Sunday, November 21, 2010

She Walks In Beauty by Siri Mitchell

She Walks in Beauty is a novel set in the late 1800's high society New York. Clara is making her debut into society with the hopes of marrying an heir. With her mother dead she has been raised by a governess who taught her to think more about science than society. Clara's debut is just around the corner so her aunt gets rid of the governess to train her to catch a man. Joining her in the debutante season is her long time best friend Lizzie. The two girls quickly realize they are trying to catch the same man and promise not to let it get between them. As the novel progresses Clara must frequently choose between her aunt's wishes and her friend. As the season wears on things begin to fall into place with Clara and the heir, but she falls in love with his younger brother. This establishes the theme of choosing between desire and duty. The more she learns about society the more she realizes how corrupt it is. Everyone has secrets and her family seems to be buried in them. She is constantly told that marrying the heir, Franklin, will save their family from destitution and that his family owes them something but the whole story is never told to her. The only clues she gets are from an anonymous gossip columnist who seems to have it out for her family and compares her actions at balls and banquets to the actions of her father before her. Even though so much is unknown about her family she still loves them and feels responsible for their fate. Will she choose to marry Franklin and save her family? Or marry the man she loves and risk the consequences?

Discussion Questions:
1. Society will try to tell you who you are and what you should be. What has society been telling you? Do you listen?
2. If you were in Clara's position would you choose love or family?
3. Clara goes through rigorous training to fit the role of wife and proper society host. What would be the modern role of a woman? Would the modern woman benefit from such training?

16 comments:

Kaitlyn H 11-12 said...

2). If I were in Clara's position, I would chose love because it's not my family that would have to spend the rest of their life with them, so it really shouldn't be their decision.

Megan D. 11-12 said...

3)Women now have a greater choice as to what their role is in society. In the 1800's, a women knew her role in life from the moment she was born- she would mind the house and the children. While I do feel that training to be a good housekeeper, parent, and hostess is important for women these days, I feel that their role in society has expanded to encompass other roles in the world outside the home. Women have made huge strides outside the home and continue to improve society.

Cassie M 11-12 said...

2. In Clara's position I would not choose family if I knew nothing about them or what happened. I hope that my family would want me to be happy, and not just well off. Then again, if Clara really loves her family she is deciding between two different types of love, so how would she choose one over the other?

Julie S. 5-6 said...

I agree that she should choose love especially because her family does not seem worthy of her love. And I think that women should have more training on being a wife and mother than they tend to get.

Courtney R 5-6 said...

Just by looking around Mentor High you can see what society tells people to do. Mostly it's how to dress, how to act, and to turn your skin orange like a pumpkin. People should honestly do what they want and not care what anyone else thinks, though, like mostly everything, it's easier said than done.

It's very hard to say whether or not I would choose love or family. Family is always there, since the day someone was born; if you're lucky. In this situation, I would need to know the whole story about my family before making a cruical decision that could change my life forever.

I think that the modern role of the woman should be what she wants it to be, not what every other woman is doing. If a wife wants to stay at home and be with her children and its possible financially, then so be it. If she wants to work and can has a way to do that, then why can't she?

Dana D 11-12 said...

2. Marriage is quite a commitment to just be basing it off what other people expect of you. I think it would be more important to choose whichever guy you actually loved.

3. I think that any sort of training is just one more thing to put in your back pocket. It can't hurt to know how to cook, clean, be a proper hostess, etc. But that shouldn't define the role of a woman. The more knowlage you aquire the more well rounded of a person you become.

Julie S. 5-6 said...

Courtney I completely agree with what society is telling people to be. And Dana, I also think that knowing how to be a housewife is important and helpful whether or not you are a career woman.

JessieW 11-12 said...

if i was in claras position i would choose love, although it would be a tough decision. i really hate disappointing people so the thought of going against what my family wants is tough. on the hand, i also don't like being unhappy. my dislike of being unhappy is stronger for my dislike of disappointing, so i would choose my love. if my family was angry and disapproved then thats thier problem. i think my family should be happy for me as long as i am happy as well.

Kristen R. 11-12 said...

To answer the second question, if I were in Clara's position, I would choose love. Some might argue that family is there for you through everything, and they will always be the constant in your life while love comes and goes; however, if they are truly your family then they should understand your desire to pursue the person you truly love. It is important to consider the opinions of others, especially your family, but in the end it is more important to do what makes you happy. To answer the third question, the typical role a woman is thought of to be one involving cooking, housework, being a proper hostess and taking care of the children. The modern woman would benefit from such training, but I do not think she should be limited to this type of work. She should have the freedom to step outside of this mold that modern society has created.

Rachael B MOds 5-6 said...

Today it seems like society pressures people to suppress their true emotions and delve into a world of techonology and work. People seem to be distant from their families and children, and a lot of relationships seem to be failing. I don't fall in with the hype. I try to focus all of my attention on those who I love and who love me. If i were in Clara's position, I would choose love. I know that family will always be there for me. Sometimes, the heart wants what the heart wants, and there is no way to avoid it unless you wish to face a life of desolate heartbreak. I would rather spend my life with my true love than suppress my deepest feelings just to make my family happy. Lastly, modern women are expected to be the stereotypical caretakers, the cooks, and the mothers. While I think a lot of women want to break this idealistic role, I think most end up falling into the pattern anyways, simply because the maternal instinct in women isn't present in the male population.

Kara K. 5/6 said...

2) If I was in her position, I would choose family over love. Family will always be there for you whether good or bad. You may find someone in your life that you love; however, the one you love has a choice to leave you at any time. Your love is more likely to hurt you than your family is.
3) The modern role of a woman is to clean, cook, take care of children, and work. However, men also do these things too. Woman these days do not have set roles in society. They have just as much freedom as men do anymore.

tyler k 13-14 said...

society is constantly oppressing people into what the majority is or what it is doing. Its the strength of the individual to overcome the pressure of conformity as the easy way out and begin living how they please and acting the way that is natural to them. I really don't listen to society unless it strikes and idea or movement that i either agree with of course, or have already held the concept as important, as i wait for a majority's support in order to get the idea or concept across.

Leah A 5-6 said...

2. Just answering the question love or family, I would personally choose family. Family is the most important thing to me because we are so close. However, if Clara's position, I would choose love because she doesn't really know much about her family, and there are a lot of things unknown about them.

Rachel Tagliamonte said...

1. I think that society today tries to convince people what they should be and how they should do it, either through peers, television, or magazines. The things that I hear are mostly things like how I should dress, look, and what I should be when I grow up. I agree with Courtney in saying that people should be themselves and do what makes them happy and comfortable with themselves.

James F (11-12) said...

1. society tells me that i should do well in school and get an education to succeed in life. i would rather play drums all day but i have listened and so far society is right. my education is already helping me to succeed.
2.this question is "iffy" because if i chose love and it ruined relationships in my family then i would not choose love because there are many fish in the sea. ha.
3. modern women do not need training. they are equals. enough said.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

Thread graded, closed