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 Post subject: Jem
PostPosted: 22 Jun 2016, 12:25 
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EBD seems to see Jem as ideal husband material, but he can be quite unpleasant at times. He was really rude and dislikeable towards Joey and Frieda when they met his estranged and destitute sister and tried to help her and her two small daughters.

He was also very controlling of the Robin who, when war broke out and they could no longer keep her wrapped in cotton wool, became a pretty robust teenager, well able to cycle home from school on cold winter evenings in the blackout, and to help Joey manage her house and babies.

And worst of all, the way he treated Sybil after the kettle incident was appalling. He completely shattered her confidence and gave her what appeared to be a life long complex about the whole thing.

I wonder did EBD actually think those incidents showed him in a good light, or did she realise how he was coming across?


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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 22 Jun 2016, 14:00 
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I don't know the answer but in one of the early books Madge confesses to someone that he can be nasty to Joey on occasion.


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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 22 Jun 2016, 15:42 
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I think the whole Margot thing was very difficult for Jem to handle. He was so desperate to see Margot, once he accepted that it was really her, that he practically ran to the hotel - Joey had to ask him to slow down because she couldn't keep up - and then he kept hugging and kissing her, and he really wasn't a huggy-kissy kind of person. He had no need to be so rude to Joey and Frieda, and I don't know where all that rubbish about an impostor came from, but I think that being cut off from his sister was a very sensitive subject for him, and a lot of people react strangely when someone suddenly touches a raw nerve like that.

He could also be very sweet, like when he told Madge that, whatever Joey might say about her being overweight (in Joey & Co), she looked absolutely fine to him, and when he made a cringeworthy embarrassing dad remark about how Sybil was so pretty that all the men'd be after her (in the same book), and when he said that he was glad that Marie and Andreas had got together.

Having said which, I agree that the way he treated Sybil was appalling. I'm not keen on him walloping Mario Balbini either. But I think he's quite typical of his time and class - there's that famous remark of George V's about how he was terrified of his father, his father was terrified of his father, and his sons were going to be terrified of him. I don't think Jem wanted anyone to be terrified of him, but that was the sort of culture in which he'd have grown up. I'd like to know what Jem's own dad was like. I've got this image of him as a horrendously dictatorial type, forcing Jem to watch as he took a big black pen and struck Margot's name out of the family Bible :(.

It's a shame that we don't get to see Jem as a grandfather, because a lot of men like him seem to have been very strict dads but then become doting grandads, once the feeling that they had that responsibility to be the paterfamilias and maintain discipline had passed to the next generation.

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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 22 Jun 2016, 15:48 
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I agree, Jem had his good and bad points. He was actually very good to Jo in many ways, and also very willing to accept his wife's many waifs and strays without complaint.

It's just these isolated incidents of irate and controlling behaviour that are puzzling, as they don't really correspond to the 'Jem in general' character that we see.


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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 22 Jun 2016, 15:59 
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I'm not sure what EBD did and didn't see as being controlling :lol:. I've just been re-reading the La Rochelle books, in which Julian Lucy is supposed to be the big hero ... and, when Janie changes her hairstyle to something he doesn't like, he sneaks up behind her with a pair of scissors and chops her hair, so she's forced to go back to having it short. Everyone treats this as being hilarious :roll: .

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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 22 Jun 2016, 16:37 
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I see the writing about Jem as showing a rounded person, with good and bad bits.

And life was far more dictatorial for women/girls, in those days, wasnt it? Even during the pre-ww2 years, a girl had to have permission from her father/husband/guardian to cut her hair, or decide what is suitable to wear, or who to marry. It must have been so constricting, but it was the norm.

And corporal punishment was encouraged in those days, right up until recent times. I can remember getting the ruler across my hands in school in the late 70's, and getting 'smacked' too.


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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 22 Jun 2016, 17:47 
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I think we sometimes forget how restricted life could be for many, if not most, women - after all it was 1980 before women could apply for a loan or credit in their own name and 1990 before independent taxation for married women was finally introduced in Britain....

We live in a whole different world now and the rate of change has speeded up enormously in the past 30 years.

It has never struck me that Jem acted at all unreasonably or out of character. He was, in fact, a very advanced product of his time, allowing his womenfolk a great deal of freedom....

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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 22 Jun 2016, 18:10 
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Seconding cestina - the changes during the years following on from World War Two have been enormous, and are still happening. One very obvious instance is Jem walloping Mario Balbini - we can't condone it today, but that was the ethos of the time, and the child's father is in agreement with Jem. As Mario had started it by using his catapult on Madge and Joey (and later Jem), these days both families would probably sue each other for assault!


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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 22 Jun 2016, 19:10 
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I always really want to hear Jem making Rhett Butler's comment about being "proud of having a smart wife" (when the local gossips said that Scarlett should give up her businesses). I'm sure it was how he felt :D .

