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Author Topic: A Casual Society? – Could Pagford be a real place?  (Read 3306 times)

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October 11, 2012, 10:26:28 PM

atschpe

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Rowling paints a very stark image of Pagford. Everyone is most concerned with themselves to the point that they only help or pitch in when there is something to gain. A youth's word is only "true" if it correlates with the adults take on things. Talk about being social – and living in a society! Perhaps someone should hand them a dictionary to help them: society and social fall back on friendly association (loan word from French "societe" ca 1530)1 and companionship (loan word from French & Lat. "socius" ca. 1500)2.

We see grown up women mostly concerned with being the first to learn and thus hand out gossip. We read about anti-Fielders wanting the best for "their" Pagford and thus do their best to cut off the Fields and the help its inhabitants are getting. We watch kids wanting to get back at their parents by raising Barry's ghost from the dead to speak for them. And all the while Pagford still tries to take on the roll of a society with a council, gatherings and other kinds of interaction.

What are your thoughts and reactions to the society of this town?
  • Do you feel the description is too over the top or satirical? How much of the current world to you recognise in it, how much does it differ?
  • If you had to live in Pagford, how would you act or react to these dynamics?
  • Who is to blame for how this society has formed?
  • Why would JKR choose satire as the vehicle for her story and not some other genre?

1 c.f. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=society
2 c.f. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=social
« Last Edit: October 20, 2012, 02:46:03 PM by atschpe »


"Of course it is all in your head, but why on Earth should that mean it isn't real?" ~Dumbledore (DH)
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October 12, 2012, 11:38:07 PM
Reply #1

bemused

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Pagford isn't real.  The only way I can view this book is as a grotesque fantasy - I don't even see it as satire because it isn't funny.

If the story had been placed in an inner city setting I wouldn't be so inclined to question it, because I've no experience of life in an inner city. But it purports to be set in rural southern England, a world I've known all my life (better than JK Rowling knows it, in fact), and the suggestion that this is in any way real makes me quite angry for the people around me.

Take, for example, the business of hospital volunteers.  I know quite a few women living right here, late middle-age, comfortably off, in very much the same real-world position as that described in the book, who work as volunteers at the hospital.  Why do they do it?  For the most part because they're aware that they're fortunate and want to help out.  Some may be rather lonely and for them it provides social contacts too, and a fixed point in the week, along with the feeling that they're helping out.  But no one in their right mind would volunteer in the hope of a royal visit.  You'd wait for years, probably a lifetime, and in the unlikely event that your hospital did have a visit, hospitals are vast places; the chance of one volunteer being in the right place at the right time would be miniscule. On the other hand, denigrating something real people do out of a genuine wish to give ...

Or take another thought. The fact that Shirley has a great many royal biographies in her house is made to seem a significant and telling detail, revealing much of her inner character.  Well, as some one who's written several royal biographies I happen to know that the biggest single group of readers are gay men.  The rest are a complete mixture of ages, characters, political affiliations, levels of education. It's as ridiculous to suggest that collections of royal books tells you anything about the owner as... er.... Harry Potter books!

Or on a more serious note, at a key point in the story Robbie is conspicuously ignored by a whole list of characters.  Very symbolic in the story but in the real world it would never happen.  There is simply no way that any adult would ignore an obviously distressed and lost toddler.  It wouldn't happen.  It's fantasy, like the rest of Pagford.
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October 13, 2012, 06:13:48 PM
Reply #2

HealerOne

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I totally agree bemused that Pagford is a fantasy, however I see this fictional town more like a microcosm of society; and the people within the town, caricatures of the inhabitants of our society as a whole. I don't think it is a coincidence that this book was published the year of a US Presidential election. So much of the division of ideals seen in Pagford is echoed in American society. I am not as sure if this is true of the UK, but I certainly saw similar arguments for and against taking care of one another in this book as opposed to what I hear on our news!

I can understand that you should worry that the readers of this book would come away with a screwed picture of rural southern England. But let's face it, some readers who don't care to  understand the underlying themes in this book might indeed have that impressions. But on the other hand, the characters are so over the top that I can't imagine most people thinking that they could possibly exist in reality.

I'd like to address this question posed by atschpe: Who is to blame for how this society has formed?

