I have two different blog posts that I wanted to make but I went with this one because it’s a more developed thought: I wanted to go off of what we were discussing towards the end of today’s class and talk about the ways in which Evadne’s intellectualism and her sexuality are both threatening to George in different ways. The idea of Evadne as sexually aberrant – George’s horror in the face of the knowledge that she feels sexual desire, repulsion by his own sexual attraction to her, and baseless conviction of her faithlessness – is a sort of disgust with her that George feels comfortable feeling.

This hypersexualized image of her is contradicted entirely by the fact that, by all accounts, Evadne is a skilled and successful political writer and speaker. Speaking at Socialist meetings is, too, a violation of societal norms, but not one that can be sexualized; it is this particular act of divergence from George’s image of womanhood that escalates the conflict between them. I just find the contrast between Evadne-as-sexualized-monster and Evadne-as-desexualized-monster super interesting, and was wondering if anyone else had thoughts about it! Check out this whammy of a line from page 2598: “A change passed over her. She became ugly. Her face was heavy with intellect, her lips coarse with power.”

On that note, I wonder if anyone had thoughts on the role that narrative voice plays in this story. It seems to me that rather than having a consistent point of view, it acts more as a third-person omniscient voice that nonetheless focalizes heavily through George and his perspective for a good portion of the story. Do you guys think our glimpses of Evadne’s perspective are the same level of hyper-focalized? When George is described in terms that poke at his inadequate masculinity, such as when his temptation to “dissolve into hysterical sobs” is mentioned, did you guys read that as George’s perspective, Evadne’s, or that of a more omniscient narrator?

ALSO, A POSTCRIPT! Just a fun note about Evadne’s name (disclaimer: I am not a classics major and all of this comes from my memories of analyzing Les Miserables on the internet at age 15. Please correct me if I’m wrong about anything!). There’s several Evadnes in Greek mythology (bluh, why must the Greeks make everything so difficult) but an interesting and somewhat-less-obscure-than-the-others example of one is in Euripides’ The Suppliant Women, at the end of which the character Evadne throws herself on her husband’s funeral pyre, declaring her intention to be wedded to him in death as opposed to living without him.

No clue if West was going for this or not, of course, but it’s kind of fascinating that Evadne’s name seems to ironically tie back to marital loyalty and joint death in the same way the title, “Indissoluble Matrimony”, does.

honey, you’re the wrong kind of aberration!

4 thoughts on “honey, you’re the wrong kind of aberration!

  • August 27, 2020 at 1:28 pm

    Narrative voice! Yes, yes, yes! I touched on this a little in class today, but the third person narration is definitely focused on George, so I think we need to constantly consider that when we are trying to characterize Evadne. I do think that most (if not all) of the descriptions of Evadne come directly through the eyes of George. He’s constantly using dark imagery to describe women in this story, not just his wife. For example, I had to disagree with Dr. Scanlon when she said about Evadne having “black blood” (2594) as referring to her being mixed race. George also describes Evadne as having black eyes and black hair, and he describes another woman as “a mass of darkness” (2596). This dark or black imagery comes up throughout the entire story. But back to narrative voice (excuse the rabbit hole) – yes, what we see about Evadne comes through Gearge’s eyes.

    But, Katia, I also like that you bring up the title, and I really wished we could have talked about the title in class today. Let’s take a second to emphasize that George and Evadne are married. They are not simply friends or acquaintances or even siblings, but are a married couple. This story would be very different and have such different meaning if they were not married. Marriage is supposed to be a promise to the person you’ve married that you will stick by them forever. So the fact that their marriage ends in one murdering the other is horrifying and really makes us ask what’s going on with George, what’s going on with his mind. The title is “Indissoluble Marriage,” where indissoluble means that it’s permanent, it can’t be broken. But George breaks it… he kills Evadne. I just can’t get over that George felt the only way to dismantle his fear was by killing his wife. Fear, insecurity, a need to feel in control are all very normal, human things to feel. Yet murder is so extreme, completely going against human nature. But here we are: a wife who has done nothing wrong but ends up dead, the blood of her murder on her husband’s hands.

    • August 27, 2020 at 8:15 pm

      I really like what you’re pointing out about the common threads in George’s visions of women! ‘Darkness’ definitely reoccurs as a theme in how George conceptualizes the women in the story; with that said, I think it’s a mistake to think this darkness isn’t racialized. Aside from ‘black blood’ being literal (it’s referred to again in the section on Evadne’s singing, in which situation , Evadne is discussed with language that was conventionally used to discuss mixed-race individuals at the time – references to “yellow” or “golden” skin, at this point in history, were conventionally used to discuss the appearance of partially-black heritage. Additionally, Evadne’s mother is discussed as being “darker than the conventions permit”, which wouldn’t make a lot of sense if the two of them weren’t mixed-race. I think the larger discussion of darkness that you bring up definitely ties into both race and femininity, though.

      I also think you’re right that the title is a fascinating point of examination, in that marriage and subversions thereof fundamentally define the story we’re looking at. What is meant by ‘indissoluble’? With that said, Evadne doesn’t actually die at the end – look again at the third paragraph on the last page. This fact takes the interpretation of the title into a different direction – George and Evadne’s marriage remains undissolved at the end of the text. The word “indissoluble”, conventionally a reassurance, is first subverted (as you discuss above) by George’s assumption that he murdered Evadne; then this subversion is turned around, as we find out Evadne isn’t dead. I think for me, the question the text in conjunction with the title leaves at that stage is ‘Should we wish for the marriage’s dissolution, for Evadne’s sake?’

      • August 27, 2020 at 8:49 pm

        I want to comment about what you’ve said here regarding the ending. I like what you’ve said, and it gives a whole new meaning to the story, meaning completely different from the meaning I had originally given this piece. (I was getting the vibe in class today that everyone thought she was dead… Did I completely misinterpret that???) There’s definitely plenty of textual evidence to support that she is in fact very much alive and not metaphorically alive. That said, I think your question of whether we should wish for the marriage to be dissolved depends on the reader and what the reader feels about marriage. For me, I hope that Evadne and George can work out the madness that has been portrayed in this story. I really question George’s mental stability, and maybe that is something they can work together to improve. He is a weak character driven by fear, insecurity, and perhaps ignorance, all of which cause him to act out in irrational ways. I would even go so far as to say that it isn’t anger at Evadne’s desire for social change that pushes him to act out, but rather a mental instability rooted much deeper. What do you think? Do you think we should wish for the dissolution of their marriage?

        • August 31, 2020 at 11:33 am

          I love all of the great points that have been brought up here, but I have to jump on the discussion of the end for a second! So I may have been reading way too much into this, but I do think that Evadne was dead, and here’s how I read it: George, mad with rage and potentially some form of guilt (does he feel guilt? or does he just feel the fear of a “religious” man who has committed an unforgivable act? I don’t know, but back to my point) “sees” Evadne everywhere, mentally chastises her for leaving the lawnmower out, etc. The final nail in his coffin, so to speak, was coming into the room and “seeing” her in the bed. Now here is where my over-analyzation comes in: I read it as him imagining Evadne there to absolve him of some of his guilt, but knowing in the back of his mind that he has killed his wife and there was no way around the repercussions that he would face in the light of day. So, he laid down with the idea of her and then let the gas of the fireplace leak into the room (important to note, also, that he commented on how Evadne would always tell him to turn it off before night so the gas wouldn’t kill them) and died in spite of her.

          This was a weird rabbit hole that I went down because I finished this book very late at night like a week ago, so I hope it makes sense and is not completely off-base.

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