A Daughter of the Lodge

“A Daughter of the Lodge”. The House of Cobwebs and Other Stories (1906) George Gissing; Aegypan; USA; 2006.

Looking for the new woman

Amongst all the different subjects presented throughout this text, I think it’s important to notice that there is a new kind of real life picture drown by George Gissing.

A Daughter of the Lodge deals with the problem of a young woman whose intellectual aspirations do not fit in the context where she has had the lack of being born. As the text says:

“…the life of the lodge would afford no adequate scope for her ambitions”.

If we compare this work with the Katherine Mansfield’s The Daughters of the Late Colonel, the first thing that captures our attention is that, although both are speaking about similar problems related to “the new woman” of the late 19th century, in her text, she is using a more innovator perspective of narration; a type of description composed by pieces or “word depictions” which puts the reader straight into the crisis of the story, without having given him/her any kind of introduction of the characters and relationships amongst them.

Unexpectedly, Gissing provides a description of the protagonist with accurate style and precise delicacy: May Rockett is actually a heroine, damned because of the poor economic position of her parents, but who behaves like a lady; according to her father and sister in the story:

“… they privately agreed that May was more of a real lady than either the baronet’s hard-tongued wife or the disdainful Hilda Shale”.

The tale of Gissing deals with a particular content, maybe closer to the problem of social differences than to the feminist theories developed during that time.

I think the real drama of the plot relies on the shock suffered by May Rockett, daughter of the Lodge, when she realizes that, by the ending of the 19th century, no matter how higher your ambitions may be, the only important thing in order to grow was the money you may have. May Rockett becomes humiliated by Hilda Shale, her supposed feudal superior, in front of her admired leader, the progressive Mrs. Lindley[1], and therefore, she gives Miss Shale a revenge, by deliberately ignoring her when entering the house.

Last but not least, the ending of the story also gives the reader a moral lesson, hidden in the thoughts of a more mature protagonist: May Rockett reaches the end of the tale with the same elevated intellect as in the beginning, but with a new relief in her soul: the sense that something good has happened to her family, thanks to her brave attitude towards the unfair people they insist on being subordinated to.

[1] The presence of this character in the story has a particular function, related to the Feminist Context: since Miss Rockett is a lady with sharpened intellect, she is as well interested in “a movement” that also Mrs. Lindley (“a good-humoured, chatty woman, who had a lively interest in everything progressive…”) was interested on.

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