Unfortunately our human nature seems to predispose us to thinking our circumstances are better than another's; therefore we deserve more, and they less. A class system creates this sort of pecking order with the rich on top and the poor on the bottom.  Unless society can even out the classes a bit more with less distance between to two; the desire to be separate will be very strong. In other words until we are 'more fair to our brothers' we doom ourselves to this type of belittling of one another.
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October 14, 2012, 04:31:59 PM
Reply #3

atschpe

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I do not think Rowling is commenting on South England by placing the town there, bemused. Apart from its proximity to London for such plotlines like the rock-concert to work, the town could have been located anywhere in the UK (or even the world) and the effect of how the society functions wouldn't be very different. I agree, HealerOne that the town is al ike a potpourri of the society's various "wrong doers", from job-oriented over drug-users to gossip ego-driven people.

As for the case of Robbie not happening in the real world. I have to strongly disagree here, sorry. There wouldn't be so many missing children, kidnappings or accidents as we see today, if adults would be attentive and help kids on the street. This fact is made even worse by people watching the appalling news about such things happening, being up in arms about "why did this have to happen?!" and yet still go about their daily business oblivious to what is happening around them … and yes this is not only true in big cities. I can recall several incidents around here (and we are rural), and I wouldn't call this a bad corner of the earth. And in some ways the rural society can be worse, due to the nature everyone knowing everyone which, leads to cliquish behavoiur, mobbing against "outsiders" and a blind striving to hold onto "the old ways" over an open social development.

I do see this as a kind of dark satirical over-the-top staging of what is happening around us in society today. Even if we are lucky enough not to be surrounded by so many people who misuse society for what they think is their benefit, it is there – in some place more apparent than others.
"Of course it is all in your head, but why on Earth should that mean it isn't real?" ~Dumbledore (DH)
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October 14, 2012, 05:07:50 PM
Reply #4

bemused

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Sorry, but I do think this is different.  Children go missing because people take them deliberately.  Children are ill-treated behind closed doors, usually by the people who should care for them most.  But here we're talking about an obviously distressed and lost toddler out on the street.  A baby too young even to speak in sentences.  In a small community ordinary people, people who are as horrified as any of us would be by both child abduction and child cruelty, would help that toddler.
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October 14, 2012, 07:39:54 PM
Reply #5

Armoracia

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Hmmmm. I do think this is dark and over-the-top......but I definitely would not classify Pagford as satire. If that is what it was meant to be, it is the worst sort of satire that I have ever run across. Satire, even dark satire like One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is generally written not to be taken seriously - it doesn't expect to be taken so, and makes a point of it. You aren't supposed to believe in the characters - you are supposed to "get" that it is a commentary on society. Additionally, JKR herself has not labeled this book as "satire," nor have any of the promoters or professional reviewers.

Quote
(from thefreedictionary.com) sat·ire  (str)
n.
1.  a. A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.
     b. The branch of literature constituting such works. See Synonyms at caricature.
2. Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.

I'm afraid that I'm not seeing sufficient evidence of attacks through irony, derision, or wit to make the work itself be considered satire. I do realize this is debatable, which is why it might be interesting to see what others think. Certainly the book has enough angry characters to make derision a possiblity - but is it the core of the book? I don't think so - and the attacks, if present, are directed at other characters. there is no clear sense that the author herself is attacking human vices or follies - which is my understanding of satire. If i wanted to create a satire OF this work, it would be ridiculously easy to do so. I could attack the work as a whole by changing it into a really snarky musical (which could be extremely fun, actually). Can satire be created from an already-satirical work?

On the contrary, Jo starts out by writing so vividly that she draws you into the world. You want to care about the people in it; that is part of her narrative strength. That is not satire, that is storytelling. The problem is, she then doesn't deliver on the promise, imo.

To me, Pagford is neither real, nor is it satire. It is, instead, a very dark warning set in a soap-opera world.
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October 15, 2012, 07:46:52 AM
Reply #6

anguinea

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In a small community ordinary people, people who are as horrified as any of us would be by both child abduction and child cruelty, would help that toddler.

I agree. It was too much of a stretch to pretend a woman would notice a toddler wandering unsupervised and not stop to investigate. That was a case of plot device taking precedence over plausibility.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2012, 08:04:03 AM by anguinea »
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October 15, 2012, 12:41:48 PM
Reply #7

atschpe

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Point taken – satire might not be the best word to describe what she is doing here. "Over-the-top" fits much better.

