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KxBurns
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THEMES: Disillusionment

THEMES threads are for open discussion of themes throughout the entirety of the book. If you're worried about stumbling across spoilers, read no further!

Disillusionment figures prominently in this story. Which characters become disillusioned, and why? How does their disillusionment contribute to the way events play out?

Is this loss of idealism a natural progression toward adulthood, or is it a by-product of this particular historical period?

Are there any characters who maintain their innocence and idealism? How does Grace's knowledge (or lack thereof) about her parentage illustrate this theme?

Karen
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tmhoyle2
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment

I think Hannah was seriously disillusioned with her marriage and her inability to do those things she really wanted to do after marriage. She thought she would be able to travel the world, meet interesting people, be her own person and perhaps even work and use her skills she acquired secretly. However, that is not what happened.
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rstjm4
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment

I have to agree that Hannah is disillusioned with her marriage. She saw marriage as a way to get out, meet people, travel, experience those things she always longed for. And she probably honestly thought she could get that with Teddy. I certainly thought he would be one who wanted to travel and have his wife be more independent. But when he lost the election those things changed. I also think his sister and mother played a large part in his wanting Hannah to stay home and "entertain" the other ladies who had different views of the world than she did.
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vivico1
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment

[ Edited ]

KxBurns wrote:
THEMES threads are for open discussion of themes throughout the entirety of the book. If you're worried about stumbling across spoilers, read no further!

Disillusionment figures prominently in this story. Which characters become disillusioned, and why? How does their disillusionment contribute to the way events play out?

Is this loss of idealism a natural progression toward adulthood, or is it a by-product of this particular historical period?

Are there any characters who maintain their innocence and idealism? How does Grace's knowledge (or lack thereof) about her parentage illustrate this theme?

Karen


To me,as some have mentioned on other threads, this is a rather depressing book because no one seems to have a decent relationship or know how or have the future they want. Its full of disillusionment!

But, this statement, "Is this loss of idealism a natural progression toward adulthood,..", man I sure hope not and refuse to believe that about life in general, or even this time period. Art, music, poetry, inventions, medicine, etc, all the wonders of the world come from people who dream or see the Ideal, not just ideas. So, no I dont think its a natural progression toward adulthood, how sad, or any one time period in history either. We could have just as easily read a book about the tremendous, love of family and a partner and careers or actions that have meaning to the world coming out of tragic times. The times may have made it harder on this family to fulfill their ideals, but it didnt stop them from it, they did, how they taught their children and how they treated each other did.

Message Edited by vivico1 on 01-13-2008 06:41 PM
Vivian
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bentley
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment - MAJOR SPOLER


KxBurns wrote:
THEMES threads are for open discussion of themes throughout the entirety of the book. If you're worried about stumbling across spoilers, read no further!

Disillusionment figures prominently in this story. Which characters become disillusioned, and why? How does their disillusionment contribute to the way events play out?

Is this loss of idealism a natural progression toward adulthood, or is it a by-product of this particular historical period?

Are there any characters who maintain their innocence and idealism? How does Grace's knowledge (or lack thereof) about her parentage illustrate this theme?

Karen




Emmeline felt unloved thoughout her life by every male figure. Her mother died giving birth to her. She felt she always played second fiddle to Hannah and to her brother in terms of her father's affections and nobody loved her best or for herself. She always felt undervalued and unloved which led to her deep rooted feelings that she was unseated by Hannah in all of her major male relationships: Father, Brother, Teddy, Robbie, etc. Even the undesirable relationships were broken up by Hannah in order to protect Emmeline. But Emmeline's deep dark neediness propelled her into the bad choices she always made and her ultimate poor judgement. She had to surround herself with tons of undesirable friends to keep her low self esteem bolstered. Emmeline felt invisible with her father and her lack of a relationship with her father coupled with the death of her young mother left her rudderless in terms of parental relationships. She really did not know how to steer herself and form meaningful relationships. She was completely disillusioned with her ability to attract true love and though she possessed real physical beauty; her inner self lacked any depth. She was continually disappointed in her male companions and was always used or sacrificed for their own goals. I felt bad for Emmeline at the end (she was both used by Robbie and her sister) and though her sister saved her physical life she really had become the walking dead after that (emotionally disconnected).