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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 22 Jun 2016, 19:52 
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I like Jem. He has the odd moment of being unlikeable and some of his parenting leaves a bit to be desired, but otherwise he comes across as a pretty easygoing guy. Looked at in the context of the time he's very progressive in some ways, such as letting Madge keep control of the CS instead of either taking it over himself or making her give it up altogether.

Jack is the one I can't take to. To me he's the masterful overbearing doctor of the series, I'd loathe being married to him. He's far worse than Jem at striding around barking orders at people, losing his temper at the drop of a hat, laying down the law as though he's the Ultimate Authority, and generally coming across as really controlling and high-handed. And he appears to be EBD's ideal vision of a husband! :roll:

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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 22 Jun 2016, 20:36 
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If I needed a doctor, I'd call Jem before Jack. Jack also strikes me as full of talk and making out like he's so busy and important, while not actually doing the hard graft. Meanwhile, Jem is saving lives for which Jack takes the credit.


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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 22 Jun 2016, 21:13 
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Would Jem's parents or Grandparents have been Victorian? That would probably account for his behaviour at times - children were 'seen and not heard', and maybe some of their ideals rubbed off on Jem with his own children.

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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 22 Jun 2016, 21:24 
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Marcia wrote:
If I needed a doctor, I'd call Jem before Jack. Jack also strikes me as full of talk and making out like he's so busy and important, while not actually doing the hard graft. Meanwhile, Jem is saving lives for which Jack takes the credit.
Care to give any examples of either of those?


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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 23 Jun 2016, 02:11 
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I see Jem as being from a slightly older generation, and a slightly higher social class than Jack, what with the money to found a Sanatorium, all those old-boy connections in high places and so on. He's the kind of man who has a manservant and a billard room as a matter of course.

For someone of his generation, he's often remarkably progressive - he accepts a wife who has business interests of her own (and works because she needs to support herself) without blinking, and generally lets her handle things herself. He takes in Joey and Robin and Juliet without question, and later the four Bettany kids, Biddy, Stacie, his sister and her two kids, and a revolving mix of school girls up for visits.

His authoritarian manner at times fits with his older generation and profession, and most of the time it's well meant, if sometimes a bit dictatorial and grating by modern standards. And I can see him being a bit "nasty" to get through to Joey, particularly when she got hyper, or was neglecting her health. She's the kind of personality that can be very impervious to more subtle corrections, and tends to act without thinking.

Jack is generally portrayed as a younger generation. He and Joey have a teasing, affectionate relationship, he's seen as more friendly with his children in his off hours, where Jem is more likely to be off doing his own thing. He's also less prominent professionally. Jem is the founder and owner of two Sans, is knighted for his service to medicine, and travels internationally for consultations - a "big man in TB". Jack manages the Swiss San, but I wonder if he would have risen to that position without being the owner's brother-in-law. He also rises to dictatorial at times, and it can come across as more grating against the rest of his portrayal.

What both Jem and Jack have is a thing about instant, unquestioning obedience, and a nasty temper when their children do something that really upsets them. With Jem, it's Sybil and the water kettle, with Jack it's Margot and Ted, and Mike and the cliff. In all cases, they're so angry they won't speak to their children for days at a stretch, even when the child is crying themselves into illness. With Mike, the implication is that Jack can't trust himself not to beat him bloody in his rage. It's actually rather disturbing that EBD presents this as a normal response, particularly to age appropriate accidents like Mike and Sybil - impulsiveness rather than nastiness.

With Jem and Margot, I can understand his reaction. He loves his sister, and has worried about her, but hasn't had any contact with her in almost eight years, so there'd be tensions wondering if this was real, and what was going on, and if she was okay. Then there's wondering if the imaginative, impulsive Joey has been taken in by some con artist, or is imagining things. Add to that knowing that Joey has been freely spreading his family's dirty laundry around to his social/professional circle - sister who eloped, was disowned, had a terrible marriage, was widowed and is now destitute. If Jem had contacted her first, I suspect that the others would be told that she was widowed and had come to live with them, but not all the rest.

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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 23 Jun 2016, 04:28 
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The Margot issue is interesting.

From a meta point-of-view, the idea of the rogue pretending to be someone else is a very popular Victorian idea, and it had appeared in earlier stories as well. (The Simpsons would use it with Principal Skinner.) Newspaper death notices would give a lot of information about families that unscrupulous people could use to pretend to be other people and could manipulate them quite easily.

If you consider it from a reality standpoint, I think Jem's attitude makes sense. Think of this scenario: You are a well-off man with a young family, having lately lost your parents. Your missing sister claims to have turned up, having run off with an abusive, controlling (and, God forbid, working class!) husband, and she has two young children in tow. Society now expects you to take her into your home, care for her and her children financially, take on all responsibility for her, and possibly run the risk that the terrible husband might turn up and demand support on his own part. He has no way of knowing if this woman actually is Margot or, as he says, is simply someone impersonating her. He runs the risk of financial loss if it is a blackmailer or social loss if he doesn't actually take her on. It's not a nice position for him to be in.

