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Distinguished Correspondent
PiperMurphy
Posts: 174
Registered: ‎09-19-2008

Re: Characters

I am fascinated by the contrast between Iris and Frankie. Iris is a spinster approaching middle age. She is prim, proper, straight laced and by the book. She is so bound by rules that she won't even make a decision about a flagpole that is really hers to make. She hasn't had to confront any threats to her comfort and safety. By contrast, Frankie has had to face the reality of living in a war zone. She is doing a job that up to that time has been done by men. She understands how fragile life is and the need to seize the moment. Really the only thing that really separates the two women is circumstances and distance - that given the right circumstances Iris would (or will) become like Frankie. I can't wait to find out what would cause Iris to go against her principles to withhold someones mail.

"When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes."
~Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus~
Contributor
Linds84
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎09-02-2009
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Re: Characters

Of the three women, I most identify with Frankie. Iris is too reserved and cold for my tastes, and Emma takes some getting used to. I appreciate Frankie's take charge attitude. As a girl in my 20s and in law school, I identify more with the going to the source of the problem attitude and not waiting for something to happen. Iris seems to be too afraid to me. Frankie's the character I'm most interested in seeing what happens next to.

Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
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Re: Characters

 


Linds84 wrote:

Of the three women, I most identify with Frankie. Iris is too reserved and cold for my tastes, and Emma takes some getting used to. I appreciate Frankie's take charge attitude. As a girl in my 20s and in law school, I identify more with the going to the source of the problem attitude and not waiting for something to happen. Iris seems to be too afraid to me. Frankie's the character I'm most interested in seeing what happens next to.


 

 

Linds -- The stats say this is your first post!  Welcome!  Wonderful to have your thoughts on these boards!

 

As a gal in her 20's in law school, you sound like someone who might identify with Frankie.  As a woman in her 60's who did a fair bit of "first woman" stuff along the way, I find myself wanting Frankie to be a positive character, but recognize that I don't really identify with any of these women, although at this stage in my life, they each have things to say to me.  (I worked in high tech r&d.)

"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
Inspired Contributor
Zia01
Posts: 187
Registered: ‎08-08-2009
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Re: Characters

We know that Emma was orphaned, that Will's father shamed himself during the bank failures of the 30s and had a drinking problem, that Iris' brother was killed in the WW1, that Frankie grew up in a Brownstone in Washington Square, and that her mother writes letters about daily life in excruciating detail. How do these characters' backgrounds shape our impressions of them and their actions in the story? Do you feel you have a deeper understanding of particular decisions they make?

At first I was thinking, wow so much detail going into the characters I wasn't sure when the story was going to start. What I'm beginning to realize is the background is incredibly important to understanding the characters and there actions.

 

We get a close look a the love lives of each of the women characters in the novel. What part does love play in the lives of Iris, Emma, and Frankie? How does each woman regard romantic  relationships, and how much importance do they each place on them?  We see Emma surprised by a reference to casual sex in Tolstoy. Were you surprised at all to find casual sex treated--so casually--in a novel set in the 40s?

I think love plays an important part in their lives but for different reasons. Emma needs security, Frankie needs distractions, and Iris I have't quite pinned down yet.

 

Why is the certificate of virginity so important to Iris? What does it tell us about her? What is Harry's response to it?

I think Iris is very old fashioned so it becomes important to be able to prove to Harry she's a virgin. Although I'm still uncertain about her reasoning. Harry's I think is surprised, I don't think he cared but at the same time the gesture means a lot.

 

Do you have a favorite character so far? Who, and why? Have any of the characters surprised you by the end of this first section?

Wow that's harder than I thought it would be. I really like Frankie. She's strong, independent, not afraid to walk into the middle of danger. I think she cares very deeply but you don't always see it. I'm curious to see how her character develops.

Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: Characters

[ Edited ]

 

This scene with Emma exposed underwear didn’t make any sense to me. Why would Emma have to “fight the urge to fling herself onto the smashed case and cover the strewn clothing with her body” if she wasn’t really ashamed or embarrassed (20)? Being near tears is a bit of an exaggeration for something so trivial isn’t it?
If, as a woman, you have had the experience of a male customs official going through a suitcase with your undies in it, perhaps you could understand Emma's feelings. Maybe you have dirty or bloodstained undies in it or, like Emma, you had glamourous ones for your honeymoon which you only wanted your husband to see?  I think many women would be upset by seeing their 'personal effects' strewn over the street of a strange town and if you were already 'uptight' about your move there, or tired after a long journey, you might feel like crying.  


phenomshel wrote:

T-Mo said:

 

This scene with Emma exposed underwear didn’t make any sense to me. Why would Emma have to “fight the urge to fling herself onto the smashed case and cover the strewn clothing with her body” if she wasn’t really ashamed or embarrassed (20)? Being near tears is a bit of an exaggeration for something so trivial isn’t it? I wondered if maybe she didn’t have a guilty conscious for the seemingly negative things she thought about Iris when she first saw her on the bus: “Probably a spinster; the pathetic type who reads passion into the twist of a shut umbrella” (15). The reason I thought this was because Emma first notices how “quiet… and careful” Iris is with Emma’s garments (21). After this observation, she is on the verge of tears. Was she feeling sorry for the negative thoughts she had? Or was she feeling sorry for Iris because Emma thought she was a lonely spinster? However, Emma responded to Iris’ about not being embarrassed with a warning in her voice, and gave her some sort of look, and said she wasn’t at all ashamed. So really… I have no idea what this scene is about, or why she is on the verge of tears. Like so many other incidents in this book, this scene wasn’t given enough attention for it to make sense or to seemingly be of any importance. 

