Saturday, December 13, 2008

Truth vs. fiction part 2

This week I've been all about Mrs. Beeton and La Boheme:

Impoverished girl falls for equally impoverished boy. Once they're shacked up, he connects her cough with tuberculosis. He decides she deserves a rich boyfriend who can pay for doctors and, being too juvenile or proud or whatever to say that, neglects her so she'll go find said rich boyfriend; she eavesdrops and finds out and they decide to part. When she's dying, she leaves the rich guy to spend her final moments with the one she loves.

Middle class girl marries middle class boy. He neglects her without any romantic excuses from the moment they're engaged, and gives her syphilis as a wedding present, as did so many men of their time. Dying just as surely as Impoverished Girl, she lasts long enough to have a baby who dies and a number of miscarriages all because of the disease, plus two miracle boys who live, while working hard to keep him from bankruptcy. She dies at 28 and he lasts only into his 40s, insane from the disease having eaten into his brain.

The first is the opera about bohemian artists, the second is the biography of the famous Victorian homemaker. Who'd expect both to be about incurable diseases, and the reliance of women on men for survival, and the stupidity and waste that results?

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