What Katy Did At School, Chapter ll and lll

To distract myself from this caps lock ragey feeling (seriously, I don’t even have a fuckin car to go get a new one wtih!) I’m going to blog more about the book I just finished reading. I’m combining chapters because I don’t think anything actually happens in chapter 3.

Actually, given that this book is all about Katy and Clover going away to boarding school, I don’t even see why the author bothered writing the first chapter.

Dr. Carr receives a letter saying that Mr. and Mrs. Page are coming to stay. These are apparently Katy’s mother’s cousins (her mother’s been dead for a good long time, if you recall). Katy is anxious to please. And… here we see Dr. Carr treating his 17 year old daughter as… I’m not sure whether to think of it as housekeeper or wife, particularly keeping in mind that she does most of the child rearing.

“Mrs. Page was your dear mother’s second cousin; and at one time she lived in your grandfather’s family, and was like a sister to mamma and Uncle Charles. It is a good many years since I have seen her. Mr. Page is a railroad engineer. He is coming this way on business, and they will stop for a few days with us. Your Cousin Olivia writes that she is anxious to see all you children. Have every thing as nice as you can, Katy.”

If you’re familiar with 19th century literature, this is exactly how one would address a servant, slave, or perhaps a wife. This is not how one addresses a daughter. When also taken into account that Katy does most of the child rearing, one is inclined to wonder… moving on.

“Of course, I will. What day are the coming?”

“Thursday,—no, Friday,” replied Dr. Carr, consulting the letter, “Friday evening, at half-past six. Order something substantial for tea that night, Katy. They’ll be hungry after traveling.”

Katy worked with a will for the next two days. Twenty times, at least, she went into the blue room to make sure that nothing was forgotten; repeating, as if it had been a lesson in geography: “Bath towels, face towels, matches, soap, candles, cologne, extra blanket, ink.” A nice little fire was lighted in the bedroom on Friday afternoon, and a big, beautiful one in the parlor, which looked very pleasant with the lamp lit and Clover’s geraniums and china roses in the window. The tea- table was set with the best linen and the pink-and-white china. Debby’s muffins were very light. The crab-apple jelly came out of its mould clear and whole, and the cold chicken looked appetizing, with its green wreath of parsley. There was stewed potato, too, and, of course, oysters. Everybody in Burnet had oysters for tea when company was expected. They were counted a special treat; because they were rather dear, and could not always be procured. Burnet was a thousand miles from the sea, so the oysters were of the tin- can variety. The cans gave the oysters a curious taste,—tinny, or was it more like solder? At all events, Burnet people liked it, and always insisted that it was a striking improvement on the flavor which oysters have on their native shores. Every thing was as nice as could be, when Katy stood in the dining-room to take a last look at her arrangements; and she hoped papa would be pleased, and that mamma’s cousin would think her a good housekeeper.

Right. Because that’s what every woman desires to be in life: a good housekeeper. Whatever. You can totally tell that the author was writing of the ideals at the time, rather than how the culture really was. Most 17 year olds, even if they were responsible for the housekeeping, would want to be thought of as more, and frankly, probably wouldnt’ want to admit to having done the housekeeping. It tended to be something only the lower class did. Moving on to the important stuff.

“Don’t call me Mrs. Page, my dear. Call me Cousin Olivia.” Then the new-comer rustled into the parlor, where Johnnie and Phil were waiting to be introduced; and again she remarked that she “couldn’t realize it.” I don’t know why Mrs. Page’s not realizing it should have made Katy uncomfortable; but it did.

Supper went off well. The guests ate and praised; and Dr. Carr looked pleased, and said: “We think Katy an excellent housekeeper for her age;” at which Katy blushed and was delighted, till she caught Mrs. Page’s eyes fixed upon her, with a look of scrutiny and amusement, whereupon she felt awkward and ill at ease. It was so all the evening. Mamma’s cousin was entertaining and bright, and told lively stories; but the children felt that she was watching them, and passing judgment on their ways. Children are very quick to suspect when older people hold within themselves these little private courts of inquiry, and they always resent it.

 

wouldn’t know about the claim in the last sentence. I dont’ think I tend to pick up on those things. I don’t blame Mrs. Page for being uncomfortable at the thought of Katy being a good housekeeper “despite her age.” she’s probably looking at Katy thinking, “that’s all you are?” And seeing so much potential!