I am starting to think I am living in a more Pagfordian world than I thought, as I could see it happening around here that people walk past an apparently lost toddler without considering to investigate or help. I know enough people who'd help anyone no matter what plight they are in themselves, but I have encountered incidents and even people that show just how cruelly ego-driven/blind some are to what is happening around them. I am starting to wonder though, whether this could go hand in hand with areas where one is close to or in the living area of poor people, perceived to be on drugs, "good for nothings", criminals and so on. The "I don't want to get invovled" bug might be more wide-spread there.
"Of course it is all in your head, but why on Earth should that mean it isn't real?" ~Dumbledore (DH)
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October 16, 2012, 10:07:10 PM
Reply #8

merrythought

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I don't yet discount the idea that this novel is a satire, at least in part.  Amoracia tells us that satire is not meant to be taken seriously.  But while we are not meant to take the satirical humor seriously, it is fair to say that artists and writers use satire to make a serious point. Satire has traditionally been employed to draw attention to an aspect of humanity or society which needs to be cured - and often, the satirical work in question suggests what needs to happen in order for society to "heal."  We can see that TCV does draw attention to a social problem, and does suggest how individuals should respond in order to solve it.

The sticking point about TCV as a satire is, as Amoracia says, the apparent lack of ironic humor - and yet, the novel is being described as a satire in a number of reviews I have read.  One possibly relevant fact about satire is that quite often it is hard to read aright; many misunderstandings occur because a satirical work is read "straight" - for example, in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, The New Yorker printed a satirical cartoon of the Obamas which showed them dressed as terrorist Muslims and burning an American flag in their fireplace.  The cartoon outraged many; in actuality, it was satirizing not the Obamas, but how some people thought of the Obamas.  So my point is, maybe I have missed some of the ironical humor because of my own sense of what's funny and what isn't.

Certain characterizations in the novel seem to be satirical:  Shirley and Howard, at any rate.  I thought they were broadly characterized, even somewhat exaggerated (exaggeration and parody are  techniques often used to create satire).  They provided much of the humor I found, and I did come away thinking that JKR was using them to make a point about how people can live in their own worlds and have no conception of the lives of others.  Can anyone think of any other characters in the book who might be portrayed satirically? 

With regard to the seriousness of people just walking by and not noticing the plight of Krystal's brother:  even Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal", with it's baby-eating humor, has a very bleak section near the end in which Swift despairs of any humane resolution to the problem of poverty in Ireland.  And while Michael Moore's films can be very funny, he has spoken about his deep anger over social situations, and how that anger is channeled through the humor.  Perhaps we have a similar situation with TCV.  And maybe the fact that no one pays attention to Krystal's brother is meant to be symbolic rather than realistic (another deliberate exaggeration, perhaps?).  I don't know; does it seem possible?
 
« Last Edit: October 16, 2012, 10:21:05 PM by merrythought »
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October 19, 2012, 07:14:31 AM
Reply #9

Lucette

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There are stranger things in life than fiction.  No comment.

There is always a certain amount of lampooning of life in fiction but one also has to limit the places that the characters hang just so that they bump into each other and there is a story.  How the lives of various characters intertwine would be more than in real life.  There doesn’t seem to be too much space between the towns to the point where one would presume that they would eventually amalgamate (or that there is some sort of resistence to them doing so).  Many cities are made up of more than one city or town or municipality.  When I was born, St. Boniface was still considered a separate city, but now it is considered to be part of Winnipeg.

From what I have been reading from others, JKR has created a dystopian society – which she seems to believe bears some resemblance to the society she lived in.

Quote
I am not as sure if this is true of the UK, but I certainly saw similar arguments for and against taking care of one another in this book as opposed to what I hear on our news!

That makes sense.  Canada had #TellVicEverything, the UK had #TellDaveEverything and the States – had similar concerns with people on both sides of the issue.  The same things come up around the same time in all three places – and opinions vary with a certain amount of similarity in all three places.  My guess, though is that JKR would have been drawing a certain amount on how things were 20 some years ago living in the city. 

There are forces that tend to amplify “human nature” which are at work in all three places.  No comment.

About the kid, I think that people these days may be too worried about being mistaken for someone who abducts children to find out what is going on.  However, in a small community, would not everybody know whose kid it was and be able to ask someone else there if they saw said person? 

