05 June 2018

This Filling Certainly Looks like Nutella ...

I think I'm getting better at this "Promptness" malarkey. (I wrote this line two weeks ago, in grand hopes that it would prompt me to get this out within a week of the last post. Stop laughing.)

Well, I promised choc chips in this turd of chapter (and Facebook keeps emailing me to berate me for not posting more frequently, because you miss me?), so I present to you:

Part Two of the Extrantaganza: Things I Actually like in this chapter.

What is this? There is something to like in anything Enid put down on paper? This will not be absolutely negative about her work? NEVER! I came for the clutching of pearls! I came for mockery of outdated stereotypes! I CAME FOR BLOOD!

Sorry to disappoint, but I thought that, in fairness, I should present some positives in this story. I don't know exactly whether my opinion is that these qualities are true qualities, or whether I have just been lulled into lowering my standards so that I accept "house trained" as a cardinal virtue. But I'm going to follow this stream and hope I don't get stuck along the way without a paddle.

So what do I like?

Well, to start, I have begun to like Elizabeth, you know, under all the tepid rebellion and Ye Olde Englishe right-sorted-ness. The realisation that this book is Malory Towers with Gwen as the heroine has worked powerfully upon me. Really softened me up.

Or perhaps it was this:

"'You know, Elizabeth, it is strange that no one would go with you,' said Rita. 'Doesn't anybody at all like you?'
'No,' said Elizabeth. 'Don't you remember,  Rita, that I told you I was going to be as horrid as could be so that I could go home? Well, everybody thinks I am very horrid, so nobody wants to talk to me or walk with me.'
'And are you really horrid?' asked Rita.
Elizabeth looked up. She was surprised that Rita should talk to her kindly, after having found her out in disobedience.  But Rita did not look angry, only very understanding and wise.
Elizabeth thought for a moment. Was she really horrid? She remembered all the governesses she had had. She remembered that Miss Scott wouldn't stay with her. Perhaps she really a truly was a horrid girl. 
'I don't know, ' she said at last. 'I believe I am horrid really, Rita. I make myself horrider than I truly am - but all the same, I believe I can't be very nice.'
'Poor little Elizabeth!' said Rita. 'I wonder what has made you grow so horrid?'"

Now, what's to like in this? I know you are reading this thinking "But this is appalling!" And trust me, the last part of my rant revisits this very passage.  And I did say that my bar was pretty low by now. But there are a couple of highlights.

Firstly, I just love how few illusions Elizabeth has about herself. She doesn't talk about how she knows how to behave really, and is just pretending;  she doesn't talk about how she would like to be good but doesn't know how; and she doesn't venture into the realm of self pity. No. When asked whether she really is horrid (which is worse than naughty, as it includes an implication that there is something about her personality that is lacking) she thinks about it and says "yeah ... I probably am." I thoroughly enjoy the lack of ego in that moment. It's just a piece of unflinching honesty, if not to say an epiphany of self-insight.

Added to that, I like how un-Enid this seems. It distinctly lacks any Rah Rah stiff upper lip-ness (lip-ity? lip-nacity?) This is almost freudian for Enid, this self-intropection. Never fear, I stopped the quote just before Enid drifted back into Enidness, and it backslides straight to "you look like such a nice girl" after this extract (so those of you who read Enid for her utter superficiality can breathe a sigh of relief). But for a moment, just one shining moment, someone is asking Elizabeth "what's going on with you?" rather than telling her "you need to do this". Low bar or not, it is a little moment of beauty.

And that's the thing. This moment, it's  the first time anyone has tried to get to know Elizabeth at all. And I don't mean the usual Enid snobbery of getting to know a person (i.e. who mummy and daddy are and are they the right sort of people - because we can't associate with the nouveau riche ...). The focus on Elizabeth's naughtiness and how she doesn't fit in, this masks the utter lack of social conscience on the part of all the oiks she shares a class with. You know, the ones so set on perpetuating the system that they forget to be human. They forget even why the system is supposed to exist, yet cling to the facade that it has created to protect itself from intruders. The problem is, there IS NO INSIDE to Enid's system. It's just a bunch of children clinging to the outside like barnacles and pretending they are on the inside ... or believing that they are.

Rita asks why. Why don't the others like you? Why are you acting like this? Is this the real you? Why is not a question asked enough in Enid-topia. System blindness is mandatory - no questioning of the way things are is allowed. I'll admit that I am reading WAY too much into this, but I'm pulling this string as far as it will take me!

I'll also give Rita credit for good intentions for her stratagem in throwing Joan and Elizabeth together. See my previous for my dislike of the actual stratagem, but the intention to foster kindness is praiseworthy (she does lose points for assuming Elizabeth is nice because she looks nice, though ...). And it must be remembered that Rita is not only a product of this system (the flaws of which I am still to get to), she is also only old in Elizabeth's eyes. And Elizabeth is ten years old. We're dealing with a teenager trying to develop a sense of kindness in an unsympathetic environment. So kudos to her.

Aaaaaaaand that's it. All I got on what I like. Let me know: am I being brainwashed by Enid into lowering my standards? Are you lowering yours? Actually, I really do want to know that - does the Enid effect work second-hand??? Iiiiiiiiiintresting ...

Next time on the final part of the extrarantaganza, we venture into the next chapter. And look more at these poor children clinging to the facade of the system.


  1. I agree with. you. This is one moment when for the first time.. someone actually speaks to Elizabeth about her problems and tries to ask her how she feels and why she does what she does. It is a very rare event in a Blyton book. That an a character deemed acceptable does something of this kind. In Enid Blyton certain characters - social outcasts such as Gwen for example with whom Elizabeth shares similarity only exist as an example of how NOT to be in Blyton's world. No 'sensible' person should sympathise with them nor are they allowed any character development. They are unsympathetic because they do not share the virtues held dear by Enid. They are the antithesis of a 'good school girl. By simply focusing on
    their vices and making them the reader is not encouraged to examine any flaw in the system itself. Or in the other girls Any problem is not a fault of the system but solely of these 'bad' characters. They are the ones who ruin that system by refusing to 'fit in'. The system according to Enid can never go wrong - its perfect

  2. Elizabeth keeping the above comment in mind. Is a strange exception for Enid's general rule.

  3. "am I being brainwashed by Enid into lowering my standards?"

    That's the joy of Blyton. Even as a kid it struck me as classist and sexist. But I read it anyway "to see how the other half live".