“LA VIE EST L’ENSEMBLE DES FONCTIONS QUI RESISTENT À LA MORT.”
“ … OUR WAY, THE WAY, IS NOT A RANDOM PATH. OUR WAY BEGINS FROM COHERENT UNDERSTANDING. IT IS A WAY THAT AIMS AT PRESERVING KNOWLEDGE OF WHO WE ARE, KNOWLEDGE OF THE BEST WAY WE HAVE FOUND TO RELATE EACH TO EACH, EACH TO ALL, OURSELVES TO OTHER PEOPLES, ALL TO OUR SURROUNDINGS. IF OUR INDIVIDUAL LIVES HAVE A WORTHWHILE AIM, THAT AIM SHOULD BE A PURPOSE INSEPARABLE FROM THE WAY…OUR WAY IS RECIPROCITY. THE WAY IS WHOLENESS…”
AYI KWEI ARMAH: “TWO THOUSAND SEASONS”
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Part one: Aspects of resistance:
1. Cultural resistance:
a. Refusal of patriarchal tyranny: Anna Tellwright relationship with her father 7
b. The inacceptence of the social conformist principles 9
c. Defiance of Evangelical Methodist restrictions 11
2. Ideological resistance:
a. The Marxist notion of class struggle 14
b. The sociological theory of suicide 17
c. The feminist research of identity 20
II. Part two: Limits of resistance
1. The Paradigm of Negativity in Bennett’s narrative 23
2. The sociobiological analysis of the narrative 27
Arnold Bennett’s “Anna of the Five Towns” (1902) can very well be described as the writer’s “first major literary achievement.” It brilliantly reflects the provincial life in the Staffordshire potteries. Its brilliance can be seen, in fact, through the combination of the ironic but also the affectionate detachment to the space as well as the depiction of provincial life and culture in a very documentary way. This Manichean allegoric functionality proves to be, thus, of great importance in the process of creating miscellaneous memorable characters that tend to be, in turn, a defining sign of the entire work.
Indeed, this characterization is manifested through a set of obscure and ordinary voices which are put in a battlefield where they are intended to stand against the cruelty of environment and the blindness of chance. Incontrovertibly, Anna Tellwright, the heroine, like the rest of the characters does live in the culturally starved and callous physical and economic environment of Bursley where the very rigid codes of evangelical Methodism are wrapping every single sign of life. A certain situation denotes the essentiality of crossing a surrendering path all along the mission.
Henceforth, such a dilemmic situation is to be extremely paramount at the level of presenting the deep tragic and absurd dimension of certain characters that while suffering from either social conformist futile principles or evangelical Methodist unjust restrictions, search for an ultimate possibility to reconstruct their own identity. Their main way to come to terms with this aim shifts between a variety of techniques and strategies. Firstly, Anna chose to give free rein to the mind’s logiqueness (instead of the “useless” warm feelings toward Willy Price) in deciding the man she will enter with in matrimony. Moreover, Henry Mynors religious fervor and successful affairs enable him to be a suitable husband for Anna. However, Willy Price, after realizing his inability to continue in this seismic atmosphere, provokes suicide following thence the same example of his father’s self-destruction.
This diversity in terms of resistance strategies happens to be retrospective in the sense it correlates dialectically a broad range of directions together with a set of limits. Characters’ tendencies, thence, to overcome the inequitable creeds evolves undoubtedly around a criterional appropriateness and a finishing effectiveness. Indeed the analysis of the aspects of resistance is visible within the framework of both the culturally and ideologically dimensioned perspective. Besides the defiance of patriarchal tyranny, social conformism, and the Evangelical Methodist restrictions along with the traces of Durkheim’s sociological theory of suicide, the Marxist concepts of class struggle, and the feminist search of identity, are the manifestations of the resisting strategies noticeable inside this peace of art. While the second part will focus on the paradigm of negativity in Anna of the Five Towns as well as the sociobiological analysis of the narrative in the process of revealing the limits of resistance in Bennett’s work.
I. Part one: Aspects of resistance in Bennett’s “Anna of the Five Towns”
1. Cultural resistance:
a. Refusal of patriarchal tyranny: Anna Tellwright relationship with her father:
Arnold Bennett; described his novel: “Anna of the Five Towns” as “a study of parental authority.” Indeed the tumultuous perspective of Anna’s father, Ephraim Tellwright touched through his tendency to keep his daughter under his financial and social control appear to be an influential division in the fictional advancement toward culmination. Certain inclination should be, thus, described as preposterous by reason of the illegality and clandestine interference of the antagonist in his daughter’s method of obtaining money and securing affairs. A particular kind of intervention instead of sane distant neutrality from the part of the father seems to incite the flames where the weak organization can be blazed on.