According to a review, a few families are involved with social services – children’s aid – that they have a social worker?  It may mean that when they see a toddler in distress, that they don’t help the toddler, but they phone children’s aid on the family.  If that is the tendency, then a person would be reluctant to try to bring the kid back home because then they will be accused of being the person who made the phone call.  There might be a fear of retaliation in Robby’s family calling the “welfare fraud” number on the person they think ratted them out.  JKR would have been a teen during the time when the welfare fraud hotline was being promoted in the news.

One can’t rule out the “if you cause trouble for me, I’ll cause trouble for you” aspect of not wanting to get involved.

Also, spousal abuse became legally a crime about when JKR was a teen – before that, if there was a crime, it was disturbing the peace – making too much noise for the liking of the neighbours.

Quote
even Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal", with it's baby-eating humor, has a very bleak section near the end in which Swift despairs of any humane resolution to the problem of poverty in Ireland. 

Wasn’t that story about Fudge cooking goblins in pies in The Quibber in OOTP a sort of Modest Proposal?  Ok, wrong book.
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October 20, 2012, 02:26:42 AM
Reply #10

HealerOne

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On the topic of Kystal's brother and the three characters who 'pass him by' - I think this is part of JKR' storytelling MO, she is actually portraying a Biblical parable here - The story of the Good Samaritan. As I re-read both her story and the actual parable, I wondered, 'who is the actual Good Samaritan?' Was it the only 'brown' child in the equation (similar to the Samaritan in the Biblical story)?' 'Or was the actual Samaritan the Dogwalker that pulled out Sooks with Robbie in her clutches from the river?'  The Parable in Luke was told by Jesus in response to a question of  "Who is my neighbor?"  This is a fundamental question that JKR is asking the readers to respond to, without pointing to one concrete answer.  Perhaps this discussion should be better discussed in the thread about the Moral of this story? http://forum.discussionstation.com/index.php?topic=195.msg1602#msg1602

Now as far as the structure of this story as being satirical? I like what The Express had to say,"some readers will be shocked at Rowling's departure from wizardry and magic but The Casual Vacancy is a highly readable morality tale for our times".  (My italics) That seems to fit this story better.  IMHO of course!
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October 20, 2012, 03:15:53 PM
Reply #11

atschpe

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The interesting thing is, it is not only the three passers by that get a readers blood boiling, but also the teens in the bushes. Krystal knows what it is to be ignored and left to her own devices, yet she opts for the ego-route. Fats might be the one with the most sense but still allows Krystal to overrule him. Even later when Robbie goes to remind them of his existence, Krystal doesn't wake up and pretty much seals the fate of everyone involved. It looks like this society has already made aperfect job of thinking egoistically …

If you had to live in Pagford, how would you act or react to these dynamics?

I must confess when this question first occured to me, I backpedalled quickly. Live in such a society? Yikes!
But I asked the question so I'd best not shy away from the answer …

I have lived in villages/small towns now where it is not only a customed but even expected to great another when passing in the streets. Oh yes, I'd stick out like a spre thumb in Pagford, saying hello asking another how they are and meaning it. Listening and interacting, not to learn about the latest gossip,. bu to learn about the individuals perhaps how I can help in my small way. I do not believe in standing up on a rostrum and telling people what to do, but I rather live what I believe in. So I would be the new neighbour Pagfordians can gossip about, who asks the nextdoors if they need something from the grrengrocers or whether their son would like to earn a bob mowing the lawn.

Of course this wouldn't change a Pagford overnight, but it can act as a wake up call to some to actually open their eyes and ears, to others to dare to socialise in the same way without worrying about funny looks … The society is built on the individuals. Add a different approach in the foundation, and it surprising how far the rippling effect goes. I guess in short, I am going for the "start with yourself" approach.
"Of course it is all in your head, but why on Earth should that mean it isn't real?" ~Dumbledore (DH)
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October 23, 2012, 04:39:58 PM
Reply #12

HealerOne

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The interesting thing is, it is not only the three passers by that get a readers blood boiling, but also the teens in the bushes. Krystal knows what it is to be ignored and left to her own devices, yet she opts for the ego-route. Fats might be the one with the most sense but still allows Krystal to overrule him. Even later when Robbie goes to remind them of his existence, Krystal doesn't wake up and pretty much seals the fate of everyone involved. It looks like this society has already made aperfect job of thinking egoistically …

Hmm, I have to admit I didn't see it this way. I felt like Krystal was compelled to be in those bushes  as she felt there was only one way to save her brother and herself and that was to get pregnant by Fats - thereby securing her and Robbie's future by tying herself to someone who could provide her with a 'safe place' to be. In her mind it was the only solution to her family's dilemma, so she was pushed into this situation by the society that rejected any other solution for her. As I saw it, in Krystal's mind she had to have Robbie go along with this so she could save him.   In other words I don't think Krystal saw herself as having any other choice. In her head it was her only course of behavior and Robbie just had to go along with it.

