Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chapter 3: Culture Shock Continues

Kit is just now realizing that things in Wethersfield really aren't going to live up to her expectations. And if the descriptions of dirt roads and dewy expanses of grass don't get that across, Speare throws in this gem:
"Along with her pretty shoes, Kit's spirits sank lower at each step."
Unsurprisingly, Kit is not happy about this. She's also not thrilled with the pretensions of this little village that claims to have real streets and everything. Anyone who's grown up in cosmopolitan Barbados knows better.
"High Street indeed! No more than a cow path!"
You can just imagine what a Londoner would have been thinking.

Captain Eaton and his men unload Kit's trunks once they've confirmed that this is, in fact, the right house, and they head bad to the Dolphin. And for anyone who doesn't already suspect that we're going to be seeing more of Nat Eaton, Speare makes it obvious that there's unfinished business here.
"As their eyes met, something flashed between them, a question that was suddenly weighted with regret. But the instant was gone before she could grasp it, and the mocking light had sprung again into his eyes."
But now the source of interpersonal conflict shifts as we meet Kit's relatives. There's Uncle Matthew, with his "tall angular body" and prototypical Puritan austerity, and Aunt Rachel, a faded and tired version of the woman Kit imagined. And the cousins, Judith ("this girl could have been the toast of a regiment!" -- alas, I neglected to count how often this phrase or a variation is used, but trust me, it's a lot) and Mercy (whose limp is described as "grotesque," but who is of course strong and sweet and the first person to make Kit feel a little bit welcome).

Kit's not looking forward to explaining her unannounced arrival to Matthew, who's clearly the head of the family, but when he notices that she's brought seven trunks ("The whole town will be talking about it by nightfall.") with her, the truth emerges:
"'I have not come for a visit, sir,' she answered. 'I have come to stay with you.'"
And the details follow: Kit's grown up rich, but when her grandfather died, there were financial irregularities (not his fault, of course) and debts that more or less equaled the value of his estate.

Kit notices that Matthew does seem to appreciate the fact that she made sure all the debts were paid before she left Barbados, but she doesn't think he quite gets what a change it was -- after all, she had to sell her personal slave to pay for her passage, and no one in the Wood household seems to care.

You know how writers are advised to put the main character in a bad situation, and then make it worse? In the next chapter we'll see Speare doing just that.

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