söndag 25 april 2010

Georgiana who?

So why Georgiana Podsnap (obviously not my real name)?

Georgiana is a character in "Our Mutual Friend", which happens to be one of my least favourite Dickens novels. But then I'm a huge Dickens fan, so I normally find something to enjoy even in the novels which for some reason irritate me, like this one. The two main plots do little for me. I especially loathe Eugene Wrayburn, a lazy and arrogant so-called lawyer (though too well-born to be bothered to do any actual work) who amazingly enough gets the girl, in spite of his initially dishonest intentions. The silly chit's other suitor, the serious and hard-working school-master Bradley Headstone who wants to make her an honest woman from the word go, is sneered at and emotionally tortured by the ghastly Eugene until he quite understandably snaps. The plot about the missing heir John Harmon is slightly more engaging, but still includes scenes where supposed goodies behave downright nastily.I wouldn't mind all this if Dickens hadn't made me put up with all kinds of cautionary tales where the villain gets clobbered and I have had to recite through my teeth "Dickens is a moralist, what do you expect..." And then a book comes along without a moral compass, and who benefits? Eugene Wrayburn, that's who.

Anyway, back to Georgiana, one of the characters I do like. She is a gawky eighteen-year-old girl, daughter of the opinionated Mr Podsnap, and dragged into society very much against her own will. Then she meets and is mesmerised by Mr and Mrs Lammle, a fashionable-seeming couple who in fact haven't got a bean between them. They married each other in the belief that the other person was rich, and now they're trying to make the best of things by conning likely-looking high-society victims. Mrs Lammle becomes Georgiana's new best friend in no time at all, and the gullible girl is full of admiration for the Lammles' marriage, which they take great pains to present as idyllic. Interestingly enough, though, she also has a guilty crush on Alfred Lammle, who is the closest the novel gets to the clever and devious social-climbing villains Dickens was so good at but didn't create many of in his later books. Like Georgiana I'm very taken with the Lammles: there are no flies on the strong-minded Sophronia Lammle, and Alfred with his bushy red (of course) whiskers has enough ghost-of-dickensian-villains-past style about him to be attractive, even if he doesn't measure up to Dickens's best baddies. To sum up, if you want a character who symbolises villain-groupieism, then Georgiana Podsnap is it. She had some excuse, though, as she was only eighteen. Imagine a Georgiana more than fifteen years older and no wiser (but with a much nicer family!) and that would be me.