Monday, June 30, 2008

Sarcasm of Destiny II

I'm having trouble getting a handle on this book. So far, the first page is missing. Any introductory paragraphs that might hint at the structure of the novel are unavailable. After that we get an introduction to the Nina of the title, or rather her father who is a wealthy Irishman, a man who was early widowed and married again but made a poor second choice. "There are some men who have but to open their mouths and the golden plum drops in. Mr. Fitzgerald was one of these: He was gay, witty, could make a beautiful speech about nothing, which is the rarest of talents, he wrote pretty verses, was an excellent musician and the dear delight of Urania parties, drew tastefully, spoke French without an accent--or, rather with that Irish roll to the r which is better than the original--all as if by nature."

The narrator of the book seems to be an old(ish) maid named Miss Brown, a snoopy sort from the neighborhood who is in everybody's business and full of entertaining opinions. Nice choice. We learn that Nina loves to care for sick orphans, and that she has caught a fever from this, all in one sentence. The narrator comes to visit the bed-ridden Nina who has hired herself a handsome young unorthodox doctor. Hmmm. Our narrator, Miss Brown, gives him to us in romance novel detail. "There he stood, six feet in his stockings, more in his boots, a considerable and rather handsome tenant at will of certain very threadbare and not elegant garments, with the dust and disarray of a country doctor about him. His face, I was reluctantly compelled to admit, was very good; firm brow, large brown eyes, good chin, a masculine, well-curved profile.

But before we get the sense that the doctor and Nina are destined for each other, we see a scene in which they treat each other with indifference. He's rather rude to Nina, peeling up one of her eyelids to look under it and then accusing her of taking too long to recover. This offends the narrator greatly. "What a brute! Here I had come to find an adventurer making love to my Nina, and I found a mere medical machine looking at her as a case, handling her beautiful eye as if it were that of a dead dog..."

Than the doctor offers Miss Brown a ride home, and during this ride he treats her to his views on women. His complaint about Nina is that she, "has too much brain. It is a great misfortune for a beautiful woman to have a brain; it will impair her beauty, and shorten her life; and then she has a conscience, totally unnecessary adjunct--that is to say, she has too much of it." Then the doctor nods at a woman on the street and says of her, "There goes the sweetest woman I know; plain, rather stupid, but comfortable; very sure to make a good wife." The doc compares women to cart horses, thorough-bred racers suffer because they must pull a cart uphill their whole lives. When he sees a plain, dumb, uninteresting woman, says the doc, he thinks to himself, "There is an animal fitted to its work." 

And this was written by a woman. This conversation is interrupted when they are both hit by a runaway wagon, and while the doc is unhurt, Miss Brown suffers a broken arm and bruised face. I have no idea where this is headed, and I'm a little frightened by it. People were afraid of the author, Mary Sherwood, when they had to deal with her in person. She would say anything to anyone and could provoke anyone at any time. I'm beginning to see why.

No comments: