Polly and Nina (Fire and Hemlock, was Hexwood

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Mon Feb 4 17:26:35 EST 2002

>  Then I got to wondering if there were physical
>descriptions of Ivy -
>other > than the "stony" part.  I didn't find much,
>except for the little
>glimpse > through Polly's eyes, when she says Ivy's so
>much better looking
>than > Nina's mum.  There is also "Ivy smoothed at her
>beautifully set
>hair", > which I found interesting, coming after the
>meeting with Laurel.
>Ivy's appearance was something I'd never really
>thougth about. My
>mental image is the later, dressing-gowned, Ivy, gone
>to seed. The
>resemblance of their names has been remarked on
>before, realising
>that Ivy was originally a good looking, elegantly
>groomed woman,
>gives some plausibilty to the idea that that Ivy too,
>was a
>descendant of the Leroys. It also ties in nicely with
>the way that
>Laurel was able to get at Ivy so well.

Oh, surely Laurel wasn't the *only* nicely groomed woman in the town? 
:)  I think I'm just resistant to your interesting theory, Ven, as I 
dislike Laurel (and her real-life type) so.  Unfortunately, she 
doesn't seem to need blood ties to be able to get at people, does 
she?  Of course, you could say that everyone we see her getting at IS 
related, so I've no evidence to back up my quibble.

>Nat continued
>>  >Nina's sense of making herself attractive
>later--she shows off her
>>  >developing bust, dyes her hair, chases boys, etc.,
>while superficially
>>  >about beauty, stand in contrast to Laurel's
>literally stunning
>>  >elegance. Polly is in the oddly powerful position
>of growing into the
>>  >physical ABILITY to give Laurel a run for her
>money, but not wanting to
>>  >be judged on that OR on the vulgar sorts of things
>Nina gets into in
>>  >her teens.
>Interesting. I'm not sure I'd exactly characterise
>outfits/behaviour as vulgar -- cetrtainly not in
>intent. I sort of see
>Nina as probably despairing of her "faults" frizzy
>hair, glasses etc, and
>putting on a big show as a way of attracting attention
>away from them. Of
>course she is, in fact, an attractive girl and the
>effect is to draw
>attention to that and to give her the enviable air of
>being confidently

Hmmm again.  I'd tend to agree with vulgar - or at least I think I 
would.  Brash anyway.

>Hallie then said
>>  Hrmm...   I see what you mean, but I have a hard
>time fitting her
>>  very young self's envying Nina's looks with her not
>wanting to be
>>  judged on her physical attractiveness later.
>Didn't it just mean she had grown up a bit?

Right.  I was very unclear here.  I thought Nat was saying that he 
saw Polly (at 10) envying Nina's "unattractiveness"  (I'll come back 
to that) as evidence that she didn't want to compete with Laurel on 
the basis of physical attractiveness, though she could have.  I was 
then thinking that the times were all wrong, as the description of 
Polly and Nina is before the funeral, and we'd no foreshadowing of 
Polly's feelings about Laurel.  However, when trying to explain 
better what I meant, I realised that I don't mean it any more. 
(Lists are wonderful, aren't they?  Sometimes you even figure out 
what you're trying to say!)

So I now accept that Polly could instinctively be rejecting Laurel's 
arrogant and cold-blooded feelings of superiority towards other 
people, by seemingly rejecting her own attractiveness (especially as 
it's "pretty" attractiveness).  Just as she will later take up the 
hard route to becoming a hero - through training and humiliation! 
But in the essay DWJ says that Polly (at 10) instinctively recognises 
that the only place they can escape Laurel is in the realm of 
imagination.  So I can see that she'd also be escaping Laurel's type 
in fairy tales, for example, the Ice Queen - beautiful and elegant, 
but heartless.

The bit about Polly's looks I should probably explain.  I'm *not* 
saying that because Nina wears glasses and has frizzy hair that I 
think Polly's prettier etc.  It seems to me that there is a very 
pointed telling narrative here, which sets up the contrast not only 
on the basis of differentness, but also quite specifically points out 
Polly as good-looking and Nina as not.  Other people may read that 
bit quite differently.

I'll do the rest of the reply to Nat's post...


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