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 Post subject: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 13 Jan 2019, 12:37 
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It always seems to me that Elinor put quite a lot of moral content into her books, but a lot of it fairly cleverly and quite subtly done, especially in comparison with the work of many of the authors she herself might have encountered as a child - though you may not agree, of course. I don't know whether this is something that came naturally, or was suggested to her during her own religious studies, or both.

As for particular misdeeds, there seems to be very little stealing, lying, cheating or even greed, though some singular instances come to mind. Anger appears to have the greatest number of representations (not just Margot, either); then perhaps jealousy, laziness and lack of consideration. Is it harder for a CS girl to do wrong, perhaps, given the ethos of the school?


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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 13 Jan 2019, 15:00 
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I agree that she avoids some of the excesses of earlier school stories - there are some unpleasant girls, but usually with some sort of backstory to explain their behaviour, rather than outright villianous characters. Poor Margot is one of the few whose behaviour is chalked up to basic moral failings, rather than poor parenting.

Thinking of the list of the seven deadly sins... Greed and gluttony show up when students have midnight feasts. Envy shows up not so much for physical belongings, but envy of other girls' friendships. Pride - Margot has that, and pride would come in when girls are reluctant to admit their faults, or break down before Miss Annersley. Wrath - as you said, lots of examples of anger, breaking into physical violence on occasion. Sloth shows up in girls who are too lazy for Guides, or who skip out on their gardening tasks. Lust - not appropriate for school stories :D The closest they get is sentimentality and the occasional platonic crush.

Lying and cheating don't seem to happen often - lying about a misdeed is generally regarded as worse than the original sin.

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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 13 Jan 2019, 15:10 
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I think she misses a lot of plotlines, which Enid Blyton in particular puts to good use, there, but, as you say, I think she was reluctant to show Chalet School girls doing wrong. It gets a bit farcical in Oberland, when all the sins are committed by girls from other schools!

Disobedience seems to be the ultimate sin in the early books, and jealousy is a theme throughout. Vanity's another one - and she ties herself in knots there, because she herself goes on so much about people's looks! It's more about character flaws than actual deeds: we don't get the Blytonesque storylines about cheating in exams, stealing from lockers or pretending that your family background is much grander than it actually is. But then we get these huge dramas - Sybil scalding Josette is somehow due to vanity, and Emerence half-killing Mary-Lou is (a bit more convincingly) due to disobedience.

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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 13 Jan 2019, 16:27 
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jennifer wrote:
Lust - not appropriate for school stories :D The closest they get is sentimentality and the occasional platonic crush.
And Grizel collecting postcards of celebs was purely for sporting interest, I seem to remember... I think there was also more limitation on what authors could show girls doing by way of bad behaviour [carefully straightens face]. I've never read boys' school stories to the same extent, but I think authors for girls were (advised to be?) notably averse to plotlines involving breaking bounds for commercial pleasure-seeking (cinemas, road-houses, fairgrounds, external parties) especially during the evening, obviously. Those plotlines seem to have featured more in comics. Isn't Joey and her friends going to the Ice Carnival to some extent dismissed because they didn't really understand how it would be?

Having mentioned Grizel, I suppose she's possibly Margot's nearest rival in the 'temper and its consequences' line; has anybody else got a handle on the Diana Skelton episode? I know wrecking Bride's study is supposed to be for revenge, but I wouldn't have thought Diana would go to such immense effort, even with help. And she appears to repent, only to get into deeper trouble at home, leading to her not coming back. What was the point of her as a character, then?

Alison H wrote:
Disobedience seems to be the ultimate sin in the early books, and jealousy is a theme throughout. Vanity's another one - and she ties herself in knots there, because she herself goes on so much about people's looks! It's more about character flaws than actual deeds: we don't get the Blytonesque storylines about cheating in exams, stealing from lockers or pretending that your family background is much grander than it actually is. But then we get these huge dramas - Sybil scalding Josette is somehow due to vanity, and Emerence half-killing Mary-Lou is (a bit more convincingly) due to disobedience.
Yes, even plain girls usually have thick glossy hair and good complexions, if not 'starry' eyelashes and curls!

The Sybil & Josette thing is a bit convoluted, isn't it? I think the idea is that she's supposed to be vain all over, not just about her looks, so thinks she knows better than anyone else, and doesn't go for help with Josette's injuries; perhaps subconsciously hoping to make it less bad for herself as well - quite logical thinking for a child that age. But then both of those plotlines have echoes of Mrs Vaizey, especially the Emerence/ Mary-Lou one.


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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 13 Jan 2019, 16:47 
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Elma Conroy is guilty of lust :lol: . She gets her come-uppance! Joan Baker also talks about boys, which horrifies Mary-Lou so much that she can barely say the word "boys". And Vera Smithers reads unspecified mucky books.

