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 Post subject: Re: Peggy Bettany
PostPosted: 02 Apr 2017, 19:36 
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I think EBD was sometimes so keen for readers to like/admire a particular character, or in some cases (Joan, Miss Bubb) dislike them, that she went a bit OTT in telling us how perfect or how horrible they were. When you're constantly being told how wonderful someone is, how someone was the best head girl ever ever ever in the history in the world or how everything someone does is wrong (OK, that's an exaggeration, but you get the idea!), it can end up having a reverse psychological effect. I suppose that, when you've worked hard to create a character, you want everyone to see them the way you want them to be seen, but sometimes it can get a bit much.

Frieda is quite a similar character to Peggy, but we aren't repeatedly being told how great she is, or having her being held up in contrast to other people. Ros Lilley is another one. No-one seems to comment that they're presented as being too perfect. And Joyce and Annis are both nuisances in their early days, but they aren't repeatedly criticised in the way that Joan is ... and it's unusual to see them being defended as much as Joan is.

I don't dislike Peggy, but I find it a bit irritating how she's contrasted with Polly and Lalla, and I really wish one of the CS girls had been allowed to do something wrong in Oberland, rather than it being girls from other schools who did everything wrong!

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 Post subject: Re: Peggy Bettany
PostPosted: 02 Apr 2017, 20:30 
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RubyGates wrote:
I appreciate I'm making quite a sweeping statement here but why is it this board, generally speaking, seems to have such an issue with the nice girls and the kind girls, especially if they're in positions of power? Nice and kind doesn't always equate to weak. I have so often been bullied and humiliated by nasty types who have been put in charge because they are viewed as "strong".
But for me the truly strong people aren't nasty bullies or bitches.


I think there are two types of readers: those who accept stories as the author intended and those who don't/can't/won't.

The former type accept the world presented to them, like those characters who are well-behaved, quiet, popular, etc., dislike those presented as bad, don't argue with social conventions of the time, etc. They are probably less likely to notice EBDisms because they accept the stories as they are.

The latter people view the fictional world through 21st century eyes and standards, resist authorial perspective, and have sympathy and affection for the 'bad' girls while disliking or at least being bored by those characters the author often prefers.

I won't say 'never the twain shall meet' because I am sure some people (most people?) are at different points on the scale. I do think it explains much of the frustration on the board though.

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 Post subject: Re: Peggy Bettany
PostPosted: 02 Apr 2017, 20:51 
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Quote:
I think there are two types of readers: those who accept stories as the author intended and those who don't/can't/won't.... The latter people view the fictional world through 21st century eyes and standards


With respect, I don't think that's true, or not true of all of us here, anyway. Some of us are historians, and make it our business not to look at things from a 21st century perspective.

As a writer, however, I can't help noticing flaws in charaterisation/plot/structure, and I think this is the main problem with Peggy; she is being asked by EBD to fill a role she is unsuited to, both as Head Girl and as the lead character in the book. It's actually very rare on EBD's part; the only other leading character I can think of who wasn't really up to the job is Adrienne, and that was when EBD was no longer at her best.

Also, as an adult, I no longer read the books from the perspective of a twelve year old.

And if we all accepted everything EBD wrote, as she wrote it, there wouldn't be much left to discuss.


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 Post subject: Re: Peggy Bettany
PostPosted: 03 Apr 2017, 02:22 
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JayB wrote:
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I think there are two types of readers: those who accept stories as the author intended and those who don't/can't/won't.... The latter people view the fictional world through 21st century eyes and standards


With respect, I don't think that's true, or not true of all of us here, anyway. Some of us are historians, and make it our business not to look at things from a 21st century perspective.

As a writer, however, I can't help noticing flaws in charaterisation/plot/structure, and I think this is the main problem with Peggy; she is being asked by EBD to fill a role she is unsuited to, both as Head Girl and as the lead character in the book. It's actually very rare on EBD's part; the only other leading character I can think of who wasn't really up to the job is Adrienne, and that was when EBD was no longer at her best.

Also, as an adult, I no longer read the books from the perspective of a twelve year old.

And if we all accepted everything EBD wrote, as she wrote it, there wouldn't be much left to discuss.


Jay, I don't think it is as easy as that. Young readers can be perceptive and older readers don't get it necessarily right.

