Reaction to Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm
I found the ending to Aunt Ada Doom’s story a very Austen-like way of dispelling the myth of the Madwoman in the Attic. And, of course, Flora gets this idea from Mansfield Park. The madwoman, who isn’t truly mad to begin with, can be cured with something as simple as a copy of Vogue and a trip to Paris. There is no ongoing psychological torment or dramatic death. Madness can be cured by good, old-fashioned materialism. Perhaps Bertha Rochester could have undergone the same “therapy.”
Elfine’s wedding reception also seems to be a way of putting down Victorian psychological drama and upholding Austen’s purism:
There they all were. Enjoying themselves. Having a nice time. And having it in
an ordinary human manner. Not having it because they were raping somebody,
or beating somebody, or having religious mania or being doomed to silence by a
gloomy, earthly pride, or loving the soil with the fierce desire of a lecher, or
anything of that sort. No, they were just enjoying an ordinary human event, like
any of the millions of ordinary people in the world. (217)
Lastly, Flora’s marriage plot also seemed reminiscent of Austen. Her love affair with Charles is not the primary focus in the novel. Cleanliness, manners, and fashion take precedent before everything else. Only when Flora has cleaned up Cold Comfort and cleansed the farm of its Victorian characteristics can she pursue her own marriage plot.
What I love most about Cold Comfort Farm is also what makes it difficult to write about. Gibbons takes many conventions, especially those of the Victorian novel, and turns them on their head. We never learn what Aunt Ada Doom saw in the woodshed, nor why Judith is depressed (besides her weird Oedipal complex for Seth). We never find out about the question of Flora’s rights or what happened between her father and his relatives. Gibbons builds up these possibilities for psychological drama and deflates them all by the end of the novel. Her humorous style, and her deflation of all that is psychological and dramatic, really gives the text and Austen-like feel. It also gives me the same problems as Austen does. I took very few notes on this book, lulled into a false sense of security by its humorous tone and light feel. Despite the fact that I don’t have much to say Cold Comfort Farm, I absolutely loved it. It was a quick read, but also, upon further inspection, a good way to tie up all the issues we’ve been examining in class. I throughly enjoyed it.