Of course this was a juvenile and un-thought out decision by her. On the other hand the societies of Pagford and Yarvil had pretty much let her down on all sides. She was left without defenses to the madness of her mother and the cruelty of Obbo. So she felt she had to take matters into her own hands to protect both herself and Robbie and this was something that she could control (to an extent obviously). In her mind she was banking on Robbie obeying her and being satisfied by the Rollos. It's that type of 'wishful thinking' that is customary of her age. It is just a very sad thing that the powers of society in this place called Pagford/The Fields/Yarvil yanked out from under her all the safety net that she was clinging to beforehand. 
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November 10, 2012, 08:26:56 PM
Reply #13

JaneMarple9

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Personally,  I don't know many English villages, so don't have much to compare it with. But I didn't find the description, and the people residing in Pagford over-the-top. It reminded me a lot of St. Mary Mead, the fictional village of a certain Miss Jane Marple. There was even a Marple story set around "poison-pen letters" ("The Moving Finger) , and with a bit of a stretch, this could be a good parody of Casual Vacancy.

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November 10, 2012, 10:31:59 PM
Reply #14

Evreka

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Could Pagford be a real place?
Well, I don't think it is likely that a small village would encounter all these problems all at once. Of course the story is a fiction. But as for the reality feel of it, I think pretty much all ingredients could happen (on their own) for real, and not just on the English countryside. In fact, quoting myself from first impressions:

What I still haven't understood is what it is in this story that is supposedly so British? Funds are cut everywhere it seems and it often causes most pain among those who have the greatest needs. I'm not going to claim that this precise story line is likely to ever happen - anywhere - but most ingredients could fit in many different places at least in Europe, I would assume?
I still fail to see why it would be particularly Brittish? Possibly I'm missing some aspects you Brits are the only ones to get, but from what I do get, this could be pretty much anywhere in Europe.


Take, for example, the business of hospital volunteers.  I know quite a few women living right here, late middle-age, comfortably off, in very much the same real-world position as that described in the book, who work as volunteers at the hospital.  Why do they do it?  For the most part because they're aware that they're fortunate and want to help out.  Some may be rather lonely and for them it provides social contacts too, and a fixed point in the week, along with the feeling that they're helping out.  But no one in their right mind would volunteer in the hope of a royal visit.  ... On the other hand, denigrating something real people do out of a genuine wish to give ...
I don't think this is a fair description at all. Jo is not saying that this is the usual reason for anyone to volunteer, if anything she is telling us pretty plainly that Shirley is more than a little weird and with next to no empathy! Who else would volunteer at a hospital for such a lunatic reason? It's a way to describe a character, not a way to have a go at any volunteers.

Or take another thought. The fact that Shirley has a great many royal biographies in her house is made to seem a significant and telling detail, revealing much of her inner character.  Well, as some one who's written several royal biographies I happen to know that the biggest single group of readers are gay men.  The rest are a complete mixture of ages, characters, political affiliations, levels of education. It's as ridiculous to suggest that collections of royal books tells you anything about the owner as... er.... Harry Potter books!
But, again, Jo isn't telling us that the fact that Shirley has this say a lot about Shirley. What we find out is that Shirley thinks it says something about her. It also tells us something about who Shirley is. And that she has the Royal Queen in high esteem is apparent. In other words, it says a lot more about Shirley than it says about those owning such books in general.