It was obvious that Frederick was Grace's father and I was honestly surprised that Grace wasn't more disillusioned with what obviously had transpired prior to her birth and his inability to stand by her mother; but I never saw that played out that much in the novel. Grace was disillusioned early on in life; but decided she could not continue in the service of the Riverton household after the Robbie incident and Hannah's death; the release from the house service resulted in her being able to free herself from the physical bondage that had chained her to the house and its occupants and allowed her to be independant enough to develop her hidden potential and have a full life. Her utter disillusionment with life after the death of her mistress led to enlightenment and growth; whereas Hannah's disillusionment led to the death of Robbie and ultimately her own unwilliness to live.

Bentley
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dhaupt
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment

I think the only people not disillusioned and keep their idealism in the book were Mr. Hamilton and Mrs. Townsend.
Let's start with Lord Ashbury disillusioned after the death of his oldest son in the war and himself died a short time later. Jemima loosing all her men. David loosing his father's love (he died believing that) after he disobeyed him and went to war. Hannah and Emmeline I think their whole lives after the Nursery chapter was one disillusionment after another until the final disillusionment death.
I think the loss of idealism is both a part of growing up and this tumultuous time.
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BookWoman718
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment

Certainly Hannah becomes disillusioned with marriage, which she thought would propel her to a more adventurous life, of travel and interesting people. Teddy becomes disillusioned with her lack of desire for children, and her lack of interest in his business-related activities, two things which he had no doubt taken for granted in a wife. Emmeline doesn't become as disillusioned as she should have been by the parade of bad characters she lets into her life; she seems to go on making the same mistakes without learning from them. Grace takes a very, very long time to become disillusioned with the path her life has taken - 'faithful servant' - she has had 'her place' drilled into her forever by the very people she loves/admires: her own mother, Mrs. Townsend, and Mr. Hamilton. I think this is because she has enlivened her position in her own mind by romanticizing her relationship with Hannah; they have 'a special bond' born of their physical similarities and girlish secrets. So she is not disillusioned enough with being 'in service' to see that a brighter future would lie with joining Alfred.
And probably the central disillusionment of the story is that of the consequences of war. It isn't 'over by Christmas'. The brave young warriors are killed. Many of those who come home are physically and emotionally scarred, beyond what their families expected or know how to cope with. And many features of the British 'way of life' will of necessity change, although one of the goals of the war was to protect just that.
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Everyman
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment

I'm not sure that disillusionment is the term I would have used for this theme, but the ultimate emotion I took from the book was a profound sense of depression and waste. It's said that all's fair in love and war, but in this case virtually all was destroyed by love and war. The war certainly took its toll, both on the dead and on the living. With the possible exception of Alfred, and of Grace after she met back up with Alfred, every instance of love, whether actual, desired, or falsely believed in (as E from R) wound up dashed or destroyed.

Truly did Solon say "call no man happy until he is dead." Which of these characters, ultimately, can be said to have lived a happy life? Maybe Alfred. Not Grace; it seems clear that she remained haunted almost to her death by the secrets she had to maintain and apparently didn't even reveal to Alfred (which leads one to wonder about the depth of her love for him; at that point, nobody could be hurt by the truth coming out, and he had shared so much of the life of Riverton with her, but she didn't even reveal her secrets to him). Mr. Hamilton and Mrs. Townsend were perhaps content, but happy? And were they even content after Teddy because the head of the house and so much changed?

The catalog of lives wasted and destroyed in this book is simply depressingly large. The overall message I take from it is that in the end there is no happiness to be found in life, that one should enjoy such transient happiness as one can find, because it won't last.
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment


KxBurns wrote:
THEMES threads are for open discussion of themes throughout the entirety of the book. If you're worried about stumbling across spoilers, read no further!

Disillusionment figures prominently in this story. Which characters become disillusioned, and why? How does their disillusionment contribute to the way events play out?

Is this loss of idealism a natural progression toward adulthood, or is it a by-product of this particular historical period?

Are there any characters who maintain their innocence and idealism? How does Grace's knowledge (or lack thereof) about her parentage illustrate this theme?

