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Sidney is a determined, competent and self-confident woman who knows of her qualities229 and often leaves the other character at a loss of words. When Edgar is opposed to her working at first, she threatens with leaving him and, in contrast to characters like Penelope O’Farrell or Susan Harabin, she really seems to mean it.230 Having already found a job, it would not be too difficult for her to make ends meet without male assistance. In the course of the last act, the audience gets to know that she really put her warnings into practice. Her most important maxim is to stay loyal to herself and consenting to a compromise, as the previously mentioned characters do, is out of the question for her.231 Nonetheless, she is still in love with Edgar,232 and aided by Mr Ritchie’s manoeuvres,233 she is willing to take him back on the condition that he does not call into doubt her freedom of thought ever again. This time, it is the male character who has to make allowances.
In contrast to the previous developments in the play, Sidney is to a great extent reconciled with the picture of the Angel in the House. In her thoughts she might be absolutely free, but her acts seem to speak a different language. She tells Edgar that she is expecting a child and that the duty of motherhood shall stand above the duty of earning a living in her future life. Therefore, Elaine Aston argues that in Independent Means, ‘[r]e-alignment with the conservative defence of the family unit is affirmed […] by the ultimate reconciliation between husband and wife, and Cf. Independent Means, III, 71.
‘EDGAR. You are assuming a great deal if you think that I shall forget this when you come back and beg me to forgive you.
SIDNEY. You will have to ask me to come back to you; and you will have to admit my right to have to think freely for myself before I do so’ (Independent Means, III, 73).
SIDNEY. A compromise is always wrong. It is a crime against one’s self’ (Independent Means, IV, 88) Cf. Independent Means, IV, 86.
According to Gaberthuel, Mr Ritchie’s character exhibits signs of a raisonneur (Cf.
- 100 the disclosure of Sydney’s pregnancy’ (Aston, 212). Moreover, Sydney expresses her gratefulness to Edgar about his wanting her to come back, as she would not have been able to cope with raising a child on her own.234 Speaking of children and inverted gender roles, it is furthermore interesting to note that, unlike most of the other plays, it seems that men are more prone to childlike behaviour than women. Talking about her husband, Sidney says that he is ‘a dear boy’ and thinks that ‘he’s tremendously young for his age’ (Independent Means, I, 25).
After the first performance of Independent Means in Manchester in 1909, it became part of the repertoire there again in 1910, 1911, and 1914, but never reached London stages.235 Later, Houghton criticised his own play and regarded it as ‘the weakest play [he has] ever written’ (Houghton, quoted in Gaberthuel, 39). Marcel Gaberthuel stresses the playwright’s endeavours to make a case for too many social problems in Independent Means. Instead of focusing on one issue, Houghton deals with three: capitalism, the English gentleman and his education, and the position of women in society.236 Thus, the local Daily Dispatch, for example, criticised the play’s composition by describing it as a ‘small bundle of sociological pamphlets done up as a comedy’ (Daily Dispatch quoted in Aston, 112). As a consequence, the composition of characters appears constructed and less organic than in plays like Hindle Wakes, which will be analysed subsequently. Moreover, some melodramatic elements, the sudden announcement of Mr Forsyth’s death and Mrs Forsyth’s ensuing swoon, for example, can still be found.237 4.4.3. Hindle Wakes –Fanny Hawthorn Hindle Wakes, another play by Stanley Houghton, was first performed in London in 1912. Set in the North of England, in Lancashire, it is a play that deals with
social differences again. Christopher Hawthorn and his daughter Fanny both work at Daisy Bank Mill. They are contrasted with the Jeffcote family, who owns the mill. In contrast to the well-to-do families in other plays, Mr Jeffcote started from humble beginnings and created his wealth through hard labour and clever investments.
