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Peppermill
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Re: THEMES: Obligation and Guilt - SPOILER


vivico1 wrote:

wendyroba wrote:

tmhoyle2 wrote:
Marking this as a spoiler in case people don't realize we're discussing the themes from the whole book.

I was floored when Grace felt such obligation to Hannah as opposed to her want and agreement to get married and chose to stay with Hannah. Talk about obligation to put someone you're serving over your own possible happiness.
I agree 100% - it was almost a shock to realize how much Grace would give up for her obligation to Hannah.
Do you think she really did it out of obligation, or the obsession she has had with Hannah since the first? Other servants get married. Other may even say they wont leave, but life changes. I think it was more of which was Grace's stronger desire, where was she more drawn to, not obligation because she said she was waiting for this moment with him and would have married him. It wasn't the obligation of servitude that was her choice, nor a promise not to leave. It was this new info she had about who she and Hannah were to each other and her desires to really be just that with Hannah all along to the point of obsession, that made her choice for her. Had she not found out what she did at just this same time, I think it would have been different, because she was waiting for him to ask.

Vivian -- this isn't fair, since I know you are having or recovering from surgery today, but I just read this. Ms. Morton answered a question yesterday (or a couple of days ago) by saying that, in an earlier version, Grace never did learn conclusively who her father was, although the readers knew. My sense of her comments was that Grace still chose not to marry Alfred in that scenario. I guess all I am saying is, knowing her paternal linage may not have been the tie-breaker here.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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kiakar
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Re: THEMES: Obligation and Guilt - SPOILER



Peppermill wrote:

vivico1 wrote:

wendyroba wrote:

tmhoyle2 wrote:
Marking this as a spoiler in case people don't realize we're discussing the themes from the whole book.

I was floored when Grace felt such obligation to Hannah as opposed to her want and agreement to get married and chose to stay with Hannah. Talk about obligation to put someone you're serving over your own possible happiness.
I agree 100% - it was almost a shock to realize how much Grace would give up for her obligation to Hannah.
Do you think she really did it out of obligation, or the obsession she has had with Hannah since the first? Other servants get married. Other may even say they wont leave, but life changes. I think it was more of which was Grace's stronger desire, where was she more drawn to, not obligation because she said she was waiting for this moment with him and would have married him. It wasn't the obligation of servitude that was her choice, nor a promise not to leave. It was this new info she had about who she and Hannah were to each other and her desires to really be just that with Hannah all along to the point of obsession, that made her choice for her. Had she not found out what she did at just this same time, I think it would have been different, because she was waiting for him to ask.

Vivian -- this isn't fair, since I know you are having or recovering from surgery today, but I just read this. Ms. Morton answered a question yesterday (or a couple of days ago) by saying that, in an earlier version, Grace never did learn conclusively who her father was, although the readers knew. My sense of her comments was that Grace still chose not to marry Alfred in that scenario. I guess all I am saying is, knowing her paternal linage may not have been the tie-breaker here.





I certainly agree with this. Grace hadn't quite digested the fact that Hannah was probably her sister and this was incredible new information she wanted to ponder on.
It wasn't servitude but sisterlove that made her change her mind. You know, if Alfred really loved Grace, wouldnt he have understood Grace's predicament. I think he would have. Its all about keeping secrets from others because there was no trust or faith in each other with the characters in this book.
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vivico1
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Re: THEMES: Obligation and Guilt - SPOILER


Peppermill wrote:

vivico1 wrote:

wendyroba wrote:

tmhoyle2 wrote:
Marking this as a spoiler in case people don't realize we're discussing the themes from the whole book.

I was floored when Grace felt such obligation to Hannah as opposed to her want and agreement to get married and chose to stay with Hannah. Talk about obligation to put someone you're serving over your own possible happiness.
I agree 100% - it was almost a shock to realize how much Grace would give up for her obligation to Hannah.
Do you think she really did it out of obligation, or the obsession she has had with Hannah since the first? Other servants get married. Other may even say they wont leave, but life changes. I think it was more of which was Grace's stronger desire, where was she more drawn to, not obligation because she said she was waiting for this moment with him and would have married him. It wasn't the obligation of servitude that was her choice, nor a promise not to leave. It was this new info she had about who she and Hannah were to each other and her desires to really be just that with Hannah all along to the point of obsession, that made her choice for her. Had she not found out what she did at just this same time, I think it would have been different, because she was waiting for him to ask.

