Conrad's Fate (with spoilers)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Mon May 16 11:06:49 EDT 2005


Elise replying to Robyn actually, but looked as if it was to me:

>>>>>>>SPOILER SPACE
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>>>>>I thought the whole Uncle thing was obvious and unbelievable. So 
>>>>>unworthy of dwj, who is normally quite subtle and interesting 
>>>>>when creating deception and exploitiation. I suppose part of the 
>>>>>reason it is so obvious is that Conrad is an idiot.
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>>I also felt the point was hammered home with irritating 
>>>>relentlessness.  But was Conrad really more of an idiot than 
>>>>Christopher was at the equivalent stage or was Uncle Ralph just 
>>>>one of the more subtly presented exploiters?  I'd think the 
>>>>latter myself.
>>>
>>>I think it is a little from column A, a little from column B. I 
>>>find Conrad to be without redeeming freature, which is 
>>>particularly problematic in a first-person narrative. I find it 
>>>hard to believe that dwj was going for dramatic irony and failed 
>>>so utterly - it's not like she hasn't made it work before, in, oh, 
>>>I don't know, her PREVIOUS book. Christopher's idiotic behaviour 
>>>was accompanied by enough context to make it understandable (e.g. 
>>>when he acts pigheaded because he feels the Castle staff are 
>>>treating him unsympathetically); Conrad appears to have no excuse 
>>>except his stolid, dull nature.
>>
>>I can't say that I got a great picture of Conrad's character one 
>>way or the another - which might or might not add weight to your 
>>case!  I found him totally swamped in the pre-Stallery parts by the 
>>heavy-handedness of the abusive uncle & mother combo, with the 
>>added hammering of the mother's feminism really not helping.  But 
>>Christopher's falling for Uncle Ralph's exploitation was more what 
>>I was thinking of in their respective idiocies.  Creating sympathy 
>>for apparently unsympathetic characters is yet another great DWJ 
>>strength, even if the lack of sympathy is only due to idiocy.
>>
>>Hallie
>>
>
>
>"I suppose part of the reason it is so obvious is that Conrad is an idiot."
>
>"I find Conrad to be without redeeming freature..."
>
>I need more details.  How so and in what ways did his idiocy strike 
>you? What features does he lack that he ought to have, or have that 
>he should lack?  What makes him unsympathetic?

You did get that those quotes were Robyn and not me, Elise?  I didn't 
have that exact reaction to Conrad myself, and may have been 
misleading in the part I did actually write:  I love Christopher and 
think he's brilliantly well done (in LoCC).   The difference between 
the two books I felt was that you could read LoCC and know perfectly 
well that Uncle Ralph was up to no good, and that Christopher was 
being used horribly and understand exactly why he was so vulnerable 
to the exploitation, and yet find the combined neglectful/exploitive 
parents & Uncle R. funny in the most sinister way.  Or possibly 
sinister in an often comic way.  But for me it was the lightness of 
touch that contributed a large part of its brilliant effectiveness, 
and I found that lacking in the first part of CF.  I did get rather 
hopeful that there was going to be an Ogre-style redemption of the 
mother towards the end, which would have helped for me, but we didn't 
get it.  Is there *ever* a redemption of a seemingly unsympathetic 
female character, come to think of it?  Mara's the closest I can 
think of, but she's not really unsympathetic.

Hallie



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