Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, October 31, 2015

"Dorothy". A Short Story by Constance Fenimore Woolson (first published in Harper's Magazine, March, 1892, included in Dorothy and other Italian Stories, 1896)

 Ambrosia Boussweau ponders the meaning of marriage in the stories of Constance Fenimore Woolson.

Contains a good short bio and a list of her works.

Similar to "At the Chateau of Corrine", "Dorothy" centers on a family group,of affluent Americans on an extended holiday in Europe, in this story in Tuscany.   They are staying in a large villa among  incredibly beautiful Tuscan hills.   

I liked a great deal this passage describing the beautiful villa and the acute observations on Americans

"The Villa Dorio is a large, ancient structure of pale yellow hue; as is often the case in Tuscany, its façade rises directly from the roadway, so that any one can drive to the door, and knock by simply leaning from the carriage. But privacy is preserved all the same by the massive thickness of the stone walls, by the stern iron cages over the lofty lower windows, and by an entrance portal which resembles the gateway of a fortress. The villa, which, in the shape of a parallelogram, extends round an open court within, is large enough for five or six families; for in the old days, according to the patriarchal Italian custom, the married sons of the house, with their wives and children, were all gathered under its roof. In these later years its tenants have been foreigners, for the most part people of English and American birth—members of that band of pilgrims from the land of fog and the land of haste, who, having once fallen under the spell of Italy, the sorcery of that loveliest of countries, return thither again and yet fallen under the spell of Italy, the sorcery of that loveliest of countries, return thither again and yet again, sometimes unconscious of their thraldom, sometimes calling it staying for the education of the children, but seldom pronouncing the frank word "living." Americans who have stayed in this way for twenty years or more are heard remarking, in solemn tones, "In case I die over here, I am to be taken home to my own country for burial; nothing less could content me." This post-mortem patriotism probably soothes the conscience. Upon the Saturday already mentioned the Villa Dorio had but one tenant; for Mrs. Tracy had taken the entire place for the entire year of 1881".

Mrs Tracy is accompanied by her friend Mrs North and the young step daughter of Mrs North, Dorothy. The Americans are not really used to servants like those in Italy. The villa has fifty rooms but they occupy just a few apartments.  

The Americans fall in with other Americans.  The interaction of the people in the story is a lot of fun. 

Something very big happens about midpoint, Dorotjy inherits eight mi,lion dollars from her father.  Of course this now makes the issue of who she will marry on paramount import.  They must guRd her from fortune hunters while exposing her in the right social circles.  

The attitude displayed toward the institute of marriage as regards women by the stories I have so far read is not the easiest thing to at once fathom.  In our prior story, "At the Chateau of Corrine" marriage is seen as a soul destroying trap.  In stories like "Saint Claire Flats" and too some extent "Solomon" women are portrayed as in thrall to odd men who in a conventional sense have ruined their lives.  In "Bro." It does not take genius to see disaster coming for the young woman who marries thee returning grandson.

Dorothy marries a man she very much loves, a good decent man.  Then shortly after the wedding he leaves her a widow at only nineteen.  By now the greT wealth of Dorothy makes her the total center of attention.  She begins an extended period of alertnating hyper activity with long periods of extreme trooper. They move all about Europe trying to let her find peace.  A lot of interesting things go on but the bottom line is Dorotny soon dies of a broken heart.

Her marriage brought on her very early death.   I will look at more marriages in the work of Constance.

I have begun her novel Anne, as has Mel.  

Ambrosia Boussweau 

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