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Rachel-K
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MA's Perspective

The picture we may have had of Marie Antoinette before now may have been very shallow, a misattributed quotation, the horror of the guillotine, a glimpse of the callous extravagance of the court at that time while peasants were starving.

What we get here, is not only a “rounding out” of that famous character, but is also long journey trapped in her intimate thought while she lives this strange, famous life. How do you feel sharing her limited perspective on the events of the time? Do you see her as trapped? As a victim of her position, her gender, the role she’s been cast into? If not, why not?
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katknit
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Re: MA's Perspective

Imagine being thrust into her role in your teens. Absolutely, I view MA as victim, of her upbringing, of the monarchy, of her own immaturity, of her essential "aloneness". She certainly needed more advice and support than she could get via letters from her mother. If Maria Theresa had been on the scene, I wonder if MA would have grown into her position and responsibilities in better circumstances. But the heavy emphasis on getting an heir over-ruled most other considerations in her life before the breakout of revolutionary hostilities, and then she didn't have time/opportunity to reform. It's unfortunate that she didn't heed her mother's warnings about curbing her "conspicuous consumption." or follow her own charitable impulses. But it's doubtful the outcome would have changed. The French Rev was horrific, long overdue, and insatiable for so long.
No two persons ever read the same book. [Edmund Wilson]
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marcialou
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Re: MA's Perspective


rkubie wrote:
What we get here, is not only a “rounding out” of that famous character, but is also long journey trapped in her intimate thought while she lives this strange, famous life. How do you feel sharing her limited perspective on the events of the time?




Being trapped in MA's intimate thought allows us to understand MA from her own point of view but it's not the best way to provide a rounded understanding of the period as a whole. It's unusual for someone to write in the first person present tense, as Sena did, as it allows for almost no self reflection on the part of the character. There's no room for "had I known then what I know now," in this sort of narrative.

Sena compensates for these inherant flaws by recording conversations between MA and more political astute characters, like Mercy, King Louis XV, and even Louis XVI. Discussions of the works Rousseau, Voltaire, and Hume remind us of the intellectual underpinnings of the Revolution. They mysterious Marie Jeanne keeps popping in to remind us of conditions outside the palace.

The author of a fictional biography may have chosen to write in such a way as to give us a more "objective" view of MA and her times, but I don't think it necessarily would have been a better literary choice.

Marcia
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viva2
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Re: MA's Perspective


rkubie wrote:

What we get here, is not only a “rounding out” of that famous character, but is also long journey trapped in her intimate thought while she lives this strange, famous life. How do you feel sharing her limited perspective on the events of the time? Do you see her as trapped? As a victim of her position, her gender, the role she’s been cast into? If not, why not?


These are very interesting questions. I feel that sharing her perspective on the events of her royal life is a brilliant way to get to know the very human side of a legend and to learn to care about her.

Her limited perspective of the events of the larger world outside Versailles is the crippling result of her lack of preparation for being the wife of a ruling king. She was trapped by youth, ignorance of things sexual, historical, political, intellectual, as well as of current events.

It was tragic that she was marginal in her ability to read and that there were no advisers to teach the teenager about her new country, her new duties and to tutor her in reading comprehension. She was treated like a decorative but charming figurehead.

The comparison between her and the much earlier Queen Elizabeth of England is breathtaking and heartbreaking for MA. Elizabeth was not crippled by position, gender, or lack of political savvy and education. MA was. Her knowledge of the arts was lovely but not enough, without the counterbalance of a more rounded education, like that of Elizabeth's.

MA was doomed by the cocoon of her life and that of her husband. She was unable or unwilling to break loose at the end and take her children to safety while her husband remained behind. I cannot understand why Louis XVI did not order them to a position of safety to protect the succession. There are so many unanswered questions.

I have noticed again and again that I want to know more, and perhaps this is because I feel trapped, myself, being so much more academic than MA, by the paucity of information that filters through to the Queen, and at how little critical thinking the doomed Queen has been able to create for herself. I want to know more, and there is no "more" to be had in the claustrophobic, sheltered, elegant environment in which she lives.

Still, Sena's presentation of the sweetness and caring and innocence of Toinette, no matter how sheltered she was, keeps me riveted to the story and wanting to see what will happen next, hoping for some sign of understanding to come to her.

Finally, her realization of the hopelessness of their plight comes to her, before it does to the King, and that realization ennobles her and makes her grace and bravery into true nobility. Then she earns and deserves the title of Queen.

As an aside: that her husband seemingly had little more education than MA to prepare himself for his duties as King is little short of criminal. It is no wonder that he vascillates in uncertainty while the revolution is building momentum around him. He too, was ill-prepared to be much more than a figurehead.

This has the makings of a tragedy from the classics, but it is real and not literature. Sena gives us the ability to care about the losses of the Queen in this historical fiction where her art imitates life with such skill. Many thanks, Sena.
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Rachel-K
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Re: MA's Perspective

Thanks for these responses--your thoughts are beautifully put.