Or on a more serious note, at a key point in the story Robbie is conspicuously ignored by a whole list of characters.  Very symbolic in the story but in the real world it would never happen.  There is simply no way that any adult would ignore an obviously distressed and lost toddler.  It wouldn't happen.  It's fantasy, like the rest of Pagford.
Once again I have to disagree. I have twice come across somewhat similar situations IRL. Toddlers who have been seemingly alone in places where they shouldn't be. Yes, in both cases, someone eventually stepped in, (once I did), but most people probably didn't even realised what they were seeing! Outside a HUGE shopping center, in the middle of a huge parking lot, I once spotted a very young child, old enough to walk by himself, but not many years old, who was apparently alone! He looked like a gypsy, and it's hard to say if more people would have reacted if he had looked differently? Several people passed him before I and another woman got there. I was considering calling the police, when his family eventually found him. You may argue that we were two strangers who, individually, did react. Yes, but there were a lot more who didn't. I'm affraid that people at large will genuinely not see and realise what they see, in many situations that are dangerous for the very young; we tend to assume that there are others who do have a look-out for the kid. Or that "someone else" will step in.

In this story, all the people who sees Robbie are very pre-occupied with other things, and they all see themselves "above" a dirty and ill-dressed child. He is clearly not one of "them", and they care little - if anything - of others. Why would they react? Samantha spots him at a playground, a fairly reasonable place for a small kid to be, after all. Shirley, whom we already know to have no empathy whatsoever, has just had a severe shock and is apparently considering murder! And, considering where she got her "weapon", this says even more about her! It is supposed to stay at a certain place in the delicatessen as a safe-guard for Andrew's life, for crying out loud! By removing it from the shop she is also jeopardizing his life!!! :o This isn't a woman I would trust to step-in to prevent a disaster, unless it referred to her own immediate family. Gavin has just been "dumped" by two women right after each other, and I doubt he would have reacted even if he'd been less pre-occupied. I do not think that people like them IRL would step-in in similar situations.

Also, in a city, there are much more people about, and a small child going astray is more likely to be spotted by more people. In a smaller place it seems reasonable that the toddler depends on the few people he does meat to react. There are fewer "others" that might step in.


   
I totally agree bemused that Pagford is a fantasy, however I see this fictional town more like a microcosm of society; and the people within the town, caricatures of the inhabitants of our society as a whole.
My thoughts too.

I have lived in villages/small towns now where it is not only a customed but even expected to great another when passing in the streets. Oh yes, I'd stick out like a spre thumb in Pagford, saying hello asking another how they are and meaning it. Listening and interacting, not to learn about the latest gossip,. bu to learn about the individuals perhaps how I can help in my small way. I do not believe in standing up on a rostrum and telling people what to do, but I rather live what I believe in. So I would be the new neighbour Pagfordians can gossip about, who asks the nextdoors if they need something from the grrengrocers or whether their son would like to earn a bob mowing the lawn.

Of course this wouldn't change a Pagford overnight, but it can act as a wake up call to some to actually open their eyes and ears, to others to dare to socialise in the same way without worrying about funny looks … The society is built on the individuals. Add a different approach in the foundation, and it surprising how far the rippling effect goes. I guess in short, I am going for the "start with yourself" approach.
When I read this, my first thought is that there is a character in Pagford who is sort of moving along this line - Kay. She cares about "her" families, so much so that she manages to get through to Terri. And she doesn't stand the selfishness of the Pagfordians, but try to make a difference. Pagford will loose a caring person when she moves out!

Among all the people you feel like yelling at, the social worker Kay replaces for a time, is high on my list. She has clearly lost her enthusiasm for her job long ago, and ultimately it is her unnecessary talk that starts the snowballing effect that costs two children's lives!
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November 13, 2012, 03:57:51 AM
Reply #15

HealerOne

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Great discussion all! I am especially drawn to the discussion concerning 'most' people stopping when they see a small child unattended. I think I tend to agree more with Evreka. Even in small towns, people who are totally distracted by their own thoughts could easily overlook a wandering child - especially one who doesn't appear to be 'out-of-place'.  As far as the characters that were selfishly enthralled with their own problems - again that is seen all the time in this busy, busy world where people are rushing about and not paying any attention to what is going on around them.  A recent article in the Scientific American indicated  that "The number of distracted walkers injured seriously enough to be treated at hospital emergency rooms have more than quadrupled in the past seven years, according to the Associated Press." So if people aren't even aware of their own safety - how can we not  imagine that they would be aware of small child's safety?

