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Nov/Dec Selection: The Daughters of the Late Colonel

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MadArchitect

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Nov/Dec Selection: The Daughters of the Late Colonel

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It's time to declare a new "official" selection for the short story forum, and for this month I've followed Rose's suggestion -- in spirit if not in letter -- that we read a story by a notable woman writer. To that end, I've chosen Katherine Mansfield's "The Daughters of the Late Colonel".The story can be found online for free both at the Gutenberg Project (in plain text format) and at Arthur's Classic Novels (with HTML formatting). You can also buy the collection from which the story is drawn, "The Garden Party and Other Stories", at Amazon.To participate in the discussion, all you need do is read the story and reply in this thread with your comments.The official selection will be pinned at the top of the "Short Stories" forum, but use of the "Short Stories" forum need by no means be restricted to official selections. Feel free to post in the rest of the forum threads about any stories you'd like to talk about. After one month this thread will be unpinned, and a new monthly selection will be named.If Katherine Mansfield isn't your cup of tea, feel free to resurrect our previous discussion here.Enjoy! Edited by: MadArchitect at: 11/14/06 11:41 pm
Avi Seldom

Re: Nov/Dec Selection: The Daughters of the Late Colonel

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I hate to open this thread because I have to admit that this isn't my favorite genere but my amazon order of the fiction book is delayed and people don't start the thread so...I'll say that I enjoyed the Buddha reference, it kind of resumes the whole situation, I guess all of you have a more or less clear idea of what Buddhism is but, just in case, the most usual way to resume Buddha's way is to say he belived that life is suffering and the cause of suffering is desire.If you think that I'm trying to direct the conversation towards Buddhism you're right, but honestly I think its a good analogy for this particular two sisters and the death of his beloved father.
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Re: Nov/Dec Selection: The Daughters of the Late Colonel

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Looks like a good story and I'm happy to see that we're able to rely on that Gutenberg site as a source for free short stories.
MadArchitect

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Re: Nov/Dec Selection: The Daughters of the Late Colonel

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I'm finding more and more sources for online e-texts as we go along, so hopefully we'll stumble on a lot of great stories.And sorry for not taking up the discussion before now. I've finally tracked down a good hard copy of the story, and will probably launch into full discussion mode after this weekend.
Avi Seldom

Re: Nov/Dec Selection: The Daughters of the Late Colonel

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I've contacted Arkham house by mail requesting their permission as copyright holders to make "the black tome" available online, no luck till the moment but I'll tell you if something comes up.
MadArchitect

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Re: Nov/Dec Selection: The Daughters of the Late Colonel

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That's a tactic I hadn't thought of before. Even if they don't agree to do so, let me know how they respond so I'll have some idea of how to make that kind of approach in the future.I've finished "The Daughters of the Late Colonel". I intend to read it again in short order, but in the meantime, here are a few comments.First off, I love the dynamic between Con and Jug. They're well-drawn characters, very domestic and insular, but still distinct. The story seems to be very much about their interaction. They are, to some degree, very much emotionally dependent upon one another, but that dependence strikes me as an effect of their domestic environment rather than vice versa. I was particularly interested in the last section, at which it's hinted that, had they not been under their father's thumb, they might have struck out in very different directions.One of the things I wanted to talk over, because I'm not quite certain what I think of them just yet, is their fear of the housekeeper, Kate. They're entirely dominated by her, to the point that the employer-servant relationship is almost inverted. One of things I wonder about is whether it's Kate's on personality that causes their fear, or if it's related somehow to their fear of their father.Anyway, those are a few starting points. I'll definitely post more later.As for the Buddha image, once place to start, I suppose, is to say that it's probably introduced in part as a reference to the "hidden" history of the story. What I mean is, it's probably related to Ceylon, which is mentioned and even imagined several times in the story. I'm still trying to sort out the role that Ceylon plays in their lives, but I think it's probably a pretty good surmise that the Colonel served in Ceylon at some point in his career, and that the whole family's fortunes have been, to some degree, tied up in Ceylon ever sense. To that end, it may be a good idea to look at some of the history of Ceylon. Here is the Wiki on Ceylon, aka Sri Lanka.It strikes me that the Ceylon references made concrete the theme of domination, particularly in the form of imperialism. The daughters are dominated by their father, so much so that they can't help but react as though he were still present even after his death. One point of departure we could consider here is how imperial colonies, like Ceylon, behave in much the same way, such that the imperial influence lives on ages after the nation has ceased to be a subject of the Empire.
Avi Seldom

Re: Nov/Dec Selection: The Daughters of the Late Colonel

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Regarding the Arkham house thing I'll open a thread with the whole story and the replies from the editors, it seems not going anywere but I've even reached an agent and maybe it's interesting to have it in the forum.I have to check the open questions about the story but I sensed a kind of comic touch in the housekeeper part, and the buddist view combined with the "british actitude", it makes me remember some particular kind of humor, something like have you seen that movie "The great Lebowski"?
leelee2525

