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KxBurns
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Re: THEMES: Family


carol08 wrote:
In spite of her long-felt desire for Hannah to be her sister, there is no two-way closeness nor intimacy of feelings and emotions. Grace knows much about Hannah. Hannah hardly knows Grace at all. And although Grace gave up her love for Alfred for Hannah, I suspect that Hannah would never have made any significant sacrifice for Grace as she did for Emmeline.



Absolutely. And, in fact, Hannah even refused to forsake Robbie for Emmeline until it became a matter of life and death.
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KxBurns
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Re: THEMES: Family



dhaupt wrote:
I don't think the author made very good statement about parenthood either from the point of the Hartfords or Grace's mother, or daughter.



Where does Jemima fit in? I think maybe she redeems the idea of parenthood in the novel.

And Ursula - in her, we see a mother struggling with her own shortcomings, trying her best. Perhaps this sums it all up? Parents are fallible, sometimes selfish, at the mercy of their own childhood scars and bad examples, but ultimately just trying to do the best they can?
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Iulievich
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Re: THEMES: Family


bookhunter wrote:


But WHY is Grace able to carry it off? What did she have that the others didn't? Or did not have that they all DID have?

Was it opportunity to make a change, maybe? She had the right timing of birth--a time when societal changes made it possible for her to divorce, attend college, have a career?

Or does she have some character trait (that I just don't see)which enables her to rise above this dissatisfaction?

Ann, bookhunter



I have puzzled over that question, too. One of the nice things about a book like this is that we have so much room left by the author for us to fill in these characters in a way that seems right to us -- a way that requires thought and consideration. It is almost as if the novel is a coloring book with the outlines of the plot and characters supplied to us, and we are to provide at least a great deal of the color ourselves.

Trying to project Grace into the realm of a real person and figure out what would have made her able to complete the fantasies that Hannah destroyed herself trying to realize, my suggestion would be that it was a combination of nature, nurture, and timing.

Timing: In 1924, when Grace first acquired the means to really play The Game in her own right and when Hannah's exertions destroyed her, her sister, her lover, her lineage, and altered the trajectories of her husband's and her daughter's lives, the societal changes that came after the war were really just taking hold. Granted, they were coming fast, but they had not yet arrived. Although Edwardian society had large breaches in its facade and was visibly crumbling, many of it notions of power, position, and "place" still had a strong hold over the minds of most people. Hannah just kept on running into those strictures until the subterfuges that she had chosen in order to evade them got fatally tangled up and everything came crashing down.

Kate Morton never really tells us when Grace sets her mind to attend university, become an archeologist, reacquire Alfred as a lover, and travel. It does not sound as if she had done so at the time she married and Ruth was born. It could well have been after the second war. That would still leave time for Grace to have realized her ambitions even starting so late. It is also a period of time when Grace's ambitions might still be a little unusual but would certainly not have been considered outrageous.

We have nothing that tells us whether she immediately began to use the contents of the box, the key to which Hannah gave her inside the locket. She may have been emotionally unprepared to do so at first, or she may have had some sense that she needed to save it or use it only very frugally until she was ready to use it in a way that would make it count. We just don't know, but again, the circumstances in which she describes herself when she met her husband, John, do not suggest to me that she was very far along with that process if she had even started it then.

By the way, we do know that she did not pick Alfred up again until about 1970 if both my memory and my math are right. They lived together for twenty years and he died I believe it was nine years before Marcus tells about it near the end of the book. So she did not get her old lover back until she was about 70 herself. (Is that what Ruth had found so scandalous about her mother's behavior?)

Nurture: Hannah and Emmeline grew up children of the ruling class, without a mother, with an indulgent father, with no real sense of their options being limited and -- most of all -- with no sense of having had to develop survival skills in a world that could strike them down for their having challenged it.

Grace, on the other hand, had a very different upbringing in which, for instance, she was obliged to forego some pleasures and save her money if she hoped to have the luxury of a new book of her own. She had the example of her own mother's fate, which she perhaps understood more fully after she discovered who her father had been and in what way her mother had "stepped out of her place." If my suspicion is correct, that she did not begin fully to take Hannah's place in The Game until near, during, or even after the second war, the difference in their perceptions of the world and their abilities to deal with it would have been even greater by an order of magnitude.