As Everka told her story of a lone child in a parking lot, I recalled a situation with a confused adult walking along a road. I did pass by but thought the situation seemed odd so I went back and found her to be extremely confused and unable to tell me who she was or where her home was. Fortunately,  her son-in-law came along just as I was about to call the police. But who knows how many cars had passed her by before I saw her?  And as I said I did pass her by before good sense told me something was amiss in that scenario. If I had been in a hurry or  been distracted by something else - would I have gone back? I just don't think we should be so quick to say the situation with Robbie was not possible.

In the case of this being relevant to just a small English town - other than the geography of the village - really it could have been any place - Texas,  or Spain, or even an African Village! I think you could find this host of people in any place - granted perhaps not all at the same time! But with similar type problems. One just never knows what goes on behind the doors of your neighbors! 
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November 26, 2012, 07:26:31 PM
Reply #16

atschpe

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I have to agree, preoccupation is a major concern in overlooking suspicious things around us (people in need being amongst this), yet I have seen reactions where people knowing pass such a situation os as not to get involved *sigh*. Time is so valuable, why get caught up in calling the police and having ot wait around? It is "easier" to take the easy way out, and be or seem preoccupied.

And hence why such a village does seem plausible to me. The world seems to get fuller and fuller with preoccupied and self centered people. I just hope we can hold the balance as people caring for others, or the results will be far from casual …
"Of course it is all in your head, but why on Earth should that mean it isn't real?" ~Dumbledore (DH)
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January 16, 2013, 09:31:09 AM
Reply #17

varza

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I saw the looking at the child and dismissing him as a symbol of what can happen within a society. While yes, this was set in an English town (I reviewed it as taking away the rose colored glasses when looking at a quaint English village) but it could be anywhere. I see a lot of this in the US. A lot of the cries of the anti-fielders reminded me of a lot of the things being spoken about in the last election with social services and welfare.

This is def a morality story and very in your face. I think it could be a real place but maybe not a specific place. I think its a story of society in generally. How we let people fall through the cracks because we don't want to see the ugliness or helplessness that is out there.

So many families where abuse happens but is unseen by others around them - this was big with Fats and Arf. Fats knew that Simon was abusive but instead of saying anything, he ignores it and even enjoys being around Simon.

The social worker - Minnie? - who as soon as she comes back starts spreading the rumors about the clinic closing, not caring how it would affect Terri. Which in turn led her to start using again and I don't know... sold her son to Obbo? I am not sure what happened there but I really don't want to know. And sadly, this has happened before. Read about it in the news in the past and it sickened me. If they had let Kay keep the case - would things have turned out differently? She seemed to care about the family and wouldn't have blurted out about the possible closing and ignored the way Terri reacted. Kay changed how their lives were going by working with them - doing her job, whereas her predecessor just gave up on them (like most of society had).

I do wonder how much of JKs experience with abuse affected the story as well as her time on the dole? She probably saw similar things when she moved to the government housing in Edinburgh.

I think setting the story in a quaint British village - that seems so perfect on the outside but opening up the doors to a completely different world. How no matter how perfect we see a society... it never really is. This is a world that was closed off. It is mentioned how Pagford never let any more houses be built. The village had the same houses it always had. The families were old. Even at the end Shirley and Maureen wonder how a family from the Fields could dare have their funeral in Pagford. Why? They weren't from there - even though the Weedon family had lived there for generations. The Weedon family was unwelcome - even after the deaths of two children.

Quote
But, again, Jo isn't telling us that the fact that Shirley has this say a lot about Shirley. What we find out is that Shirley thinks it says something about her. It also tells us something about who Shirley is. And that she has the Royal Queen in high esteem is apparent. In other words, it says a lot more about Shirley than it says about those owning such books in general.
I have to agree. A lot of the things we see about Shirley show her character. She sees herself almost as a Queen in Pagford, doesn't she? She ignores how she acts and dreams of being better then others. At the end, when she day dreams about what she would say to the Walls if they talked to her about what Fats said he had done. Sadly, she seems to come from a similar background as Krystal yet refuses to see any connection because she was better then all of them. To me, she was the worst of the three who passed Robbie... she knew he was in trouble and didn't even think twice and really feels no remorse. Samantha thought he was going to the playground... but at least felt remorse of not doing anything and it spurs her to change. Gavin - we hear nothing about ever again.

