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Rachel-K
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Social Constraint and Personal Choice

 

What are some of the assumptions that each of the characters make about each other? How and why do these assumptions matter?

 

What are the roles different characters have chosen for themselves?

 

Do you think the  characters set in the 1990s free from gender or class or other social constraints?

 

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kren250
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Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

Connie makes many assumptions about the characters, everything from Sophia and her "thrifty New England ways" to Sam (thinking he's the janitor) to other people in New England to...well, pretty much everything;-). I think it shows that Connie is a bit set in her views. Also, the characters from the 1600s make many assumptions about the other people, and their behavoir. Certainly no such thing as privacy back in those times!

 

I think the characters set in the 1900s still have gender and class constraints. Harvard seems to be a bit of a "good old boys" club, at least in the book.

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krb2g
Posts: 289
Registered: ‎02-05-2008

Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice *spoilers for entire book*

The characters in the 90s are definitely not free of social constraints: even though Connie is friendly (and collegial) with Janine Silva, Prof. Chilton repeatedly addresses her as "my girl" and from the beginning takes on a patronizing attitude toward her and her research (the need for the perfect primary source, the desire to introduce her at the conference).

 

The way Prof. Chilton treats Connie strikes me as constrained not only by gender, but also by the structure of the academy--and Connie seems to repeat these academic formations with her advisee Thomas (and she repeats them before we observe Prof. Chilton treating her this way): "she enjoyed intimidating Thomas a little," and "she felt bolstered by his regard" when she pretends that her upcoming orals aren't making her nervous at lunch (8). The narrator also identifies orals as part of an academic stucture, part of the doctoral student's movement from apprentice to colleague (9). 

 

Connie also makes class-based assumptions: in that wonderful scene when she meets Sam, first as disembodied voice, then as voice from above (who can force her to turn her statements into questions), and finally as "a rangy young man, dressed in paint-dappled coveralls, with a tool belt slung around his slim hips," she makes a snap judgment that he's working as a handyman (71). When she finds out that he's done graduate work too, she's "surprised, and just as quickly ashamed of herself" (72). Although at this point, she thinks Sam hasn't noticed her error, he quickly nicknames her "Cornell": Harvard's status as an Ivy-League institution seems to be at play here. 

 

I don't think the seventeenth and eightenth century parts are necessarily much more full of social constraints; while there's definitely the sense that Deliverance is more vulnerable to the charges of witchcraft since her husband, Nathaniel, died,  and there are obviously gendered constraints (you don't see any women going off to sea to make a living, for example), the witch trials manage to strike everyone (even the respected Rebecca Nurse is accused and then excuted, along with more marginal figures such as Tituba and beggar women) in a sort of negative proof that social constraints aren't going to protect anyone. Perhaps more tellingly, Deliverance, despite her trial and death, manages to protect her daughter (though not entirely, given the daughter's own court case in 1715 to try to restore her mother's name)--she's able to send her away to a nearby town (Marblehead). And, as Connie's dissertation (presumably) will argue, the figure of the cunning woman (who practices a sort of good witchcraft to find things and heal people) works against growing expectations of male, Oxbridge or otherwise college-educated physicians that use science to heal.

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DSaff
Posts: 2,048
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

Some of the assumptions I have seen:

*Deliverance assumes she will get a fair trial. She assumed that her witnesses would be enough, but when Peter Petford got on the stand, it all seemed to change. I haven't read how it all turns out, but it doesn't look pretty right now.
*Liz assumes that Connie will love her adventure in the house.
*Connie assumes that the house is old and run down, and that she will be able to dispose of things pretty quickly. But, she "sees" the old couple, and starts to see that there is more to the house than first thought.

*Connie assumes that Sam is a carpenter by the way he is dressed and how he enters her life. My, she is surprised. :smileyhappy:

*Sam assumes things about Connie's knowledge simply because of where she has gone to college.

 

Neither set of characters is free of gender or class constraints.  Both women face tough questions from men, each for entering a man's world. It is amazing how similar they are.

 

DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
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CathyB
Posts: 271
Registered: ‎12-30-2006

Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

Connie seems to be the one who has made the most assumptions about people. She assumes Sam is a handyman, her mother as a 'free-spirit' (maybe she is but, there is probably more to her than Connie realizes), assigns behaviors/roles to the professors who conducted the oral exam, etc... Connie is a bit set in her ways.

 

Sam, without realizing, has chosen to be Connie's guide to open her up to posssibility.

 

Liz is the practical one and a grounding element for Connie.

 

Deliverance is a healer - someone who wants to do good and help others.

 

Chilton is the 'serpent' in the garden. He appears to have ulterior motives.

 

Constraints exist in both time periods. The 'good old boy' network seems to be alive and thriving at Harvard. There is also a distinction between the different levels at Harvard. The professor superior to the PhD candidate superior to undergraduate student (Thomas) - one would expect this as far as knowledge is concerned but, there social interaction also indicates the 'superiority' of one over the other - Connie aggravated by the questions during the oral exam, the treatment from a new professor and her treatment towards Thomas.

 

In the past, class distinction is quite evident from comments about the appropriateness of ones clothing, the manner of speech, property ownership and those who are full-fledged members of the church/congregation.

 

CathyB

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CathyB
Posts: 271
Registered: ‎12-30-2006

Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

Great observations. When I posted my previous response, I did not even think of the assumptions of actions. I only thought of assumptions towards people.

 

Thanks for getting me thinking in another direction.

 

CathyB


DSaff wrote:

Some of the assumptions I have seen:

*Deliverance assumes she will get a fair trial. She assumed that her witnesses would be enough, but when Peter Petford got on the stand, it all seemed to change. I haven't read how it all turns out, but it doesn't look pretty right now.
*Liz assumes that Connie will love her adventure in the house.
*Connie assumes that the house is old and run down, and that she will be able to dispose of things pretty quickly. But, she "sees" the old couple, and starts to see that there is more to the house than first thought.

*Connie assumes that Sam is a carpenter by the way he is dressed and how he enters her life. My, she is surprised. :smileyhappy:

*Sam assumes things about Connie's knowledge simply because of where she has gone to college.

 

Neither set of characters is free of gender or class constraints.  Both women face tough questions from men, each for entering a man's world. It is amazing how similar they are.

 


 

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bookowlie
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Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

Connie is a bit of a class snob and makes stereotypical assumptions about people.  She assumes Sam is the handyman based on the way he was dressed.  She assumes Sophia is a "thrifty New Englander" in comparison to Grace's freewheeling ways.  She puts labels on the different members of the committee administering her oral exam.

I don't think the characters set in the 90's are free from gender or other social constraints.  Professor Chilton refers to Connie as "my girl" and the professors are condescending toward Connie during the exam due to the academic constraints.  The female professor (Janine?) lets Connie know that they should stick together - women stuck in the old boys' network of Harvard academia.  

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SamanthaH
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Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

Connie definitely assigns stereotypical labels to the people she meets, both past and present.  The obvious example is Sam, but she also labels her mother.  Connie recognizes that her labels can sometimes be unfair, and has since "revised" her mother's label to "free spirit".  However, the relabeling doesn't change how Connie (negatively) views her mother.

 

Connie also compartmentalizes different groups in history.  I imagine that different societal groups are filed away in Connie's head, just waiting for the moment that she needs that information.

 

-SKH

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mgorbatjuk
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Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

I think thru Connie's assumptions is how we're learning about the different characters-their appearances and their behaviors.
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dhaupt
Posts: 11,832
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

I don't think the characters in our book make any less assumptions about each other that we do in real life. If I went to a church looking for the pastor and someone repels down a rope dressed in overalls and wearing a toolbelt I would assume him to be a janitor/handyman/carpenter etc. I think the book as far as relationships between the characters go, is very believable. And I think that believability balances the fantasy that's going on with Arlo and the house and Deliverance and Connie with her "daydreams".

 

The roles chosen by the characters, Grace -Free spirit, Connie - historian and pragmatist, Liz - friend, Dr. Chilton - mentor, teacher (evil doer just a feeling so far) 

 

I don't think the 90's character are free from gender or social constraints, they obviously have less than in the 1600s, but they're still there. 

gl
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gl
Posts: 128
Registered: ‎12-18-2007

Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

While Connie and the other characters from the 1990s are less constrained than those in earlier times, the characters from the 1990s  are not free from social, gender or class constraints.

 

As doctoral candidates and graduate students, Liz and Connie are clearly aware of social and class differences in many aspects of their dealings with their colleagues, their students, their advisors and the professors conducting their orals.  Even in the midst of the orals, Connie is deeply aware of the differing rankings of the professors on the panel and had in part selected them because of their particular positions as well as their sympathies and interests (p. 11-13).  Note that she expected that the junior economics professor Larry Smith should have been the most sympathetic since he was the most junior and closest to the exams, but she felt that he used the questions to show his own expertisse at the cost of exposing gaps in her own knowledge.  She was keenly aware of the Brahmin/patrician Harvard position of professor Chilton and his position had also factored into her choice of him as mentor and advisor. She was quick to accept his patronage, as would be politically smart and expected of any astute grad student.  Connie was also good at cultivating the sense of solidarity with her woman mentor on the panel, professor Janine Silva, while "Connie consciously had to work to control the pseudo-parental transference that many students develop towards their mentors (p12)."

 

In dealing with her graduate student, Connie consciously mirrors the power tripping professor.  She seems to think that it is part of seeming professional and adjusting to her new status.  This is not too different from the clear power difference that she believes Larry Smith takes when dealing with her during her orals - he makes it a point to show his own seniority and superior position even when it isn't necessary.   I personally find that sort of power play distasteful.

 

 

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thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
Registered: ‎12-18-2007

Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

The assumptions the jury makes about Deliverance will have everything to do with her fate so they matter enormously. At first her services are highly valued by those in need who profit from them.

Testimony from various witnesses may change these opinions and her good works may become demonized if they are misunderstood. I have a feeling that the most powerful argument will be the one that ignites a common fear within the group, uniting them, even if it is an unfair assumption that results. I need to read on to determine what really happens.

twj


rkubie wrote:

 

What are some of the assumptions that each of the characters make about each other? How and why do these assumptions matter?

