(& scroll all the way down to read my literary sleuthing posts)
Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Monday, May 5, 2014

ANSWERS TO A Special Country Village Literary Quiz: MURDER AT THE VICARAGE!

Okay, I WAS thinking of a very famous novel by a very famous female author as to which ALL FIFTEEN of the following parameters apply and now I will share my answers with you.

As my readers for the most part are Janeites, it should have been obvious from the first two questions that one of the very famous novels I was referring to was Pride & Prejudice, and the very famous female author who wrote it 2 centuries ago was Jane Austen.

However, I suspect that few of my readers are devotees of the other very famous female author, and therefore I will now reveal that I was ALSO referring to Agatha Christie, and the specific novel which she wrote which meets all these 15 parameters was Murder at the Vicarage!

Here are each of the answers:

ONE: The main action of the novel is set in a country village, and the action primarily involves characters belonging to four or five families who reside in that village:   MERYTON in P&P, ST. MARY MEAD in MATV.

TWO: In that village, during the first half of the novel, a clergyman emphatically expresses his opinion as to the pros and cons of a clergyman being married, and there is also discussion in the novel about how well the bride and groom should know each other before marrying:  MR. COLLINS in P&P famously explains why he feels he must marry, to set an example for his flock.
REVD. LEN CLEMENT in MATV explains as follows:  “I have always been of the opinion that a clergyman should be unmarried. Why I should have urged Griselda to marry me at the end of twenty-four hours’ acquaintance is a mystery to me. Marriage, I have always held, is a serious affair, to be entered into only after long deliberation and forethought, and suitability of tastes and inclinations is the most important consideration. Griselda is nearly twenty years younger than myself. She is most distractingly pretty and quite incapable of taking anything seriously. She is incompetent in every way, and extremely trying to live with. She treats the parish as a kind of huge joke arranged for her amusement. I have endeavoured to form her mind and failed. I am more than ever convinced that celibacy is desirable for the clergy. I have frequently hinted as much to Griselda, but she has only laughed.”
Isn’t it obvious from comparing those two passages that Agatha Christie was the slyest of closet Janeites, even in 1930 at age 40, writing her first of many Miss Marple novels???

THREE: After the clergyman expresses his opinion, we then learn that he became engaged to be married based on a very short acquaintance with his bride: MR. COLLINS does not require more than one walk outside to get engaged to CHARLOTTE LUCAS.  See LEN CLEMENT’S comment, above, re: proposing to GRISELDA after a 1-day courtship.

FOUR: Such clergyman’s bride appears to rational observers to be ill-matched to him, and yet, when we readers observe them interacting, they give the appearance of getting along;  CHARLOTTE is twice as SMART as Mr. Collins; GRISELDA is twice as YOUNG as Len Clement.

FIVE: Near the end of the novel, we learn that the clergyman’s bride is pregnant:
MR. COLINS mentions the expectation of an OLIVE BRANCH; Miss Marple deduces that Griselda  is pregnant, we’re told, from the young bride’s purchase of a MOTHERING MANUAL.

SIX: There is an ogre-ish older person who attempts to control the lives of younger relatives in a very domineering manner:  Of course that is LADY CATHERINE DE BURGH in P&P, and it is the murder victim, COLONEL PROTHEROE, in MATV. I got to thinking about that, and wondered whether the germ of MATV in Dame Agatha’s fertile imagination was the idea of Lady Catherine being murdered, with Miss Bates then solving the puzzle of whodunit!
And lo and behold, look what Susannah Fullerton said in Celebrating Pride & Prejudice:   “Surprisingly, no crime novelist inspired by P&P has ever murdered Lady Catherine de Burgh, who is surely the character in the book most deserving of some particularly gruesome end.”
Susannah, I am here to tell you that Agatha Christie WAS inspired by P&P to write her version of  it—and what’s more, Christie decided it would be a delicious irony if Miss Bates solved the crime! And….my personal vote for who the murderer really was in MATV? Why, the “Mr. Collins” of MATV, Len Clement—who else would accumulate more resentment against Colonel Protheroe than the vicar he tormented with his interference!

SEVEN: An attractive, charming man shows up in the village and turns out to be a serial seducer of women: Of course that is WICKHAM in P&P, and it is LAWRENCE REDDING (the co-murderer identified by Miss Marple) in MATV.

EIGHT: There is a teenaged girl whose name begins with L who yearns to leave the village, and feels trapped:  That is of course LYDIA  in P&P, and LETTICE PROTHEROE in MATV.

NINE: A young woman is described as having fine or high “animal spirits”: And that is, again, LYDIA in P&P, but MISS CRAM the humorously named assistant to the  archeologist, in MATV.

TEN: A village busybody complains bitterly about the effect of a local crisis on her nerves: And that would be MRS. BENNET in P&P, and the incorrigible MRS. PRICE RIDLEY in MATV.

ELEVEN:  There is a testy exchange between a young, snobbish, poetically-inclined man who does not live in the village, and who has spent a great deal of time in London, on the one hand, and an older lifelong resident of that country village, on the other: This is my favorite parallel, in addition to the married vicar parallels---in P&P, this is of course MR. DARCY, and  in MATV, it’s RAYMOND WEST, of course  the nephew  of Miss Marple.

TWELVE: There is a woman present during the exchange who claims to be a studier of character:
And that would be the heroine, ELIZABETH BENNET in P&P, and the heroine, MISS JANE MARPLE, in MATV.

THIRTEEN:  During the exchange, the older village resident becomes irritated at the young man’s claim that life in a country village is, in so many words, unvarying and stultifying, and so lashes out at him, and then receives convincing support from another person present, carrying the day for the claim that life in the country is a fertile hunting ground for a studier of character:
That is MRS BENNET getting upset with MR. DARCY and not hiding it, and getting careful support from ELIZABETH, and that is LEM CLEMENT getting upset at RAYMOND WEST, and getting support from MISS MARPLE.

FOURTEEN:  There is someone named Jane who is closely related to one of the two participants in that heated exchange:  And that is JANE BENNET in P&P, and JANE MARPLE in MATV aka “Aunt Jane”.

FIFTEEN: A false rumor is spread to someone whose reaction inadvertently triggers the opposite effect intended by that reaction, bringing the action of the novel to a decisive and satisfying climax: Someone (I have long believed it is CHARLOTTE LUCAS, and Kim Damstra was the first to say it in 1999) goaded LADY C to inadvertently bring Darcy and Lizzy together, and in MATV, Miss Marple plants a false rumor that smokes out  LAWRENCE  REDDING and his co-murderer, Mrs.Protheroe.

Cheers,    ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ANEL says: The two references made by Mr Collins in P&P [both in letters] of an Olive Branch seems to respectively have the meaning of a peace offering and a baby.. mmmm