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JS&MN - Chapters 5-8

Very sorry for my lateness. (IT'S ONLY THE SECOND WEEK, SILVER). It was glorious outside yesterday so I actually loitered outdoors in the sun with a friend for hours and wasted time and...yes. Anyway.

From chapters Drawlight to A Gentleman with Thistle-Down Hair.


Mr Norrell is introduced into society by Mr Drawlight, who rather effectively takes the reins of fashion and socializing out of Norrell's hands and into his own. He fails to attract the attention and reputation he needs; while the men and women of town may believe in theoretical magic and perhaps the practical magic performed on the streets, the people that Norrell most wishes to impress his usefulness upon--men of the government like Sir Walter Pole--are totally unmoved.

But an opportunity is presented when Sir Walter Pole's fiancée dies and Norrell reluctantly decides to use necromancy to revive her. He summons a fairy and the gentleman with the thistle-down hair arrives to make a bargain with him. The gentleman is not impressed at all with Norrell--and also incidentally reveals that there is another magician in England--and bargains for Miss Wintertowne's life, or rather half-life.


-


I'm not sure Drawlight believes in magic or not because it seems to be totally immaterial to him--all that matters is that others believe it, and want to see Norrell, and he can be Norrell's closest 'friend'. Mr Lascelles is the exact opposite; he thinks Norrell is barking and jibes him to reveal more.

Through Mr Norrell's socializing we learn more about magic; how fairies aren't to be trusted (Norrell's opinion of course) and more strongly the idea that magic is boring, like history, just facts and not wonder. And the interactions with the gentleman with the thistle-down hair is tricky--he is evidently familiar with the perception of fairies driving hard/hidden bargains, says he isn't one, and extracts Miss Wintertowne's finger as payment anyway (including half her life, too.)

The narrator's commentary makes me laugh. It describes Norrell's relative (who asked for eight hundred pounds, and wrote back in thanks his second letter) as quite "steeped in villany"; the government is described in a way that I think is almost universal.


What did you think? Anything leap out to you?

Next Sunday, I will put up chapters 9-12.


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/153632.html.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
morbane
Apr. 8th, 2014 05:52 am (UTC)
Although a huge amount has already been stated and implied about the role and practice of magic in Clarke's world, I'm still struggling to get a grip on it at this point. It seems clear that the "charlatans" are basically the magicians of our world, relying entirely on misdirection. And I can - mostly - understand the idea that Magic is Something You Study, Not Something You Do, in the upper class - but it still seems a little strange to me that Norrell comes to London, presents himself as a magician, and doesn't seem to contemplate any demonstration. (And as you say, it seems that Drawlight cares not a whit whether magic exists or doesn't. What a lack of imagination!)

This is only underscored by the magic Norrell finally does in this week's section - because it's not really magic as I understand it. He asks if another creature can perform a task. It's clinical and awkward and un-showy - it's out-sourced. The nature of magic still defies definition for me at this point.

I enjoyed this section, too, but I found it a little uneven. It's strange to me that Clarke spent so much time describing Walter Pole's political endeavors (yet without actually saying what his politics ARE!) - then we take what feels like a sharp turn into discussion of his matrimonial state - and then the matrimonial state turns out to be the great plot point, and politics is deferred until later.

I feel as though Clarke is making some sharp points in regards to the horrific neglect of Miss Wintertowne's illness - but I am not totally sure what they are. Is this a condemnation of Mr Pole for being greedy? (But he seems to genuinely care about her.) Is it a condemnation of Drawlight? (Everything's a condemnation of Drawlight.) Is it a comment on the social value of appearances? (Several people agree together that there isn't anything wrong with Miss Wintertowne, so that is the Truth, to disagree would be embarrassing, and only Norrell, an outsider, would consider seeing anything else.)
pooka_neko
Apr. 12th, 2014 12:57 am (UTC)
There are so many examples of different magicians within this book. 8 chapters in and already, there's a difference between theoretical magicians and practical magicians, and between serious magicians and the "charlatans." I think what Clark is attempting in this examination is to present magic like any other creative field. For example, with writers, there are those who study writing theoretically and apply it to their work, there are those who learn simply by reading and writing without academics thrown in, there are those who write for GLAWR! (or writing for the betterment of the writer and society) And there are those who write just to make the money. There are even those who write just to trick others.

"Out-sourced" is the best term to place on what Mr. Norrell accomplished. What Drawlight wants out of Norrell seems to be parlor tricks. I think that they are at odds with how they view magic - Drawlight sees it as parlor tricks and for Norrell, it's an art form. One that he out-sources and then blames all cruel tricks on the very creature he summoned. But there's something in Norrell's behavior that indicates he sees magic as something more than a means for approval in society. He wants to utilize it in something beyond himself, even if Norrell isn't beyond himself yet (it was amusing when the gentleman with thistle-down hair wanted Norrell to state that his accomplishments were all due to the creature and that was where he drew the line).

