Sunday, 14 July 2013

The problem with Gwendoline Mary Lacey

Everyone who’s read the Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton will at once perceive the venom all the girls (plus the creator) has for Gwendoline Mary Lacey. She is sly, deceitful, a sneak and a mother’s girl. She is spoiled by mother and governess, and is selfish and thoughtless. She also says nasty things about her schoolmates.
And yet Gwen is very real and vivid, and I cannot hate her. Blyton tried to make her horrible and hateful, but she couldn’t fully succeed because she made Gwen more complex than she meant her to be. Gwen is bullied by everyone and hasn’t got any friends in school, because they say she is a liar and a nasty piece of work. But the problem started on the first day of school when she was laughed at and jeered at because she cried when her parents left her at boarding school. They gave her no sympathy.
Gwen tried vainly to make friends but no one liked her - the poor thing had no charisma, no charm for friendship. This made her frustrated and vicious - and she vented it out by gossiping about everyone else. To her, everyone is nasty, because no one acknowledges her as a human being, and Alicia Johns bullies her. Of course she thinks the whole school is evil. To make friends she bullied a shy girl and tried to frame other people, so that the shy girl would like her and so she would get revenge on the whole school. The shy girl at first tried to accept Gwen’s advances of friendship, but she never liked her, never truly gave her a chance at friendship.
Another charge against her is she is a snob. She wants to be friends with Clarissa Carter because she’s the daughter of a lord. But there are many snobs, and they are liked and respected because they are fashionable, so ostracising a girl just for being a snob is going too far. Also, Gwen is not fully snobbish as you think. She tries to befriend Mary-Lou and others who are less socially superior, which means that she is fine with ordinary middle-class friends. The reason she thinks she’s superior is this: being ostracised by everyone, she tries to compensate for her inferiority complex by telling herself she’s superior to everyone else, and admiring her own golden hair. She ignores the others from then on because they have been unkind to her, under the false reason that they’re vulgar (but the unconscious reason is her inferiority complex) and so tries to befriend Clarissa. Clarissa is shy and quiet, so she thinks Clarissa will accept her, and she wants to have a “cool" friend so the rest won’t despise her. This goes awry, and Gwen’s ending is tragic. and she ends up friendless. Poor Gwen. I know lots of people far worse than her but her fate is miserable.
Alicia is far worse. She is a spiteful bully who sees Gwen as a weak target, and wants her way in everything. She is less deceitful and she doesn’t do the underhanded manipulations Gwen does because she’s popular - there is no need for her to destroy friendships on purpose or frame people for crimes they didn’t do, and besides Alicia IS a snob. She thinks she’s better than everyone else because of personality, charm and brilliance.

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