When the series ended in 1970 I was only a year or so younger than the triplets were in the last couple of books. I more or less read the last few books as they were published. At that age, Len, for me, to some extent spoilt the last few books because she was absolutely perfect and even 17 year olds realise that no human being is perfect. Of course, it probably just wasn't Len but EBD's writing .

It was not until I bought a computer around 2000 and started looking at the CS forums and heard everyone discussing favourite characters that I realised I didn't particularly like anyone although I only found a few objectionable. I didn't even have a favourite triplet because I thought none of them greatly likeable. The characters were just "there".

Giving it deeper thought, of course I do have favourite characters now and I am more ready (maybe) to also accept the good points of Len.

The fact remains though that the CS books were published for children and in that regard had to be written in a certain way - maybe more exaggerated. The last book was also published nearly 50 years ago in very different times.

As a 15 year old I thought nothing of Joey's two hour faint in Joey & Co but now I wonder if such a thing is even possible. I was always quite shocked at any reference to make up in the books. I think that was more a fifties thing than in my youth.

I remember too when reading Jean Becomes A Nurse at the age of 10 being shocked at Diana Hamilton ordering a shandy when out with Jean and her brother. Jean was so "good" and in keeping with the story only having a lemonade.

As for the CS girls being "better" in Chalet School Goes to the Oberland, of course they were! As someone reading this book in her early teens this was the way I wanted it to be.

Looking at the history of the world since it was created and the way some people have been treated - in particular women, Jews, blacks and goodness knows who all else - then I should think we have very little to complain about with the CS.


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 Post subject: Re: Peggy Bettany
PostPosted: 03 Apr 2017, 02:48 
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There are quite a few of the 'nice' characters I quite like - Josette, Jo Scott, Rosamund, Bride, Tom, even Len (although I find her a bit bland as a lead) - they're all good natured girls, who never go through a naughty middle stage and are generally kind and well behaved. But I find them interesting, and the kind I've girls I'd have liked as friends, unlike Peggy.

The divide I see in approach to the books is enjoy vs analyse. There are some people who prefer to enjoy the books as is, and find detailed discussion and analysis, and picking apart the books, to be tedious and distract from the fun of reading them. Then there are others (and I'm definitely in this category!) who find the analysis and picking apart to be excellent fun, and for whom uncritical reading gets boring after a while.

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 Post subject: Re: Peggy Bettany
PostPosted: 03 Apr 2017, 05:15 
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jennifer wrote:
The divide I see in approach to the books is enjoy vs analyse. There are some people who prefer to enjoy the books as is, and find detailed discussion and analysis, and picking apart the books, to be tedious and distract from the fun of reading them. Then there are others (and I'm definitely in this category!) who find the analysis and picking apart to be excellent fun, and for whom uncritical reading gets boring after a while.


I would agree with that divide as well. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the books as child/teen but didn't really question anything in them and was just happy to read uncritically.

But now I read them through adult eyes and question the characterisation, plot holes and realism, but can still really enjoy them for what they are.

Cheers,
Joyce

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 Post subject: Re: Peggy Bettany
PostPosted: 03 Apr 2017, 06:30 
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I'm another who gets frustrated with the opprobrium hurled at Peggy and her ilk on the board, possibly since one of the very reasons I enjoy the CS is that it's one of the few universes in which it isn't only the charismatic who are valued by their peers: there's respect even at the head girl level for nice kids with a strong sense of responsibility, and I applaud EBD for finding their stories worth telling.

I don't think Peggy was the most outstanding head girl in the world --that would be Mary-Lou 8) -- but absolutely reject the idea that Peggy wasn't up to the job just because she doesn't fit the forceful HG paradigm. Nor do I think she suffers from a "weakness" that weakens her book. For example, if she had immediately agreed that Eilunedd was out to get her, I'd have accused EBD of poor characterization! For me, Peggy's naivete and the friendship and teamwork of her fellow prefects are part of what makes Peggy a good read, despite Lady Acetylene Lampe.

I will probably never understand how a character can be simultaneously attacked for flaws and dismissed as too perfect.

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 Post subject: Re: Peggy Bettany
PostPosted: 03 Apr 2017, 14:33 
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Joyce wrote:
jennifer wrote:
The divide I see in approach to the books is enjoy vs analyse. There are some people who prefer to enjoy the books as is, and find detailed discussion and analysis, and picking apart the books, to be tedious and distract from the fun of reading them. Then there are others (and I'm definitely in this category!) who find the analysis and picking apart to be excellent fun, and for whom uncritical reading gets boring after a while.