Re: Nov/Dec Selection: The Daughters of the Late Colonel

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They say you should always read the directions first. However, I like to "just take the plunge." I don't see where anyone has discussed Mansfield's short story for awhile. I may be in the wrong thread. (Please correct me if I am.) Josephine and Constantia are depicted as two spinsters. I would say they are at least in their 40's. Their life has been sheltered and those people who have the most direct contact with them are either a few servants or a few family members. What a closeted life they have lived. They seem to see everything outside their house as exterior to their desires and motivations. Do they have desires and motivations? Seemingly, if they did, they forgot what they were. The Buddha insert does seem to emphasize that. Thank you Avi for mentioning what Buddha's way comprises. I think that it is interesting that I read last summer that the new gardening landscape for the American yard is the Buddha. What does that tell us about materialism? Huh? Huh? Would certainly like to see a little more conversation here, if anyone is interested. Thank you.Lorie
MadArchitect

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Re: Nov/Dec Selection: The Daughters of the Late Colonel

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Thanks for jumping in, Lorie. I was hoping this thread would get some more attention.I'm glad you brought up the question of the sisters' ages. It's never specified, is it? Can anyone find any clues as to what their ages might be?For my part, I started out thinking that they were fairly young -- mid-twenties, perhaps. Even if that isn't the case, they seem to be caught in a kind of childhood frame of thought.Obviously, the story presents them as being beyond the point of really starting their lives as their own. But given the time period (a horse drawn carriage passes by outside) and the constraints of their social class (upperclass, New York debutante society?), that wouldn't necessarily make them middle aged. A 30 year old spinster, if she were as sheltered as Con and Jug, might have been just as stranded as a 50 year old spinster, given those conditions.The only thing that really shook my perceptions of how old they were is the episode involving the visit of their nephew. That's when they started to seem really doughty. Edited by: MadArchitect at: 12/14/06 7:45 pm
leelee2525

Katherine Mansfield and Ceylon

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After reading the site on Ceylon (Sri Lanka) I thought I might just share a little of what I read. This may be all old stuff to everyone else, but if so there is a whole lot of stuff in Book Talk to read instead. K. Mansfield was born and raised in New Zealand, a former colony of Britain. She later moved to London, where she wrote, married (I mention this because her husband was instrumental in having her letters published) and was a contemporary of such as Virginia Woolf. She was extraordinary as a writer and her letters and short stories are viewed by some as defiant and irreverant. "Katherine Mansfield's brief life was also a lesson in casting off convention. Famously, Mansfield remarked 'risk, risk everything'." I find this to be rather interesting since the two sisters in the short story "D of the LC" are anything but risk-takers. They much more closely resemble women from the upper, cloistered, and oft-times "shallow" places of society. Whether or not the women had many choices when they were younger has been muted by the fact that they cannot seem to make any choices now. Their own illusion of "safety and status" is confirmed by the dominance of their father when they are younger, and then after his death, is allowed by their acquiesance to Kate. Although, they seem to take the trouble to doubt whether Kate should have that role, they seem to be more inclined to just acknowledge that Kate essentially adhers to their requests. Does this necessarily switch the employer/servant relationship that Mad makes note of? I think they are also questioning that possibility, but their father is no longer there to give them the leverage they have been so dependent upon to back their position. Kate knows it too. I cannot help but smile and frown while reading this story. These women are well defined, yes, but the definition is so simple and has absolutely "no risk" involved. I cannot wonder, when Mansfield wrote it, that she meant this to be a story of snubbery towards snobbery.I mentioned at the beginning about Ceylon and I think it is of interest from Mad's post. This is an excerpt from that site and I wonder if Mansfield was aware of the conditions in Ceylon. Certainly, the Colonel would have to be and the attitude of the family would be carried over from their experiences in Ceylon. "The British found that the uplands of Sri Lanka were very suited to coffee, tea and rubber cultivation, and by the mid 19th century Ceylon tea had become a staple of the British market, bringing great wealth to a small class of white tea planters. To work the estates, the planters imported large numbers of Tamil workers as indentured labourers from south India, who soon made up 10% of the island's population. These workers had to work in slave-like conditions and to live in line rooms, not very different from cattle sheds." It also must be noted that although the family were not tea planters, the officers of the British military were in the same social circles as British upper class society. (What is also interesting is that a lot of the unrest today in Sri Lanka can be dated back to this time in their history, when the British were instrumental in bringing in these indentured labourers.) What has that got to do with the short story? I think it has a lot to do with a person's role in society and how even into the twentieth century those roles were pretty ironclad.Lorie
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