The Real Charlotte essay
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An idealized representation of an Anglo-Irish house is at odds with realities in a period with profound economic and historical upheavals. In the face of these upheavals, the Dysarts, the positive Ascendancy family at the middle of the narrative, are integrated, solvent, and safe in their Big House, Bruff. The Irish Big House novel contains a number of characteristics in which to build the altercation between Ascendancy house and hostile Irish landscape. The novel highlights a reckless or improvident protestant male landlord who is little bit violent and rebellious.
In numerous ways, the Real Charlotte avoids these tropes. Critics argue that Somerville and Ross stand on the side of the Dysarts, a family which is in the decline. This follows with an invalided, senile father as head of the home and an incompetent son and heir and the doubting Christopher. In relation to his inept attempts at photography, Stevens, points out that Christopher Dysart is unable to see either the full picture or at the back of the picture of Ireland because of his distance from the object of his gaze. It can be argued that failure to see the picture of Ireland causes Christopher to loose the vigorous and engaging heroine Francie. Consequently this fails to rejuvenate the Dysart family line.
As a protagonist, Christopher lacks strength and agency, but it is clear that his house, Bruff is well taken care of without economic treats and fears or disobedient tenants. The land agent is believed to have been robbing from the estate accounts, but Christopher reacts with composure, the calmness of assured wealth. The Anglo-Irish women, Pamela and Lady Dysart, are equally presented with tender but scornful affection and approval by Somerville & Ross. In General, both of them prove themselves to be inherently civilized and kind in their dealings with Irish Catholic tenants and servants, guests and Protestant neighbors.
Strangely, for late nineteenth-century Anglo-Ireland is securely ensconced within the Irish setting, usually an antagonistic place for the Ascendancy house. Stevens asserts that the attention dedicated to the termination of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy is real in the Real Charlotte. Nonetheless, the novel leads readers to disregard the main subject of the text: Protestantism. According to Lewis, the novel focuses on the face of Irish Protestantism within a range of class on the social sphere. While the estrangement of the top rung shows the disenfranchisement of the tradition within the Irish state, the focus rests on the religious predicament of the whole society.
The crisis in the novel is neither political nor economic, but is religious at a point when the economic and political status of the Anglo-Irish was on its verge of collapse. It is an intentional ideological position on the part of Somerville and Ross not to embark on such a crisis. The strategies they set out to evade any demonstration of this crisis make the novel, the most enlightening of all the texts of Anglo-Ire-land. Kreilkamp observes that, in their other literature, Violet Martin, who hails from a land-owning family in the west of Ireland, could be idealistic and in dissent about the impending collapse of the colonial relations. However, her associate and life-partner, Edith Somerville was realistic about the risks for her own class in the New Ireland. Kreilkamp, embraces the writings from the confines of Anglo-Ireland. However, Edith Somerville gives a tough-minded dream of how history works itself out for victims of colonization.
In The Real Charlotte, a tough-minded vision of history lacks, but there is an evasion of history most seen in the representation of the villain, Charlotte Mullen. Charlotte’s symbolic task is to represent some kind of dislocation of threats around Anglo-Irish political supremacy, to a figure of vague social position among the Protestant community. On the one hand, the cunning and able Charlotte stands for the emergent land-grabbing Catholic middle class. She has the ability to communicate in Irish and engage in intricate and creepy financial dealings with the peasantry. She uses diverse accents and dialects that portray the ambiguity of her social place with her slick, unreliable linguistic identity. Charlotte had several tones of voice. This refinement of humor was probably wasted on Lady Dysart. She was an English-woman, and as such, was unable to determine the subtle grades of Irish vulgarity.’’
In spite of casting Charlotte in the traditional position of the acquisitive tenant farmer, there is a crucial point of difference here in view of the conventions of the big house theme in the novel. Charlotte is her one victim of dispossession and a Protestant. Julia Duffy is a Protestant too and the daughter of a farmer who married his own Catholic dairy woman. This is an example of miscegenation that unsettles the natural arrangement of the Protestant Ireland. Julia is placed in her farm by the intrigues of Charlotte, who understands better than most of the workings of the Land League. Declan Kiberd asserts that, with no representative of the growing Catholic middle-class in the novel, Somerville and Ross are permitted to imply, with a feeling of Ascendancy arrogance, that the decline of Anglo-Ireland had nothing to do with any social forces outside its own.
The Real Charlotte denies the reality of social change. It contains its version of Anglo-Ireland within the confines of a wholly Protestant landed class where keeping the Catholic peasant and servant class is confined to the margin. Kreilkamp asserts that the Anglo-Ireland’s failures invoke a vision of a lost principle and an unsuccessful cultural purpose, social accountability, enlightened landlordism, and their historical role as exploiters of a native population denied them. The tragedy of Anglo-Ireland shifts easily to a bitter comedy and is seen as an evasion, a creative strategy to control and counteract potential fears and unease. Despite the evasion, there is an underlying sense that Christopher Dysart falls short to marry Francie Fitzpatrick, a woman who could revitalize Bruff where the future for his family seems to be doomed to extinction.