A certain annoying condition pushed Anna; the heroine; toward the search of some remedies for the sake of a further regulation of the established system together with the humanitarian necessities. For instance, she successfully coped with the issue of the Prices’ financial decline in order to appease the arduous condition that come about to precipitate their total down break. Being, in turn, infatuated within the progression of her financial affairs on the one hand and the overwhelming love for Willie Price on the other hand, Anna proves to be like a gladiator when she opted for persecuting the Prices in order to submit them to pay their duty at the due time yet she transposed from a particular situation so as to help Willie Price get rid of his financial predicaments by burning the forged bill to prevent him accordingly from being persecuted.
The heroine’s perspective of managing the mosaic assortment of life seems to be too effective in the way of achieving a certain degree of success at various levels. Indeed her struggle to clarify the space of the prices’ family from any sign of shame can, by the way, be equated with her vortexive intimacy to Willie Price and her desire to help him till the end. Such attitude comes as a transcription of Edward Morgan Forester’s assertion in his book: “Aspects of the Novel” that reads:
“… when human beings love they try to get something, they also try to give something and this double aim makes love more complicated than food and sleep. It is selfish and altruistic at the same time and no amount of specialization in one hand quite atrophies the other.”
Anna’s contention of her father’s desire to keep her under surveillance evokes a sense of attemptation to get her full independence from the patriarchal wrapping codes she is surviving within. The totalitarian regime-like state imposed on the heroine mongrelized with the emergence of a pure, noble, and innocent adoration connecting both her and Willie had lead to a momentous furtherance in the storyline. A progression initially conveyed by her promise to help the Prices; looking, as a result, to reject all the tenets of her father inasmuch as the unexpected results of putting the pledge in the practical way. Fixing herself under those circumstances in the center of the whirlpool, she moves on behaving in a preventive apprehension according to the previously stated oath toward the Prices.
Anna’s strategic movement between or beneath the labyrinths of life is a reflection of her intrinsic state (love, passion, and anger) and her extrinsic traits (loyalty, self-confidence, and assistance). Definitely she meets Aristotle’s affirmation concerning the characters’ ability to “give us qualities, but it is in action that we are happy or the reverse…All human happiness and misery”, continues the writer “take the form of action.” Her ability to react according to her internal feelings is a clue of her aspiration to get her freedom from the tyrannical world she is surviving in as well as her capability to concretize the intangible implements to which she was associated.
b. The inacceptence of the social conformist principles:
The representation of the industrial activities in the middle of the nineteenth century English literature reflects the apparition of some signs of corruption within the English society. Certain signs can be noticeable at the level of the dehumanizing functionality of the industrializing process inasmuch as the deconstructing role on the social setting. As C. F. G. Masterman defined them in “The Condition of England”: “The conquers” adopted the doctrine of Social Darwinism in its most significant expression that of “survival of the fittest” as Herbert Spencer illustrated it. The owners became thus able to introduce their system of law of nature in a very instrumental way.
The widespread of Social Darwinism in the late nineteenth century English society granted the plane transition from the pre-industrial era into the mechanical age. In effect Bennett’s representation of the main characters of his novel: “Anna of the Five Towns” conveys the emergence of some new features like the persecution and exploitation of lodgers. In this environment Douglas William Malcolm stresses in his academic essay entitled “Social Vision and Individual Learning in Arnold Bennett’s Five Towns fiction” the oppressive propensity of Ephraim Tellwright; the heroine’s gluttonous father; when
“He decides, for example, deliberately to force Titus [Price] into bankruptcy so that as first creditors he and Anna will receive enough money to repair the building for new and more profitable tenants.”
Correspondingly Ephraim’s act of complicating the question of the Prices to a greater extent come into sight as an embodiment or illustration of the circumstantial pervasiveness of the Social Darwinist canon in the entire potteries.
The industrial activity caused also the collapse of the pre-established social system in the five towns’ district. In point of fact the dehumanization and exploitation of workers come into view as a tremendous way of accumulating money. In this main course Henry Mynors is described by Douglas Malcolm as a man who “is unaware of the reductive effect that his factory has upon his workers…” proving thus Mynors unwillingness to provide his employees with the most appropriate requirements of their work just to earn more money. Moreover the transcendence of certain tendencies beneath the pottery’s Methodists leads to the diminution of ordinary people’s chances to live in equality with them. A picture that is further and further explained in Frederick Pilkington’s book: “Methodism in Arnold Bennett’s Novels” when he asserts that:
“With the exception of Mrs. Sutton, the five towns’ Methodists portrayed by Bennett are a money garbling, honourless clique, unconcerned with the welfare of others, and creating a world where good people, such as the Willie Prices, could not live.”