___________________________________________

 

I still sort of feel as if this was bravado on Emma's part.  I think she was simply denying feeling ashamed or embarrassed.

 

Shel

 

 

 


 

 

Frequent Contributor
tree_lover
Posts: 158
Registered: ‎09-08-2009
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Re: Characters

I was a little taken aback with Emma and the underwear scene at first.  I then thought about the time period and where this was happening.  The scene was not in Europe where sexuality, sensuality and shame are as important as in the United States.  At that moment I could understand why she felt the way she did.

 

I would feel ashamed and flabbergasted that my underwear was out there for all to inspect and criticize.

 

liz

http://nygirltrustnoone.blogspot.com/
Frequent Contributor
tree_lover
Posts: 158
Registered: ‎09-08-2009
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Re: Characters

The scene with Frankie was a little surprising but not shocking.  She was in another country and it was war time 1940.  People were dying and losing their homes.  Other countries are not as "sensitive" about sex as Americans.

http://nygirltrustnoone.blogspot.com/
Frequent Contributor
tree_lover
Posts: 158
Registered: ‎09-08-2009
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Re: Characters

I love your two lines, "A moment of bonding. A chocolate bar."  Clever...

http://nygirltrustnoone.blogspot.com/
Distinguished Wordsmith
MSaff
Posts: 272
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Characters

Hello Again All.

 

 

We know that Emma was orphaned, that Will's father shamed himself during the bank failures of the 30s and had a drinking problem, that Iris' brother was killed in the WW1, that Frankie grew up in a Brownstone in Washington Square, and that her mother writes letters about daily life in excruciating detail. How do these characters' backgrounds shape our impressions of them and their actions in the story? Do you feel you have a deeper understanding of particular decisions they make?

  Emma is looking for a stable life and she believes that she has found in Will.  They marry and are happy.  Emma plays the part of the Doctor’s wife very well.  I do believe however, that she may be hiding something or at the very least is trying to overcompensate for her earlier life. 

  Will is dealing with ghosts from his past.  The shame that his father put on his family and Will, shows through as Will goes about his life and professional career as a physician.  He is not only convincing himself of his worth, he is also attempting to prove to Franklin, Massachusetts, that he is not his father. 

  Frankie is the product of her upbringing.  She takes after her mother in the way she reports.  Noted above, we found that her mother writes letters about daily life in detail.  Frankie reports from a war zone, in excruciating detail.  This is good in respect of Frankie’s work, as she is attempting to give her listeners both the facts and the FEEL of war.  At least as far as the bombing and loss of life in London is concerned.  Frankie is showing that she loves what she is doing, even though in her current situation, the work is extremely dangerous.

  The backgrounds of each character shows me that they are all committed to making a better life for themselves and in some characters cases, better for all they come in contact.  Will through is medical career, and Frankie through her reporting.  Frankie wants to keep people informed and knowledgeable about what is happening.

 

Do you have a favorite character so far? Who, and why? Have any of the characters surprised you by the end of this first section?

  So far, I my favorite character is Frankie.  She is a go-getter, and she is not afraid to take chances in order to complete a task.  She is trying to break through as a reporter, and during this time period, women were not regarded as built or suited for such a position as War Correspondent.  I like the way she pushes forward, and her commitment is brilliant.  Frankie brings both sides to the front.  Facts and hard hitting reporting, as well as compassion and caring.  As she reports, she gets both out at the same time, which makes her perfect for job.


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
http://travelswithcarsandbooks.blogspot.com/
Frequent Contributor
Sheltiemama
Posts: 107
Registered: ‎06-01-2009

Re: Characters

Emma's background is the most interesting to me. Imagine how losing your entire immediate family in the flu epidemic. And hasn't that turned out to be a timely topic?

 

The history of Will's father hangs over Will like a shadow. I think he lets it influence his actions too much. Being a doctor is very different from being a banker.

 

Emma is very much a romantic. Frankie, perhaps partly because she's in the middle of a war, isn't.

 

Iris is a stickler for order. Harry's reaction was very sweet.

 

 

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Kittysmom
Posts: 124
Registered: ‎08-31-2009
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Re: Characters

I agree Patricia, I was surprised by the casual sex as well.  I was born in 1944 and I guess I never thought it was like that in the 1940's.  Sex was a taboo subject, even in my own home.  We never even thought of our parents having sex never mind the kid of casual sex outside the Savoy Hotel Bar! I also wondered why the proof of Iris's virginity was so important to her!

