“Not any more of this!” she cried. “You shall see the connection if it kills you, Henry! You have had a mistress—I forgave you. My sister has a lover—you drive her from the house. Do you see the connection? Stupid, hypocritical, cruel—oh, contemptible!—a man who insults his wife when she’s alive and cants with her memory when she’s dead. A man who ruins a woman for his pleasure, and casts her off to ruin other men. And gives bad financial advice, and then says he is not responsible. These men are you. You can’t recognise them, because you cannot connect. I’ve had enough of your unneeded kindness. I’ve spoilt you long enough. All your life you have been spoiled. Mrs. Wilcox spoiled you. No one has ever told what you are—muddled, criminally muddled. Men like you use repentance as a blind, so don’t repent. Only say to yourself, ‘What Helen has done, I’ve done.’”The speech in itself was perfection. But the words Forster found to describe it were even better.
Her speech to him seemed perfect. She would not have altered a word. It had to be uttered once in a life, to adjust the lopsidedness of the world. It was spoken not only to her husband, but to thousands of men like him—a protest against the inner darkness in high places that comes with a commercial age.Doesn't that sentence perfectly encapsulate the relief you feel as a reader at encountering this counterbalance to injustice in the text? The world seemed unfair, oppressive, lopsided, and a discourse like that sets it right, if only for a moment. It's the same startled delight Jane Eyre's "I am not a bird and no net ensnares me" speech or Nora's monologue from A Doll's House give you. Someone just had to say it. And conversely, when one doesn't say it, the narrative can seem unsatisfying. Edith Wharton's The Glimpses of the Moon comes to mind, a frustrating little book in which the hero's hypocrisy is never appropriately called out.
That's all for our laidback Feminist Sunday. Join us next week for a taste of early modern feminism!
"Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged."