment begins the first serious “courtship.” They are left alone. It’s in such lines as this:
“Morwenna withdrew her hand. During this avowal [as Osborne asserts “their love will grow”- she had glanced up at her suitor’s face and seen a momentary expression in his eyes that a more experienced woman would have recognized as lust” (Chapter 5, p. 291)
Her reaction does help but not enough:
“She saw it only briefly and as something startling and dislikeable. Stumbling and embarrassed, she began again. Part hostile towards him, part apologetic, she told him that she did not in fact return his sentiments at all, and that she feared she might never do so” (p. 292)
And why not enough because everything around them encourages him to trespass against this no and her to disavow it (including a letter from her mother urging her to marry this prize.) Alas she does not keep to this resolve and by the end of the scene is asking only for time. Austen’s parallel scene in Pride and Prejudice of Collins and Elizabeth lacks this level of apprehension — the anger and threat of Collins does not quite move into the body.
Osborne does see and hear of course:
“there was a core of resolve in this slim, shy girl and that it had to be tactfully overcome before a wedding day could be fixed. For the moment he would have to be content with his sick fancies” (p. 292).
His sick fancies. We are told of Osborne’s first wife that “he had bestowed his attentions on twice weekly [on his first wife] until she died of it” (p. 289)
Then there follows Drake’s first Sunday visit (Chapter 5) to Morwenna and Geoffrey Charles in months: he can visit because George and Elizabeth are not living at Trenwith as yet. Geoffrey Charles longs to see Drake and Morwenna has acquiesced. She tries to elude him. Geoffrey Charles is made more naive than he would be so he doesn’t notice what’s happening. The scene is distressing and moving as the two of them stand there and she feel sin her bones how her family would all be horrified and despise her and yet likes him so. When she sees him “the release, the relief, was breath of life to her” (p. 296). As the moments go on she remembers and they begin to talk, partly facilitated by Geoffrey Charles. She is happier and more herself than she has been for weeks. She then is alone at a door in a corridor with Drake (a rare blessedly un-renovated place) and tries to tell him he must leave her forever. As she will fail to tell Osborne in the next scene she finds it anathema to marry him but only begs for time, here she collapses at Drake’s pressure:
“‘It is all I can tell you.’
‘No … That’s not all, Morwenna. Just — just look at me. Just show me your heart and tell me to go.’
She hesitated and then turned, her eyes blind with tears.
‘Don’t go, Drake … At least no just yet. Oh, Drake … please don’t go …’ (p. 299)
Then the chapter (6) ceases and another begins. As with Ross’s rape of Elizabeth (in Warleggan) and what happened over the course of that night, we are not privy to this. I assume they did have some version of sexual experience but in a corridor by a door with her a virgin, not much could happen. Enough to awaken her, for in the next chapters her blood and feelings are aroused and she cannot dismiss him from her mind.
Trollope has a novel where an aunt drives her niece to suicide (Linda Tressel) by insisting she marry a vile old man; but she does commit suicide first and we never feel she would have gone to bed with him; the emphasis is on the cruelty of the aunt’s bitter denigrations and name-calling of her, resentment and anger that the girl wanted to and would have married a handsome (but we do know alas probably unworthy young man) and hatred and fear of life and sex. Edith Wharton has a young girl in Summer seduced, impregnated and abandoned by a Willoughby type who in the end is driven to marry another vile older man but the novel does stop as she walks up the stairs. I could see Graham is going for the jugular and Morwenna will be coerced into marrying Osborne.
Ross and Demelza’s farmhouse (second season)
Book Two: Tholly Tregirls
Graham invents another new character who will enable him to make his text alive for the 1970s. Ross and Demelza come out of a 40s to 50s point of view. Morwenna, Drake and Tregirls the 70s. He is another ‘ghost returned’ (like Ross), an old friend of Ross’s, this time a disfiguring scar, an adventurer, someone who will re-involve Ross in smuggling — and I suspect the upcoming rescue of Enys (in the air, and anyway I saw the series past this phase). Something more amoral needed you see — as well as genuine stark oppression of women shown. Demelza says any friend of her husband’s is welcome to her house.
Those who know (Ross, Demelza, now Sam) continue to disapprove of Drake’s relationship with Demelza. George a patient man (thinks well of himself — as do many who do evil) has come to understand Morwenna’s intense reluctance to marry Whitwoth and she is given time.
Aunt Agatha’s party to which she wants to invite Ross and Demelza, and Elizabeth (cool as ever) doesn’t see why not.
France invaded which sends some into hoots of laughter.
Meanwhile under Geoffrey Charles’s unknowing eye, Drake and Morwenna continue to meet: “there had been tense, deeply emotional meeting which had matured their relationship as in a forcing house” (p. 319).
The story probably meant as comic of Drake successfully putting another bag of toads in George’s pond and eluding the efforts of George’s hired men to shot to kill him. His forearm badly hurt though, and he must avoid people. A conversation with Demelza where he justifies himself: “I’d believe two people — a man and a woman — in perfect harmony can give more to the world and to God than either of them can do separate” (p. 342)
That’s the way Demelza feels. Reath Cottage the place Mark Daniells built so badly continues to provide a place for some of this; in Graham’s mind this landscape where Enys lived to (the doctor who replaced Enys almost killed Valentine, Elizabeth’s child by Ross whom George thinks his heir — Enys is continually missed as is Francis).
Geoffrey Charles loves Drake because he feels himself rebelling against the cold stepfather who would discipline him and send him away to school (p. 347) and thus delights in the toads put in Geroge’s poind. It is of course sexually symbolic too.
Morwenna’s distress on the beach, Drake holding her (Kevin McNally), Geoffrey Charles watches
Book Three, Chapters 1 – 3: Morwenna and Drake found out
Tholly’s life, Ross meets him, the armies of the counterrevolutionaries have invaded France (Chapter 1), giving Ross his opportunity to sneak in with a band of men to save Enys. It’s obvious from further news the conditions at that prison are mortal for most.
Morwena and Drake are found out (Chapter 2). How: a busybody clergyman seeking to curry favor with George has the courage to tell him. Many know by this time but no one wants to tell as bad messenger. They fear George and Elizabeth remains remote.
The strength of the book comes out: no one is a crazy tyrant, no one is particularly filled with hatred, revenge or anything like that for the young couple, but not one person except Geoffrey Charles shows any effective sympathy. Silently Demelza lets her brother Drake know she understands, but she stands firm with Ross who regards this relationship as a nuisance.
George is cruel and mean in his words to Morwenna, implying she’s sexually unchaste, and has degrading tastes, is ungrateful, disgusting. His first impulse is to tell her she’s to go back to her parents and he’ll tell his great friend, Whitworth as no one would want “damaged goods” (to his credit Graham does not resort to that modern cliche). A long scene before Elizabeth does not evoke one word or sign of sympathy from her. She sees George is angry partly because he longed to go to bed with Mowenna. She hugs her kinswoman but does nothing beyond not corrode her soul further.
Sam, the religious brother, cannot understand Drake; he is given over to Satan it seems, and Sam is so sad that Drake will not come to a giant revival meeting: the methodists are growing apace as conditions become terrible. Drake and Morwenna have one more anguished scene, and we see him alone in Mark Daniel’s cottage hitting himself hard against the wall. Morwenna’s mother writes that she understands meanwhile pointing out all these advantages (like Mrs Dashwood in Austen’s S&S her letter comes after the knowledge of Drake and Morwenna’s meetings has come out).
And Geoffrey Charles, I now realize he is a combination of Francis and Elizabeth’s best qualities but he can’t fight his uncle-father (shades of Claudius): George is glad of this opportunity to send this rival away to school, separate Elizabeth and “make a man of him.” Yes thinks Elizabeth but knows better.
I can see that Elizabeth and Ross could have made a go of it. She would not have softened him, made him enter into the problems of really lower class types (Drake is just learning to write with Demelza’s tutelage) but they would have understood one anther and he would have brought out what was best in her.
She is willing to tolerate Aunt Agatha’s party, not herself spiteful which is at the heart of the way people deprive the ugly very aged of their heart’s desires no matter how foolish or useless. They’ll do it, few will come (most are dead) and it’ll be over inside 7 hours.
In the film Ross with Caroline asks to see George; and servant insolently blocks the way
Book Three, Chapters 3-5: violence the basis of whatever order it is; TV comparisons
As Graham moves into the last phase of Black Moon (phases of the moon strikes me as appropriate to this novel), we have several threads of high violence occurring. One off-stage; the invasion of France by counter-revolutionary armies and what we have heard is going on in Paris in partial panicked response to that invasion.
Ross we know is about to take advantage of this to free Enys: as he (too late) dragged Jim Carter from prison (to die), so he has at last realized the only way Enys is going to live and come back is to wrest him from prison. The prison he’s in is a real one at the time and located in the place it really was.
These two and the third are fully dramatized in the second series: the third is Ross’s visit to George. Ross realizes that the only way he can free Drake from the false trumped-up charge of stealing Geoffrey Charles’s Bible is to see George and ask him to drop the charges. Far from effective, Geoffrey Charles’s efforts are what leads to Drake almost being hanged.
Ross now remembers that going public first is no way to win over power. He was irritated and humiliated in public and anyway would have no ability to save Carter from a poaching charge for the upper class want to be seen to be punishing; they might do under cover what they would not admit to (free a man). The kind of naivete which led him to have a day in court for Jim Carter is gone — Carter was swiftly put in jail for poaching, no matter for what cause he did it and left to rot and die of disease. He thinks to round up friendly lawyers too (he won’t himself argue) but there is no time if he wants to leave for France on Monday. Further this business of depositions and the court scene he knows could go badly for Drake: he himself is not in sympathy with the young man for having courted Morwenna. (More: male-like, he blames her for implied looseness; Drake defends her fiercely but Ross brushes this off.) The upper class people on the bench, with George there, might just declare Drake guilty because they are incensed he dared to visit Trenwith regularly when he knew this was verboten.
(Luckily no one but Demelza knows Drake was the trickster putting toads in George’s pond — a visual pun that has sexual resonance when one remembers that Elizabeth realizes George is so hard on Morwenna because he wanted Morwenna himself.)
So (Part 3, Chapter 4) Ross visits George. Before setying off though he takes a hired gun in effect; his old friend, Tholly Tregirls now helping out the local madam of an unacknowledged brothel, Widow Sally Tregothnan’s “kiddley”. Perhaps too markedly Graham again likens this pair of to Don Quixote (Ross an idealist in his way) and Sancho Panza (Thollys a man of appetite, no morals). He has to force his way in. At first the butler (whom Ross had bullied when he visited the aunt regularly so no friend of Ross) says the master is not there, Ross insists citing he is there as a man of peace on an urgent matter. George of course has his lawyer with him, is sitting in a fine dressing gown, looking very well fed. Ross insists the lawyer leave.
Then the dialogue ensues. I’m not sure it is kept as is in the films though a version of this remarkable scene is there. At first George refuses to listen at all, then he insists Drake is guilty of stealing and to all Ross’s objections, will only parry (Geoffrey Charles is a child, he is taken off and will go to school). Ross realizes that only his original “promise” of their first meeting shortly after the marriage to Elizabeth will do. That is, if George will not act decently, he will counter as strongly — this time with force. Ross cites George’s enclosures, firing people, vicious traps, his whole behavior since marrying Elizabeth as what makes a man enemies; he, Ross, will rouse all to burn George’s house in retaliation. George is stunned:
“You cannot mean that.’ Ross can: “I have not come here to joke.”
George demands that he leave. Ross does (Bk 3, Ch 4, pp. 400-13). In Ross’s conversations with Tholly Tholly has agreed to accompany Ross to France.
We then switch to Trenwith and Elizabeth’s patient exasperation trying to accommodate Aunt Agatha’s demands for her birthday party, including a new dress. We see this first from Agatha’s mind: how Lucy Pike, the maid (whom Ross had to bully to take care fo the old woman) is useless, and how Morwenna was useful but suddenly not around. Then Elizabeth’s shouting her just contained patient replies, and then Elizabeth’s mind. She is upset herself because her son, Geoffrey Charles, is white with rage; he looks to her like Francis used to (p. 416). She foresees a separation from her son.She goes into Morwenna’s room. Morwenna has not slept but has not lost her reason. She is angry that Drake is arrested, at the injustice, and like Ross, asks Elizabeth if she thinks her son is lying; “why will you not accept your son’s word? Is it not enough.” No answer beyond the false: “Of course it will be taken into account.” “But he is not to appear, You sent him away.” Morwenna has not lost her poise. Still I wish Graham had been braver and shown her rocking and crying all the night through.
Elizabeth goes to visit her baby, Valentine, her one consolation: “his dark eyes sparked with mischief and he pulled at her frock and her hair … ” She has contentment “knowing he is hers.” (Not really for legitimately he is George’s.). The paragraph does not register her awareness the child is Ross’s, only her comfort in it (p. 418).
The use of point of view is effective: we then turn to Sam, hard at work in Ross’s mines, his mind troubled for Drake, his religiosity, his prayers, his disappointment in Drake and how he has to go against his principles and pray for Drake’s body to survive. He comes back to the hovel he shares with Drake and cooks and drained, telling himself to search his conscience, sleeps .He is awakened by a harrowed strained Drake. It seems the charges were simply dropped.
So the point is made about violence.
A kind of cliffhanger which I think is the result of (whatever he said to the contrary) Graham for the first time writing chapters in the novel with end of episodes in TV in mind.
Determined to thank Ross, Drake finds him and we see Ross from Drake’s standpoint and then point of view switches. Ross is not sympathetic still, and the experience with George (where George again insulted Demelza and Ross whipped out scorn for George’s lack of ancestry) has shaped his treatment of Demelza who brought these relatives to be his. Drake insists on thanking him and apologizes for his behavior (Ross thinks to himself he’s been to see Demelza that’s why that) and then says he will become a wanderer. Ross points out how that will turn him into a harried beggar, a total outcast; at first scorning the boy’s apparent desperate loss of love and then suddenly comparing hiim to himself, his real love for Demelza which has stayed and hers for him, asks Drake if he will go to France a some of the men, half-hoping from the silence Drake says no. But he says yes.
Ah we are to think poor Demelza, both brother and husband now at risk!
The TV people at the end of the first series did take Ross’s threat to George and made it come true without Ross’s instigation and made it the apocalyse: losing the meaning of the scene but gaining the unusual and leftist-leaning meaningful defeated close.
Book Three, Chapters 6-10: meaningful adventure sequence
I never said Graham can’t write adventure, did I? He certainly can, and he betters Daphne DuMaurier at it. I refer to my posting on Cornish gothic which as a type includes just such sequences as Ross’s leading the riot of the starving against the merchant ships coming into the Cornwall coves and now his leading a small band of men to go with the counter-revolutionary invasion (run by French aristocrats) into the Brittany, and turn off to Quimper All the information on the ancient prisons of Quimper are in French but I send it one full URL in the hope some of our readers may profit A map of the city/town and prisons compound. I can see the walls Ross and his men have to climb across going in and out.
What makes this historical novel better than DuMaurier’s and many another is that it is 1) shot through with a continual awareness of the politics of this place and the specific time, an awareness of what the existence of such a place means vis-a-vis human nature (there is nothing special about our 20th century gulags of horrific destruction/enslavery of people) and 3) the presence of the character Ross who goes because he cannot resist the adventure and yes suffers from ennui (in effect) and finds throughout that he is continually aware of how he must kill and rely on other to kill as they set forth, get into the prison, find Enys and bring him out. He is aided and abetted by the new pirate figure, Tholly Tregrils, who with his captain hook hand is as ruthless as anyone with a sharp rusty knife. Real hard cameraderie and effective pictorial sense of this man. The killing and deaths prevent it from being quite deja vue all over again (I allude to DiMaggio’s famous reworking) of Jim Carter where there were not these deaths as they were on home ground with Ross as respected landowner. Not here.
They lose Joe Nanfan who is shot across his head, they kill or wound in ghastly ways any number of French and English guards and people who get in their way. At one point Drake hesitates before jumping down a wall, and it emerges later he did this in an effort to deflect someone shooting at Ross and Ross goes livid with anger at the “boy” (out of guilt): who do you think you are, I don’t need this. And Drake is shot across the shoulder and becomes weak and ill and near death. But doesn’t die (this is a comfort fiction, folks). Drake also because thin, agile, small (like Demelza) at one point shimmies himself up a chimney and drags by a rope two lighter men after him and then the three drag Enys, two more and Ross comes last (our hero always comes last). As he looks in Drake’s eye, Ross sees the child Demelza’s face he brought up running from him up a tree one afternoon.