I agree with you on Pole, though some of the political asides were rather humorous. I have a feeling that he's merely a stepping stone in the plot and that once Norrell has gained what he wants out of him, there will be no more Pole. But who knows, he could be a major character and there might be more about him in future chapters.

I'm not sure what I think about Miss Wintertowne yet. I thought that the reason why everyone ignored her illness was because her mother and Pole were planning for her to die, but then they both seemed genuinely saddened after her death. It could be pride, or it could be that her mother and Pole honestly didn't think she was that bad off. I don't know. I hope this is addressed in later chapters, though.

As a note on Drawlight, I really don't think he cares one way or another about magic. Norrell is his token into furthering his societal aspirations. However, I don't really understand why he punished Norrell after meeting with Pole. Why would Drawlight suffer "bad" company simply because Norrell went over his head? The only reason that I can come up with is that it was a faux-pas in society for Norrell to approach Pole and that Norrell's actions would reflect upon Drawlight.
morbane
Apr. 12th, 2014 04:44 am (UTC)
I think what Clark is attempting in this examination is to present magic like any other creative field. For example, with writers, there are those who study writing theoretically and apply it to their work, there are those who learn simply by reading and writing without academics thrown in, there are those who write for GLAWR! (or writing for the betterment of the writer and society) And there are those who write just to make the money. There are even those who write just to trick others.

I think you're absolutely right about that. I realise that I'm coming to the story with an attitude of "but if you CAN do magic, then why wouldn't it occur to you to do any?" After all, in the preceding chapters, Norrell worked magic to confuse the two York magicians about his library, and then he did something very showy and dramatic in the Cathedral. But perhaps there's been a catch-22 effect: everyone in London who has asked Norrell to do magic has asked for the equivalent of charlatan's tricks, or silly, frivolous things, which Norrell doesn't want to perform; and no one whom he might impress with serious magic has shown any interest in his skills.

(it was amusing when the gentleman with thistle-down hair wanted Norrell to state that his accomplishments were all due to the creature and that was where he drew the line) - Yes, indeed, it was! And yet I think Norrell was right to be wary of that, even beside the prideful motivations. It seems as though it could be dangerous to be seen as merely carrying out the wishes of, or being an agent and sponsor for, a fairy being.
silverflight8
Apr. 13th, 2014 04:19 am (UTC)
I like your characterization as "outsourcing" but I disagree on Norrell seeing it as an art form--to me art is expression, and that's not what I see Norrell doing. He seems fixed on the idea of doing this historical event--bringing back magic. And not just the bringing back of magic, but him being the instrument to do it.
silverflight8
Apr. 13th, 2014 03:44 am (UTC)
Late comment is late, sorry!

I think the charlatans are a mix, honestly; they might well be all complete fakes but neither Norrell nor anyone else is really interested in what the "lower classes" do. I would find it plausible if there were people who genuinely were magical, just not very powerful. The charlatan who tells Segundus about the return of English magic is right...though on the other hand the gentleman with the thistle-down hair sort of strikes out the possibility, since he says there's only Norrell and some unspecified magician. Maybe those street magicians are under his view too.

Norrell is pretty clueless! Maybe he is afraid to be un-gentlemanlike? Norrell did his great feat of necromancy by outsourcing like pooka_neko says, but he's certainly able to do the tricks that he knows are showy (the York cathedral thing seems distinctly one-up-manship to me.)

See, I don't think what Pole does really matters--it is only that Norrell wants to be part of them, to feel as though he is helping. It doesn't really matter what Pole actually does. Norrell just wants to bring English magic back in a big way, and one way to do that (with his personal sympathies playing a part too, I think: he doesn't just latch onto the war out of pure self-aggrandizement) is helping out the war effort.

I think the point--or one of the points--is about the truth and people being unable or totally unwilling to see it; as you say, the importance of appearance. To me what stuck out was that Mrs Wintertowne was completely and totally obstinate on the point of not seeing Miss Wintertowne's illness--or at least not in public company. Everyone seems well-meaning in general, except for the fact they are ignoring the giant elephant in the room of Miss Wintertowne's illness. It seems to be part of the general prioritization of appearance; all of London seems to be like this. The Ministers paint a dreadful picture of their predecessors to look good, Drawlight lives on it, people are absolutely hungry for gossip and such but don't ever pry further to see if the gossip's right (which might feed back to the necessity of keeping up appearances), etc.

Aww, I wouldn't say everything's a condemnation of Drawlight! The narrator seems to regard him as somewhat self-serving but otherwise quite harmless. He is a proxy for the rest of the Society, I think.
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