This seismic condition was as a result a major reason for the appearance of some irreversible acts that the five towns’ pottery had not witnessed so frequently. The vindictive eagerness of Ephraim Tellwright to enforce Titus Price into bankruptcy turned to be actually an indication of the latter’s truthfulness and intrinsic worth. In this main milieu Titus Price’s suicide came to be as a kind of defying the five towns’ people’s allegations as it is better described in Douglas Malcolm analysis of Bennett’s five towns fiction when he asserts that Titus Price’s:
“Death shocks the town because it represents his ultimate refusal to carry on the pretensions that were such a major part of his life. By killing himself, Titus seems to be telling his follows that ‘this is real human nature, this is the truth; the rest was lies.”
But Titus Price’s suicide can be perceived also as a moment for the other hypocrite people such as Henry Mynors and Ephraim Tellwright to catch the opportunity of filling the empty space left after Titus Price’s suicide either in the Sunday school’s reputation or in the preparation of the location to new and more profitable tenants.
What is noticeable in this entire examination is the intersection between different types of defiance (resistance) of a set of cruel and fatal situations within a personal perspective (the case of the Prices family) on the one hand and the revision (adjustment) of the old social systems toward more pragmatic and creative techniques that shape the relationship between the elements of the industrial procedure on the other hand.
c. Defiance of evangelical Methodist restrictions:
The religious question in the potteries was a very important subject to be treated primarily in Bennett’s literature and principally in “Anna of the Five Towns” where the crepuscule of the evangelical Methodist influence on people arrives on the scene through a variety of clues along the whole text. This twilight is primarily divulged in the course of the diversity of approaches apparent initially with the story of the stolen bible happening during the protagonist’s class and further clarified in her speech to Henry Mynors about the last events in her class. She, for instance, cannot understand the reason behind the superintendent’s decision to punish the girl with dismissing her from the class simply because she stole a bible. Anna’s multifaceted treatment of this issue can be, thus, manifested in her disagreement and disapproval of the superintendent’s decision at some point in her conversation with Henry Mynors noticeable in the following passage:
“I think it’s a very great pity” Anna said firmly. “I rather like the girl” she ventured in haste; “you might speak to Mr. Price about it.” [Asking Henry Mynors] “If he mentions it to me” [Mynors answering her] “Yes, I meant that, Mr. Price said-if it had been anything else but a bible-”
The heroine’s rapid reflection on the subject can be taken as her own spiritual personality and feminist outlook that automatically differs from the criteria shaping manhood’s behavior in the pottery. She in fact cannot understand the significance of the wholly bible in the religious sphere inasmuch as its inviolability for the evangelical Methodists. Her rejection of certain notions attributed to the religious text puts into words her aspiration to establish an innovative systematic manner of dealing with life. A modest mannerism and moderate treatment is accordingly too influential especially in certain issues like the previous one.
The negative response to religion was more and more treated in Bennett’s book and mainly in the revival where the Methodists were depicted as a group of people who are incapable of participating in the progression of the revival in a regular and organized way. In this main way:
“The revivalist,” according to Mr. Douglass Malcolm was “caricatured as “a little restless, nervous, alert man” who must play the cornet in order to stir the congregation and whose photograph can be purchased for a free of one shilling.” Moreover, Anna’s trial to recollect all her sins and to start the process of purifying her intrinsic soul seems to be unreachable as it is further revealed in the following statement taken from the book: “Anna tried to imagine herself converted, or in the process of being converted. She could not.” The heroine’s incapability to reach salvation and redemption is motivated by the rising annoyance caused by the inner divergence between her “spiritual goals” and her “religious practice” as Mr. Douglass Malcolm nominated them in his analysis.
Anna’s problematic situation started to be so dangerous in the way that she could neither sleep nor dream. It was so impossible, for example, for her to reach a lofty determination that can metamorphose everything and reshape her existence. Her desire to determine the most appropriate track to get out from this problem provided her with two different solutions thanks to both Henry Mynors and Mrs. Sutton. She was, on the one hand, advised by Henry Mynors not expect anything from the fact of conversion and to follow the Christ’s tradition on a diurnal basis:
“She concentrated the activities of her brain on that idea of Christ-like living, day by day, hour by hour, of a gradual aspiration towards Christ and thereby an ultimate arrival at the state of being saved.”
But, by the very moment the effect of the revival started to die away she felt it is extremely difficult to carry on the same lane. On the other hand Mrs. Sutton had been neither an instructor nor an advisor for Anna in her research for resolving this conflict between her divine potential and her definite setting of survival but rather a model to be followed. Mrs. Sutton was described in her meeting with the heroine during the revival as an “angel of consolation” whose main interest is to put into practice the Christian teachings in a constant way. Certain forms of dealing with the religious matter in this universe seem to be too effective for Anna’s dilemma since they are reliable with her instinctive sympathy and therefore their outcome upon her are deeper than Mynors’ recommendation.
