Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Valancy Stirling and The King of Anything

The Blue CastleThe problem with writing a post about L. M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle is that it's almost impossible to find the quotes I want without re-reading the entire book. And I do have other things to do today!

When last we looked in at Valancy Stirling she was living in her fantasies, dreaming of her blue castle. She has now, however, reached the (for her time) extremely spinsterish age of 29, and has resigned herself to the fact that she will never know happiness in real life.

And then she learns she is dying.

"Valancy did not sleep that night. She lay awake all through the long dark, hours--thinking--thinking. She made a discovery that surprised her: she, who had been afraid of almost everything in life, was not afraid of death. It did not seem in the least terrible to her. And she need not now be afraid of anything else. Why had she been afraid of things? Because of life. Afraid of Uncle Benjamin because of the menace of poverty in old age. But now she would never be old--neglected--tolerated. Afraid of being an old maid all her life. But now she would not be an old maid very long. Afraid of offending her mother and her clan because she had to live with and among them and couldn't live peaceably if she didn't give in to them. But now she hadn't. Valancy felt a curious freedom."

Learning that she only has a year to live, Valancy decides to make some changes in her life.

"I've been trying to please other people all my life and failed," [Valancy] said. "After this I shall please myself. I shall never pretend anything again. I've breathed an atmosphere of fibs and pretences and evasions all my life. What a luxury it will be to tell the truth! I may not be able to do much that I want to do but I won't do another thing that I don't want to do. Mother can pout for weeks--I shan't worry over it. 'Despair is a free man--hope is a slave.'"

King Of AnythingOr as Sara Bareilles said in King of Anything:

All my life I’ve tried
To make everybody happy
While I just hurt and hide
Waiting for someone to tell me

It’s my turn to decide

And with that decision, the best part of The Blue Castle - Valancy's rebellion - starts. I love King of Anything as the theme for this portion of the book, because it suits so well the attitude Valancy develops. Valancy's family aren't bad people, just stupid, prisoners of their own sense of propriety, so certain that they know what is best that they never take a look past their prejudices. They've worked all her life to similarly imprison Valancy, and all these years she's meekly consented to their domination. Now, though, she is doing what she wants to do. The rest of the family reacts with horror and shock - and she doesn't care.

Who cares if you disagree?
You are not me
Who made you king of anything?
So you dare tell me who to be?
Who died and made you king of anything?

Book: The Blue Castle, L. M. Montgomery
Music: King of Anything, Sara Bareilles


Cari Hislop said...

It sounds like it might have been a fictionally disguised auto-biography!
Though I can't remember if LMM died young I know her immediate family were controlling and she was pressured into marrying a man who turned out to be an alcoholic (can't remember if he was violent, but it wasn't a happy marriage). I suspect her writing was an escape hatch into a more pleasant world!

Jennifer said...

Huh! That's really interesting, Cari. Thanks for sharing. You are always so knowledgeable about cool stuff like that! :)


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