They almost don’t make it several times, especially once they get into the boat, for they must wait not just for the tide but for emptiness and other currents to go in the right direction.
Within the limits of later 1970s TV technology and money, the film series did this whole sequence brilliantly. They couldn’t resist adding the implausible near killing of Ross by a firing squad and last-minute rescue. Graham doesn’t descend to that: Ross isn’t important enough, but I admit it was that sequence I wrote about on ECW and put stills on its groupsite page. I thought Ellis did those moments, especially the one facing death impeccably well, with real gravitas.
The man next to Ross is murdered
I can’t take my reader through the sequence phase by phase only urge others to read Graham. I can quote some of the lines. There’s one I can’t find where Ross thinks to himself George Warleggan would never do such a stunt, and it is a stunt. And Enys is near death and what if he had been shot too. Why risk so much for this one man? It’s not really quite for Enys Ross did it of course; Enys is his excuse.
Drake says more than once: “I don’t mind … At least t’as taken my thoughts away …” “It don’t mind .. It has taken me away from what I left behind” (Morwenna taken from him, perhaps married off to this other man, p 437)
Ross to De Sombreuil, the French counterrevolutionary leader who invites Ross if he survives to visit his home where De Sombreuil will offer him “better wine than anything you have tasted here!” ..” Ross thinks as De Sombreuil describes his home and family “It is what I have been doing … but at the same I have left it” (at one point he wonders if “they” are taking in the hay back home “safely” yet, p 435)
“he wondered if he were leading these seven cheerful Cornishmen to their death” (p. 453)
“That part of his character [Ross’s] which made him so critical of authority also worked against himself. The same faculty which questioned the rightness of the law and the lawmakers was sharp to keep his own actions under a similar scrutiny … ” (p 544)
Finding the skeleton Enys (7 stone) “We want you” and pulling him out from the bodies (p 465)
We are to think some of this is Ross’s being in love with Caroline too now – they kissed intensely on the lips when he bid adieu to her.
They do pick up Armitage and the other English man they encountered in the prison on their way to the boat; these two English speaking men escaped in the melee and headed for the coast for a boat as both are Cornish.
Ross’s dream of himself explaining to Demelza who turns into Caroline as he brings home Enys on a stretcher to die (p. 495)
Demelza (Anharad Rees) just as Ross left for France
Book Three, Chapters 11 to close: another moving, cyclical ending
The four previous novels all ended with Ross and Demelza alone together, the first one falling asleep in one another’s arms, the second sitting by a window trying to adjust to the death of Julia, the third, him going into the house to her, and the fourth their not quite being able to overcome a serious estrangement but getting there (it seems).
The pattern breaks here: this novel ends with the dissolution of Aunt Agatha, with her death. We are with her in her last moments as her minds drifts off and out. The last chapter contains George’s vindictive visit to her bed to tell her there will be no hundredth birthday party because when he attended the wedding of Morwenna to Whitworth (ah!) he looked at the church register which went back a century and one half; what he saw there made him return to the family bibles at Trenwith and discover that Agatha is but 98. He has cancelled everything. How he sneers and triumphs. She is striken and doesn’t know whether to beg, plead, screetch or pretend not to care when she sees he is serious. This after Elizabeth had seemed to go along with all her preparations, bought the dress, provided the jewels, the invite, the menu. She says Elizabeth will not allow it; he says Elizabeth can do nothing as he is master in this house. The old woman is devastated because she will not live so long. The contrast with Ross who visited her weekly, was kind and got the roomed cleaned is stark and we are to recall if, for it’s then she turns and tells him in a way he find convincing his Valentine was a full term baby. His reaction in his face is such, she knows she hit him, but she doesn’t herself suspect Ross or any particular person, but rather asks insinuatingly if he and Elizabeth had it off before marriage “Or maybe someone else was riding she afore ever you was wed! Eh? Your precious Valentine.” He slams the door going out and all we hear is the twitter of the bird, the soft fall of the curtains. On the last page her mind wanders and she hopes she has not done anything to injure Elizabeth.
