Tuesday, 14 October 2014

On Mr and Mrs Poyser, or The severity of mild people

This is the scene where Mr Irwine communicates the bad news to Hetty's family.
"Before ten o'clock on Thursday morning the home at the Hall Farm was a house of mourning for a misfortune felt to be worse than death. The sense of family dishonour was too keen even in the kind-hearted Martin Poyser the younger to leave room for any compassion towards Hetty. He and his father were simple-minded farmers, proud of their untarnished character, proud that they came of a family which had held up its head and paid its way as far back as its name was in the parish register; and Hetty had brought disgrace on them all—disgrace that could never be wiped out. That was the all-conquering feeling in the mind both of father and son—the scorching sense of disgrace, which neutralised all other sensibility—and Mr. Irwine was struck with surprise to observe that Mrs. Poyser was less severe than her husband. We are often startled by the severity of mild people on exceptional occasions; the reason is, that mild people are most liable to be under the yoke of traditional impressions."
Curious, isn't it? Facing Hetty's scandal, Mr Poyser, who is usually mild, is more severe than Mrs Poyser, whose tongue is "is like a new-set razor" and who used to scold Hetty all the time. 
I don't think he reacts that way because he is mild and "mild people are most liable to be under the yoke of traditional impressions", but because: 1st, he has a mild temper, but lacks the kindness and compassion of Dinah and Mr Irwine (who also have a mild temper)- these things don't necessarily go together. To me, Mrs Poyser's outburst before the old Squire suggests that she has a stronger sense of justice. 2nd, Mr Poyser lives a good, honest life because of the importance he places on honour, that's his principle, that's the code he lives by, and as he has lived that way all his life, he cannot forgive the person who goes against it and who brings disgrace upon the whole family. To Mrs Poyser, family matters more than family honour. 3rd, the shock is too great for him, whereas for his wife, who has a sharper eye, she has known something of Hetty's character. This shock makes Mr Poyser extremely severe, unable to forgive or sympathise- this is in some ways similar to the way Adam reacts to Hetty and Arthur. Adam isn't too hard on Hetty only because he loves her and clings to the hope that he hasn't been mistaken and delusional for a long time, but it's precisely because he tells himself not to condemn Hetty that he puts all the blame on Arthur and hates him to the core of his being, ready to revenge and not at all interested in knowing Arthur's side of the story or understanding him. Of course jealousy is another factor, but I think shock is important, and if I can put it this way, Adam sort of transfers his anger at Hetty to Arthur. 
Anyway, I now have another concern- I've read till the morning of the trial, why have we not got another glimpse into the minds of Arthur and Hetty since the chapter before "The Quest"? 

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