The insubordination or rejection of the religious commands is also expressed in Ephraim Tellwright and Henry Mynors utilization of the religious principles to pull together more wages. In fact Mr. Douglas Malcolm reveals in his main study that Anna: “appears to hold some sway over the town’s hypocrites, as her reproval of Mynors for his preoccupation with numbers demonstrates” that Mynors’ religious enthusiasm can be considered thus as a masquerade where his real character is concealed behind. His own way of adapting the sanctimonious surface in achieving various targets echoes Ephraim Tellwright’s tendency to utilize religion as a tool to obtain more financial gains, in this main context Mr. Douglas Malcolm adds: “Ephraim Tellwright’s work in the religious world, as in the other areas of his life, is motivated solely by his preoccupation with financial gain.” Indeed Tellwright’s major interest in life as well as in the religious world does not escape from the notion of getting money as much as possible rather than focusing on the spiritual matters. His duty, for instance, in the church was based on the search for the possible organization of fiscal schemes whose absence may cause the failure of any religious propaganda and which may afford him with the tremendous and marvelous opportunity of experiencing the adventure of collecting money and systematizing its circulation within the possible avenues and toward the effective purposes.
2. Ideological resistance:
a. Marxism and the notion of class struggle:
According to the Marxist standpoint, Arnold Bennett’s novel “Anna of the Five Towns” two distinctive classes could be perceived in the five towns’ potteries: the strong and commanding leaders such as Ephraim Tellwright, Mr. Sutton, and Henry Mynors on the one hand and the weak and powerless people like the Prices family and the other wage-earners. This social division that featured the beginning of the industrial era can be regarded as a convenient ground for the movement from a specific level to another level. This movement or progress can mark the occurrence of what the Marxists identify as the class struggle. Indeed this definite idea appear to be echoed in the novel through the continuous trial of the miser Ephraim Tellwright, for instance, to get more monetary wages in an inappropriate manner such as his deep exploitation of workers or in his chauvinistic desire to push Titus Price into bankruptcy for the sake of preparing the location for more profitable new lodgers. This behavior may very well demonstrate the existence of the seeds and stones of the conception of class struggle in the five towns’ pottery. Ephraim Tellwright’s, in fact, profound lust to amass his wealth, without any consideration to the impact or aftermath of certain reaction, is not based on the need to ameliorate the style of his family life but to participate in more investments in the pottery. He is, consequently, represented in the novel as a hypocrite because of the distinct techniques he makes use of in order to establish or to confirm his supremacy and leadership on the others. On the other hand, Mr. Titus Price’s, melodramatic situation is a fine illustration of his looking forward to fit to his obligatory duty of paying the needed money to Mr. Ephraim Tellwright on the due time as well as to avoid his total down break.
Furthermore Henry Mynors represents an excellent illustration of the manipulative and exploitative man who is, always, rummaging around the exploration of new horizons that enables him to get more money. This performance was, for instance, completely exposed in the novel within the expression that reads:
“Mynors sat down, and, seated, and began to explain the arrangements for the revival. He made it plain that prayers without industry would not achieve success. His remarks revealed the fact that underneath the broad religious structure of the enterprise, and supporting it, there was a basis of individual diplomacy and solicitation.”
His attitude concerning the case of Mr. Titus Price’s suicide indicates his hypocritical character inasmuch as his aspiration to get hold of the previous positions as well as properties of Mr. Titus Price. He is, also, portrayed by Mr. Douglas Malcolm as a rich man whose chief concern is the quantity of produced goods away from their qualitative value and carelessly to the exploitative and dehumanizing function on the working forces:
“He had no sympathy with specialties, artistic or otherwise. He found his satisfaction in honestly meeting the public taste: he was born to be a manufacturer of cheap goods on a colossal scale. He could dream of fifty ovens, and his ambition blinded him to the present absurdity of talking about a three-oven bank spreading its productions all over the country and the colonies; it did not occur to him that there were yet scarcely enough plates to go round.”
Besides Henry Mynors’ muti-perspectivist connections keep him unacquainted with witnessing the reductive role of the industrial activity on workers and its corruptive function of the creative impulse of personnel.