The novel concludes with a moment of violent death. The accident is a consequence of Charlotte’s eviction and land-grabbing. Here, something is being suggested about the fate of the Ascendancy. Neither Lambert nor Charlotte heard what she said, but the terror of calamity came like a vapor and faded the hatred in their faces.
The cultural and political revolution at the end of the nineteenth century provides an insightful look into the relationship `1n the 20th century, some elements in Irish fiction were starting to grapple with modernism. Much of new literature could not make people see a need to treat Irish life directly. Somerville and Ross were brought up in a Protestant Anglo-Irish family and were unmarried daughters who belonged to families whose status had gone down. Some of their privileges in religion, politics, and society were overturned. Having been placed to record challenges of everyday life in the ‘Big House’, the pair began writing, and soon after was their first literary venture, An Irish Cousin, a fiction which started life as a Gothic. This was a thrilling novel, but progressively developed into a more realistic picture of Big House life.
The Big House became a recurring theme in their literary output. Their critical welcome, however, wavered from tremendous popularity in England, and criticism in Ireland. In Ireland, their humorous fiction earned them harsh criticism from nationalist reviewers. England could have disapproved their work in Ireland since they regularly made fun of Irish country life. In 1894, Somerville and Ross came up with the Real Charlotte, the finest depiction of Irish society, which was during a decade of rapid decline, and overlooked for a long time. The Real Charlotte is a brilliant book analyzing the multifaceted relationship between language, culture, and imperialism towards the end of nineteenth-century in Ireland.
Favorable comparisons have been made with Ireland’s foremost modernist of the early twentieth century, where chronicles Ascendancy culture decline, a typical Sunday afternoon in a protestant quarter of the north side of Dublin are proleptic of the pathos of Joyce’s representation. The novel was criticized though, by many, even in more recent years, dismissed as dull traditional nostalgic illustration of the Big House era. Somerville and Ross were simply “traditional” novelists who gave a realistic demonstration of Irish life at the turn of the century.
In general, however, The Real Charlotte is considered one of nineteenth-century Ireland’s most excellent works. In their own admission, Somerville and Ross wanted the Real Charlotte to be a practical portrait of life at a Big House, offering readers character pictures with psychological depth hitherto lacking in nineteenth-century Irish fiction. To achieve this reality, was not an easy task as suggested by fellow female Anglo-Irish writer Lady Morgan and Maria Edgeworth.
Real Charlotte, like most other English realist novels of the nineteenth century, has characters that are of pragmatist blends of personality traits, not extremes of one or another. There is a lack of mixing of classes in the Irish realism. It is sarcastic in The Real Charlotte that it is not a critic, but one of the characters, who remarks that the Irish society is intolerably mixed. The mixing of classes is a greater reflection of the declining Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy class’s own economic and social circles hence, the need to cooperate more with others outside their own culture and traditional class. Ireland being a small country, it is most likely that the Irish themselves were establishing their own middle class such that cross-cultural, Interdenominational and socio-economic integration would occur.
The comedy is combined with the tragedy that has a devastating effect. The comedy anticipates that the big house theme would dominate the Anglo –Irish literature in the 20th century. It highlights the pretensions of an emerging middle class Ireland. The novel was written at a period when there was an ongoing national “plan of the campaign which was agitating farmers against Landlords. The state of Ireland responded with a coercion bill that required enforcement of land acts. Apart from Charlotte, no one understood the purpose and consequences of the land acts that were to be passed. The land acts brought revolutions in the Irish society.
The historical events suggested a reorientation and focus away from the past to an unknown future. Somerville highlights the conflict in the Anglo Irish society that portrays friction between the rich and the poor. There is also a clash within the Anglo Irish community where the old world of position, privilege and a new world of position, power and wealth become the aspects of individual enterprise and progress. Traditional power structures are rendered obsolete and inapplicable.
The state of Apartheid appeared which made the English population entirely inassimilable and even rendered their coexistence with the Irish society extremely difficult. The Anglo Irish relations were made worse in the 18th century by the large populations that led to land shortage. The enforcement of eviction was at the grim period of famine in the middle of the 19th century. It focused on the Irish resentment upon the big house that had become obnoxious symbol of English imperialism despite being Ireland’s cultural heritage for many years. Curiously, it was not until the verge of total disappearance, that the big house became the theme of in the Irish literature. Until then; the social political and legal implications in the Irish life had been too overwhelming to be transferred to fiction. Maria Edge worth in her book the castle Rankrent and the Absentee was the first novelist to account for the myth and the reality of the big house as a major literary of theme.
