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All full up on thinky thoughts, about new girls and school stories and schoolgirl honour, and the "redemption" of the bad girls and those who never got "redeemed", the ones the Chalet School staff refer to as their failures, people like Thekla von Stift and Betty Wynne-Davies and all the other girls from all the other schools who were either expelled or quietly asked to leave. And not just those girls but girls like Grizel Cochrance, Joan Baker and Gwendoline Mary Lacey who just never fit the model of the Chalet School girl or the Malory Towers girl but were never bad enough for expulsion; rather just not quite "right".



And how there is a lot more scope for individuality in schools like Kingscote and Trebizon where the school is almost a vehicle for one's individual goals, like Lawrie Marlow's acting or Rebecca Mason's tennis, rather than the Chalet School where one must put being a Chaletian above one's talents or goals: Stacie Benson's studies and Nina Rutherford's music, for example, are presented as less important than being a True Chalet School Girl - as opposed to Margia Stevens, who didn't have to learn to be a True Chalet School Girl.

Of course, learning to be a True Chalet School Girl generally tends to involve accident or injury to oneself or another girl due to one's carelessness/recklessness/arrogance/other major failing. Nancy Caird's turning point at St Bride's comes when another girl almost drowns because of her. Gwendoline Mary doesn't see the error of her ways until her father becomes ill, but that, at least, wasn't Gwen's fault.

Also thinking about "playing the game", and Nancy Caird at Maudsley being accused of not playing the game by working hard and thus causing the staff to expect greater things of the rest of the Lower Fifth and her ultimate acceptance as a member of the form coming only when her reasons for doing so are revealed and deemed acceptable by popular opinion. The book ends with Nancy being called upon at the last moment for a significant cricket match; with her help Maudsley Grammar draws against Larkiston House: so Nancy literally and figuratively plays the game and finds a place at Maudsley that she didn't have at St Bride's. And Jen Robins giving up dancing for a term to play cricket - or something? - because the school and her beloved Jack need her and being considered terribly honourable and selfless by Joan and Joy and everyone else.

Okay. That was rambly and pointless and possibly made no sense at all. But hey, I did thinking! *iz smart*

Comments

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feather_ghyll
Aug. 31st, 2007 07:16 am (UTC)
I think this is a topic (or maybe these are topics :)) that could be discussed ad nauseum. You're mainly talking about serials here (I'm familiar with all of them except Maudsley), but the new girl coming to school is THE trope for standalones, only with the serials, the weight of previous books are on the side of the school and its traditions. Don't know whether the fact that Trebizon is a later book than the Chalets etc matters. I can think of a few progressive boarding schools (if you want a serial, Josephine Elder's Farm School is one, and nearly everyone is encouraged to follow their own path) but the bulk of them are more conventional.

IIRC there's specific discussion about this in the middle period of the Chalet School, with two girls who go up against the Bettanys and fall in somewhere in between the expelled girls and the redeemed troublemakers. Eilunedd (Peggy of the Chalet School) and Diana? Skelton (Bride Leads?). Joey, Bride and maybe mistresses discuss putting the needs of the community above your own and being a member of the community quite seriously with them. as you say, the exceptionalism of Stacie and Nina has to be fitted around the school timetable.

Of course, learning to be a True Chalet School Girl generally tends to involve accident or injury to oneself or another girl due to one's carelessness/recklessness/arrogance/other major failing. Hee. Yes. This happens to a less extreme degree than the examples you cite all the time, but Brent-Dyer isn't the only one. To go back to the 'new girl' trope, the new girl isn't usually an ordinary schoolgirl, but one who's quite different due to upbringing and often abilities (this is on my mind because it's very true of Toby of The School at the Moor which I'm reading now. enter unconventional daygirl.). Okay, this New Girl isn't always a Bad Rebel, but she does need to learn to take on the school spirit while accepting its rules (and is usually rewarded by her unique abilities coming through).

Hmm, not sure where I'm going with that. I tend to see it more as submission to communal rules (ie the law) rather than anything else. There are lots of shadings, especially in the series where the writer can deal with girls who are failures and expelled or quietly removed, the girls who do settle down, make chums and are only mentioned in asides afterwards or more central characters over time. Grizel is probably the most important troubled girl (Margot Maynard is interesting, because she - ooh and pre-burning Josette Sybil Russell - isn't an outsider). Her arc is longer than Juliet's though they have similar issues. And what's interesting is that she comes to terms with herself/what her upbringing did to her after leaving school, although thanks to the school. And of course, she gets her doctor husband!!!

Sorry, I definitely am rambling here, but the other thing I'd note is that even in the stories of Betty and Thekla, there's the figure of another girl who is involved in some of the mischief/trouble, Elizabeth Arnett and Joyce Linton respectively, and they do make good in the school - Elizabeth becoming a head girl.

Lots to think about here.
_astralis
Sep. 3rd, 2007 12:40 am (UTC)
I did have a point when writing that post, but looking back over it I'm not entirely sure what it was. Something to do with schoolgirl honour, anyway, and how it varies from school to school, which I think is probably a part of your communal rules.

Hee. Yes. This happens to a less extreme degree than the examples you cite all the time, but Brent-Dyer isn't the only one. Yes, that's true, I can think of plenty of girls that didn't have to lie injured on a mountainside during a blizzard to change - Ted Grantley, for instance, also I suppose Ted wanted to change so being stuck in quarantine with Len and Ros Lilley was enough.

There are lots of shadings, especially in the series where the writer can deal with girls who are failures and expelled or quietly removed, the girls who do settle down, make chums and are only mentioned in asides afterwards or more central characters over time. I think these are some of the most interesting characters - Grizel, for example, as opposed to Juliet who made good almost overnight, got her happily-ever-after, and then almost disappeared from the series. People like Len Maynard and Darrell Rivers were always too good for me, yet those were the girls that epitomised the ideal of the school (well, once Darrell got her temper under control, anyway...)

but the other thing I'd note is that even in the stories of Betty and Thekla, there's the figure of another girl who is involved in some of the mischief/trouble, Elizabeth Arnett and Joyce Linton respectively, and they do make good in the school - Elizabeth becoming a head girl.

I hadn't thought of that, but that's an interesting point. I can't really comment on Betty and Elizabeth, but I seem to recall that Thekla and Joyce were considered very differently, either explicitly or implicitly, because Joyce was younger and her mother was dying - that Thekla was bad and Joyce was just naughty in the Middles kind of way, being lead astray by an older girl.

Or something.

Most of my thoughts about schoolgirl honour/school culture revolve around the Chalet School and maybe don't apply so much to some of the other schools because the CS, particularly in the Tirol and in Switzerland, is so isolated and secluded and there's not a lot of contact with the outside world: I was just reading "Exploits" where what appears to be the entire school spends half-term at the Sonnalpe.
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