These miscellaneous clues about the economic mood of the five towns’ potteries could be treated as noticeably important especially at the level of their functionality in reflecting the very Marxist fundamental concept of “le matérialisme historique” which is based upon Karl Marx acknowledging that: “Ce n’est pas la conscience des hommes qui détermine leur être social, c’est leur être social qui détermine leur conscience.” Willie Price’s unsuccessful efforts to recover his sick final chance in paying Ephraim Tellwright the required amount of money even though with the forged bill can be considered as a significant transcription of Marx’s postulation. His situation can also transcend the very meaning of Mr. Jean Baudrillard’s affirmation taken from his book: “Pour une Critique de L’économie Politique du Signe” Where he stresses that:
“C’est dans la dépense que l’argent change de sens. Ce fait établi dans l’enchère peut être transféré comme hypothèse à toute la sphère de la consommation. L’acte de consommation n’est jamais seulement un achat (reconversion de la valeur d’échange en valeur d’usage), c’est aussi--- aspect radicalement négligé aussi bien par l’économie politique de Marx--- une DÉPENSE c’est-à-dire une richesse manifestée, et une destruction manifeste de la richesse.˝
Certainly Baudrillard’s equation can merely be an extrinsic economic evidence that emphasizes the puzzling condition that Willie Price is surmounting.
b. The sociological theory of suicide:
As it is noticeable, the entire journey of the Prices throughout the novel can be taken as an infinite running behind the obsolete targets of this life. Their incapability to promote their industry and to disburse the arrears of their present site is also an indication of the serious hardships they are surmounting. This scrupulous state inspired successively Titus Price and his son Willie Price to commit suicide in order to break away from this arduous taste as well as to alert the rest of people about the importance of revising their inner outlook in this world and to shove them in research of the virtuous truth about life. Besides Bennett’s nomination of “Titus Price” may be well an indicator of the Greek mythological narrative that articulates the defeat of the Titans by the Olympians while his last name conveys also that, as Mr. Douglas Malcolm suggested, “in the prevailing atmosphere of the potteries his life is measured and finally paid for in terms of its monetary value.” The Prices are, undeniably, the victims of irrecoverable and social divisions that shape the five towns potteries.
This strenuous, and dangerous circumstance that occurred in Willie Price’s last days can, also, be taken as a result of the of his lack of interaction, and deficiency at the level of social cohesion from the time when Mr. Ephraim Tellwright started his modus operandi of spoiling him and his father in order to retrieve his money and repossess the workshop. Moreover the reader is able to observe Willie Price’s social behavior either inside the evangelical Methodist community or within their workshop through certain cases like his inability to meet Mr. Ephraim Tellwright in order to formulate a certain compromise or to conduct this problem toward some other effective channels. He chose, for instance, to act in response with the miser’s daughter, Anna Tellwright, especially when he saw nothing good of the further dependency on “the forged bill” as well as by the very moment of his being endangered to enter the jail. This convoluted way of behaving is, truthfully, one of the essential reasons that exhibit Willie’s ineptitude to survive in the five towns potteries. In this main concern Pekka Martikainen, Netta Mäki, and Jeni blomgren argue in their article about “The Effects of area and Individual social characteristics on suicide Risk: A Multilevel Study of Relative Contribution and Effect Modification” that:
“Individual social disadvantage may put people at a particularly high risk of suicide in socially degraded areas. Experience of social disadvantage in two spheres of life may accumulate to create a synergistic spiral of hardship prone to suicidal behavior.”
This statement can represent thence an outstanding figurine of Willie’s intricate state in the interior of the unsettled environment of the potteries.
The Prices consecutive commitment of suicide can thus be an explanation of the weak organization and intense irregularity that shapes the social circles of the five towns’ potteries as well as an indication of their refusal to surrender to the cruel environment and blind chance. In fact Mr. David M. Clarke argues in his article “Autonomy, Rationality and the Wish to Die” that:
“To claim that any action, suicide in this case, is rational is to claim that there are good reasons for it-"that it is sensible, appropriate, in keeping with one's fundamental interests, and perhaps even admirable"1. It is to say that the action is taken after informed deliberation and not impetuously or directed too much by emotion. Motto defines a rational decision as having two characteristics: being realistic and having minimal ambivalence. The first criterion addresses the importance of gaining full knowledge of the options and consequences, the second the potential problem of transient desires being inconsistent with a person's more longstanding and fundamental values.”
Can be very well a significant indication of the Prices loss of faith in this universe as well as an important significance of their firmness on committing suicide in order to escape from their miserable situation into a another high-quality condition.
c. The feminist research of identity:
Women were always represented in the novel as defenceless to the exploitative philosophy that featured the male management of the religious as well as industrial activities in the potteries. This state is perceptible all the way through their absenteeism in the manufacturing ground and their lack of a systematic approach that leads them toward additional successful accomplishments. Their main interest in their private life is simply to enjoy the present situation without any regard to the future. This examination is viable through a set of characters in the narrative such as Beatrice Sutton who is portrayed according Mr. Douglas Malcolm:
“As a vain dilettante who spends her indulgent father’s money on frivolous luxuries. It is noteworthy in this regard that Beatrice has decorated their drawing-room in such an opulent fashion that Mrs. Sutton, the genuine Christian, seemed scarcely of a piece with it.”
