Monday, July 27, 2020

98. He That Will Not When He May

He That Will Not When He May. Margaret Oliphant. 1880. 502 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: THE Easter holidays were drawing near an end, and the family at Markham Chase had fallen into a state of existence somewhat different from its usual dignified completeness of life.

Premise/plot: What if your son came home from university a socialist?! Such is the position Mrs. Markham finds herself in in He That Will Not When He May. Her son, Paul, comes home--bringing a guest as well--a practical stranger to his family for he's adopted a whole new worldview that is at complete and total odds with his family. His worldview is a bit shocking, but even more so his new attitude of how to treat and value his family. His father hopes that maybe just maybe he'll grow out of this--that every young person--men in particular--must go through a wild, crazy, topsy-turvy stage that SHOCKS their elders. Almost every one grows out of such silly immaturity and returns to the fold of common sense.

The book focuses on the ups and downs of the Markham family over the course of perhaps two years. In that time, we've got Paul who HATES his family background, traditions, responsibilities, duties, customs. He wants to turn his back on his social position and class. And we've also got a stranger to the community, Gus, who is seeking a place in his family and community. And we've got plenty of younger and not so younger siblings as well.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed the experience of reading this one. I will admit up front I'm not sure if my sympathies line up with where Oliphant wanted them to line up. In other words, I never really forgave Paul his obnoxious, rebellious, hideous stage. I know that his family does--and perhaps that is only as it should be. Unconditional love for the family. But as a reader I had no unconditional love to offer Paul. My heart went with GUS. From the moment we meet him until he makes his exit...that is who I cared about most. That is who I wanted to have a happy ending. I wasn't satisfied exactly with how things turn out. Not that it's all about me--it isn't.

I also still have no idea about the title and how it fits into the theme of the story!

All that being said, I found the book a timely and relevant read.

“Ah, I see! You are all for equality, like Paul.” “Like Paul! I taught him everything he knows. He had not an idea on the subject before I opened his eyes to the horrible injustice of the present state of affairs.
They did not know they were doing wrong, these rich people. They told him all about it, simply, smilingly, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. All this went against his preconceived notions, just as the manners of a foreign country so often go against the idea you have formed of them.
As soon as he had come to the conviction that all men are equal he took the further step which costs a great deal more, and decided that there ought to be equality of property as well as of right. This made Sir William half angry, though it amused him. He bade his son not to be a fool.
He’s young, and he knows no better. He thinks that if he were able to give up all your estates to the people, justice would be done. That is all he knows. Stuff! we could do it all by a rising if it were as easy as that.
“I acknowledge no honour in the ancestors that robbed the poor to make me rich,” cried the hot-headed youth. And the end of all was that his mother and sister had much ado to keep him from leaving the house at once, late as it was, in the heat of passion.
Paul’s intellectual measles might be severe, but they were only measles after all, a malady of youth which a young man of marked character took more seriously than a frivolous boy, but which would pass away.
“Age does not go only by years—when you have a great deal to think of—”
Bury a secret in the deepest earth, and some chance digger, thinking of other things, will bring it up without intending it.
Exercise even the most innocent reticence about your own affairs, matters in which you have a perfect right to judge for yourself, and some time or other even this will come up against you like a crime.
How easy it is to learn the miserable alphabet of suspicion!
You get over us by a suggestion of generosity when we are talking of justice. The thing will never happen, of course—not in our day, more’s the pity—your money and your land will never be taken from you.” “Do you think that is a pity, Mr. Spears?”          
 An opinion that has stood the test of years is a sacred thing.
Society prefers the suave and mediocre, and when a man acquires a high place in its ranks by reason of his profession, requires of him that he should be as little professional as possible.
Thus the threads in the shuttle of life mix themselves up and get all woven the wrong way.
People are not so close to mark our looks and words as we imagine them to be.
“I believe they are convictions; but you may be convinced of a foolish thing as well as a wise one.”
There are temptations to do right as well as to do wrong. Impulses came to him like little good angels pulling at his sleeve, entreating him to come; but alas! it is always more easy to resist temptations to do well than to do ill.
We have been dabbling in—what shall I call it?—socialism, communism, in a way—the whole set of us: and he is more in earnest than the rest; he is giving himself up to it.” “Socialism—communism!” cried Mr. Gus; he was horrified in his simplicity. “Why that’s revolution, that’s bloodshed and murder!” he cried.
“You discriminate very well. Spears, as you always do.” “Yes, I suppose I have a knack that way,” said the demagogue, simply.
The less honest a man is, the more sure he is to get up to the top.
What a thing it is to be a mother! The sentiment has found utterance in Greek, so it does not profess to be novel. If not one thing, then another; sometimes two troubles together, or six, as many as she has children—except that, in the merciful dispensation of Providence, the woman who has many children cannot make herself so wretched about every individual as she who has few contrives to do.        
© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

JadeSky said...

Looks interesting! I have never heard about this before. Thanks for the recommendation.