Picking up the Sophie Thread [Was RE: Hello again (Various threads)]

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Mon Aug 16 19:19:48 EDT 1999

On Mon, 16 Aug 1999 13:16:15 -0400, McMullin, Elise wrote:

>>Phil said:
>>"I must confess that I took an engineer's view of this, rather than a lit.
>>view, and decided that her talking to herself ("This is much more like you
>>really are", etc.) had turned her own magic talent on her.  Until she
>her own talent, and learnt to use it, she could not undo her own
>Of course!  Stupid of me!  That's just when it happened that she managed
>to reinforce it!  It went right past me, err, repeatedly!

This is probably why I'm not an engineer.  I second that duh...

>I just re-read the bits about Fanny because I'm on the fence regarding
>her personality.  I am mostly persuaded to agree when Sophie and Fanny
>reunite and Sophie is ashamed to realize that she misjudged Fanny by
>takinng Martha's view of her.  But on the other hand... well, right at
>page 1 we see that Sophie was the one responsible for taking care of her
>two younger sisters.  And then there is the wage issue and Fanny not
>looking after Sophie even a little (such as suggesting she take a break,
>visit her sisters or something, anything!) - and how she was taking the
>money to go have fun - or well really she was setting out to get
>something for herself since the hat shop would end up as Sophie's.  For
>me that's made up for more by Fanny's worry and remorse when they meet
>up again than by Sophie being a softie about the whole thing.
>I find I do sympathize with Fanny's situation, but she did exploit it
>and she does come across as selfish.  And I just have the feeling that
>Fanny would not have returned the money she made in selling her step
>daughter's inheritence (even if it was bought by her step-daughter's
>husband).  And shouldn't the shop have then gone to the second child?
>Don't know - think I've gotten about as far as I can get with it.

Despite my defense of Fanny, I'm really not sure how much I approve her
actions.  I still say that Martha's opinion of Fanny's gadding about is way
too biased to be taken as wholly accurate--i.e. when she says it only takes
Fanny half an hour to do work, then she goes gadding about; I'd accept that
she worked half a day, maybe.  Here's what I think about Fanny--we don't get
her age, but she's still a young woman and was the youngest assistant in the
hat shop.  Since we've also got Lettie going in to be apprenticed at age 17,
let's say Fanny's no younger than 16 and no older than 18 when she marries
Mr. Hatter, which will make her in her mid- to late-thirties when the story
begins.  That's still pretty young.  And I see a strong correlation between
Fanny and, um (runs to bookshelf) Lenina from _Cart and Cwidder_.  It's
never said that Fanny didn't love Mr. Hatter, but it's a possibility that he
wasn't exactly the most dashing of husbands--certainly not a match for Mr.
Sacheverell Smith.  It's likely she married Mr. Hatter for financial
security (more or less, certainly more than she would have had as an
apprentice) and as Elise points out, all her gadding about was to get
something for herself since Sophie would get the hat shop.

I'd be even more likely to forgive her if she'd met Mr. Smith BEFORE Sophie
disappeared.  That would mean she was off not just flitting around, but
spending time with her new love--and the much-talked-of new clothes might
have been a gift or a trousseau from him.  She seems, not malicious as
Martha suggests, but flighty.  Somebody who did her best to work hard, but
who needed the balance of people like her late husband and Sophie to
actually make things work.  You could probably write a novel about the
events of Howl's Moving Castle from Fanny's POV, but it wouldn't be terribly

And you can tell a novel is Deep and Multi-Layered when you can have a whole
conversation about a very minor character....

Melissa Proffitt
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