In 1945, Grace would have been 41, a mature woman with a young daughter, without a husband (or soon to be so) and with experience at supporting herself and serving in the military. That is a lot more depth of experience with the world than Hannah ever dreamed of having.

Nature: Maybe it was mostly timing and nurture, but still I sense that -- for all of Hannah's aggressiveness in pursuing her fantasies -- she was a more brittle and fragile person than Grace. There is a toughness about Grace and a will to survive that did not seem to belong to Frederick Hartford, Lord Ashbury, or any of his children. Grace's mother was tough, too. Maybe that was Grace's inheritance from her.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an action but a habit." -Aristotle
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dhaupt
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Re: THEMES: Family

dhaupt wrote:
I don't think the author made very good statement about parenthood either from the point of the Hartfords or Grace's mother, or daughter.
___________________________________________________________________


KXBurns wrote:
Where does Jemima fit in? I think maybe she redeems the idea of parenthood in the novel.

And Ursula - in her, we see a mother struggling with her own shortcomings, trying her best. Perhaps this sums it all up? Parents are fallible, sometimes selfish, at the mercy of their own childhood scars and bad examples, but ultimately just trying to do the best they can?
____________________________________________________________________________________


Karen, I agree that Ursula is a good parent but my thoughts regarding Jemima are split, I think she loved her children but what if she really did end her second sons life. Life is special to me and until our last breath I think there's still hope.

Debbie
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KxBurns
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Re: THEMES: Family - SPOILERS


dhaupt wrote:
dhaupt wrote:
I don't think the author made very good statement about parenthood either from the point of the Hartfords or Grace's mother, or daughter.
___________________________________________________________________


KXBurns wrote:
Where does Jemima fit in? I think maybe she redeems the idea of parenthood in the novel.

And Ursula - in her, we see a mother struggling with her own shortcomings, trying her best. Perhaps this sums it all up? Parents are fallible, sometimes selfish, at the mercy of their own childhood scars and bad examples, but ultimately just trying to do the best they can?
____________________________________________________________________________________


Karen, I agree that Ursula is a good parent but my thoughts regarding Jemima are split, I think she loved her children but what if she really did end her second sons life. Life is special to me and until our last breath I think there's still hope.

Debbie



Yes, that is a HUGE question mark surrounding Jemima. I wonder if we are intended to see parallels between Jemima's possible mercy killing of her child and Hannah's actions by the lake? I think one could make the argument that she spared Robbie from the hell of his war-ravaged and tormented soul. And that she perhaps didn't realize just how damaged he was until he suggested killing Emmeline. I believe her reaction is described as "horrified."

Of course whether or not one agrees that she had any right to make such a call is an entirely different topic, for another board :smileyhappy:
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Peppermill
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Re: THEMES: Family

[ Edited ]

KxBurns wrote:

dhaupt wrote:
I don't think the author made very good statement about parenthood either from the point of the Hartfords or Grace's mother, or daughter.

Where does Jemima fit in? I think maybe she redeems the idea of parenthood in the novel.

And Ursula - in her, we see a mother struggling with her own shortcomings, trying her best. Perhaps this sums it all up? Parents are fallible, sometimes selfish, at the mercy of their own childhood scars and bad examples, but ultimately just trying to do the best they can? {emphasis added.}
If Jemima redeems the idea of parenthood in the novel, it is as a role model with a pretty tragic tilt. See p. 111. A poignant 21st century social commentary on the part of Ms. Morton?

I see that I probably should have read the entire thread before posting this. My only add here is to ask to what extent has Ms. Morton been deliberately posing 21st century ethical issues throughout this novel and, if she has, has she been skillful in doing so?

Message Edited by Peppermill on 01-19-2008 01:32 AM
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Re: THEMES: Family



Read-n-Rider wrote:
I think Ms. Morton is telling us that the bonds of sisterhood are very, very strong. When it came down to the bottom line, both Grace and Hannah chose their sisters over the "loves of their lives"--no small thing, indeed. I don't have any sisters, and maybe that is why I found it not very believable when Grace, having just figured out who her father was, chose to stay with Hannah (as her maid, yet) rather than accept Alfred's long-wished-for marriage proposal. Hannah's ultimate decision on the night of the party was, of course, no less decisive, and Emmeline's covering for Hannah that night--telling Teddy that Robbie had shot himself--also showed the strength of the bond between them.