As Jennifer said, they seem to have their own moral code, with lying about a misdeed being seen as worse than the misdeed. The ice carnival gang get off scot free because they all claim responsibility - even though they've got no choice but to own up, when Jo is brought home unconscious! It's a mixture of the "schoolgirl code" and a general CS code. I get things like it being bad to sneak on someone, but I find other things quite frustrating. Passing notes in class, rather than risking being caught talking, seems to be taken more seriously than Eilunedd stirring up trouble against Peggy or even Margot threatening to blackmail Ted. The ice carnival gang get off scot free after deliberately disobeying Madge's express instructions, but Anne Seymour isn't allowed to be head girl because she was careless. OK, she could have been seriously injured, but that was an accident: her actual crime was carelessness. It's quite difficult to get your head round the CS's moral compass sometimes!

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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 13 Jan 2019, 18:36 
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I had the impression Anne wasnt headgirl because she had the temaritry to tell Joey to shut up and let her work


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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 13 Jan 2019, 21:41 
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claire wrote:
I had the impression Anne wasnt headgirl because she had the temaritry to tell Joey to shut up and let her work
That was what caused Jo and Anne to fall out (in New House), but Alison's right - Anne was (quote) 'careless' later in the book when she slipped off a rock wall by a waterfall on an expedition to the Mondscheinspitze, from which predicament she had to be rescued, mainly by Jo and Miss Stewart. In New CS she's been made up to prefect from being a sub-prefect, but we're told that she's passed over for Head Girl because of that incident - as she subsequently goes on to set the hall on fire by leaving an electric iron plugged in, she maybe wasn't ideal HG material, but then was Grizel?


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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 13 Jan 2019, 22:09 
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Another great 'sin' is eavesdropping - Joan Baker overhearing ML Kat Gordon etc talking about Joan's wicked ways and how they want to improve her - but who really could resist? Joey doesn't resist until the final moment when she listens in to Annis's father and aunt at Penny Rest. Should the girls really have been discussing Joan? I remember at school being told that anything one said about others should be be kind enough to be shouted from the rooftops for all to hear.
What about 'spluttering' during a Big Row between Mr Denny and Verity?


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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 13 Jan 2019, 23:27 
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That's another one where I feel as if the moral compass has gone haywire! It's OK for Kat and Mary-Lou to slag Joan off behind her back, but not for Joan to listen when she hears them doing so. And Margot eavesdropping on Joey and Rosalie's conversation seems to be considered worse than her planning to blackmail Ted.

There is a lot of moral content, but it can be quite hard to understand sometimes! There's also a lot of the idea, more 19th than 20th century, that bad behaviour will bring its own retribution. Sometimes it's really big scale, as with with poor Stacie, who, like Katy Carr in What Katy Did, is condemned to lie flat on her back for two years for committing the deadly crime of disobedience (although at least she escaped with her life, unlike poor Rolf Maynard!), or the Balbini twins, who miss seeing their mother before her death after running off with Sybil. More often, it's small scale: no-one can have a midnight feast without getting horrendous stomach ache, and anyone who tilts on a chair will inevitably fall off and hurt herself.

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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 13 Jan 2019, 23:40 
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Yes, the moral compass does take a bit of getting your head round at times - like Bride getting ticked off for being horrified at Diana Skelton stealing her mother's jewellery to pay gambling debts. Approving Diana's actions is even more out of the question, so just what is Bride supposed to say - "There, but for the grace of God, go I"? Never at all likely!



Edited to correct a typo


Last edited by Noreen on 15 Jan 2019, 09:25, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 14 Jan 2019, 03:45 
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The punishment for the 'sputtering' is one of the weirdest ones - they're expecting an amazing level of self control from a bunch of ten year olds watching one of their classmates be openly defiant. Same with Bride and Diana - they're fully expected to *be* shocked at the behaviour, but not show it.

I'd say that overall the two unforgivable sins in the CS world are lying (or refusing to own up to misdeeds) and not being repentant when caught; they're worse than vandalism, blackmail or assault. Of the three expulsions in the series, two of them are ultimately for those reasons (the third being for treason during wartime).

Thinking over the series, most of the bad behavior is in the form of various pranks, which are usually cheeky rather than malicious, and generally get straightforward punishments. There are also many mild infractions - sharing or forgetting books, talking slang, using the wrong language, going up the wrong staircase, whispering in prep, messy drawers, tilting - which get fines or other immediate punishment. There are occasional physical scraps, which are treated more seriously. Outright defiance or disobedience of the mistresses or prefects is squashed very hard. Midnights are Very Serious, of course. Then there's occasional nasty behaviour, which is usually the result of some sort of feud or jealousy.

