Looking for something to write about this week I browsed older posts and spotted Stef’s post about her least favourite characters, and I decided that would be a fine thing for me to write about too. I didn’t have any ideas for my characters at the time but I was sure I could come up with something.
GWENDOLINE MARY LACEY
Ah, Gwen. I have seen several rather passionate defences of Gwen lately, suggesting that she is to be pitied. It is said that the other girls are merciless bullies and tear her apart simply because she doesn’t quite fit in – and that isn’t even her fault because she has had a lousy upbringing.
Well, sorry, but I still can’t like her. She has been raised in a wealthy home, never wanted for anything and has had the love and support of her parents and her governess. This is far more than many people have in their young life. Yes, her family life is not perfect, and yes she has been encouraged into being somewhat spoiled and over-confident in her own abilities, but many girls have gone to Malory Towers. St Clare’s, Whyteleaf or indeed into the garden of Those Dreadful Children next door and have then taken a long hard look at themselves. They have recognised their shortcomings and have taken at least some steps to becoming better and more pleasant people.
But not Gwen. No, she never seems to learn. Once of twice she perhaps attempts to be better, but it is a case of too little too late really and she gives up at the first hurdle.
Throughout the six books she is at best boastful and shallow and at worst spiteful, manipulative, dishonest and cruel. She picks on sweet, quiet Mary-Lou and ducks her under water in First Term, (she is even reluctant to apologise after) and then tries to make Darrell look like a bully by setting up thefts and breakages. Just about every year she shamelessly stuffs up her parents and governess with deliberate lies about her popularity and academic ability. In the upper fourth, she pretends to have a heart problem to get out of doing exercise – thus worrying her family sick and making light of what is a serious and upsetting problem for Clarissa. Even seeing a good many of her flaws practically mirrored in Maureen isn’t enough to make her change.
So despite any arguments you could make defending her, I cannot like Gwendoline!
Policemen in Enid Blyton’s books are by and large friendly and helpful characters (the one in Five on a Hike Together is a rare example of the opposite) so it makes Mr Goon stand out all the more.
He appears to be inept at police work on the whole, as the Find-Outers regularly outshine him in the detecting department. Perhaps left to his own devices he would solve things eventually, but I wouldn’t put money on it.
He holds himself in very high (and rather undeserved) regard, believing that everyone ought to respect him and treat him as a higher being. In my opinion, he hasn’t done very much to earn anyone’s respect! He is aggressive, rude and bullying throughout the series not to mention violent towards his nephew and Buster.
AND JUST ONE MORE…
As is often the case for me, I had trouble coming up with a third character and then after some ‘research’ ended up with several potentials.
I wrote the below in response to which character’s ears would you most like to box? way back in 2009 (I have corrected the spelling, for anyone who reads the thread!)
I don’t think there are any characters I hate (except the mean evil baddies like Jo-Jo or Guy Brimming) but at certain points I might quite like to box Gwendoline’s ears (especially when badmouthing her father and trying to blame Darrell for the mean things she herself did to Mary-Lou), Theophilus Goon, June (before she saves Amanda of course), Horace Tripalong for giving away Bill’s escape, Junior for being so sneaky and rude, Tala for the way he treats Oola, hmm and Oola’s uncle too, Arabella for her stuck-uped-ness and going behind Elizabeth’s back……. and oh my I have to stop now I’m getting all worked up!
I can’t find myself feeling particular animosity towards Horace, Junior, Tala or Arabella now though. In fact I can hardly remember Arabella’s crimes. No doubt all are quite unpleasant at times though.
I also wrote
I’d give up the chance to box the ears of all of the above for a chance of giving a hefty slap to whoever updates the books.
But that’s not technically a character. So that left me with a few suggestions from other forum users. They made plenty of suggestions I don’t agree with (like Julian!) but a few stood out. Rose Longfield from The Six Cousins, Mr Lynton from The Barney Mysteries and Susie from The Secret Seven.
Susie I ruled out as she only pops up sporadically throughout the Secret Seven books – though I can tell you she is utterly maddening none the less.
Mr Lynton and Mrs Longfield were hard to choose between as both are somewhat lacking in the parenting department. Mr Lynton is one father you wonder why he even had children as he seems to despise having them around – Roger, I believe, does remark that ‘Daddy’s such fun on holidays’ (or words to that effect) so I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s not always so crotchety. In fact, perhaps he is utterly charming when he hasn’t got Snubby (another popular choice for the above thread) causing chaos around the house.
And so that leaves me with just one last name.
There are some very good arguments both in favour of and against boxing Rose’s ears and I will try not to simply repeat them.
For anyone unfamiliar with this character or books – Rose and her family lived a well-to-do life in London for years until their house burned down. The children are sent to Mistletoe Farm to stay with their cousins. They are a bit spoiled and affected at first but learn to enjoy a more simple life on the farm while their father works very hard to raise money to sort themselves out again.
It seems like both parents have been a bit silly perhaps – they don’t have any savings or contingencies but at least the father – David – pulls his socks up and makes the best of things, as do the children.
Rose, on the other hand, well. She goes off to a convalescent home or somewhere like that to recover from the tragedy. You have to have a certain amount of sympathy for the lot of them, losing everything as they did, but it’s only Rose that decides to wallow in misery and self-pity. People have said perhaps she has less coping ability – maybe so but she’s a mother and surely should do what she can to put her children first? The children go off alone to Mistletoe Farm, having lost everything, and could probably have done with the support of their mother. Saying that, they were probably better off without her though!
When she does finally turn up to visit them she has put a lot of effort into making herself glamorous, and turns her nose up at most of what Mistletoe Farm has to offer. She even goes as far as to insult her children for no longer being pale, weedy and meek town-folk.
In the second book David has bought a smaller farm near Mistletoe Farm, and thinks the family can settle happily there and be together again at last. He and the children put a lot of effort into making it a success, but unfortunately Rose doesn’t put as much work in. She hasn’t changed her ideals in the slightest and is still trying to live an upper-class life with dainty afternoon teas which doesn’t fit with farm life in the slightest.
So to summarise, Rose is pretty selfish and self-serving throughout (unpleasant in itself but so much worse when it’s a mother). I think she does resolve to do better eventually but it’s right at the end of the second book so we don’t really get to see her redeem herself. I would like to think she does though, for her sake as well as her husband and children.
I think it’s perhaps interesting that all of my choices are fairly reasonable ones – unlike those people who hate, for example, Julian! I tend to dislike the objectionable characters and like the ones I’m supposed to like. I very much follow Blyton’s clear suggestions as to who are the ‘good’ ones and the ‘not so good ones’.