Joan




I agree with this completely!
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Re: THEMES: Family



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!

Family is of tremendous significance to the characters in The House at Riverton. Young Grace yearns for a family, while older Grace has conflicted feelings toward hers. Hannah appears to love her family but she also wishes to escape it.

In what ways does family influence the outlook and actions of the characters, for better or worse?

What statement, if any, is the author making about the bonds of sisterhood and parenthood?

Karen




You have the Luxtons which influence virtually every move in Teddy's and Hannah's life since their marriage. You have Hannah's grandmother whose dying wish is to see Hannah married and Lady Clem and Fanny colluding to show a view of marriage(adventure, travel, independence) which did not exist at this time, so Hannah will marry. Deborah's interference(why is she living with her brother when she should be either at her parent's home or married and in her own?) pervades their marriage. The ultimate sacrifice Hannah makes, killing the love of her life to save Emmeline's life.
bmbrennan
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bmbrennan
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Re: THEMES: Family



Read-n-Rider wrote:
I think Ms. Morton is telling us that the bonds of sisterhood are very, very strong. When it came down to the bottom line, both Grace and Hannah chose their sisters over the "loves of their lives"--no small thing, indeed. I don't have any sisters, and maybe that is why I found it not very believable when Grace, having just figured out who her father was, chose to stay with Hannah (as her maid, yet) rather than accept Alfred's long-wished-for marriage proposal. Hannah's ultimate decision on the night of the party was, of course, no less decisive, and Emmeline's covering for Hannah that night--telling Teddy that Robbie had shot himself--also showed the strength of the bond between them.

Joan




This broke my heart as well, but I think Hannah may have feared losing her independence and maybe herself if she married Alfred. She watches Hannah being treated as a child with every decision whether big or small being made for her. When Alfred says you'll have to give notice, I think she panics. Remember Grace had been indoctrinated by Mr Hamilton about loyalty and feels she would be abandoning Hannah when Hannah would need her the most.
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bmbrennan
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Re: THEMES: Family



bookhunter wrote:


Iulievich wrote:
...Hannah failed at The Game and was broken by it. Grace, her half-sister and soul-sister, succeeded!

The quixotic dissatisfaction with life as it comes packaged was a characteristic of Frederick in both his personal life and his business life. Perhaps it is an inheritance. In the genes? Arising out of family interrelations? Grace, the illegitimate child who is not fully a part of the close family circle, gets it too. But unlike the others, she is able to carry it off.

Whaddaya think?

Message Edited by Iulievich on 01-13-2008 07:27 PM




But WHY is Grace able to carry it off? What did she have that the others didn't? Or did not have that they all DID have?

Was it opportunity to make a change, maybe? She had the right timing of birth--a time when societal changes made it possible for her to divorce, attend college, have a career?

Or does she have some character trait (that I just don't see)which enables her to rise above this dissatisfaction?

Ann, bookhunter




Maybe Grace succeeded because there were no expectations for Grace to live up to, she was a servant and all she wanted to aspire to was being a lady's maid. The children had to succeed to prove their father wasn't a complete failure. I don't know if Grace ever truly rises above her dissatisfaction. I felt there was a restlessness that Grace hasn't completely risen above. Ironic that in death, she sees her mom and Hannah waiting for her and Ruth is holding her hand at the end.
bmbrennan
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KxBurns
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Re: THEMES: Family


bmbrennan wrote:


bookhunter wrote:
But WHY is Grace able to carry it off? What did she have that the others didn't? Or did not have that they all DID have?

Was it opportunity to make a change, maybe? She had the right timing of birth--a time when societal changes made it possible for her to divorce, attend college, have a career?

Or does she have some character trait (that I just don't see)which enables her to rise above this dissatisfaction?

Ann, bookhunter


Maybe Grace succeeded because there were no expectations for Grace to live up to, she was a servant and all she wanted to aspire to was being a lady's maid. The children had to succeed to prove their father wasn't a complete failure. I don't know if Grace ever truly rises above her dissatisfaction. I felt there was a restlessness that Grace hasn't completely risen above. Ironic that in death, she sees her mom and Hannah waiting for her and Ruth is holding her hand at the end.