She is thus an expressive exemplar of the unproductive human being and who experiences at all times triviality without being aware of the real sense of his existence.
The victimization and exploitation of women in the five towns’ potteries is a civic aspect of this era. Bennett, himself, was so authentic in his treatment of this matter especially at the level of Anna-Ephraim relationship; indeed, the latter was represented throughout the novel in the picture of the tormenter of his womenfolk, he treats them as if they were servants, and he believes, moreover, that it is completely normal to operate in a harsh way with his daughters:
“The women of household were the natural victims of their master: in his experience it had always been so. In his experience the master had always, by universal consent, possessed certain rights over the self-respect, happiness, and the peace of the defenseless souls set under him—rights as unquestioned as those exercised by Ivan the Terrible. Such rights were rooted in the secret nature of things.”
Tellwright’s unfair and domineering behavior can be thus evaluated within a psychoanalytical perspective: his inner false considerations are originated from his belief on the superiority of the male body on the female body. Moreover his punishment of Anna by making her lose all her properties seems to be a sign of his unfaithfulness to his daughter and his incapability to divide his wealth during his life. He inasmuch as this undergoes a feeling of ineptitude to believe on the fact that a female can acquire a given amount of money as easy as his daughter has.
The heroine’s beginning to surmount her sightless chance is noticeable by the very moment of her religious conversion. She manifested, as a matter of fact, a profound eagerness to put into practice the teachings of Christianity during her daily life. Her religiously enthusiastic state happened to be progressively promoted all through her journey with Mynors and the Suttons in the Isle of Man. She was in companion of her “angel of consolation” Mrs. Sutton and was as a result able to experience a sense of self-fulfillment that unconditionally differs from her life in the potteries. The brutality of her father, indeed, is a very important reason of the alteration that happened at the level of her spirit and made her, accordingly, too sympathetic towards her sister and the Prices. Her faith and belief in their powerlessness to secure their own rights is too paramount for her to procreate a suitable resolution for their intricate situations. Anna managed thus to carry her sister, Agnes, with her when she enters in matrimony with Henry Mynors basically in order to emancipate her from the tyrannical regime led by their father at home. She helped Willie Price to solve his financial problems by destroying the forged bill and allowed him a simple amount of money to restart his workings in Australia. She provided the evidence of her renaissance mainly when she put an end to her father’s influence on her despite her failure to protect her wealth from her magpie father.
II. Part two: Limits of resistance
1. The Paradigm of Negativity in Bennett’s novel
As it is envisaged by Arnold Bennett to be “A sermon against parental tyranny”, “Anna of the Five Towns” reflects the heroine’s extended acquiescence for her father in the preliminary stage in a seemingly blind way. She does not, in fact, put into interrogation her father’s deeds with her (his repudiation, for example, of the fact of her absence from home when he saw her together with Agnes and Henry Mynors near the park: “he stared fixedly, and nodded with his grotesque and ambiguous grin.” (Anna, pp. 12)) ; nor does she assume the outcomes of her unintentional decisions (her spontaneous reception of her father’s deeds for instance: “she felt no elation or ferment of any kind; she had not begun to realize the significance of what occurred” (Anna, pp. 24)). Her activities continued to replicate her submission to the patriarchal orders since she visits the bank according to his demand and abstains from keeping a little sum of money for her private use. Anna’s melodramatic familial state was progressively thickened as a result to Bennett’s strategy that consists of accumulating the minor phases of divergence or as it is introduced by Francesco Marroni in his article entitled “The Paradigm of Negativity in Anna of the Five Towns” under the suggestion of “microconflicts” for the sake of producing a specific tragic dimension in the novel.
Marroni’s analysis of Arnold Bennett’s innovative and unparalleled utilisation of a certain tragic facet implicitly exposes his own vision of the heroine’s failure to continue on the incarnation of her target and her approval of the spiritual bereavement without the slightest resistance. His concept of “microconflicts” as well as his adoption of George Eliot’s definition of this concept as “that element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency” can be seen also as an additional admission and a momentous instance of the heroine’s cyclic endorsement of defeat. He continues to squabble gradually about the heroine’s total acceptance of the external obligations imposed upon her continuously and unconsciously asserting that “the rhythm of the novel is created by scenes and incidents which reiterate, in all their possible variations, the leading motif of Anna of the Five Towns—the tragic destiny of a character condemned to immobility and silence.” Certain emblematic condition is a clear and unambiguous indicator about the long-life subjection Anna is ongoing.