Interestingly, running away/out of bounds is a pretty standard misdeed in the Tyrol days and generally gets mild punishment (but frequently produces injuries), but is very rare and much more serious in the Swiss period.

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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 14 Jan 2019, 07:29 
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The biggest grey area for me seems to be reporting vs telling tales. Not even EBD is clear on that!

Noreen wrote:
Anne was (quote) 'careless' later in the book when she slipped off a rock wall by a waterfall on an expedition to the Mondscheinspitze, from which predicament she had to be rescued, mainly by Jo and Miss Stewart. In New CS she's been made up to prefect from being a sub-prefect, but we're told that she's passed over for Head Girl because of that incident - as she subsequently goes on to set the hall on fire by leaving an electric iron plugged in, she maybe wasn't ideal HG material, but then was Grizel?


We are told that Anne knew she was doing the wrong thing by going - "She knew that if she were caught she would get into trouble" - and really the difference is likely to be most clearly that Grizel's final madness, going to see the Rhein falls, takes place during the holidays and doesn't put anyone else in danger. One can imagine that, had Louise not already been head girl when she ran into hall after Jo's book during the fire caused by Anne, she wouldn't have been allowed to hold the post.

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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 14 Jan 2019, 07:48 
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KB wrote:
The biggest grey area for me seems to be reporting vs telling tales. Not even EBD is clear on that!


That's a very interesting one - definitely a grey area. Eustacia sneaking on Margia is definitely telling tales, because no-one (other than the hymn book!) has been hurt, whereas Cornelia is OK to report Thekla because Joyce was clearly frightened of her actions ... but what about Gisela reporting Juliet for disobeying the prefects? I suppose that classes as appeal to a higher authority!

Even when I was at school, it wasn't the done thing to report bullying, because that made you a tell-tale/sneak, so bullies got away with it. Joyce doesn't tell on Thekla even though she herself then gets the blame for something that isn't her fault. Very complicated!

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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 15 Jan 2019, 06:01 
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I find CS over/under reactions to misdeeds fascinating, some of the punishments are just bizarre. Here are the ones I find the strangest (some already mentioned)

Passing notes being seen as shocking and dishonourable (passing notes was part and parcel of my school life, we were constantly coming up with inventive ways to smuggle them around the room e.g. inside a fountain pen or pritt stick!)

Val getting blamed for being kidnapped (with no thought for the trauma of her experience)

Margot getting away with nearly killing Betty, and Len and Con being told that Margot's blackmailing/ assault is partially their fault

Poor Sybil (it was an accident and she was a young child herself!)

Rolf Maynard's death being Lydia's fault (Mike nearly killing himself by falling down a cliff is definitely *not* Joey's fault though)

Midnight feasts being seen as a terrible sin (as opposed to in EB where it is an expected part of boarding school life)

Jane being at fault for Jack attacking while Jane was washing the car. Also the fact that Jack gets away with being a horrible bully and is effectively petted by Len as a result.

The Eilunedd/ Peggy storyline- it's such an odd thing to twist into something about Peggy. Wasn't Peggy capable pf doing anything remotely bad?!

Anne losing her head girl-ship despite Grizel and Joey doing far more irresponsible things.

ETA: Not a sin as such, but Margot is constantly told off for not keeping up with Len and Con, who are both ahead of their peers and in a form (or two?) above what they should be.

These are some of the top of my head (at work and away from all the books) there are definitely more!

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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 15 Jan 2019, 14:52 
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I'd say that overall the two unforgivable sins in the CS world are lying (or refusing to own up to misdeeds) and not being repentant when caught; they're worse than vandalism, blackmail or assault. Of the three expulsions in the series, two of them are ultimately for those reasons (the third being for treason during wartime).

Three expulsions? I know Thekla was expelled and Betty but who was the third?


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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 15 Jan 2019, 15:10 
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Three expulsions? I know Thekla was expelled and Betty but who was the third?[/quote]

I had the same question initially, but then realized that it meant Vera, from the Saints, who was expelled in Rivals


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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 15 Jan 2019, 21:00 
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Yet other people get away with all sorts. What Eilunedd actually said about Peggy wasn't that bad (all that fuss about someone missing a train was ridiculous!), but, by trying to turn the Juniors and Middles against the Head Girl, she was undermining the school's entire system of authority - and all that happened was that she felt obliged to apologise. And, whilst it's been discussed ad nauseam :lol:, Margot's behaviour towards both Ted and Betty was appalling, and she didn't even get as far as apologising.

It's quite hard to take a moral message on board when there are so many inconsistencies :roll: .

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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 16 Jan 2019, 01:57 
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I would say that overall there's a reasonable and consistent moral code.

