In Which I Pick Up Where I Left Off –What Katy Did At School, Chapter lll

Now that I’m on a computer that’s not throwing a thousand tantrums. Anyway, we last left off at…. I think I was going to discuss this paragraph:

Dr. Carr, looking at his watch, said that it was time to start for the train; and they set off. As they crossed the street, Katy was surprised to see that Lilly, who had seemed quite happy only a minute before, had begun to cry. After they reached the car, her tears increased to sobs: she grew almost hysterical.

“Oh! don’t make me go, papa,” she implored, clinging to her father’s arm. “I shall be so homesick! It will kill me; I know it will. Please let me stay. Please let me go home with you.”

“Now, my darling,” protested Mr. Page, “this is foolish; you know it is.”

“I can’t help it,” blubbered Lilly. “I ca—n’t help it. Oh! don’t make me go. Don’t, papa dear. I ca—n’t bear it.”

Katy and Clover felt embarrassed during this scene. They had always been used to considering tears as things to be rather ashamed of,— to be kept back, if possible; or, if not, shed in private corners, in dark closets, or behind the bed in the nursery. To see the stylish Lilly crying like a baby in the midst of a railway carriage, with strangers looking on, quite shocked them. It did not last long, however. The whistle sounded; the conductor shouted, “All aboard!” and Mr. Page, giving Lilly a last kiss, disengaged her clinging arms, put her into the seat beside Clover, and hurried out of the car. Lilly sobbed loudly for a few seconds; then she dried her eyes, lifted her head, adjusted her veil and the wrists of her three- buttoned gloves, and remarked,—

“I always go on in this way. Ma says I am a real cry-baby; and I suppose I am. I don’t see how people can be calm and composed when they’re leaving home, do you? You’ll be just as bad to-morrow, when you come to say good-by to your papa.”

“Oh! I hope not,” said Katy. “Because papa would feel so badly.”

Lilly stared. “I shall think you real cold-hearted if you don’t,” she said, in an offended tone.

 

This is clearly intended to portray Lilly as a whiny child, particularly because she “recovers” soon afterward. However, I disagree with the narrative. Having gone to a boarding school myself, I understand that it is not for everyone. If you were paying attention, you could tell, at the beginning of the year, who was likely to leave and who was likely to stay.

And you always knew who the people were that wanted to leave but their parents wouldn’t let them. This is obviously Lilly. She is clearly more of a stay at home person. Lilly is also clearly from a family that is comfortable with showing their emotions.

And that’s fine. Really. There is nothing wrong with this: it’s Ok to be sad. It’s a sinful world, and if something makes us sad, it’s ok to cry about it.

Katy and Clover, however, do not see it this way. In their family, tears are something to be ashamed of. Now, if this was real life, Katy and Clover would’ve been harmed somewhat by this, because it’s not healthy to keep things inside all the time. However, if a person does prefer to shed their tears in private, that’s ok too.

What is not ok, and what I take issue with here, is the judging on all 3 girls’ part. Katy and Clover judge Lilly for crying in public, and she looks down upon them rather coldly because they don’t.

Actually, I can kind of see why Lilly is saying that, now that I think about it. From Lilly’s point of view, she’s about to be separated from her parents, which she dos not want. She “recovers” quickly afterward because Katy and Clover are there to distract her, and she seizes upon this opportunity. That’s a good coping tactic: find something to distract yourself with. 

Lilly might also feel embarrassed about crying in front of her cousins, and so to cover it up she pretends that this sort of thing is normal for everyone, and that those who don’t do it are coldhearted. This seems harsh of Lilly, but I think she is just trying to save face.

And the rest of the chapter is devoted to details about the school, which I think would’ve been better if the author had just inserted them into the book along with showing how Katy and Clover get adjusted to Academy life.

Katy and Clover are horrified to learn that they won’t have their own private washstands (this will become a big deal in chapter 4), discuss more of the rules, which I’ll cover in the next post. (This school seems to have more rules than GLAA, if that were possible.)

Then the train arrives at the school and Katy and Clover start meeting the other girls. Then, inexplicably, Dr. Carr pulls the girls aside and decides that they won’t begin school until tomorrow.

This is a really dumb move on Doctor Papa’s part. If he wishes his girls to fit in, they had better go with the other girls now. Otherwise they’re going to be the “new girls” who don’t show up till the second day. And trust me, that’s… awkward. I’m not sure how to explain this, or if I’m explaining it well enough… if they go with the school girls now, they can integrate a whole lot better than if they wait a day. I don’t know how it works, or why it works, but trust me, Dr. Papa is making a mistake. Or at least, it would be a mistake if this were the real world. But, this being only a book, everything always turns out happily ever after. Especially in children’s literature. Especially in 19th century children’s literature.

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