Anna’s complete submission to the severe restrictions of her social space was seriously intensified by her acceptance to marry Henry Mynors in spite of the pure warmness she is experiencing toward Willie Price; she justified her decision, subsequently, by her oath to Mynors during their expedition in the Isle of Man. The protagonist’s claim, hence, to be inept to draw her oath to Mynors to an end is multiply significant and largely meaningful especially on the ground of her lack to a solid personality and her insufficiency at the level of making the right and appropriate decisions whenever it is possibly and highly required. She, furthermore, fits incompetent of discovering the real and true intrinsic merits of Henry Mynors since she was by the moment in need to come across an accurate and a proper person who can protect her from the furious and irate personality of her father. Her investigations of such a persona lead her to disregard the principle traits that should be naturally born with him. Anna’s search for her protector unveils an inconsistently organised character in view of the fact that her long submission and obedience of her father derived her to be in a state of permanent conformity with the external ethics and devoid of listening to the inner voice of her soul. Anna’s enigmatic state can be, furthermore, an evidence of the feminist inscrutable tendencies to operate in an incoherent way and their bottomless affection for the materialistic side regardless of the spiritual and moral sides in life.
Anna is a representative of the male or female protagonists who, as Jurij Lotman notes, are:
“Inseparable from their surroundings: the heroes of ethical and spatial immobility, those heroes who, even as they move from one place to another according to the requirements of the plot, take with them their essential background.”
Her marriage can, thence, be nothing but a replacement of her father by Henry Mynors. This definite substitution is exceedingly implicative about the immature or undeveloped personality of the heroine because it replicates a sense of ineffectiveness to change her destiny and her continuation to live on the precincts of indecidability. The fact of her durable existence within the restrictive limitations of her father was too paramount particularly at the level of creating a condition of self-indulgent comportment that was accordingly a symptom of her passivity and meekness. This condition was otherwise so influential in clarifying the heroine’s intrinsic psychological traits that manipulate her own behaviour. She was represented, consequently, in the picture of the very childish human being principally by the time when she sustained to give the impression of her inability to scrutinize her own and systematic path specifically after her inheritance.
Her partnership with Mynors was both a fatherly decision that she was weak of defying and a prolongation of her traumatic ingeniousness especially when “she stood silent, like a child who is being talked about” as if she is unaware of what is happening around her. Anna’s cavernous abandonment, thence, of the changeability of her state was also gradually manifested in the novelist statement that reads: “she had sucked in with her mother’s milk the profound truth that a woman’s life is always a renunciation, greater or less.” For this reason Anna was ambiguously and puzzlingly passive in a given way that pressed her to reject the proper voice of her life in order to avoid the risk of accusing her for disloyalty and treachery. Her assiduousness on finalizing the pre-fixed pledge to Mynors was, moreover, a case to thrust aside all her other obligations toward the other personae like Willie Price specifically when agreeing on the fact that her warm feelings for him is merely a transcription of her sympathy and desire to help him particularly at the very moment of his father’s suicide as well as for his financial difficulties which were originated from her activities along with her father toward them. She was, consequently, described by Margaret Drabble as a character whose “feeling for the simple Willie Price is one of a rather superior pity and concern, mingled with a deep financial guilt, which she mistakes for love.” As well as her warmness for him is, in addition, a motherly and defensive feeling according to the novelist assertion in the twelfth section that articulates the truth that: “The thought of anyone stooping to Willie was hateful to her. She felt equal with him, as a mother feels equal with her child when it cries and it soothes it” Her protective feeling for Willie was gradually emphasized alongside the same chapter mainly when she felt, as usual, incapable of helping him even at his extreme loneliness.
The heroine’s investigation about somebody to protect her (instead of her father) puts into words her ineptness to enter with Willie Price in wedlock because of his failure to secure his financial affairs. She can be a representative of the materialistic and selfish human being who drives his collaborators into malfunction and claims, simultaneously, to be so piteous for their miseries. Anna’s final constructive actions, thence, toward Willie come to be so influential within the framework of her longing to put out of sight all her previous deeds (together with her father) toward him so as it would be impossible for the rest to accuse her later of being the reason behind the Prices’ down break. Her behaviour in such a way reveals also her boasting character because she cannot attach herself, as Francesco Marroni revealed in his main article, to a “clumsy and inexpert” man “in business” like Willie Price.
2. The sociobiological analysis of the narrative:
Bennett’s Anna of The Five Towns is an important evidence of analyzing the problematic heterosexual manifestations in the English Literature since it, unlike the other contemporary literary works, encapsulates the rise of the sexual competition toward fatal endings and as Joseph Carroll acknowledged in his article “Human Universals and Literary Meaning” it: “depicts atypical sexual psychology.” Its inordinariness is noticeable in the heroine’s confusing response to the appropriate parameters of her life so that she came about to put out of her mind the essential requirements of her own soul and progressed on filling up the others needs in a very random way. Anna’s arbitrary interactive behavior is, in view of that, a characteristic of the feminine mental illogiqueness and their sensational manners that steer them absurdly in this universe. Her performance, for example, according to the outer surface’s obligations marked her participation, even indirectly, in leading the Prices’ family into demise.