I wonder why. What is conspicuous to me in these last chapters is how Elizabeth does nothing to prevent cruel and ugly harm, to interpose herself for Agatha — or importantly Morwenna. For the even that matters just before Agatha’s death is a chilling scene between Whitworth and Morwenna on their wedding night. When she tries for more time, he rushes at her, hits her and rapes her.
The film series they presented him raping her after the birth of her baby when she had just had this terrible physical ordeal of tearing and exhaustion (I no longer remember if the baby was born dead). Graham from the get-go describe this man’s sexual behavior as rape.
We find out about the marriage when Ross returns home from spending time at Verity’s with Enys and Drake. He took all to Verity upon reaching the shore. He turned to her. Then Caroline arrives and while blanching at the skeletal shattered Enys she takes him home with her, scoffing at the idea she should worry because there will be time before they can marry. Good warm feeling between them is matched by Ross’s awakened appreciation of Drake, his brother-in-law who Ross now wants to help set up in some business (Sam has enough with his mining and religion) and encourages Drake to look forward by telling him (as Ross believed) that Morwenna was sent home and perhaps they could get together yet. Then he finally rides back to see his wife and Jeremy running out to him. In the moments after he confides his liking for Drake and hope for him, only to be told immediately that Morwenna and Whitworth were married a week ago (p. 515)
The story is then told as a sort of flashback. George had changed his mind. He never sent Whitworth the letter telling Whitworth Morwenna was damaged goods worse yet, Elizabeth did not send the letter by Morwenna to her mother (6 pages) explaining her reasons for refusing.
This is utter betrayal.
Intense continual pressure was put on Morwenna by everyone, more softly from her mother but what they did was simply start the arrangements, and go about teh business as if she agreed. A scene with Whitworth shows him that she is intensely reluctant and we feel how “he hated that, feels “contempt” for her having no fancy bridal outfit, and while he talks of how she will learn to love him (taking the role of the mature man teaching) Graham gives us a feel of this cold resentful appetitive mind .Her “pleases” to people get her nowhere.
It all rings so true, and here is her wedding night:
All day he had been jolly, but it was as if his jollity were put on to hide his true feelings not to express them. Several times he rose from the table during supper to kiss her hand and once he kissed her neck, but a shrinking movement, however nearly controlled, prevented him from doing that again. But all the time his eyes were heavy on her. She looked for love in them but saw only lust, and-a small measure of resentmenL It was as if she had only just failed to escape him and he still bore a grudge against her for having tried.
So supper ended, and in a panic she complained or sickness after the ride and asked if tonight she might go early to bed. But the time of waiting, the time of delay was over; he had already waited too long. So he followed her up the stairs and into the bedroom smelling of old wood and new paint and there, after a few perfunctory caresses. he began carefully to undress her, discovering and removing each garment with the greatest of interest. Once she resisted and once he hit her, but after that she made no protest. So eventually he laid her naked on the bed, where she curled up like a frightened snail.
Then he knelt at the side of the”bed and said a short prayer before he got up and began to tickle her bare feet’ before he raped her. (p. 532)
Then follows George’s trip to Aunt Agatha’s room. Yes interwoven in this chapter are a series of brief vignettes of contentment: Ross and Demelza and children out on their lawn, Caroline helping Enys ride again, Whitworth arguing in a loud voice about his tithes, Morwenna herself though with the chunky stepchild in her hand looking at the mud thinking how she wished she could sink into it and never arise again, Drake getting better, eating enormously, thinking how the future may yet hold good work for him and Morwenna too (so as yet unaware); and then George with the poison now in him: he had thought to give the woman he looked at as a viper a mortal wound (and he had, by forbidding this birthday party) but not before she had bitten him and we are told he does not yet know the extent this poison will spread.
George (Ralph Bates) forbidding Agatha (Eileeny Wray) her party
The book opened with George’s nastiness to Agatha and the birth of Valentine (said to be unexpected, said to be the result of a fall or stumble Elizabeth said) under a black moon. It’s not that Elizabeth is the hole at the center of this book; rather it’s that she’s a nothing, shows us the banality of evil. And yet we have flickerings in Ross’s mind about how he should be appreciating Demelza which tell us he has not quite yet learned enough.
See also Ross Poldark, Demelza, and Jeremy Poldark.
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