I like Mrs. Page. I am not supposed to like Mrs. Page. This is the first evidence of bad writing, right there. I will later come to dislike Mrs. Page, but that comes later. For now, I’m totally rooting for her.

Next morning Mrs. Page sat by while Katy washed the breakfast things, fed the birds, and did various odd jobs about the room and house. “My dear,” she said at last, “what a solemn girl you are! I should think from your face that you were at least five and thirty. Don’t you ever laugh or frolic, like other girls your age? Why, my Lilly, who is four months older than you, is a perfect child still; impulsive as a baby, bubbling over with fun from morning till night.”

“I’ve been shut up a good deal,” said Katy, trying to defend herself; “but I didn’t know I was solemn.”

“My dear, that’s the very thing I complain of: you don’t know it! You are altogether ahead of your age. It’s very bad for you, in my opinion. All this housekeeping and care, for young girls like you and Clover, is wrong and unnatural. I don’t like it; indeed I don’t.”

“Oh! housekeeping doesn’t hurt me a bit,” protested Katy, trying to smile. “We have lovely times; indeed we do, Cousin Olivia.”

Cousin Olivia only pursed up her mouth, and repeated: “It’s wrong, my dear. It’s unnatural. It’s not the thing for you. Depend upon it, it’s not the thing.”

This is why I like Cousin Olivia. There is nothing wrong with girls (AND boys! boys should learn to do this too) doing SOME housework. What’s wrong and unnatural, Cousin Olivia sees, is for Katy to be doing it all. (I know she also specifies Clover, but honestly, in the narrative, Clover never really does any housework.) Cousin Olivia sees Katy slaving away at the age of 17, when she is supposed to be coming of age, having fun, and, to use a better term, finding herself/her place in the world. This is what other 17 year olds of the time were doing, it’s not just a 21st century invention that 17 year olds are still children. I know of families (like the Duggars and Bates families) who keep their adult children at home and dump the responsibility of the children on the older girls. Cousin Olivia is watching this happen to Katy: Katy is becoming an adult before her time. The 17 year old acts 35.

And, unlike the passive bystander, Cousin Olivia is going to do something about it. So of course, she goes to Dr. Papa.

I will give Dr. Papa some credit. when Cousin Olivia brings the problem to his attention, he doesn’t just dismiss her like some fictional fathers would. He seems to genuinely be unaware of the problem. It’s a case of an overworked father not noticing that his own children need help. (In those days, doctors were more overworked than they are now.)

This was unpleasant; but what was worse had Katy known it, Mrs. Page attacked Dr. Carr upon the subject. He was quite troubled to learn that she considered Katy grave and careworn, and unlike what girls of her age should be. Katy caught him looking at her with a puzzled expression.

“What is it, dear papa? Do you want anything?”

“No, child, nothing. What are you doing there? Mending the parlor curtain, eh? Can’t old Mary attend to that, and give you a chance to frisk about with the other girls?”

“Papa! As if I wanted to frisk! I declare you’re as bad as Cousin Olivia. She’s always telling me that I ought to bubble over with mirth. I don’t wish to bubble. I don’t know how.”

“I’m afraid you don’t,” said Dr. Carr, with an odd sigh, which set Katy to wondering. What should papa sigh for? Had she done any thing wrong? She began to rack her brains and memory as to whether it could be this or that; or, if not, what could it be? Such needless self-examination does no good. Katy looked more “solemn” than ever after it.

I don’t wish to bubble. I don’t know how. Does Katy herself NOT see how troubling this is? The author’s tone of voice… I’m not honestly sure if SHE sees the problem with it either.

Katy has been shut up with an illness for so long she doesn’t know how to be happy, and just enjoy life. That… is sad. Beyond sad. No wonder Cousin Olivia is so worried.

It’s not clear whether it is this alone, but the author states that Cousin Olivia was not well liked by the family: they felt she was judging them. That makes sense for Katy but not the rest of the children…Saint Katy would not have told them waht Cousin Olivia had said, because Saint Katy is too good for that..So I don’t get this coolness toward cousin Olivia.

Later, we find out what Dr. Papa’s solution for Katy is: boarding school.

“Listen, Katy, and don’t feel so badly, my dear child. I’ve thought the plan over carefully; and it seems to me a good one, though I hate to part from you. It is pretty much as your cousin says: these home-cares, which I can’t take from you while you are at home, are making you old before your time. Heaven knows I don’t want to turn you into a silly giggling miss; but I should like you to enjoy your youth while you have it, and not grow middle-aged before you are twenty.”