The interesting thing is, it is not only the three passers by that get a readers blood boiling, but also the teens in the bushes. Krystal knows what it is to be ignored and left to her own devices, yet she opts for the ego-route. Fats might be the one with the most sense but still allows Krystal to overrule him. Even later when Robbie goes to remind them of his existence, Krystal doesn't wake up and pretty much seals the fate of everyone involved. It looks like this society has already made aperfect job of thinking egoistically …
I thought Robbie was at the wrong bush? Shirley states she saw him sitting by one bush crying while she saw Krystal and Fats having sex in another one not far off?
Hmm, I have to admit I didn't see it this way. I felt like Krystal was compelled to be in those bushes  as she felt there was only one way to save her brother and herself and that was to get pregnant by Fats - thereby securing her and Robbie's future by tying herself to someone who could provide her with a 'safe place' to be. In her mind it was the only solution to her family's dilemma, so she was pushed into this situation by the society that rejected any other solution for her. As I saw it, in Krystal's mind she had to have Robbie go along with this so she could save him.   In other words I don't think Krystal saw herself as having any other choice. In her head it was her only course of behavior and Robbie just had to go along with it.

Of course this was a juvenile and un-thought out decision by her. On the other hand the societies of Pagford and Yarvil had pretty much let her down on all sides. She was left without defenses to the madness of her mother and the cruelty of Obbo. So she felt she had to take matters into her own hands to protect both herself and Robbie and this was something that she could control (to an extent obviously). In her mind she was banking on Robbie obeying her and being satisfied by the Rollos. It's that type of 'wishful thinking' that is customary of her age. It is just a very sad thing that the powers of society in this place called Pagford/The Fields/Yarvil yanked out from under her all the safety net that she was clinging to beforehand. 
I agree with you. There was desperation in her actions with Robbie.
I am everywhere....
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January 16, 2013, 12:13:46 PM
Reply #18

atschpe

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I do wonder how much of JKs experience with abuse affected the story as well as her time on the dole? She probably saw similar things when she moved to the government housing in Edinburgh.

I did ponder that, too. Plus, she does not shy away to deal with such environments. For example she visited orphanages in Eastern Europe a few years ago, and not only worked to support them, but also allowed herself to see and react to what was going on. Rowling is not one to close her eyes, but one who chooses to see and act. And we see results of that here.

Quote from: atschpe
The interesting thing is, it is not only the three passers by that get a readers blood boiling, but also the teens in the bushes. Krystal knows what it is to be ignored and left to her own devices, yet she opts for the ego-route. Fats might be the one with the most sense but still allows Krystal to overrule him. Even later when Robbie goes to remind them of his existence, Krystal doesn't wake up and pretty much seals the fate of everyone involved. It looks like this society has already made aperfect job of thinking egoistically …
I thought Robbie was at the wrong bush? Shirley states she saw him sitting by one bush crying while she saw Krystal and Fats having sex in another one not far off?
I can't dive into the pages at the moment, but I remember Krystal sending him away, when he wanders over to complain about being thirsty, thanks to the sweets he's been eating.
"Of course it is all in your head, but why on Earth should that mean it isn't real?" ~Dumbledore (DH)
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January 16, 2013, 08:47:00 PM
Reply #19

Evreka

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Quote from: atschpe
The interesting thing is, it is not only the three passers by that get a readers blood boiling, but also the teens in the bushes. Krystal knows what it is to be ignored and left to her own devices, yet she opts for the ego-route. Fats might be the one with the most sense but still allows Krystal to overrule him. Even later when Robbie goes to remind them of his existence, Krystal doesn't wake up and pretty much seals the fate of everyone involved. It looks like this society has already made aperfect job of thinking egoistically …
I thought Robbie was at the wrong bush? Shirley states she saw him sitting by one bush crying while she saw Krystal and Fats having sex in another one not far off?
I can't dive into the pages at the moment, but I remember Krystal sending him away, when he wanders over to complain about being thirsty, thanks to the sweets he's been eating.
I think this is two different occasions.

When he first gets thirsty he finds them and Krystal tells him to go away, whether he has wandered around a lot before Shirley spots him and lost his way, or he sits crying by the wrong bush because he knows he isn't welcome by the right one, we really don't know. Also, depending on what happened to him when he was with Obbo, it might be particularly painful for him to have seen what Krystal was up to in the other bush... :(

I agree on your thoughts about Minnie, varza. It is her spreading of gossip that starts the tragedy's snow-balling effect.
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