I would agree with that divide as well. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the books as child/teen but didn't really question anything in them and was just happy to read uncritically.

But now I read them through adult eyes and question the characterisation, plot holes and realism, but can still really enjoy them for what they are.

Cheers,
Joyce


I'd like to think I can both enjoy and analyse, but sometimes I think the level or nature of analysis goes a bit OTT. Always in the back of my mind I'm thinking "but that's to make the story" when people are getting exercised about certain characterisations or plot points. I think it is perfectly possible to analyse without attacking a character, and when I analyse, I'm as much interested in "what the author was trying to do here" as I am in "what that character is trying to do here".

I actually quite like Peggy, and there are some instances in the Plas Howell books were she is shown as quite dynamic and a leader amongst her peers. But I do think she suffers from a couple of things: (1) not having a particularly strong friendship group and (2) the marked contrast with Bride and her friendship group, who I think many would agree are one of the most interesting groups in the entire series.

I do also think that EBD plays up Peggy's innate goodness and slight naivete (good description, Kathy_S) in Peggy, in a way that she hasn't done in previous books. I think that's a valid characterisation, given how unexpected the headgirlship is to her, but equally I do find the scenes with Polly and Lalla are maybe a big heavy-handed with the contrast between immaculate Peggy with her lovely manners, and Polly and Lalla, who have been allowed to run wild by their mother. I'd say that was EBD's doing, not Peggy's, though - and Peg isn't particularly written like that elsewhere.

I wonder if Peggy's enthusiasm for going home to mother after school is a function of the lack of time she had with her mother as a small child? Maybe her innate goodness is a function of the same: if I am a good girl, then mother will love me / want to stay with me / not leave me again....?


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 Post subject: Re: Peggy Bettany
PostPosted: 03 Apr 2017, 15:13 
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Just crossing over with the Jo Returns thread, although Maeve and Maurice's ages are later EBD-d, Dick and Mollie originally produce 6 children in just over 5 years. Before returning to India, Mollie tells Jo that she's expecting another baby in the April, which will be shortly after Peggy and Rix turn 5 at the end of January. David and Primula are a similar age to Bride, and Sybil is a bit younger than Jackie. When the Bettanys go back to India, there are 7 children - 4 Bettanys, 2 Russells and Primula - (8 including Gretchen :D) aged under 5 in the Die Rosen nursery. With the best will in the world, how were Madge and Rosa supposed to give so many small children individual attention? It was no wonder that Sybil played up. Peggy, who doesn't seem to have given any trouble other than the concern about her health after she had measles, probably got shoved to the back of the queue.

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 Post subject: Re: Peggy Bettany
PostPosted: 04 Apr 2017, 13:24 
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I suppose that's why Joey is going home to help Madge with the babies, although considering Madge has help the children probably got a lot more attention than many other kids would have done.

Caroline wrote:
I wonder if Peggy's enthusiasm for going home to mother after school is a function of the lack of time she had with her mother as a small child? Maybe her innate goodness is a function of the same: if I am a good girl, then mother will love me / want to stay with me / not leave me again....?

I think, regardless of whether or not she had insecurity issues, Peggy would have particularly wanted to spend time with the mother she was separated from for a long time, and who had been seriously ill. It doesn't surprise me at all. And as others have pointed out, she wasn't alone in her peer group either.

I think Peggy is a really nice character and a good HG, but 'her' book isn't a stand out one of the series for me. To me that's down to the story rather than faults with Peggy's character.


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 Post subject: Re: Peggy Bettany
PostPosted: 20 Apr 2017, 10:32 
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I agree with the poster who said that Peggy was the kind of girl who would always be held up to you as a 'good example'. She had no faults whatsoever: she was pretty, well behaved, tidy, hardworking and organised. People like that can be very irritating, not so much to younger children but definitely to teenagers and adults. They're hard to empathise with and you feel that they wouldn't really understand the various muddles and difficulties that people get themselves into, and would judge them harshly.

I find both Len and Peggy rather annoying, 'too perfect' characters. I far prefer girls like Bride or Sybil or Margot who have faults and failings and sometimes struggle with things, the way we all do.


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