I capture the castle [SPOILER ALERT]

Nat Case ncase at hedbergmaps.com
Wed Jul 31 19:15:25 EDT 2002


At 6:27 PM -0400 7/31/02, HSchinske at aol.com wrote:
>In a message dated 7/31/2002 10:57:33 AM Pacific Daylight Time, Nat writes:
>>Thanks for the recommendations for "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie
>>Smith. Just spent a lovely weekend in Thunder Bay, Ontario on
>>holiday, reading that and Connie Willis' "Bellwether." Lots of fun.
>>Castle echoed to me as half way between Austen and Dean. Does this
>>seem fair to folks?
>I think you are (consciously, unconsciously?) echoing the 
>conversation between Rose and Cassandra where Rose says "Which would 
>be better, Charlotte [Bronte] with a touch of Jane [Austen], or Jane 
>with a touch of Charlotte?" [or maybe it's the other way around] and 
>Cassandra, eager to get back to writing, contents herself with 
>"Fifty percent each way would be perfect." I don't see much Dean-ish 
>in it except the literary references, and lots of authors do that. 
>(It is fun tracking them down ... I can remember finding 
>Chesterton's dog Quoodle in a novel, I forget which one at the 
>moment, at the Carleton library.)

No, actually it had occurred to me earlier that the book was a modern 
Austen novel, and the comparison with Dean came as we reached the 
end. I actually don't see as much Bronte in the book, but maybe it's 
because I've only read Wuthering Heights and parts of Jane Eyre. 
[synchronistically, Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" just came round 
on the computer juke box.]

I found the whole context of the book very Austenian: young women 
dealing with the need to "find a place in society," expectations of 
marriage, all within the assumed context of "society." Cassandra 
would never marry Stephen, as a more modern (or American) novelist 
might make her. Rose's running off at the end is a cause for real 
shame; she really does have to go to America after a disaster like 
that. Smith knows the book is in some ways an anachronism; I like one 
of the brothers' comment at the end how he knows the days of country 
houses are effectively. It's like Smith was writing a book about the 
last generation when an Austen novel was imaginable...

The relationship to Dean I see not just in the quotes, but in general 
in the importance of Cassandra's intellectual life. Also in the sort 
of almost-unbelievably literary and artistic life of the family; that 
EVERYONE in the family takes it for granted that conversations are 
half quotes and references. It's a different sort of hothouse than 
the Austen households, but not totally dissimilar, and Castle seems 
to me to be somewhere between them.

Somewhere I suspect there's a thesis about the book being a sort of 
bridge between 19th-century and modern women's novels. Does anyone 
know anything about Smith's relationship to the modernist 
establishment? She obviously has some strong sympathies with Joycean 

>Helen Schinske, returning from nearly a month in Oregon and 
>California (btw, Nat, I saw Andrea Webster, formerly Dawson)

Yeah, I ran into her at reunion a few weeks ago. Chap was there too, 
but I missed him (dang).

-Nat Case
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