One of the ways that being trapped in this "cocoon" with MA is enlightening, is the simple realization that every perspective on such a large event (and certainly, especially *her* perspective) is pieced together by limited knowledge and experience. Our "long view" on the revolution is both simplified and looked at through the lens of a couple of centuries. MA's view is the opposite. And I agree that it feels extraordinary that someone so young, inexperienced, and vulnerable winds up in such a position!
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katknit
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Re: MA's Perspective

Let's not forget that these are the author's thoughts, not MA's. :smileyhappy:
No two persons ever read the same book. [Edmund Wilson]
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SenaJeterNaslund
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Registered: ‎08-01-2007
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Re: MA's Perspective

I do think that writing imaginatively and also reading imaginatively can expand our sympathies a great deal. And it's also fascinating. I do believe Antoinette's life and her growth as her situation became more and more difficult is tragic.
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viva2
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Re: MA's Perspective



katknit wrote:
Let's not forget that these are the author's thoughts, not MA's. :smileyhappy:




Surely that is true and yet at times the author has relied upon and used letters from and to and about Marie Antionette as primary sources. Some of those are obvious and others perhaps are more obscure. That is one reason I am going to those primary sources. Sena has drawn me there.
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katknit
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Re: MA's Perspective



viva2 wrote:


katknit wrote:
Let's not forget that these are the author's thoughts, not MA's. :smileyhappy:




Surely that is true and yet at times the author has relied upon and used letters from and to and about Marie Antionette as primary sources. Some of those are obvious and others perhaps are more obscure. That is one reason I am going to those primary sources. Sena has drawn me there.


Good idea. Primary documents are always subject to interpretation, and it would be fun to compare yours to Abundance and other works about MA. I'd be interested in hearing what you think, too.
No two persons ever read the same book. [Edmund Wilson]
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viva2
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Re: MA's Perspective


katknit wrote:


viva2 wrote:


katknit wrote:
Let's not forget that these are the author's thoughts, not MA's. :smileyhappy:




Surely that is true and yet at times the author has relied upon and used letters from and to and about Marie Antionette as primary sources. Some of those are obvious and others perhaps are more obscure. That is one reason I am going to those primary sources. Sena has drawn me there.


Good idea. Primary documents are always subject to interpretation, and it would be fun to compare yours to Abundance and other works about MA. I'd be interested in hearing what you think, too.


Hello again, katknit. I find that Sena's detailed and charming venture into historical fiction has a certain level of verisimilitude.

I have no need for hard answers, which is fortunate as at this late date there is not enough to keep a scientist happy, but quite enough to keep a reader of historical fiction content.

In the volumes that I have just begun, I find that there is more of each author's interpretation of the letters, which I in turn interpret. Another layer of interpretation comes at the hand of the translator, who can unwittingly skew the original intent of the letter, as well. That is at least four generations of interpretation just to start with. I am not expecting or looking for much more than hints at things past.

I am curious to know the degree to which MA became assimilated by the French and in what ways, innocent or deliberate, she may have remained at times, "The Austrian."

I would like to know the degree to which MA may have influenced her husband, another related area of contention.

Clearly, I am interested in her development at the end of her life into a more realistic woman, as her denial of the seriousness of her situation is destroyed bit by bit. Are there letter, notes, verbal statements that address her adaptation or continued lack of adaptability? In "Abundance" she acts on bits of reality and then seems to backtrack into denial, emerge again and regress. At the end, her physical decline bespeaks a knowledge of, or at the very least a reaction to, the harshness and intractability of her imprisionment and the very real likelihood of her imminent death.

Likewise, I was fascinated by the ramifications of her apparent lack of royal identity in the absence of her royal gowns. Sena alluded to that and I am curious to know if there is anything in letters that would address that sad lack of personal identity separate from the physical trappings of royalty. To me, that lack of personal sense of identity would speak volumes.
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viva2
Posts: 35
Registered: ‎08-05-2007
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Re: MA's Perspective


viva2 wrote:

katknit wrote:


viva2 wrote:


katknit wrote:
Let's not forget that these are the author's thoughts, not MA's. :smileyhappy:




Surely that is true and yet at times the author has relied upon and used letters from and to and about Marie Antionette as primary sources. Some of those are obvious and others perhaps are more obscure. That is one reason I am going to those primary sources. Sena has drawn me there.


Good idea. Primary documents are always subject to interpretation, and it would be fun to compare yours to Abundance and other works about MA. I'd be interested in hearing what you think, too.


Hello again, katknit. I find that Sena's detailed and charming venture into historical fiction has a very satisfying level of verisimilitude. She has woven fact with fiction seamlessly.

I have no need for hard answers, which is fortunate, as at this late date there is not enough to keep a scientist happy, but quite enough to keep a reader of historical fiction content.

In the volumes that I have just begun, I find that there is more of each author's interpretation of the primary letters, which I in turn interpret. Another layer of interpretation comes at the hand of the translator, who can unwittingly skew the original intent of the letter, as well. That is at least four "generations" of interpretation just to start with. I am not expecting or looking for much more than hints at things past.

I am curious to know the degree to which MA became assimilated by the French and in what ways, innocent or deliberate, she may have remained, at times, "The Austrian."

I would like to know the degree to which MA may have influenced her husband, another related area of controversy.

Clearly, I am interested in MA's development at the end of her life into a more realistic woman, as her denial of the seriousness of her situation erodes bit by bit. Are there letters, notes, verbal statements that address her adaptation or continued lack of adaptability? In "Abundance" she acts on revelations of reality and then seems to backtrack into denial, in a pattern of emergence and regression. At the end, her physical decline bespeaks a knowledge of, or at the very least a reaction to, the harshness and intractability of her imprisonment and the very real likelihood of her imminent death.

Likewise, I was fascinated by the ramifications of her apparent lack of royal identity in the absence of her royal gowns. Sena alluded to that and I am curious to know if there is anything in letters that would further address that sad lack of personal identity separate from the physical trappings of royalty. To me, that lack of a unified personal sense of identity could speak volumes.

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