Fanny resembles Sidney in Independent Means insofar as she is a working woman as well. It has to be conceded, though, that it is far less revolutionary for a female character like Fanny with a working-class background to contribute to the family’s living. Generally, female labour is seen in a more favourable light in Hindle Wakes.238 Moreover, economic independence is again the foundation on which the main female character’s self-determination is based.239 The ground-breaking element about Fanny’s character is that she is a sexually liberated woman; she is able to choose her independence from men deliberately and to lead her life according to her own principles.240 Even though Fanny still lives under the same roof as her parents, she does not seem to feel obliged to give account of each of her movements as the initial passages of the play indicate. She has gone away for a couple of days without telling her parents about her precise whereabouts. The only clue is a postcard with a picture of Blackpool, and, thus, her parents are left in a state of helpless
insecurity as the following dialogue between the Mr and Mrs Hawthorn reveals:
‘[Fanny] had to work at the loom for her living, and that does no woman any harm‘ (Hindle Wakes, III, 165).
Cf. Gaberthuel, 124.
‘Fanny ist die typische Vertreterin der emanzipierten new woman, dargestellt an einem Extremfall der freien Sexualität‘ [‘Fanny is the typical representative oft he emancipated New Woman, exemplified through an extreme case of free sexuality’, [my translation]] (Gaberthuel, 120).
- 102 It is also interesting to note that Mrs Hawthorn still seems to represent the traditional woman who accepts her husband’s sovereignty and power of decision.
Naturally, he is to settle their future steps with regard to their daughter. Moreover, Christopher Hawthorn does not appear to be utterly convinced of Fanny’s being ‘a good girl’ as he is quick to presume that she is involved in something worse than just a mystery.241 His apprehension turns out to be justified. On her return, Fanny tells her parents that she has spent the days with a friend, Mary Hollins, which soon turns out to be a lie. Stubbornly, Fanny persists in her alibi and turns out to be quite a rebellious girl, who questions any form of authority – in one instance, even God is called into doubt. When her parents point out that the impossibility of her stay in Blackpool together with Mary is ‘[a]s certain as there’s a God in Heaven’, Fanny replies that ‘that’s not certain after all’ (Hindle Wakes, I, 96). She goes on refusing to disclose where and with whom she has spent the last couple of days, but nevertheless the truth comes out gradually. First, it is established that she went away with a man. The subsequent opinions about the consequences of such behaviour are split and show a gap between the generations, between ‘old’ and ‘new’, once again. Correspondingly, Gaberthuel argues that the plot of Hindle Wakes is taking place in an epoch of transition, where the established norms of society are no longer unquestioningly regarded as binding.242 For Fanny’s parents it is evident that she is disgraced and that the only solution is to “marry the lad”.
They rebuke her and say that she should have gotten wed if she had been that curious about men. Fanny, though, clearly has a mind of her own as she considers marriage not to be a necessity at all.243 Then, Mr and Mrs Hawthorn also find out that their daughter went to Lllandudno in the company of Alan Jeffcote, the millowner’s son. Their first reaction is that the two youths ought to marry. Alan, however, has already been engaged to Beatrice Farrar, a respectable young woman and the daughter of the local mayor and owner of the second biggest mill in Hindle, for almost a year. Out of this situation a moral conflict arises. As soon as Mr Jeffcote learns about his son’s entanglement, he sets his mind on seeing Fanny treated right by making Alan marry her. The father’s attitude stands in opposition
to the one of Sir William in The Eldest Son.244 In Galsworthy’s play, the father wanted to offer the unwanted fiancée money whereas the son has set his mind on wedding her. In Houghton’s play, it is precisely the other way around.245 In the course of the plot, it becomes evident that Fanny does not wish to marry the mill owner’s son at all. She is an independent woman with particular personal opinions that are not changed by any form of threat. Even though her mother throws her out of the house in the end, Fanny’s fate does not seem to be bleak at all. She chooses her future deliberately, and as opposed to other characters such as Pinero’s Iris, there is little doubt that she will indeed manage to live on her own when she says, I’m a Lancashire lass, and so long as there’s weaving sheds in Lancashire I shall earn enough brass to keep me going. I wouldn’t live at home again after this, not anyhow! I’m going to be on my own in the future. […] [S]o long as I’ve to live my own life I don’t see why I shouldn’t choose what it’s to be. (Hindle Wakes, III, 179) To some extent, Fanny bears similarities to Drusilla Ives, the dancing girl in Henry Arthur Jones play of the same name.246 Both are strong-minded and get their way without heeding parental advice or social conventions. In the same way as Drusilla’s father does not know that his daughter is leading a double life, Mr Hawthorn says that ‘[Fanny]’s always been a bit of a mystery to her mother and [him]. There’s that in her veins as keeps her restless and uneasy’ (Hindle Wakes, I, 116). All the other characters in the play presume that Fanny is eager to become Alan Jeffcote’s wife, and they are all the more surprised to find out that ‘[she hasn’t] the least intention of marrying him’ (Hindle Wakes, III, 167). Fanny places self-realisation before the prevention of a social scandal and the opportunity to marry a rich man. Initially, Alan takes for granted that she does not agree on a marriage because she, as a selfless woman, does not want to spoil his future prospects. It does not occur to him that her primary reason for rejecting him is that A partial similarity between The Eldest Son and Hindle Wakes is also noted in: Gaberthuel, 132ff.