Vivian -- this isn't fair, since I know you are having or recovering from surgery today, but I just read this. Ms. Morton answered a question yesterday (or a couple of days ago) by saying that, in an earlier version, Grace never did learn conclusively who her father was, although the readers knew. My sense of her comments was that Grace still chose not to marry Alfred in that scenario. I guess all I am saying is, knowing her paternal linage may not have been the tie-breaker here.


Pepper, I don't mean to say that learning her parentage was what made her say no. I am saying her obsession with Hannah was, especially figuring out they were sisters. I dont in the least think that Grace was after the family "name or fortune or anything like that. What am saying is that learning Hannah, her obsession, really was her half sister just added fuel to her desire to be a part of her life, to be her sister, not to gain a name, but a better and closer hold on Hannah. Does that make more sense? To me, at this point she chose Hannah over Alfred. The shame is that she didnt necessarily have to chose one over the other, she doesnt know if Hannah feels the same about her or how she would feel if she did know ( And we never will since this part is just dropped after that, like it wasnt an important part of the whole book, what would happen if Hannah found out too.) She jumped the gun but see, thats how obsessed she was to be near Hannah, to have a sister, that she would chose a chance at that, over a man who really does love her. In many ways to me, Grace is not much more than a stalker who has an object of their obsession and and stays close but non threatening and at times when it really counted, just stood and watched.

I wished Morton would have followed this line, what happens when Hannah finds out, its such a big part of the story to just drop it with Grace knowing now. Pity.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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3M
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Re: THEMES: Obligation and Guilt

What role does a sense of duty or obligation play in the events of the book? What about guilt? Which characters shirk their obligations and what are the repercussions? Are they greater or less than the repercussions for those who live up to their duties?

Grace is loyal to a fault. Her sense of obligation and loyalty to Hannah was too extreme.

Hannah's shirking of her obligations to her marriage led to a death. I can think of few if any worse repercussions than that!
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Librarian
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Re: THEMES: Obligation and Guilt - SPOILER



tmhoyle2 wrote:
Marking this as a spoiler in case people don't realize we're discussing the themes from the whole book.

I was floored when Grace felt such obligation to Hannah as opposed to her want and agreement to get married and chose to stay with Hannah. Talk about obligation to put someone you're serving over your own possible happiness.





Yes, tmhoyle2, I agree with you. If Grace had left and married Alfred instead of feeling obligated to Hannah, the story would not have ended with the tragic scene at the lake. At least I don't think it could have. I too could not understand her staying.
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kiakar
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Re: THEMES: Obligation and Guilt - SPOILER



Librarian wrote:


tmhoyle2 wrote:
Marking this as a spoiler in case people don't realize we're discussing the themes from the whole book.

I was floored when Grace felt such obligation to Hannah as opposed to her want and agreement to get married and chose to stay with Hannah. Talk about obligation to put someone you're serving over your own possible happiness.





Yes, tmhoyle2, I agree with you. If Grace had left and married Alfred instead of feeling obligated to Hannah, the story would not have ended with the tragic scene at the lake. At least I don't think it could have. I too could not understand her staying.
Librarian




I don't know about that, now. If Hannah didn't have Grace to lean on, it would have been some one else. And the affair would have still ended up exploding anyway, one way or theother. Hannah, in my opinion, was a very selfish person. Her use of people was all about her gain.
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KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
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Re: THEMES: Obligation and Guilt


hasieb wrote:
I think about the overwhelming obligation so many of the characters in this book felt, and it does arouse my pity. However, I wonder how much of the sense of obligation or duty was motivated by a desire for security rather than attachment to a person. Did Grace really not marry Alfred because she felt an obligation to Hannah or because Alfred's success was a complete unknown? Why did she take him as a lover later in her life rather than marrying him? Was it because she had gotten over a need for security? A need to know how her life would play out? Whether she knew she was Frederick's child or not, whether Hannah knew or not, her life would play out the same while she stayed with those at Riverton. The same for Frederick. If he had pursued Grace's mom, he would not have known in advance how his life would play out. Each of the characters who bows to obligation/duty also stays in circumstances that are more secure--i.e. materially provides for them. If Hannah had not chosen to marry Teddy, would she have faced the loss of Riverton and financial ruin? Katie decides to leave service--but she had nothing to lose. The only reason obligation works or compels a certain course of action is if you fear what you might lose.



