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Bill_T
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Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

From one perspective, Marie Antoinette could be seen as a victim in this story from the very beginning -- a virtual prisoner from the moment she surrenders her clothing and jewels (not to mention her dog) in the middle of the Rhine in the first chapter?

Do you find this point of view convincing? Why or why not? Does the author's writing technique influence the way you would answer this question?



Note: This discussion topic is particularly suitable for readers who have only read the first part of Abundance, through the end of "Act One" . If you wish to discuss plot elements introduced later in the book, consider posting in a separate thread.

Click on "Reply" to post your thoughts about this discussion topic, or click "New Message" on the main page to start a new topic thread.
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Tiffany129
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

By the end of Act 1 I definitely felt sympathy for MA. In my opinion she was not in an enviable position. Yes, she was poised to become Queen of France, but at what an expense! She was separated from her family and friends, the only home she had ever known. She arrived in France as a foreigner and she had to have known that she would be the subject of intense scrutiny by the entire nation. I think the author did a brilliant job writing MA as a young girl. She really captured her insecurity and uncertainty.
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viva2
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court


Bill_T wrote:
From one perspective, Marie Antoinette could be seen as a victim in this story from the very beginning -- a virtual prisoner from the moment she surrenders her clothing and jewels (not to mention her dog) in the middle of the Rhine in the first chapter?

Do you find this point of view convincing? Why or why not? Does the author's writing technique influence the way you would answer this question?



Note: This discussion topic is particularly suitable for readers who have only read the first part of Abundance, through the end of "Act One" . If you wish to discuss plot elements introduced later in the book, consider posting in a separate thread.

Click on "Reply" to post your thoughts about this discussion topic, or click "New Message" on the main page to start a new topic thread.


I was startled by the French insistence on MA's divestiture of all things Austrian, but accepted it as the price of becoming Dauphine of France.
(Personally, I found her separation from her dog cruel to the dog, who was undoubtedly stongly bonded to its mistress. That is simply my point of view and was not in any way dwelt upon in the book.)
Bottom line, no, I did not feel that MA was a victim in following the somewhat draconian dictates of the French. I felt that it was a way to have MA go to her new life with a "clean slate."
Perhaps the innocent optimism shown by MA on her trip to France kept me from seeing a darker side to her having been stripped of all physical ties to her past. Giving up all her personal property was certainly an arresting start for the story, but not yet ominous in the early part of the book. Undoubtedly, my feelings were directed by the author's style and delivery.
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mx6stcy
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

I didn't think of her as a prisoner this early in the book. Mostly because I was reading from her point of view. I was only aware of her innocence, eagerness to please, and optimism. After seeing this question, and reading further into the story, I do think she was a prisoner from the start. She was not well prepared for her role, at the very least, on an emotional level but probably not in many other ways either. Her mother seems to put too much emphasis on the etiquette and other nonsense. Etiquette seems to always be holding up accomplishment in this court. From the time I began to learn about MA I've felt she was a victim. She was tossed into a corrupt court where everyone was out for themselves. She had a completely inept husband (I just want to smack him) who didn't seem to care about anything other than his own interests. I blame him for the "turning of the tide." MA was loved by the people of France but when no heir was had in a timely fashion, naturally the woman was blamed. I think if she had been blessed with a man (not a silly child) for a husband, MA would have been a magnificent queen in more than just fashion and opulence!
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marcialou
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

In a high school humanities class (many years ago) we were asked, "Are you free, or happy in your cage?" The court of Versailles was very much a cage for Marie Antoinette. In the beginning of Act I she is determined to be happy but by the end she acknowledges that she is not. "Am I to grow miserable at Compiegne?" she asks. "I know the answer is yes. And what is my recourse?"

Her recourse is to be sweet, patient, and supportive of her husband. Leaving is not an option. She is so conditioned to her role in a politically arranged marriage, that she doesn't see it as a prison or in any way question what is being asked of her.