I dislike the fact that Dr. Papa is negligent with his children so that he didn’t even notice this before it was too late (and by now it IS too late: as we will see later, Saint Katy is a grown up Katy before her time, and nothing can be done to change it.) but I can still like him because once he sees the error of his ways, he follows through to try and fix the problem.

Although, at 17, I find nothing wrong with being a “silly giggling miss.” Maybe he just means immaturity by that? Or a flirt? Not sure. I guess at 17 she should be more than giggly.

And then we get to the part where I decide I really really don’t like Dr. Papa.

“The girls call it ‘The Nunnery.’ It is at Hillsover, on the Connecticut River, pretty cold, I fancy; but the air is sure to be good and bracing. That is one thing which has inclined me to the plan. The climate is just what you need.”

“Hillsover? Isn’t there a college there too?”

“Yes: Arrowmouth College. I believe there is always a college where there is a boarding-school; though why, I can’t for the life of me imagine. That’s neither here nor there, however. I’m not afraid of your getting into silly scrapes, as girls sometimes do.”

“College scrapes? Why, how could I. We don’t have any thing to do with the college, do we?” said Katy, opening her candid eyes with such a wondering stare that Dr. Carr laughed and replied: “No, my dear, not a thing.”

No my dear, of course you won’t have a thing to do with the college. Jerk. You should see if Katy wants anything to do wtih the college first you dummy. And before someone tells me that, back in 1869 when this story is supposed to have taken place (written in 1870something) girls did not go to college, go do your research. Yes, it’s true that most of them didn’t, but from what I’ve been reading, it was becoming more popular. Women’s colleges were opening up. It would’ve been an uphill battle, but it absolutely would’ve been possible for Katy to have gone to college.

Remember Laura Ingalls Wilder? Her older sister, Mary, was blind, and she still went off to college. Laura and Mary grew up in guess what decades? The 1860s-1870s. And even before she was blind, Mary had always planned on going to college.

Dr. Carr is, even by the day’s standards, old fashioned and sexist.

“O papa! don’t make us go. I’ll frisk, and be as young as I can, and not grow middle-aged or any thing disagreeable, if only you’ll let us stay. Never mind what Cousin Olivia says; she doesn’t know. Cousin Helen wouldn’t say so, I’m sure.”

“On the contrary, Helen thinks well of the plan; only she wishes the school were nearer,” said Dr. Carr. “No, Katy, don’t coax. My mind is made up. It will do you and Clover both good, and once you are settled at Hillsover, you’ll be very happy, I hope.”

She sounds like a desperate employee begging to keep her job. Like “frisking” is something she can just force herself to do in order to keep her place at home… but then we all know it wouldn’t truly be “frisking” would it? So does Dr. Papa, apparently. He’s got good intentions, but he’s still a jerk.

The entire rest of the chapter –a good 9 paragraphs– (I counted) is devoted to travel plans. And tears. And boring details. I do not get why the authors think they must give detail of these preparations that go on, they’re quite boring.

End chapter 2.

chapter 3 opens with, you guessed it, more details of the journey. This continues on for 4 paragraphs before it gets interesting. Katy, Clover, and Dr. Papa are meeting up wtih Mr. Page and his daughter, Lilly, to travel to “the nunnery” (I always sniggered when I read that) together.

 For some reason this wretched windows computer I’m on because SOMEONE STOLE MY FRIGGIN POWER CORD keeps jumping me back a page, so apologies if this doesn’t flow well. It’s quite distracting to be suddenly taken away from waht you’re writing.

Lilly and her dad are in the restaurant, where Lilly proceeds to order 50 dozen waffles. The narrative does not say so, but it is implied that Lilly is a glutton for this. because for some reason in 19th century writing, and even some 21st, women are supposed to eat like butterflies.  But then Lilly tells us that “this is the only time I’m going to get good food, because ntohing is good at the nunnery, so I might as well makethe most of it.”

whoops, I made a mistake. Mr. Page and Lilly are not traveling with the Carrs, Lilly is traveling with the cars. And this… next part is… interextThis is probably supposed to be interpreted by us the readers as being a whiny person, but personally, I’ve been to a boarding school. And I don’t blame Lilly at al for taking the good food while she can.

 

ok, I don’t know waht this stupid windows computer is doing. now it’s moving my text around. I will pick up where I left off when I DON’T have a friggin’ Demon computer to wrok wtih.

Help Me

 

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