Karen




What exactly do we mean by disillusionment? I take it to mean that a person has expectations about something or someone, but eventually is disappointed by the reality. Hannah and her marraige are obvious.

Is Grace disappointed in how things turn out? Is she disillusioned? I am sure she is saddened by the tragic events and loss of life. But I am not sure she ever had any great expectations. Her life was WAAAY better than she ever imagined it could be before the shootings. Eventually her life became WAAAY better than she ever imagined AFTER the shootings, too. She is haunted by guilt and loss, but when she is looking back over her entire life, do you think she is disillusioned?

To me, Frederick is so optomistic about his life, his factory, his cars, his children, and one by one his dreams are destroyed.

Emmeline has this idealized view of romance and love--probably because she never felt the love of her father. Her storybook versions never come true. Her life of partying seems to me to be an attempt to escape from this realization that love is not what you always dreamed it to be.

Jemima may be the one person who gets what she wants (at least a bit), which is ironic, because having a daughter is what no one would expect her to want.

Just a few thoughts,
Ann, bookhunter
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FrankieD
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment



Everyman wrote:
I'm not sure that disillusionment is the term I would have used for this theme, but the ultimate emotion I took from the book was a profound sense of depression and waste. It's said that all's fair in love and war, but in this case virtually all was destroyed by love and war. The war certainly took its toll, both on the dead and on the living. With the possible exception of Alfred, and of Grace after she met back up with Alfred, every instance of love, whether actual, desired, or falsely believed in (as E from R) wound up dashed or destroyed.

Truly did Solon say "call no man happy until he is dead." Which of these characters, ultimately, can be said to have lived a happy life? Maybe Alfred. Not Grace; it seems clear that she remained haunted almost to her death by the secrets she had to maintain and apparently didn't even reveal to Alfred (which leads one to wonder about the depth of her love for him; at that point, nobody could be hurt by the truth coming out, and he had shared so much of the life of Riverton with her, but she didn't even reveal her secrets to him). Mr. Hamilton and Mrs. Townsend were perhaps content, but happy? And were they even content after Teddy because the head of the house and so much changed?

The catalog of lives wasted and destroyed in this book is simply depressingly large. The overall message I take from it is that in the end there is no happiness to be found in life, that one should enjoy such transient happiness as one can find, because it won't last.





I agree that disillusion may not be quite the right word...but depression and waste certainly go to far. Each of the characters had moments of happiness and of sadness as do all of us...and yes, war does cause grief at many different levels...but we still have choices that we can make. Alfred was "depressed" after the war...and for a lengthy portion of the story he walked around in a haze...but eventually he seemed to choose to get back to his life and finally got married...good for him.
Another thing that always sticks in my head when I read stories like this is that the choices that the characters make are not necessarily the ones that they would make if they were real people...these are the choices made by the author...and for the good of the story...and for this I'm glad because otherwise a lot of stories would end too quickly.
FrankieD :smileyhappy:
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Bonnie824
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment

Aside from the individual disillusionment, I think you have a whole country (between the wars, and after) disillusioned by war and by the leaders in their country. The war did not bring glory and despite the intentions of the old retired officer soldiers, people could not just put it aside and go on like before once it was over. The working classes were thinking for themselves and done with the status quo. They saw families like those in the House at Riverton as oppressive and past their time rather than benevolent caretakers. And women were realizing their protection from anything harsh was prison for them.
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rstjm4
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment

Most of the characters in the book become disillusioned. I take disillusioned to mean along the lines of loss of sense of self. The only characters that really didn't change are the servants with the exception of Grace. Grace was haunted throughout her life with the lies and secrets she kept for the family. Emmeline was always second to her brother and sister, which caused her to never really find her place in the world. I wonder if her father didn't see her like he did David and Hannah because he was preoccupied? she was the cause of their mothers death? or because after Hannah and Grace were born he lost his true love?
Frederick may have been very successful if he were able to be with his true love. That may be the cause of some of his problems, and he could never really find himself after that.
Hannah I think was the most disillusioned of all. She wanted a life filled with adventure and travel. She certainly didn't get it. She ended up marrying a man she didn't really love, having an affair, and then watching her lover die. After that she was never the same. While she knew what she wanted and who she was she eventually lost her sense of self.
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kiakar
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment



rstjm4 wrote:
Most of the characters in the book become disillusioned. I take disillusioned to mean along the lines of loss of sense of self. The only characters that really didn't change are the servants with the exception of Grace. Grace was haunted throughout her life with the lies and secrets she kept for the family. Emmeline was always second to her brother and sister, which caused her to never really find her place in the world. I wonder if her father didn't see her like he did David and Hannah because he was preoccupied? she was the cause of their mothers death? or because after Hannah and Grace were born he lost his true love?
Frederick may have been very successful if he were able to be with his true love. That may be the cause of some of his problems, and he could never really find himself after that.
Hannah I think was the most disillusioned of all. She wanted a life filled with adventure and travel. She certainly didn't get it. She ended up marrying a man she didn't really love, having an affair, and then watching her lover die. After that she was never the same. While she knew what she wanted and who she was she eventually lost her sense of self.




I like your summation! Great thoughts!
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Librarian
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment

[ Edited ]

tmhoyle2 wrote:
I think Hannah was seriously disillusioned with her marriage and her inability to do those things she really wanted to do after marriage. She thought she would be able to travel the world, meet interesting people, be her own person and perhaps even work and use her skills she acquired secretly. However, that is not what happened.





I also feel that Hannah suffered serious disillusionment with her marriage. But I also feel that she was set up and duped into regarding marriage to Teddy as the answer to her life's dreams. On page 235 Lady Violet and Lady Clementine conspire to make Hannah consider marriage-------"She's as stubborn as her father. " Lady Violet said. "I'm afraid she wouldn't listen.
"Not to you or me, perhaps. But I know someone to whom she might."
Thus, Fanny moves in for the kill on page 240------"It's funny. Before I was married, I used to imagine that having a husband, one would lose oneself. Now I find it's quite the opposite. I've never felt so...so independent."
So for the sake of the family's financial stability, Clementine and Violet get Fanny to tune Hannah in to the idea of marrying Teddy. These two women probably thought they were doing Hannah a favor because of their old fashioned ideas. They did not understand Hannah's spirit. Also I feel Teddy did change after the marriage. So Hannah was both duped and disillusioned. I really feel for Hannah.
Librarian

Message Edited by Librarian on 01-17-2008 07:40 PM
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kiakar
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment



Librarian wrote:

tmhoyle2 wrote:
I think Hannah was seriously disillusioned with her marriage and her inability to do those things she really wanted to do after marriage. She thought she would be able to travel the world, meet interesting people, be her own person and perhaps even work and use her skills she acquired secretly. However, that is not what happened.





I also feel that Hannah suffered serious disillusionment with her marriage. But I also feel that she was set up and duped into regarding marriage to Teddy as the answer to her life's dreams. On page 235 Lady Violet and Lady Clementine conspire to make Hannah consider marriage-------"She's as stubborn as her father. " Lady Violet said. "I'm afraid she wouldn't listen.
"Not to you or me, perhaps. But I know someone to whom she might."
Thus, Fanny moves in for the kill on page 240------"It's funny. Before I was married, I used to imagine that having a husband, one would lose oneself. Now I find it's quite the opposite. I've never felt so...so independent."
So for the sake of the family's financial stability, Clementine and Violet get Fanny to tune Hannah in to the idea of marrying Teddy. These two women probably thought they were doing Hannah a favor because of their old fashioned ideas. They did not understand Hannah's spirit. Also I feel Teddy did change after the marriage. So Hannah was both duped and disillusioned. I really feel for Hannah.
Librarian

Message Edited by Librarian on 01-17-2008 07:40 PM




Yes, she wanted to have a life after her marriage and others convinced her she could, like Vielet,Clementine and Fanny. Especially Fanny said she had her own life and was recently married
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment

Librarian wrote: "They did not understand Hannah's spirit."