 

What are the roles different characters have chosen for themselves?

 

Do you think the  characters set in the 1990s free from gender or class or other social constraints?

 


 

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MSaff
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Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

What are come of the assumptions that each of the characters make about each other?  How and why do these assumtions matter?

 

  Some of the characters may be jumping the gun when dealing with the other characters.  In the case of Grace and Connie, they both want something else from the other, yet it appears that Connie is the grown up here.  Connie appears to be more responsible thus she is assumes the role when dealing with Sophie's property.  

 

Liz appears to be dealing with her own studies so I can't make any assumption regarding her, other that she appears to be a little more carefree.

 

  Connie's professor is up to somthing.  He's really pushing Connie to go in another direction with here Thesis.  (I believe the term was that he wanted a new and original source).  This is something to keep an eye on.

 

  What are the roles different characters have chosen for themselves?

 

  I'm not sure about many of the characters yet, but Connie has chosen or it was thrust upon her to take care of property.  As well as research and write her paper.  She is however getting some interest assistance from Sam.  I think this relationship is worth watching.

 

  Do you think the characters set in the 1990s are free from gender or class or other social constraints?

 

  NO.  These characters are not free of and constraints.  A prime example is the older women in charge of the Probate records.  She believes that she is above it all and is unwilling to help anyone.  If asked a question, she blows it off as unimportant.  She has the "Don't bother me with your trivial problems or questions", attitude.

 

 

Mike
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss
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emmagrace
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Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

Wow! Great responses everyone!

 

I do not think that the characters set in the 90's are free from social constraints and gender class. These are issues that we still face today and probably always will.

 

I think that Connie assume that Chilton wants the best for her and that he is a decent man. I feel that he is up to no good. He is to invested in her and her research.

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annemd
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Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

It seems as if both societies are quite hierarchical, with authority often determined by ones position.  On another note, the trial seemed to generate a form of sensationalism, and this element is certainly alive and well in our culture today.
AnneMD
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GSB65
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Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

The characters in the 1990's are not free from constraints, though they are much more so than in the past.  Prof. Chilton refers to Connie as "my girl" several times and though Connie doesn't like it, she does nothing to change it.

 

Connie makes assumptions about those around her.  The first time she see's Sam because of his appearnce she assumes he's the janitor.  If he had never mentioned his education you have to wonder if she would have accepted his help in her search and if anything more would have come of the two.

 

Connie also assumes her mother is a "free spirit".  I haven't read too far, but from where I see the story going you have to wonder if her assumptions don't change.

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Immortal-Spirit
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Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

Samuel Appleton seems to judge everyone.  He calls the people who come to court "Whores and Blackguards"  because in his opinion, godly people wouldn't be so interested in other people's problems.  He makes mention (in his head) that Deliverance Dane's appearance - her confidence - could be mistaken for pride.

 

Also, did anyone notice that in the beginning, Samuel Appleton was thinking of his sore and after Deliverance gave him a "knowing smile" his pain disappeared?  

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scarpettajunkie
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Registered: ‎03-23-2009

Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

Peter Petford assumes Deliverance Dane will work miracles.  He would rather do this than rely on God and realize God does not always give us our way and what we want.  He is suffering from a lack of faith but thinks he is being Godly in accusing Deliverance.  He does not realize his accusation is unGodly.

 

Connie assumes Chilton is teasing her during her oral examination just to flex his professorial muscle, when really he is testing her to see what kind of an assest she could be to his nefarious plans.

 

Deliverance assumes she will have a fair trial when nothing is farther from the truth than her trial.  She is suffering from religious prejudice and being in a male dominant society where it is very easy to blame the women for any troubles.

 

Connie assumes Chilton will help her find information about Deliverance.  He guides her where to look but one gets the sense that it is not entirely selfless. 

 

Connie assumes Sam is of no account and that exposes her bigotry for Sam to see.  One does not know if Sam picks up on her bigotry but he does call her Cornell, which in itself is a form of bigotry.

 

  

Scarpettajunkie lover of Cornwell and historical fiction
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scarpettajunkie
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Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

Grace is the spiritual and possibly gifted free spirit mom.

 

Connie is the mystery solver.

 

Sam is her assistant in solving the mystery and possible love interest.

 

Deliverance is the misunderstood healer that is calling through time to have her mystery solved.

 

Sofia is the grandmother that is becoming known through Connie spending time in the house.

 

Mercy is a daughter providing clues to the mystery of who Deliverance was and even who Connie is.

 

 

No, we are not free from gender or class or other social constraints as evidenced by Chilton's behavior toward Connie and the assumptions all the characters make about each other.

Scarpettajunkie lover of Cornwell and historical fiction
MYK
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MYK
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Re: Social Constraint and Personal Choice

Some examples of assumptions are Appleton looking at the assembly feeling they were whores and blackguards.

Chilton assuming Connie is slacking on her work.

Assumptions that Connie killed Martha.

 

The assumptions matter because ultimately, even with good intentions, judging without evidence can lead to one's demise.

 

Chilton definately chooses to push Connie to her full capacity.

 

History repeats itself.Over and over again.