Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Not to Write a Big Sex Post, or Anything...but...

Would anyone like to join me in discussing topic A? Mrs. Darwin I figure is probably not going to be able to join me on this one, new baby and all (CONGRATULATIONS DARWINS!!!! I'd cook you dinner if you didn't live so far away!).

Anyway, just wanted to say one thing about the sex scene in Pettigrew (let no sex scene go undiscussed).

I feel like the sex between Major and Mrs. Ali came out of left field. I suppose I partially expected it, but did not need the relationship to be consummated to be convinced of their affection for one another. And in fact, I thought the author was using the sex as a symbol of MRs. Ali's rejection of the fanatical religious persuasion of some of her relatives. In one conversation she is accused of turning to the dark side, and Mrs. Ali says, "Yes, I'm a fornicatinng whore" or something like that--and anyway I think that sex as a symbol of religious rejection is a card that gets overplayed.

If Mrs. Ali is going to reject her Muslim faith (and I guess it's not clear that she does), why is having sex the only tool authors seem to use to show a character's rejection of religious oppression?

Enbrethiliel is joining our group! She will post a hello one of these days, though I'm pretty sure we all know her.

So the book choosing list for the next few months goes like this:
Melanie B--September

and back to the beginning.


Steven Riddle said...

Dear Betty,

I do have to agree with you that it was one of the few flaws in an otherwise nearly perfect book. There were a couple of others that I got over most easily--but I was a bit disappointed by this. Not enough to put me off the book, but I am rather tired of this being the only means almost anyone uses to express self. See my forthcoming review of an otherwise marvelous book (so far) by Julie Orringer for what may be a protracted and agonized discussion of this very issue.



BettyDuffy said...

I'm looking forward to your review. I was thinking about this topic last night, that maybe sex finds its proper precedence (i.e. not very precedent in the expression of self) when it's in the context of family or parenthood. Not to undervalue sexual expression, but using sex as a symbol of everything a person believes undervalues belief.

Melanie B said...


I don't really have much to contribute that will further the discussion; but I thought the same thing. I saw it coming with the running away to the cottage; but kept hoping she'd let the Major and Mrs Ali keep their dignity and their clothes on. I was quite touched by the Major's providing Mrs Ali with his spare pajamas and his insistence on sleeping on the couch. And then she blew the moment.

I thought the wedding alone would have been quite sufficient to show their rejection of what everyone else thinks. (As if running away was somehow lacking.) And of leaving sex in its proper place.

It sort of felt like-- which was that Austen adaptation that just had to show one of the secondary characters in bed with someone else? Maybe Mansfield Park?

Also, the abortion felt like a similar unnecessary intrusion to me. It didn't make Sandy more sympathetic to me or Roger more clueless. Did anyone else feel the same?

Melanie B said...

Oh and welcome Enbrethiliel! Glad to have you officially here.

mrsdarwin said...

I'm popping in late just to say that I agree. I thought the Major's rescue of Mrs. Ali was pretty thrilling, and like Melanie, I thought the Major's behavior at the cottage was old-school awesome right up until they dived into bed. Then I was just disappointed. It was pretty obvious that they were heading toward marriage, and quickly, and I wished that his old-fashioned chivalry could have extended that far. On the other hand, she threw herself at his head pretty hard... Do you think that was fully in character for Mrs. Ali?

There was a moment earlier in the book where I felt the same moment of disappointment: when the Major remembers sneaking sex with Nancy without disturbing his landlady. It was then that I realized that the author's conceit of the Major sticking to older, higher standards didn't exactly match up with my conceit of the same. It was a small but jarring note.

Melanie B said...

No, I didn't think it was really in character for Mrs Ali. Especially after her resignation to family and tradition and her unwillingness to extricate herself from her family's plans.

And I'd forgotten about that odd note of the Major sneaking sex with Nancy. That definitely seemed off. It seems her idea of traditional values is that they are a veneer to cover hypocrisy. But I guess that's the contemporary hip way to look at the past: there's no way people could really have lived that way so they must have all been hypocrites.