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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 23 Jun 2016, 06:52 
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And also hoping against hope that it really is her and that she's okay, clashing with the more unpleasant possibilities.

So Jem has all that going through his mind out of nowhere, and Joey is bouncing around completely oblivious to all of this with a "Hey, isn't this cool!" attitude. So yeah, I can see why he might be a bit short with her.

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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 23 Jun 2016, 08:22 
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jennifer wrote:
So Jem has all that going through his mind out of nowhere, and Joey is bouncing around completely oblivious to all of this with a "Hey, isn't this cool!" attitude. So yeah, I can see why he might be a bit short with her.
Well, she'd actually met Margot, Daisy and Primula, been touched by their distress (and Primula's handy resemblance to Jem) and was probably not worldly enough to think of the criminal possibilities. I don't think that's precisely her thinking it's cool, but the whole situation is a conventional stereotype - as a first response, women are intuitive and men are logical. Which in itself is illogical, but that's how people thought.

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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 23 Jun 2016, 09:31 
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I think he was very upset that Joey had discussed what was obviously a delicate family matter with the Mensches and Kurt. She could hardly have avoided saying something about it to Frieda, who was with her when they met Daisy, and they then had to explain why they'd disappeared when they were supposed to be going straight from the dentist's to the Mariahilfe, but it was obviously a very sensitive subject for Jem and I can understand that he was upset at feeling that his private business was being gossiped about. And he does have a point about how two teenage girls shouldn't have gone off to a hotel with a complete stranger - although I'm sure Madge would have done exactly the same thing, faced by a distressed woman and two children. Madge actually did fall foul of con merchants (the Carricks), because she was too nice and too naïve to check them out first, and Joey and Elisaveta were completely taken in by Cosimo's henchman.

The reunion with Margot is my favourite Jem scene - his love for his sister and his joy at finding her again are very touching. We already know that he'd tried to keep in touch, even though his parents had disowned her.

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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 23 Jun 2016, 10:26 
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I would have said that Jack was far more easy going than Jem. But it's a long time since I've read some of the later books, so maybe I've just forgotten that side of him.

Yes, I suppose you could see how Jem was just upset and a bit shaken by Margot's unexpected return, and the way that Joey and Frieda had co-incidentally met her on the street. It could easily sound like a set up.

I really can't see any excuse for his behaviour towards Sybil though. Shouting at her at the time the accident occurred would have been understandable as he would have been very shocked and worried. But there was something so cold and hard hearted about the way he treated her. And how long would he have continued if Matey hadn't intervened?

In general, I really like Jem and he's very open hearted when it comes to sharing his home with abandoned or orphaned children. Just occasionally I feel a bit shocked by some of his behaviour.


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 Post subject: Re: Jem
PostPosted: 23 Jun 2016, 14:12 
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Although I didn't take much heed of him until a few years ago, I have grown to really like Jem and he is probably my favourite character in the whole series.

I don't think he is more serious, or less jokey than Jack. In the earlier books he likes it when the CS girls visit Die Rosen although he would never admit this. He also teases Joey and the rest with Sybil's name party. The only difference is that he is older than Jack and also we only see him as the father of young children whereas we see Jack right up until the triplets are grow up.

I don't think that Jem was perfect but that was part of his charm. He also lived in a very different era from us. Not only would Jem's parents have been Victorian but he was Victorian. It was quite likely that some if not all of his grandparents were born before the start of Victoria's reign.

School At was written around 1925. Bearing in mind that Jem was very approximately 10 years older than Madge he must have been born around 1890 which would have made him slightly older than the father of our Queen.

His attitude was tough to Mario and Maria but part of that was the wrong must be punished attitude of EBD. It was also though a mark of that era. New Chalet School must have been written about 80 years ago.

Some of Jem's other slightly suspect actions were also I think born out of fear and concern. Look at the caring way he reacts when Elisaveta's father thinks Joey is looking frail and who more than a TB doctor would know of the terrible consequences of catching TB hence his care of Robin.

Regarding Sybil he should not have acted as he did but maybe he was terrified Josette was going to die. Also EBD did not exactly love Sybil. Maybe his reaction was laid on a bit to show the reader the badness of Sybil.

I do think his tirade about Joey not being able to control herself in CS and Jo is a bit ironic though in view of some of his actions.

Neither Jo nor Robin could have been particularly easy to handle but he takes them on with never a word of complaint, along with the four Bettanys and a number of other people, because he loves Madge.

In an era when men ran everything he was happy for Madge to continue with her interest in the school. He is a complimentary, kind, loving, supportive husband. He is good looking, said to be easy going and straightforward, rich, innovative, brilliantly clever and a great, pioneering doctor who is great enough at his job to be knighted.

What not to love?!

PS I am another who thinks that Jack was not in the same class as Jem. Jem must have been one of only a brilliant few. I dont mind Jack and think he was a good, caring doctor. Brilliant and forward thinking though? No.


Last edited by Audrey25 on 23 Jun 2016, 14:20, edited 1 time in total.

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