The novel’s representation of the heterosexual contact discloses, in passing, a sign of the indefinite and ambivalent sentimentality that is highly misleading and suggests therefore a cautious and attentive analytical approach specially when sticking to the “biologically based” core instead of reductive basic and simplified examination. This meticulous technique’s valuable effect is that it facilitates the treatment of the implicative function of the represented actions according to the assortment of Carroll’s, for instance, three factors of: “elemental themes, circumstantial conditions, and the individual identities of characters.” Bennett’s work can be thus perceived, accordingly, as the representation of the schizophrenically portrayed heroine who, by the time of reaching the matrimonial age, continues to pursue her tyrannical father’s guidelines and fully accepts the repressing Methodist instructions unintentionally and inadvertently even with her ultimately private decisions.
The protagonist’s vague deportment is visible through the deplorable condition she was put on; it was supplementarily clarified in Joseph Carroll’s sociobiological study which acknowledged that the heroine:
“... is courted by and accepts a man who is an alpha male—confident, poised, successful, charming, reliable, and even kind—but at the end of the novel we are told that she is in fact in love with an ultra-low-ranking male, a young man who is timid, awkward, submissive, and generally hapless. She still marries the alpha male, ostensibly out of respect for her prior commitment.”
Her affectionate feelings toward Willie Price are apparently congested by her materialistic and acquisitive personality that prevents her from giving a free rein to their evolution till the end as well as because she came about to obtain her necessities so satisfyingly with Henry Mynors. Besides this Manichean allegory distinguishable from Anna’s attitudes can very well be a signal about her psychosomatic “dissociation”, as Mrs. Joseph Carroll is arguing. She operates, in fact, in a sexually sociobiological typical way in spite of the disengagement of her ingenious and sentimental being.
The heroine’s attachment to Willie is of maternal sympathetic connotations since her responsiveness to Willie’s existence occurred, simultaneously, during her investigation of a precise method to realize her complete conversion with the Christian Methodist teachings as well as by the moment of her expedition with the Suttons in the Isle of Man where she becomes, for a moment, familiar with the faithfully religious behaviour of her “angel of consolation” Mrs. Sutton. She becomes, thus, so comprehensive and conscientious of the other’s impasses but ineffectively incapable to restructure their providences. She was, in turn, obsessed by a remarkable desire to protect “her son” from the incurable demise but she was, on the contrary, unconscious of understanding the terminology of her social sphere. Her grievous state can thus be treated as an uninterrupted series of impediments which were hardly detachable.
Moreover Anna’s revelation of her love to Willie Price can be, by the way of juxtaposition, measured on the one hand as an improbable exciting curvature and on the other hand as an intelligent exposure of the heroine’s emotional unpredictability. But what should be kept in memory is that Anna’s relationship to Henry Mynors is a paradigmatic amorous pleasantry while her relation to Willie Price is multi-polarizationally significant all the way through the sequential divergences commencing from the “normative sexual dispositions”, according to Carroll.
In a nutshell, Arnold Bennett’s “Anna of the Five Towns” is an illustrative fictional piece that reflects the politics of cultural and ideological resisting stratagems in the Stoke-on-Trent pottery. Thus the novelist evidenced to be so keen in illuminating the extra-personal determinism that dictates its orders on those inhabitants of the five towns: the astringent functionality of these paranormal dynamisms was immobilized, controversially, due to a wide range of abstaining strategies and techniques. Yet so significant the resistance is, its exclusiveness and power of containment was relativized by the imperfections inherent in the human nature. This cryptically dialectic duality epitomizes the indecipherable mystery of existence.
This novel, in addition to that, is a typical representation of the spatiotemporal effect on the individual. Its distinction can be seen from the perspective of the writer’s craftsmanship to scrutinize the entire image of the five towns’ potteries in a very documentary way. This documentary way can serve, indeed, a critical historicizing role in illuminating the economic, social, and cultural intersections at the very beginning of the 20th century. It allocates the reader the possibility of observing these events throughout a mysterious fictional framework that can be exceedingly reflective and temporarily objective.
Moreover, John Lucas argues that the writer of “Anna of the Five Towns” was “at his worst uses up page after page in order to tell us about his characters without once giving them a chance to speak or act for themselves.” Thus, it would be necessary to bring together the heroine’s ineptitude of identifying herself and the writer’s restrictive hegemony over her as well as over the rest of his characters. Undoubtedly, the writer’s mechanism of directing his literary piece can be, on the one hand, another category in the register of complications that the personae are fighting throughout the entire text and, on the other hand, an indicator of the absurdist dimension that envelops the whole work.
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