Follow the rules and tell the truth. Accept the authority of mistresses and prefects, and don't talk back. Be helpful and considerate towards others. If you're going to break rules, do so openly and don't try to hide your misbehaviour, and take your punishment with good grace. Don't tattle on others unless there is a clear risk of danger, and even then, be uncomfortable with what you are doing. Don't be sophisticated, worldly, or agnostic. Don't gossip. When you're called up on the carpet for misdeeds, repent fully and break down in remorseful tears.

In general, sneaky crimes are worse than ones that come from carelessness or being angry. So midnights, passing notes, cheating, eavesdropping and blackmail are underhanded and particularly evil and deserve contempt, while braining someone with a bookend or trashing their study is really bad, but at least honest. And breaking language rules or playing non-malicious pranks on your peers are relatively benign. Also, if something bad happens to you while you're misbehaving, it's totally your fault.

And in general, there is the assumption that most girls are good at heart, and bad behaviour comes from an excess of high spirits, immaturity, deep unhappiness, carelessness or bad parenting.

I think where EBD ties herself in knots is when some of her favourite characters are involved. In Jane, for example, Jack is a total horror, but we're supposed to see her as a sympathetic character and maturing future head girl. And Margot's bad behaviour (or Sybil's), in any other girl, would be seen as the result of poor parenting, except that members of the clan have to be perfect parents. At the same time, Margot gets away with a lot because she's also a Maynard. In the same line, Joey's eavesdropping over Annis (and gossiping about it!) is seen as lighthearted fun, but Joan overhearing a conversation that's directly about her (and being upset) is underhanded and requires a formal apology. I also think that Anne not getting the Headship was in part because she was rude to Joey, rather than just the carelessness. Joey discussing Reg's financial affairs and designs on her daughter with people is perfectly fine, but schoolgirl gossip about Len and Reg (which was accurate!) is horrible. Talking about boys, having boyfriends or corresponding with unrelated young men is forbidden, but Len getting engaged while still at school is wonderful.

The other thing she has weird mixed messages about is physical appearance. Girls are supposed to be neat and tidy, and are expected to make themselves look attractive, particularly as they get older, and beauty is lauded in poetic terms. However, thinking too much about your appearance is vain, and there's a very definite standard of appropriate appearance (trig, fresh and dainty) while sophisticated fashion, showy good looks and trendy fashions are bad.

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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 16 Jan 2019, 07:33 
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jennifer wrote:
The other thing she has weird mixed messages about is physical appearance. Girls are supposed to be neat and tidy, and are expected to make themselves look attractive, particularly as they get older, and beauty is lauded in poetic terms. However, thinking too much about your appearance is vain, and there's a very definite standard of appropriate appearance (trig, fresh and dainty) while sophisticated fashion, showy good looks and trendy fashions are bad.


The comments about "showy good looks" and "cheap prettiness" are particularly annoying. Being a dedicated follower of fashion or wearing a lot of make-up is your own choice, but the negative remarks Margot's "showy good looks" and Joan's "cheap prettiness" seem to be comments on the way they just look naturally. It's a bit unfair to criticise someone for that :roll: . We're told that Richenda takes a dislike to Joan because of her "cheap prettiness", whereas people are attracted to Naomi because her face is "almost perfect". How very shallow!!

It seems so odd, because I would expect EBD to be promoting the message that it's personality that counts, but she puts so much emphasis on looks and appearance. There is a definite shift as the series goes on. By the later Swiss books, practically everyone is stunningly beautiful. Mary-Lou, who, in keeping with convention about GO heroines, was originally just OK-looking, is suddenly "very handsome", and both girls and staff discuss whether the uniforms look good on people - I can't think of any other school stories where that happens. There are some quite nasty comments about people's weight, and even about Ted Grantley's eyebrows (!), which doesn't seem to fit with the CS ethos of kindness.

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 Post subject: Re: Sins - Deadly or Otherwise
PostPosted: 19 Jan 2019, 21:28 
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EBD does sometimes seem to go overboard about good looks. This is not so obvious in the Chalet books as La Rochelle where quite a number of the characters, including Elizabeth Ozanne and Anne Chester, are just drop dead gorgeously beautiful! Yet neither of EBD's main heroines, Joey and Janie, are even pretty. Sybil's good looks especially are used against her and to a lesser extent so are those of Margot's and, in the La Rochelle books, Beth Chester's. EBD wasn't a particularly beautiful looking person and it could have been a form of jealousy - she almost seems to hate Sybil - but then there are also the perfectly nice very pretty/beautiful girls like Wanda and Marie, Peggy and V Lucy.

If you want to know EBD's perfect schoolgirl look no further than Three Go, dedicated "to the staff and girls of the Margaret Roper school, a farewell gift from their headmistress". It is packed with advice given over in the guise of mainly Joey speaking to Mary-Lou. Joey might have been EBD's favourite character but it was the Mary-Lou of Three Go who is EBD's perfect schoolgirl.


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