What a wonderful observation. So many of the characters feel the tug between the dullness of obligation and uncertainty of independence. And it's evidently not their desire to live up to their obligations with nobility that compels them to choose obligation...
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bookhunter
Posts: 322
Registered: ‎06-09-2007
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Re: THEMES: Obligation and Guilt

Karen wrote:

"What role does a sense of duty or obligation play in the events of the book? What about guilt?"

Much of our discussion in this thread has assumed that duty and obligation are bad things--actions performed out of duty and obligation lead to disasterous results.

But in my life (which would not make a very interesting novel, by the way!) fulfilling duty and obligation leads to satisfaction and happiness. I feel like I am doing what I am "supposed" to be doing.

For Grace, if she had lived her entire life in service to Hannah, I think she would have been happy. Even though she chose Hannah over Alfred, it WAS a CHOICE she made. The lessons Mr. Hamilton and other staff members give Grace show that they find happiness in fulfilling obligations. Teddy seems happy in his life--even though he ends up with duties and obligations that are different than those he expected.

The tragic characters in the novel are the ones who cannot reconcile their desires with their duties and obligations--Frederick and Hannah, for example.

Ann, bookhunter
coming off as mighty old-fashioned, I know!
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vivico1
Posts: 3,456
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Re: THEMES: Obligation and Guilt


bookhunter wrote:


The tragic characters in the novel are the ones who cannot reconcile their desires with their duties and obligations--Frederick and Hannah, for example.

Ann, bookhunter
coming off as mighty old-fashioned, I know!


very well said! I think that would include Robbie and Grace's mother too. And I think the lines were very blurred for Grace.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Kimmi373
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Re: THEMES: Obligation and Guilt

As this story is told from Grace's point of view, the theme of duty and obligation is most openly explored in the servant's duty and obligation to his/her master. With that idea in mind...

I thought the contrast between the two "downstairs" inhabitants of Riverton and the house in London, "number seventeen" was striking.

The servant's at Riverton take their position VERY seriously. The servant's bond to each other over their shared sense of duty and obligation to the masters of the house. At Riverton the servants not only maintain and support the house and family, but they support and care for each other like family.

The servant's at "number seventeen", however, use any and every opportunity to tell tales about their masters and also to "one up each other". There is no sense of duty and obligation at "number seventeen".

The Luxton's are considered "new" money, correct? I think it is also interesting to note that the servants at Riverton felt just as strong of a bond with the "Grand House" as they did for the Hartford family and each other. Over the years the house itself became one of the family... or a separate character as several readers and the author have pointed out. There is no sense of "character" with "number seventeen"; no sense of life has been breathed into it, the family is to new. The house itself has not earned the respect of its inhabitants and those inhabitants feel no sense of duty and obligation to it or each other.
I don’t want realism. I want magic!
~ Tennessee Williams, "A Streetcar Named Desire"
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KxBurns
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Registered: ‎09-06-2007
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Re: THEMES: Obligation and Guilt


bookhunter wrote:
Karen wrote:

"What role does a sense of duty or obligation play in the events of the book? What about guilt?"

Much of our discussion in this thread has assumed that duty and obligation are bad things--actions performed out of duty and obligation lead to disasterous results.

But in my life (which would not make a very interesting novel, by the way!) fulfilling duty and obligation leads to satisfaction and happiness. I feel like I am doing what I am "supposed" to be doing.

For Grace, if she had lived her entire life in service to Hannah, I think she would have been happy. Even though she chose Hannah over Alfred, it WAS a CHOICE she made. The lessons Mr. Hamilton and other staff members give Grace show that they find happiness in fulfilling obligations. Teddy seems happy in his life--even though he ends up with duties and obligations that are different than those he expected.

The tragic characters in the novel are the ones who cannot reconcile their desires with their duties and obligations--Frederick and Hannah, for example.

Ann, bookhunter
coming off as mighty old-fashioned, I know!



Oh, I agree that in "normal" life, duty and obligation are not bad things! And I think you've hit upon the excellent point that, in the context of the book, obligation leads to disastrous consequences in the absence of choice or alternatives. We see several characters backed into corners by their sense of duty (sometimes internal, sometimes imposed by external forces like society or other characters) and that is when things go awry for them -- when they don't choose for themselves.

Great point, Joan! Not at all old-fashioned :smileyhappy:
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