[DWJ] Parents (was; Cast and Cwidder)

jodel at aol.com jodel at aol.com
Wed Mar 14 16:58:09 EDT 2012

Upon the whole, for at least what feels like the first half of DWJ's 
body of work, we appear to have the motif of pretty good grandparents 
set against less than satisfactory parents. But the most interesting 
thing about it is that they are generally unsatisfactory in completely 
different ways. Not all cut to the same pattern.

Sometimes, it's pretty clearly just invoking the standard (for the 
time) unobservant/ineffective parents who are presented as such so the 
kids will have the option of dealing with the situation. There was a 
lot of that going on over the course of the 20th century. It's kind of 
a logical development out of E. Nesbit's "no grownups noticing" trope 
-- which Nesbit had various fun with, since for the grownups not to 
notice what was going one was often as bad, if not worse, than having 
them noticing it would have been.

But in all the other cases, the parents are every bit as individualized 
as the young protagonists. No one would ever mistake Clennen and 
Lennina for Reg and Ivy, for example, although both sets were far from 
ideal even at the best of times. Nor could you mistake them for Mig and 
her brother's parents in Aunt Maria, or for Quinten and Catriona, even 
though I rather *like* Quinten and Catriona. But I wouldn't nominate 
them for parents of the year, except perhaps by comparison. And that's 
not even taking the real monsters into consideration.

And then you get the grandparents -- or, to be honest, the 
grandmothers. For I don't get a very clear image of meeting many 
grandfathers until we start working out way into the later half of the 
material, and by that time grandparents were no longer being given any 
kind of a pass. Polly's grandmother takes the most active role of any 
of them, and she was very much what Polly needed, but she was quite 
correct in admitting that she made mistakes with Reg. Although how much 
of what Reg is can really be laid at her door is debatable. There was 
another rescuing grandmother in Time of the Ghost, but we never 
properly met her, except in summary, since by the time she swept in and 
carried her grandaughters off to a more normal life, most of the arc 
was set in stone, and only had to wait for the conclusion.

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