Barbara Pym Long Fiction Analysis
Like most novelists, Barbara Pym was interested above all in human nature, and for most of her life she trained both eye and ear upon the exploration of that subject in its many fascinating dimensions. Her first published novel, Some Tame Gazelle, sets the tone and subject for what is to come as she casts her specialist’s eye on British lower-class and lower-middle-class life and focuses on the quiet domestic lives of a few people. At the center are two unmarried women who have decided that, rather than seeking marriage, they will be happier living alone together. An all-pervasive influence of the Anglican Church, numerous references to anthropology and English literature, the weakness of men, realism, and a sometimes devastatingly comic tone are among the many distinctive features of not only this early novel but the later ones as well. Much the same judgment may be made for two posthumously published novels: Crampton Hodnet, which she had written in the 1930’s but never intended to publish, and An Academic Question, for which she had written two drafts (one in first person, another in third person) but abandoned to write Quartet in Autumn. In 1986, Hazel Holt published an amalgamation of the two drafts. In spite of their thin plots and shallow characterization, both novels contain Pym’s characteristically sharp observations and lively dialogue among the minor characters, as well as her concern with the elderly. Considered...
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