‘ALAN. What’s going to be done?
JEFFCOTE. I said I’d see him treated right.
ALAN (brightening). What’ll they take?
JEFFCOTE (dangerously). I said I’d see them treated right. If thou expects I’m going to square it with a cheque, and that thou’s going to slip away scot free, thou’s sadly mistaken’ (Hindle Wakes, I, 125).
A similarity of motif between The Dancing Girl and Hindle Wakes is also noted in:
- 104 she is afraid of spoiling her life.247 Fanny is quite insightful as she is aware of the fact that a possible matrimony with Alan has no chance of turning into a happy one. In the long run, she is looking for companionship instead of wealth.248 She is a self-confident woman, who believes that her worth is independent of any man. Her attitude is revolutionary insofar as she proclaims to have the same feelings and rights as men. Alan has assumed that Hawthorn’s daughter went away with him because she, as a woman, cared for him and naturally longed to become his wife. These prejudices about femininity are overthrown by Fanny when she tells the mill owner’s son, [y]ou are a man, and I was your little fancy. Well, I’m a woman, and you were my little fancy. You wouldn’t prevent a woman enjoying herself as well as a man, if she takes it into her head? (Hindle Wakes, III, 175) By and large, her way of reasoning seems sound and prudential and bears up against any form of criticism. In this light, her parents and Mr and Mrs Jeffcotes’ stubborn persistence to enforce what they consider proper appears quite anachronistic. As a consequence, the assertion voiced by Alan’s father that women are incomprehensible, which makes them unfit for receiving the right to vote, has precisely the converse effect as Fanny’s arguments generally seem to be the more perspicuous ones.249 Moreover, she is not afraid to speak her mind and to speak up to authorities, which can be noticed in the passage where she asks Jeffcote to talk to her in a more polite way by stopping to swear at her.250 In her lines, critique about class and gender policies often mix. In the final act, she tells Alan that she does not wish to be wed to a rich man’s son who does not dare to speak his mind because he is too afraid of losing his father’s financial support, [m]y husband, if I ever have one, will be a man, not a fellow who’ll throw over his girl at his father’s bidding! Strikes me the sons of these rich manufacturers are all much alike. They seem a bit weak in the upper storey. It’s their father’s brass that’s too much for them, happen! (Hindle Wakes, III, 176)
With this remark, she does not only invert social prejudices but also concedes that marriage is not her ultimate goal in life and that she would rather end up as a single woman than in an unfulfilling relationship. She rejects empty social conventions, honour and money as false motivations for marriage and is ready to take her future into her own hands and to shape it according to her convictions.251 Fanny declares her independence and refuses Alan on the grounds that, as previously mentioned, she is not willing to spoil her life not his. The astounding element of this announcement is ‘that it does not contain any trace of bitterness, victimization or sacrifice. Her dramatically unprecedented triumph rises from her vital, emancipatory self-reliance’ (Stilz, 135).
Quite the contrary holds true for Mrs Hawthorn. As already hinted at, Fanny and her mother do not only represent a generational gap, but also seem to stand for the differences between the ‘old’ and the New Woman. Mrs Hawthorn takes for granted that – at least outwardly – decisions are made by men. Hence, she claims that the ultimate assessment of their daughter’s situation lies with Mr Hawthorn.