Librarian, I don't think that it is that Ladies Violet and Clementine did not understand Hannah's spirit, but rather that they wanted to break her spirit, which the family was unable to do with Frederick. They often commented on how much like him she was, and how he allowed her to do as she wanted...I believe that they felt marriage would tame her, but I think it had the opposite effect...if anything, Hannah became more "wild" in her actions, as we saw from her wild romance with Robbie, sneaking around and keeping secrets...
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KxBurns
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment


kiakar wrote:


Librarian wrote:

tmhoyle2 wrote:
I think Hannah was seriously disillusioned with her marriage and her inability to do those things she really wanted to do after marriage. She thought she would be able to travel the world, meet interesting people, be her own person and perhaps even work and use her skills she acquired secretly. However, that is not what happened.





I also feel that Hannah suffered serious disillusionment with her marriage. But I also feel that she was set up and duped into regarding marriage to Teddy as the answer to her life's dreams. On page 235 Lady Violet and Lady Clementine conspire to make Hannah consider marriage-------"She's as stubborn as her father. " Lady Violet said. "I'm afraid she wouldn't listen.
"Not to you or me, perhaps. But I know someone to whom she might."
Thus, Fanny moves in for the kill on page 240------"It's funny. Before I was married, I used to imagine that having a husband, one would lose oneself. Now I find it's quite the opposite. I've never felt so...so independent."
So for the sake of the family's financial stability, Clementine and Violet get Fanny to tune Hannah in to the idea of marrying Teddy. These two women probably thought they were doing Hannah a favor because of their old fashioned ideas. They did not understand Hannah's spirit. Also I feel Teddy did change after the marriage. So Hannah was both duped and disillusioned. I really feel for Hannah.
Librarian

Message Edited by Librarian on 01-17-2008 07:40 PM




Yes, she wanted to have a life after her marriage and others convinced her she could, like Vielet,Clementine and Fanny. Especially Fanny said she had her own life and was recently married



Right - she was definitely midled by both Teddy and the women who convinced her that marriage was a route to freedom. However, isn't part of her disillusionment due to her own opportunistic approach marriage? She admits that she's marrying Teddy for the independence and adventure she imagines a life as his wife to offer. Isn't that treating the marriage as much like a transaction as Lady Clem and Simion and even Teddy do?

I think part of her bitterness is due to the fact that she made what she thought was an advantageous deal and got burned.
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Librarian
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment



paula_02912 wrote:
Librarian wrote: "They did not understand Hannah's spirit."

Librarian, I don't think that it is that Ladies Violet and Clementine did not understand Hannah's spirit, but rather that they wanted to break her spirit, which the family was unable to do with Frederick. They often commented on how much like him she was, and how he allowed her to do as she wanted...I believe that they felt marriage would tame her, but I think it had the opposite effect...if anything, Hannah became more "wild" in her actions, as we saw from her wild romance with Robbie, sneaking around and keeping secrets...





Good point Paula_02912, I had overlooked that. I remember that now.
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kiakar
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment

- she was definitely midled by both Teddy and the women who convinced her that marriage was a route to freedom. However, isn't part of her disillusionment due to her own opportunistic approach marriage? She admits that she's marrying Teddy for the independence and adventure she imagines a life as his wife to offer. Isn't that treating the marriage as much like a transaction as Lady Clem and Simion and even Teddy do?

I think part of her bitterness is due to the fact that she made what she thought was an advantageous deal and got burned.




Yes, Karen I do believe you have something here. It was all about Hannah until the end.
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kiakar
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Re: THEMES: Disillusionment



Librarian wrote:


paula_02912 wrote:
Librarian wrote: "They did not understand Hannah's spirit."

Librarian, I don't think that it is that Ladies Violet and Clementine did not understand Hannah's spirit, but rather that they wanted to break her spirit, which the family was unable to do with Frederick. They often commented on how much like him she was, and how he allowed her to do as she wanted...I believe that they felt marriage would tame her, but I think it had the opposite effect...if anything, Hannah became more "wild" in her actions, as we saw from her wild romance with Robbie, sneaking around and keeping secrets...





Good point Paula_02912, I had overlooked that. I remember that now.
Librarian





Absolutely, librarian. She never seemed to give up her spirit, as much as she tried and failed, only at the end she succumbed to her fate. She was so much like her Father. She wanted what she wanted without reason to the fact that it couldnt be had. It was almost impossible to break the spirit of Hannah....until the end.
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