Pretty Girl

(through section IV, book 1 of the Deptford Trilogy)

Debby: “A woman can go just so far on the capital of being a pretty girl” (p. 145). I found the whole section on Leola particularly interesting this week. Leola is, at some point, the object of both Boy and Dunstan’s affections. She is the queen bee of Deptford, holding both beauty and charm. Yet suddenly, seemingly overnight, all of her gifts amount to naught. Boy begins to tire of his wife’s “girlishness”; he desires a woman that complements his rising star.

While reading about Boy’s conundrum, my brain made a sudden leap to Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”. In her magnum opus, she comes to the conclusion that we date/marry/love people who we view as equals of ourselves. Therefore, a person’s estimation of himself can be observed in the quality of the person he chooses to form a relationship with.

Tim: We are the net average of our friends, or some such thing.

Debby: Early in the novel, Boy stands out as the most outstanding lad in Deptford. Therefore, he chooses to be with the most prized female of the town. Yet as his world grows, so too does his impression of himself.

Tim: And Ramsey says about as much. But it seems like you’re driving at something deeper. I’m curious what it is.

Debby: I guess what I’m driving at is something that Ramsey touches on, too: I pity Leola. She is a wonderful, delightful girl. Boy wants her to be more, but it’s not really anything put a caricature of the women he sees gracing the dinner tables of the politicians and businessmen that he entertains.

Tim: Huh, that actually makes me think of an article I saw today about Generation Y’s propensity to see public facades as reality. The article spoke specifically about social media, about the way we tend only to proffer the best of ourselves to the wider world. So we see our friends’ high water marks and perceive them as their normal, while only understanding our own normal as it truly is. But I wonder how much this parallel would have held up in Leola’s world, where to a certain extent she really was a country bumpkin and her public face was built firmly on action – bridge, and golf, and tennis, etc. Obviously we can’t know because the book focuses on other characters, but it’s an interesting thought.

Debby: Ironically enough, this is where my professional expertise might elucidate a point. I work in the golf industry, more specifically at a private country club where I encounter sophisticated (read: wealthy) ladies every day who put in their due diligence on the golf course. They play golf, not as a sport, but as a social activity. They play because they can afford to pay for expensive equipment, lessons, and greens fees. And they are terrible. I can’t even begin to describe how excruciating it can be at times to watch these women try and whack a golf ball around. Just because they have the luxury of playing such sports, doesn’t mean they should spend their time doing so! The gist of what I’m saying, is that bridge, golf, tennis– they’re all “marks” of high society, yet they mean so little in-and-of themselves. If Leola became an avid golfer, would Boy love her more? Probably not.

Tim: Probably not, you’re right. And I think Boy occupies a paradox there. He wants his wife to keep up with his own success. But he also recognizes that it’s all a social show. Whether or not Leola is much good at any of the activities isn’t nearly so important at the society itself. But then again, that’s not enough for Boy. Or maybe it would be if Leola was a magnificent conversationalist, but she’s not.

Debby: Well, Leola needs either one or the other for Boy: she needs the “show” or she needs the wit to stand beyond the society ladies and actually be a dynamic partner to Boy. Otherwise, I doubt his “gentlemanly character” will stretch far enough to encompass all her flaws.

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