PossessionA RomanceBy A.S Byatt
Characters in PossessionRoland Mitchell - Researcher in the life of Randolph Henry AshMaud Bailey - Researcher in the life of Christobel LaMotteRandolph Henry Ash - Victorian PoetEllen- Ash Randolph’s wifeChristobel LaMotte- Victorian feminist poetBlanche Glover – LaMotte’s female companion ( possibly lover)Mortimer Cropper- American doctor of literature chasing Maud and RolandBlackadder- Roland’s BossVal – Roland’s long time girlfriendFergus Woolf- Maud’s one time loverBeatrice Nest- Researcher of Ellen Ash (Quite a repressed character)
An outline of the Plot•Possession won the booker price in 1990.•It is based around a journey to uncover a literary mystery•Roland Mitchell knows everything about the poet Randolph Henry Ash but discoversthat he once had a lover who he suspects was a famous Victorian feminist namedChristobel LaMotte.•His search to discover the truth leads him to Maud Bailey, a rich and experiencedfeminist who makes a living from researching the poet Christobel LaMotte•Together they follow the footsteps of the two poets and embark on their own path oflove.•At times in the book it is as if Maud and Roland are living their love story through Ashand LaMotte.•As well as finding out a great deal about the two poets they also discover each other andtheir true selves.
Themes Within the Novel Include:•Feminism•Love/ Romance•Poetry•Mythology•Struggle for Identity•Detective mystery/ letters etc.
FeminismChristabel is supposed to be the epitome of Feminism in the Victorian Era. She is alsothought to have had a homosexual relationship with her companion Blanch Glover.This is a theme that runs throughout the Novel. For example there is also homosexualinuendo between Maud and her friend Leanora Stern who are also both femenists.Stern’s Lesbian tendencies seem to stem from her bad relationships with men.However Christabel was seen to be homosexual before her newly discoveredrelationship with Ash.A lot of the statements within the book seem to signify that Feminism relates aroundHomosexuality and that Christabel was seen to be in a lesbian relationship withBlanche as she had no mention of a man in her life. A point that is proved to be falsethroughout the novel.Maud refuses to believe that Christabel would have an affair with Ash, refuses to believethat she would let a man use her in any way.
Ellen Ash is very similar to Ernestina in ‘The French Lieutenants Women’.She tries her best to please her husband in all aspects of life and seems quitefrail. For example she is always having to lie down and rest over simple littlethings that seem to cause her distress.She completely disregards feminism, for example one part of the novelshows her to be in great pain because of her period yet she wants to get ridof the pain to please Ash on his return and not for her own well being.She is aware of her Husband’s infidelity yet never mentions it and clearlyforgives him.There is also an ambiguity within the Novel that seems to suggest thateither Ash and Ellen had no form of Sex Life ever or that he in many waysraped her on their honeymoon.“An attempt. A hand not pushed away. Tendons like steel, teeth in pain,clenched, clenched.The approach, the locked gateway, the panic, the whimpering flight”
Love/Romance and Self Discovery.The novel features heavily the idea of unhappiness in a persons life, especially at thebeginning.For example Roland is unhappy with his life, occupation and Val:“I don’t know why you should want me, I’m no good but you do”“Of course I do, Of Course!”Val seems insecure and Roland seems just to be going along with his situation as hefears there is nothing better.Maud also seems to be un- happy in life, her failed love affair with Fergus seems tohave left her persueing a life of celibacy. She keeps her hair wrapped up in a turban asif she is afraid of revealing any more of herself so that she won’t get hurt as she didwith Fergus.The Romance between Christabel and Ash has previously been undiscovered and itseems that Maud and Roland are persuing their Romance through the lives of the twopoets. They always seem to be living their lives through the perspective of the poets.
Christabel seems to really love both Ash and her illegitimate Child yet shegives them both up.She writes to Ash at the end confessing this love that has hurt her immenselyyet she admits that if she had to be hurt she was glad that it was Ash who itwas with and that the passion they had she will always remember“I would rather have lived alone, so, if you would have the truth. Butsince that might not be-and is granted to almost none-I thank god foryou- if there must be a Dragon-that he was you”Possession symbolises her possession of Love for Ash but not the man himself,he belongs to someone else.
Mystery•Many aspects of the two poets lives are discovered throughout the Novel.•We discover their actual relationship•The love child they had together•The fact that Ellen Ash was always aware of her husbands infidelity.•The suicide of Blanch Glover was down to her knowledge of the love affair•Maud being a descendant of both Christabel and Ash.•At the end of the Novel we learn that Christabel gave her child, a girl, to hersister. She writes a letter to Ash as he is dying to inform him of what became ofthe child. She died thinking she deprived him of his child when in fact the veryend of the Novel suggests that he did meet his child .(Relate back to Feminism)
ConclusionPossession is a complicated Novel to read, it skips between the modern dayperiod in which is set and the Victorian Era Of Christabel LaMotte andRandolph Ash. It also feature poems by the two poets and areas of mythologythat relate to the Novel I the form of evidence that helps uncover the secret loveaffair.It is a Novel that is about the pain and destruction that love can cause and thefear people often have about it. However it promotes the idea that takingchances in love can result in people getting hurt but leaves them with memoriesthat last a lifetime.