Thursday, March 03, 2005

On "Summer"--next section

Here is the next section of Carol McCluer's paper:

"[P]ower is not just the ability to affect or change others; it is likewise the ability to be affected or changed by others," writes Eli Siegel in his Self and World. Charity Royall makes the same mistake I did: she is more taken by her ability to have an effect on someone than in being honestly affected by who a person is. A young man she has never seen before comes into the library and as he gazes at her pretty face, he forgets what he was saying:

"Have you a card catalogue?" he asked in a pleasant abrupt voice...

"A what?"

"Why, you know—" He broke off, and she became conscious that he was looking at her for the first time....The fact that, in discovering her, he lost the thread of his remark, did not escape her attention, and she looked down and smiled. He smiled also...."My name is Harney—Lucius Harney...I'm an architect, you see, and I'm hunting up old houses in these parts."

She stared. "Old houses? Everything's old in North Dormer, isn't it? The folks are, anyhow."

Charity sees that Lucius Harney is educated; he is passionate about architecture, and has been in bigger places than North Dormer. Wharton writes: "In spite of his shyness, he had the air of power that the experience of cities probably gave."
As Charity shows Lucius Harney around the town, she gets his attention off old houses and onto herself. She has no interest in learning why he cares for architecture. But she tells him things about herself and gets the reaction women think they want from a man. She says:

"You never heard, I suppose—I come from there. They brought me down when I was little."

"You?" He raised himself on his elbow, looking at her with sudden interest. "You're from the Mountain? How curious! I suppose that's why you're so different..." Her happy blood bathed her to the forehead. He was praising her—and praising her because she came from the Mountain!

"Am I...different?" she triumphed, with affected wonder.

"Oh, awfully!" He picked up her hand and laid a kiss on the sunburnt knuckles.

A woman can think this is love—I did. I felt victorious if I could get a man to say, "I've never met anyone like you in my entire life!" But even when I tried to believe it, I still didn't like myself. I know now the reason was, it was self-love, not true care for another person.

Charity and Lucius Harney go together to a nearby city for the 4th of July. As fireworks explode in the dark summer sky, Edith Wharton writes:

Harney's lips were pressed on hers. With sudden vehemence he wound his arms about her....[and] she gave him back his kisses. An unknown Harney had revealed himself, a Harney who dominated her and yet over whom she felt herself possessed of a new mysterious power.

Women need to know there is possible in love and sex a power we can like ourselves for having and being affected by. Mr. Siegel describes this power in Self and World as he writes:

"When one is tremendously excited, moved by femininity or masculinity, one is honoring with one's body the power and immediacy of existence itself. It is existence that is captivating us, driving us, tormenting us, and alluring us."

And I was learning about this power as my consultants asked me: "If a man were humble as to you, what would make you be humble, too?" "I don't know," I answered. "It is," they said,"to see that what he is humble about is reality itself. Do you like seeing that as a man is affected by Carol McCluer he is affected by reality?"

It was a turning point as I began to see that the effect I could have on a man stood for reality in its mystery and might. Now at the most intimate moments with my husband, Kevin Fennell, I want to be a means of his being stronger, kinder to other people—his co-workers, his family, his friends—and I feel through him reality is closer, dearer to me.

check back for the next installment