In the writings of Somerville and Ross, the big house theme is formed in the Irish literature. The writers in Somerville and Ross account for nearly every aspect of the big house theme from its passed splendor to its sordid decay. The reader of the Real charlotte slowly finds the unbridgeable gap between the English self complacency and the bitter Irish sense of humor. Somerville and Ross adopted a shift from the stage Irishness to a minute analysis of the Irish society through the spectrum of the big house. Somerville and Ross succeeded in recreating the love hate link between Ireland and the big house which the predecessors had failed to investigate thoroughly. The description goes further than the basic conscious political relations between the English Garrison and the Irish People. It covers the mysterious intricacies of illegitimacy inbreeding, land hunger, and insanity.
Elizabeth Bowen was also obsessed with the Big house theme, not just as the flash back of the distant past, but as an actual part of her present sorrows and affections. Today what remains of the big house theme is little from the factual point of view but a great deal of as far as literature is concerned. It now belongs to the common conscious of Ireland and has become part of the Irish heritage since the recognition by conor cruise in the 1960. Even if, a big number of the Irish citizens do not appreciate the concept of the big house, politically, they do not regard it as a minor element of their History, or try to conceal it as a shameful episode of their struggle for liberation and freedom.
Contemporary novelists such as Aidan Higgins and Jennifer Johnstone regard the concept of the big house as an element of tragedy. It was a period within which two civilizations failed to boil down and yet became inseparably bound together. In the year 1066, Normans invaded England. A century later, the descendants of the Anglo Normans arrived in the Ireland under the leadership of Strongbow. A few days of their arrival, the new conquerors established themselves in the Old Norse Centers of Wexford, Cork and Limerick. They spread quickly and occupied the fertile lands particularly in the East west and south of the country. The plot depicts concerns and anxieties of the Irish society. The story of inheritance with individuals jostling for social identity in regard to, marriage money and sex was evident. Fancie Fitzpatrick beauty helps her meet many characters, all from diverse walks of life, to give focus to the narrative conflict.
Charlotte attempts to cheat her cousin Fancie out of her rightful inheritance and Roddy who has a dream of improved financial and sexual freedom. They both aspire to go back to the old world that was void of graft and land grabbing. They want money and anything that money can offer without struggle and willingness to labor. Charlotte and her friends do not embrace the society where industry and commerce is being given attention. They ignore a world inhabited by entrepreneur’s middle class people and their possessions. Real charlotte story projects a story of property, inheritance and succession caught between history, tradition and modernity where there is a clash between the old world values and new world realities. The novel resonates beyond the Irish society and boils anxiety about cultural and racial degeneration.
The Anglo Irish Society which is predicated in hierarchical superiority and difference leads to the emergence of a Darwinian concept of world leveling of homogeneity and sameness. The concept of infertility dominates the Anglo-Irish society where the present day Anglo-Irish fails to produce the next generation. The big house anatomizes the collapse of social class and final destruction of the Anglo –Irish culture .The house is consumed, not by the fires of class warfare, but the wanton carelessness of the owners. The Real Charlotte invokes the Anglo-Irish eccentricity in its portrayal of the over bred Dysarts.
Although the Anglo – Irish landlords were succumbing to the pressures of Irish nationalism, the big house constantly moves backwards and finally becomes a narrative of history like the castle Rackrent focusing on the slow decay of a powerful family. At the heart of the novel hovers an empty and abandoned, but splendid house which dominates the landscape overgrown with vines. No longer occupied by the prendeville owners, the big house stands looming over the sea, a reminder of the heroic architectural image, and its debased human inhabitants.
Irish tenants have access not only to gossip, but also to memories, a mythic, and knowledge of the countryside. English visitors, Charlotte mullen and rural capitalist who have knowledge of the emerging middle class ignore it. 20th century novels about the big house, continued to expose the cost of failure expressed in an increasingly rigid adherence to elaborate social lies disguising truths about the country and home. Somerville and Ross in the big house of Inver create illegitimate daughters of Anglo – Irish Landlords and Irish servant women who end up sacrificing themselves to Ascendancy illusions defending a society which condemns them to domestic service in their father’s houses.
Local magistrates and estate owners gave orders that confront political importance. Novels about the big house depict landlords who resort to hunting and drinking and engaging in sexual relationships that their society deems aberrant. The survival of the big house fiction throughout the 20th century suggests its generative power rather than the comparative poverty of the Irish novelistic tradition. The theme big house evokes the Protestant Ascendancy. The frames of the Irish fiction are set and determined, in spite of the occasional "disturbance" by visitors. The Space and position in the Irish fiction play a tremendous integral role in the creation and rediscovery of identity in a personal and a national level.
In conclusion, the big house theme is crucial in the novel the Real Charlotte as it communicates about the social and economic position of the Irish society. The society is in a crisis as the government participates in imposing stringent rules on land ownership and acquisition of property in general.
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