I agree that the relative freedom afforded by her lack of position gave Grace nowhere to go but up. And her humble background, combined with her mother's mistakes and pitiable fate, gave her the foresight to avoid anything that would cause her to slide backwards on the social ladder.

But it's also true that history and circumstances were on her side, and together with her natural love for learning -- as evidenced by her reverence for books I think -- these things all allowed Grace to succeed where Hannah failed.

Finally, I feel that Grace is tougher than Hannah. More resilient, less fragile. Do you agree?
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Re: THEMES: Family



KxBurns wrote:

bmbrennan wrote:


bookhunter wrote:
But WHY is Grace able to carry it off? What did she have that the others didn't? Or did not have that they all DID have?

Was it opportunity to make a change, maybe? She had the right timing of birth--a time when societal changes made it possible for her to divorce, attend college, have a career?

Or does she have some character trait (that I just don't see)which enables her to rise above this dissatisfaction?

Ann, bookhunter


Maybe Grace succeeded because there were no expectations for Grace to live up to, she was a servant and all she wanted to aspire to was being a lady's maid. The children had to succeed to prove their father wasn't a complete failure. I don't know if Grace ever truly rises above her dissatisfaction. I felt there was a restlessness that Grace hasn't completely risen above. Ironic that in death, she sees her mom and Hannah waiting for her and Ruth is holding her hand at the end.



I agree that the relative freedom afforded by her lack of position gave Grace nowhere to go but up. And her humble background, combined with her mother's mistakes and pitiable fate, gave her the foresight to avoid anything that would cause her to slide backwards on the social ladder.

But it's also true that history and circumstances were on her side, and together with her natural love for learning -- as evidenced by her reverence for books I think -- these things all allowed Grace to succeed where Hannah failed.

Finally, I feel that Grace is tougher than Hannah. More resilient, less fragile. Do you agree?




Is she emotionally tougher, possibly. However Grace does fulfill Hannah's lifelong dreams and ambitions so I am left with the dilemma of who is actually the more resilient, Hannah gave up at the birth of her daughter, Grace gave up her daughter at least temporarily. Also Hannah's 'gift' allowed Grace the ability to make her dream a reality, maybe becoming an archeologist was her way of saying thanks to Hannah. Would Hannah have gone off on her on if she had been financially able to?
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Re: THEMES: Family

I know I posted this in another thread, but I thought it was just as relevant to this thread, probably more so.

Many readers have posted (in other threads) on the "icky" relationship possibly developing between Marcus and Ursula, considering their blood relationship. Personally, I think that Marcus would eventually work out the family connection between Ursula and himself after completing his grandmother's tale. I am more apt to believe that a dying Grace delighted in the budding relationship because it gave both Ursula, an apparent only child and Marcus, also apparently an only child, a connection... possibly the same sibling connection that Grace so desired with the Hartford three.

Grace spent most of the novel nurturing a secret "sisterly" connection between herself and Hannah. In her grandson Marcus and Hannah's granddaughter (Ursula is her granddaughter correct?) there is the possibility of that connection being openly embraced.

Although that does lead to the question of why, if Grace knew, didn't she just say so. Perhaps the archeologist in her wanted the secret unearthed. People do tend to value that which they have to work for.
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KxBurns
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Re: THEMES: Family


Kimmi373 wrote:
I know I posted this in another thread, but I thought it was just as relevant to this thread, probably more so.

Many readers have posted (in other threads) on the "icky" relationship possibly developing between Marcus and Ursula, considering their blood relationship. Personally, I think that Marcus would eventually work out the family connection between Ursula and himself after completing his grandmother's tale. I am more apt to believe that a dying Grace delighted in the budding relationship because it gave both Ursula, an apparent only child and Marcus, also apparently an only child, a connection... possibly the same sibling connection that Grace so desired with the Hartford three.

Grace spent most of the novel nurturing a secret "sisterly" connection between herself and Hannah. In her grandson Marcus and Hannah's granddaughter (Ursula is her granddaughter correct?) there is the possibility of that connection being openly embraced.

Although that does lead to the question of why, if Grace knew, didn't she just say so. Perhaps the archeologist in her wanted the secret unearthed. People do tend to value that which they have to work for.



I think that is a great way of looking at it. I can't remember if it's made explicit that Ursula is an only child, is it? But she is certainly lonely and needing support, which is I think why she establishes such a strong connection with Grace, without even realizing they are related.
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