Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chapter 9: A Tempest in the School Teapot

Yes, totally stealing from Anne of Green Gables here. This is what management gurus call "synergy."

Kit's got a real paid job now, helping Mercy teach Wethersfield's youngest kids how to read. And oh my is she glad Mercy is handling the hornbook-reading beginners. Kit may not think much of the primers her kids use, but at least she gets to skip phonics.

Ten days into the session, Kit feels like she's found her niche. And it's totally because of her fancy dresses:
"The children admired her pretty clothes, they brought her strawberries and daisies, they argued over who would sit next to her, and every day they waited with delighted anticipation to see what she would do and say next."
Again, Speare throws in a line here that makes me wonder how sheltered and/or unobservant Kit was back on Barbados. Because here's how she thinks of the students:
"Sober little adults they had appeared on that first day, dressed in fashions much like their parents'."
I don't claim to be an expert in seventeenth-century fashion, but dressing kids in miniature versions of adult clothing was a pretty standard practice (up into the twentieth century, in fact). Presumably all the other children Kit has encountered have been wearing "fashions much like their parents'," so is it just the fact that these kids are in more Puritan styles that jumps out at her?

Moving on: The other reason Kit finds herself enjoying teaching is that she's managed to incorporate stories into her day. Mercy is still a little reluctant ("Was it right, she questioned Kit, to bribe children into good behavior by these stories?"), but the kids love it.

However. Kit's next experiment, in which she decides to have her students act out the day's story, adds another point in the "Kit's totally unobservant" column.
"By chance she had chosen the three most obstreperous pupils in the school to be her thieves and robbers, and the hapless boy who represented the traveler was the priggish little scholar they most cordially disliked."
This, out of the half-dozen students she works with. Apparently she hasn't been paying much attention to their personalities.

Not surprising, then, that the experiment turns into a disaster. Not only does she demonstrate that she can't keep the students in line -- just as the superintendent walks in -- she does it via one of the Puritans' taboos, something she's already run into ("Play-acting!").

Kit's response is to run away. To the Meadow. Which is where the title character -- or at least a person who one would assume is the title character -- gets her first close-up. Hannah Tupper is "a woman with short-cropped white hair and faded, almost colorless eyes set deep in an incredibly wrinkled face," and she and Kit click straight off.

The way Speare phrases it, you really get the sense that it's the people not in positions of power that fall for Kit's charms:
"Like the school children, she had accepted Kit without a question or suspicion, and like a child she scuttled ahead now, confident that Kit would accept her in the same way."
Hannah gives Kit the doting she needs right then, and a cake and a kitten to go along with it. Suddenly Kit's feeling worlds better, to the extent that she's even able to imagine that there's a little something going on between Hannah and the sailor who brings her coral and other trinkets:
"Kit almost laughed. Of all the unlikely things -- a romance! She could imagine him, this seafaring friend, white-haired and weatherbeaten, coming shyly to the door with his small treasures from some distant shore."
Future chapters will show that that's not exactly the case. Hmm. How many sailors have been introduced in the text so far?

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