Mystery book protagonists, marriage, more of Dorothy L. Sayers, and a note from my hubby

Over my recently-finished vacation, I stayed up several very late nights, completely entranced by Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers.  On so many levels, it was such a good book, my favorite of hers, so far, by far.  The main storyline was, of course, engaging.  But, I was more taken by the development of the relationship between Sayers’ “normal” protagonist, Lord Peter Wimsey, and her sometimes-secondary protagonist, Harriet Vane, who actually fills more pages than Wimsey in this installment.

I must admit that I have read none of the literary criticism that is out there on Sayers;  I’ve decided not to do so until I’ve read all of her books (including the two that were finished by Jill Paton Walsh, which I previously thought to be travesties;  now I’m excited to read them because it means that the series doesn’t end in 2.5 books for me, but after 4.5 books).

But, from the bit that I do know about Sayers, I would think it safe to say that her character of Harriet Vane is more than a tad autobiographical, and her depiction of Wimsey to be that of her (Sayers’) ideal mate.  Gaudy Night seems to me to be the most profoundly personal of Sayers’ novels and short story collections that I’ve read.  The author is much less guarded with her own feelings, theories and philosophies.  In some ways, that makes for a much more… intimate read.  But, in other ways, I felt a tad bit like Sayers was trying to indoctrinate me.  For the most part, I didn’t mind the propaganda;  I think I think similarly to Ms. Sayers, though I’m far less learned and intelligent.

There was one pervasive theme, though, that bothered me.  It bothered me because I used to think identically, and now don’t.  Since I admire so much of Sayers’ thought processes, and probably have somewhat of an inferiority complex to her persona, I find myself questioning my own conclusions.  But, I hold fast.  It’s this:  Sayers proposes that, for women, the best marriages are the ones where the wife doesn’t change.  IOW, she develops into the same woman that she would have, had she stayed single.

As stated, I used to think that.  Prior to, and early in my own marriage, I thought that surely an ideal marriage would be one where the wife adores and respects her husband, and the husband adores and values his wife, they are both complimentary and complementary to each other, and ongoing rapture and fulfillment ensue.

It came as a shock to me that it really wasn’t in the best interests of my ongoing growth for my husband to place me upon my desired pedestal, and that he’s not some heartless beast simply because he desires better for me, and better from me.  I now shudder to think of the person I was 10+ years ago.  I wince when someone who knew me back then begins a conversation with, “I remember when you said….”  or, “….did….”  Ack.  😯  I have grown — and, by the grace of God, continue to grow — immeasurably by the influence of my dear husband, who continues to spur me on to, among other things, “love and good deeds.”  Having his perspective, and his input, has enlightened me innumerable times to the sometimes-folly of my own thought, and the mental pit which I too often dig for myself.  I’m not saying that “all I am I owe to my husband.”  He is wonderful, but he didn’t create me.  😀  I am saying, though, that even though I am leagues away from the person I was, and the person I was becoming;  even though many of the dreams and assumptions of my younger years have never come into fruition;  even though I am surely not now the same person I would have been, sans Martin, I am SO MUCH THE BETTER for it.

I shudder to think of my previous loves — both relationships, desired relationships, personal proclivities, and even my goals.  Some of them remain…  but like the cheesy country singer wailed, I thank God for unanswered prayers.

I think Sayers’ theory of marriage would, in almost every circumstance, lead to two strongish people, but not two unconquerable, healthy, fruitful people, and certainly not one rock-solid relationship.  Her theory plays into our (MINE, at least) tendency of wanting, selfishly, to be served 24/7 by “the one” who is “just right” for our every whim.  I have found that relationship built upon selfishness usually doesn’t stand for long, and if it does stand, it totters.

She plays her theory against the perceived opposite:  A sheep-like woman, who stands by her man, black eye and all.  I’m not into that, either.  I grew up with the model of an abusive marriage, and that is something I could not stand for, at all.  However, I do think that iron does sharpen iron, and that the difficulties that are successfully traversed by the couple make for both strong, fulfilled individuals, and unshakable marriages.  There’s so much beyond mere compatibility, and the simple back-patting of, “I think you’re wonderful, and you’re doing great, dear!!”

So, reading of Harriet and Peter is somewhat tempting, but for the most part unrealistic… sort of like a theory that doesn’t play out in real life.

Ending with this, from my dear husband, written to myself and a few others yesterday, upon our return: 

We all sense God doing something in us, and I sense a closeness with my wife and children and a new passion and love for them….. a passion that has slowly waned with the numbing effects of city life – with all of its momentary pleasures and the angst attached to it.  It’s so important for us to be still, to be strong, and to be at peace with ourselves and with our God.  I love Him, and I’m so thankful to Him for blessing me with a wonderful wife and children that are after His purposes.  God’s thumb print is surely on us as a family.  … I must thank and praise my Father in heaven for loving and caring for me, and giving me purpose that is much grander than city life, small town life, or any life at all that is at all separated from Him.  He is the source, and I’m humbled to be His vessel – cracked and broken, yet being mended by the very Hand that created it.  I’m so glad that He heals what I have carelessly broken, even the things (and people) that He has entrusted to my care.  I’m resting in that place.

Something I read in Hebrews this week while up in Colorado struck me as profoundly as anything that ever has – that rest comes from knowing God, and working hard.  Working not from ambition, obligation, striving, or law, but from a Love that is far greater than anything this world has to offer.  A rest that comes from LOVE.  God initiated this rest because He loved….and still loves….and will always love.  Thanks be to the Father for His love demonstrated to us through His Son and the life-giving Spirit.      

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on September 6, 2007, in Books I'm Reading, Christian Living, Christianity, Colorado, Encouragement, God/Christianity/Church, Introspective Musings, Marriage, The Dear Hubby, Travelling. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I totally agree with you. It’s taken me a while to realize that it’s good for me not to be treated like a princess. It’s good for me to find limitations and suffering in life. Close relationships give the best space for personal growth, but sometimes it’s the rubbing against each other as much as the loving support.

  2. We are so different, but I still want my husband to put me on a pedastal! 🙂 Maybe a very short one, so when I fall off I don’t hurt myself too badly.

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