Marcia
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katknit
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

I think it's hard for ordinary (ie, non-royal) persons to understand the concept of duty under which those born into royal families were raised until very recently Yes, they were wealthy, but political duty was generally given precedence over personal preference. A case in point is the British royal family of today. Diana and Sarah, for example, had difficulty grasping and accepting the idea that they had specific roles to play in their marriages.
Marie Antoinette was a pawn. Glimpses of her humanity shine through on occasion, but her life ws a tragic one because she could not adjust to the demands of her present.
No two persons ever read the same book. [Edmund Wilson]
jd
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jd
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

I did not feel she was a prisoner but was reborn as french in the middle of the Rhine. It was important for people to understand she was not bringing austria to france but was bringing royal, divine blood to france. I think Ms. Naslund did this well. -jd
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ukduchess
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

In this day and time, yes, she would be considered a prisoner. However, at the time during which her story took place, this was simply her fulfilling what she had been born and raised to do. This was what her life was meant to be and in order to become Queen of France, she had to give up Austria and all things Austrian.
"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library."

— Jorge Luis Borges
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Fozzie
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

I don't think of MA as a prisoner or a victim. I understand that she is expected to live her life in a way that advances the alliance of France and Austria, not in a way that pleases her. However, within these constraints, and given her age, I think she is doing remarkably well at the end of Act One.

I do feel badly for her with regards to her husband. She desperately wants a relationship with him, both physical and emotional, but he doesn't seem to be willing to make much of an effort.
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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SenaJeterNaslund
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

People have automatically looked down on MA for a long time. I appreciate your comment very much. I'm glad to have succeeded in making her seem more human--not a demon, but more like the rest of us. Who wouldn't feel uncertain in her position, but she really tried very hard to fulfill her role. She was brave.




Tiffany129 wrote:
By the end of Act 1 I definitely felt sympathy for MA. In my opinion she was not in an enviable position. Yes, she was poised to become Queen of France, but at what an expense! She was separated from her family and friends, the only home she had ever known. She arrived in France as a foreigner and she had to have known that she would be the subject of intense scrutiny by the entire nation. I think the author did a brilliant job writing MA as a young girl. She really captured her insecurity and uncertainty.


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SenaJeterNaslund
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

I've really enjoyed reading all of your answers to this very interesting question Bill posed. As you move along in your reading, you'll see that MA became increasingly trapped in her situation, and in the last "Act" she and her family become prisoners in the literal sense of the word.
Along the way, MA devised various ways to "escape" from boredom, from scrutiny, from criticism, from failure in the marriage. Some of those escapes seem wholesome, others not. It brings me closer to her to know that she loved flowers, music, dancing, and above all, her children.
ML
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ML
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

I cannot comment on MA yet, since I haven't gotten very far in the reading. However, I would like to say that "humanizing" characters is one of Ms. Naslund's most talented gifts in my view. Anyone who could ellicit the pathos of sympathy in a reader(me) for Capt. Ahab is amazing. I will now re-read Moby-Dick in a completely different light.
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SenaJeterNaslund
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

The hardest character for me to work with was Ryder Jones, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, in FOUR SPIRITS. In my aesthetic it's important to enter into the characters and to see the world from their centers. Ryder Jones was a terrible racist, and I really resisted using my imagination to enter his world. Finally I took him fishing, got him entirely out of a social context. That chapter, titled "Cahaba" was the last one I wrote, though it occurs about in the middle of the book.
I felt close to Ahab as Melville portrays him in the chapter titled "The Symphony," near the end of the book, just before the Chase chapters. Ahab is talking with Starbuck and trying to respond to his human connections at that point. He says that he sees his wife and his child, in Starbuck's eye.




ML wrote:
I cannot comment on MA yet, since I haven't gotten very far in the reading. However, I would like to say that "humanizing" characters is one of Ms. Naslund's most talented gifts in my view. Anyone who could ellicit the pathos of sympathy in a reader(me) for Capt. Ahab is amazing. I will now re-read Moby-Dick in a completely different light.


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viva2
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

At the very beginning, I did not see MA as a prisoner of the court. However, as the story progresses, I have marked in the margins the repeated references by MA herself regarding her feelings of being a prisoner, culminating in her amazing comment after the death of the King: "We are free."(P. 208) as they giggle in the carriage to Choisy fleeing from the pestilance at Versailles. Admittedly, they had all been under an enormous strain with the death of the King and the danger of infection from the scourge of smallpox. Some comic relief was bound to occur, but to say, We are free," was still amazing.

