‘Women characters are presented primarily as those who suffer and endure’. To what extent do you agree with this statement?
I strongly disagree with this statement as throughout the novel, L.P. Hartley presents women characters as a central part of life at Brandham Hall – Mrs Maudsley ultimately controls the house (despite the obvious social superiority of Viscount Trimingham) and Marian manages to capture the attention of Ted, Leo and Trimingham. It can arguably be said that at no point do women characters suffer or endure (perhaps in the epilogue as Marian mirrors the life of Nannie Robson and lives alone with no visitors), as they are mostly in power at Brandham despite women being still generally considered to be subordinate to men at the time.
One reason I disagree with this statement is because the main female character, Marian, gets what she wants – sex and social superiority due to her marriage to Viscount Trimingham. Marian can be seen to not suffer in her sexual relationship with Ted and she is portrayed to enjoy it, and it can even be said that she is perhaps the one who controls when they meet. This can be seen in the epilogue when older Leo goes to visit her years later; “You know that Ted and I were lovers: well, we were. But we weren’t ordinary lovers, not lovers in the vulgar sense, not in the way people make love today. Our love was a beautiful thing, wasn’t it?”. In this quote, it shows Marian as being proud of her scandalous relationship with Ted. At the time, relationships were focused on social class – women would usually marry to gain social superiority and there were limits on who you could marry if their social status was too low. For example, this is the primary reason Marian and Ted cannot be together. The fact that Marian seems to be proud of her relationship with Ted, suggests that she enjoyed it which shows she certainly did not suffer. This enjoyment is reinforced in the phrase “we weren’t ordinary lovers”. The fact that Marian regards their relationship as not “ordinary” connotes that it was special, therefore confirming she had a good time with Ted, despite it contradicting the strict rules and rigid class system of society at the time. The use of the question “wasn’t it?” can be seen as rhetorical – she thinks it was beautiful and therefore doesn’t require an answer as it gives her a moment to reflect on such a great memory, however it is also rhetorical as she knows Leo will not say anything against her; here, she perhaps exploits his social awkwardness with women in the wake of Marian and Ted’s scandal, and takes advantage of him as she knows that he likes him and wants to still impress her even after he left Brandham Hall.
Moreover, Marian ultimately becomes socially superior due to her marriage with the Viscount Trimingham and thus reaps the rewards later in her life – she inherits a huge fortune and is the last Viscountess in the line of Trimingham’s. Therefore, she lives a very...