Gail

"Open a book and the world is yours"
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DarcyO
Posts: 10
Registered: ‎08-31-2009
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Re: Characters

Frankie is also my favorite character so far. I admire her boldness in reporting and can't wait to read more about her war escapades. I also like Emma and wonder how she will fare now that her cowardly husband Will is going to London.

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Eckwell
Posts: 29
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Characters

My favorite characters thus far are Frankie and Iris. Frankie is a strong, adventurous woman who is "coming into her own" as a reporter. She is learning and experiencing much as she is maturing. Iris is also a strong woman who is making a life for herself at an age when most women are married. I think Will is a bit misunderstood thus far. He is a young doctor, put in an extremely difficult situation. He knows when he first examines the patient that something is not right. However, his inexperience leads him to allow Maggie to continue to labor at home. There is probably no way that he could have stopped her bleeding. He is, in a sense, using the war as an excuse for escaping what is sure to be a difficult aftermath in his home town.. We shall have to see how his character develops.
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006

Re: Characters

Sex being a taboo subject to talk about does not prevent it happening, as witness the Victorians and the 'Free Love' era of the Flappers.  I don't think many parents tell the truth to their children about their sexual lives, premarital or otherwise. Perhaps someone like Iris wanted proof of her virginity precisely because she knew that many of those around her had casual sex and she disapproved. I have never come across reports of this kind of certification before and will be interested to ask Sarah Blake if it was a common thing for women to do.  Did virgins have such certificates but keep it quiet because it was part of the sexual taboo of not speaking about sex, I wonder.  

Contributor
Cobalt-blue4
Posts: 21
Registered: ‎09-01-2009
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Re: Characters

I agree with you. I liked Frankie the most and related to her. She has an intrigue and mysteriousness about her that draws people to her. She doesn't look for approval, but instead, she just does what she does and does it well. Her radio broadcasts are well respected. Plus, she seems to have a fearless quality about her, but I hope good instincts go along with it.

 

 

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Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: Characters

[ Edited ]

 

I don't think the Brits were any more shameless about sexuality than mainland Europeans at this time. Both Paris and Berlin had a much more racy reputation than London before and after the war, for instance.  And when I was growing up I thought Americans were very free and easy about sex because of the films I saw where sexual encounters were common, even if censored. Everyone wanted to experience deep, passionate kisses like those portrayed by American film stars!  Later I thought Americans were racy because of the GIs I met and turned down!:smileysurprised: (During my school holidays I worked for a secretarial agency in a large Midland city where half the girls disappeared at the end of the month, when GIs got paid and gave gifts of chocolate and nylons in return for sexual favours!)

tree_lover wrote:

I was a little taken aback with Emma and the underwear scene at first.  I then thought about the time period and where this was happening.  The scene was not in Europe where sexuality, sensuality and shame are as important as in the United States.  At that moment I could understand why she felt the way she did.

 

I would feel ashamed and flabbergasted that my underwear was out there for all to inspect and criticize.

 

liz


 

 

Scribe
debbook
Posts: 1,823
Registered: ‎05-03-2008

Re: Characters

I like all three of these women- Emma is the young bride, Iris is the spinster and Franke is the 'modern woman'. I think these scenes show us the different beliefs of the times. Frankie would not have been embarrassed by her underwear or feel the need for a certificate to show she is "intact".  But they are very similiar in that they know what they want.

I took awhile also to warm to Iris but now I feel I understand her need for order. I feel sorry for Emma as she is supportive but baffled by Will's decision. I can understand why Will left. He needed to prove himself, that he is worthy. They are all seeking something

A room without books is like a body without a soul.~ Cicero...
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maryfrancesa
Posts: 57
Registered: ‎10-29-2006
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Re: Characters

My favorite is Frankie I agree hat she is liberated fwemale a yuoung girl going off to Europe by herself and then employed in a man's whole back then.  She relates things very passionately so that the reader can experience what she sees through her eyes.  I am not so sure that I would put himself in her position ( with the soldiers that one night) or even on the train in "enemy territory"

 

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tree_lover
Posts: 158
Registered: ‎09-08-2009
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Re: Characters

CJINCA,

 

I thought a little about Olive Kitteridge as well.  I read the book a while ago and didn't connect the two characters right away.  I think in the sense of control the two characters are similar.  You saw how Olive's behavior formed the rest of her life and I look at it the same way with Iris.  I finished The Postmistress a couple of days ago, so no spoilers here.

 

liz

http://nygirltrustnoone.blogspot.com/
Wordsmith
babzilla41
Posts: 252
Registered: ‎05-04-2009
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Re: Characters

Iris thinks Emma is ashamed of exposing her underwear when her suitcase breaks open, but Emma says she's not the least bit ashamed. Why does Emma come close to tears in this scene?

I think Emma thought that Iris was too "familiar" with Will and kind of got her back up because he's her husband and she should know him best.  She was coming into town thinking she was gonna figure everybody out and be Will's pulse of the town then realized that when they pulled into town the people were living their lives already. Kind of shattered her illusion of what her role in the town was going to be.  The townspeople knew more about her in the space of 10 seconds than she would ever know about them.

"I love books. If I could eat them, I would. I love their scent and often put my nose in to inhale their aroma." - Kathleen Grissom