Certainly MA was much happier once the King granted permission for her and the Dauphin to go without restriction to Paris. Her addiction to gambling was another distraction for the frustrated virgin, by her own admission. Her youth and lack of a confidante she could trust must have weighed heavily upon her, driving her toward trivial distractions which enabled her to maintain her grace at all times. From past experience she knew that the walls had ears and that she could make no mistakes. What an incredible burden.

All of this is poignantly clear in Sena's descriptions of the troubled young Dauphine. Our author makes this young woman so alive and loveable that I cannot put the book down except to order a couple of the books from the Annotated Bibliography in the back of the book. Would that all books could be so absorbing.


viva2 wrote:

Bill_T wrote:
From one perspective, Marie Antoinette could be seen as a victim in this story from the very beginning -- a virtual prisoner from the moment she surrenders her clothing and jewels (not to mention her dog) in the middle of the Rhine in the first chapter?

Do you find this point of view convincing? Why or why not? Does the author's writing technique influence the way you would answer this question?



Note: This discussion topic is particularly suitable for readers who have only read the first part of Abundance, through the end of "Act One" . If you wish to discuss plot elements introduced later in the book, consider posting in a separate thread.

Click on "Reply" to post your thoughts about this discussion topic, or click "New Message" on the main page to start a new topic thread.


I was startled by the French insistence on MA's divestiture of all things Austrian, but accepted it as the price of becoming Dauphine of France.
(Personally, I found her separation from her dog cruel to the dog, who was undoubtedly stongly bonded to its mistress. That is simply my point of view and was not in any way dwelt upon in the book.)
Bottom line, no, I did not feel that MA was a victim in following the somewhat draconian dictates of the French. I felt that it was a way to have MA go to her new life with a "clean slate."
Perhaps the innocent optimism shown by MA on her trip to France kept me from seeing a darker side to her having been stripped of all physical ties to her past. Giving up all her personal property was certainly an arresting start for the story, but not yet ominous in the early part of the book. Undoubtedly, my feelings were directed by the author's style and delivery.

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SenaJeterNaslund
Posts: 67
Registered: ‎08-01-2007
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Prisoner of the Court

I'm really glad you found ABUNDANCE so absorbing. I enjoyed doing the research a great deal. It's fascinating to develop an idea of the person behind a fabulously well-known name like that of Marie Antoinette. Let me know how the ending reads for you.
Sena
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Fozzie
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Act Two: Prisoner of the Court - SPOILER THROUGH ACT TWO

SPOILER THROUGH ACT TWO

I have now read through Act Two and am now seeing MA react more to her lack of privacy and freedom in her position.

She is very excited by gambling, which concerns me. I am afraid that she will make decisions as queen based on emotion, not on facts. She has to control her emotions so much that she seems to be acting out, getting a high of sorts, from feeling the emotions associated with gambling.

At the same time, I feel great sympathy toward her due to her lack of privacy. Here is an excerpt from when she is walking through the palace alone at night:

"When I leave their room, I again pull the hood well forward and hold my head down to conceal my face. I fell almost as an ordinary person might feel. How strange to live in a palace with so many people I do not know --- nearly three hundred jumbled apartments exist behind the flat facades. Over five hundred rooms nestle under the roofs crowned with golden gilt. They do not all know Madame de Noailles. I could be anybody." (pg. 170 of hardcover)

She comments a few pages later:

"I have never felt particularly free here." (pg. 175 of hardcover)
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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SenaJeterNaslund
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Registered: ‎08-01-2007
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Re: Act Two: Prisoner of the Court - SPOILER THROUGH ACT TWO

Perhaps partly because she had so little privacy, Antoinette particularly enjoyed masked balls. She met her great friend Fersen at a masked ball. It pleased her very much that they had such an enjoyable convesation with him not knowing who she really was.
It always amazes me that so many people lived an worked at Versailles--up to 10,000 on any given day. Of course Antoinette begins to withdraw more and more--into her small, intimate apartment inside the chauteau and to te Petit Trianon at the foot of the gardens.
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