Friday, April 22, 2011

Maupassant's and My Own Ramblings

Dome Centrale 1889 Paris exposition. Italian Modern according to Guy de Maupassant.

I am listening to a travelogue by Guy de Maupassant and it begins with a diatribe about the French Exposition of 1889. He's fed up, he says, by the sight of the Eiffel Tower, which you can see from anywhere, and which you can see everywhere, made out of every conceivable material in every shop window.

Ah, the modern age. John Berger explains about it in Ways of Seeing.

Maupassant goes on to complain that you can't get a taxi or a table in a restaurant, because of the crowd that smell of perspiration.

He sees the Exposition as a tribute to the industrial sciences,and a slap in the fact to art, and a sign of a new society, without castes, just the poor and the rich.

He sees the future in the present, like all good artists.

Right now, I am ready to get down to writing the Final Draft of Flo in the City. Thanks to another discovery on the litteratureaudio website, a poem by Victor Hugo about child labourers, I figured out the plot. And I've done all the research, too, although yesterday I dug around for examples of health hazards for workers in textile in the era.

My story begins with Flo in her crunch year at High School: she has to read this poem by Hugo and it is difficult. She brings it to the only French girl she knows, an apprentice in the millinery shop, who has trouble reading it herself. But as they decipher the theme of the poem, the girl becomes agitated: for she is French Canadian and many of her relations work in the Dominion Textile factory at Magog. Flo says, "Well, it's nice that we don't have such things anymore."

And then she tells Flora about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, just the week before, about the girls jumping out of windows to their deaths.

And Flora says, what has that got to do with me? Girls in New York. And from foreign parts too. And besides, we at home make our own shirtwaists.

Yes, but do you make the "coton" too, the French girl asks? And then she tells her about the factory at Magog. About the girls who work there. (She would have to work there were it not for the fact her aunt knows the owner of the this millinery shop.. and she can speak English.)

And so Flora is introduced to an aspect of social responsibility not usually reflected on by Presbyterians...who are more concerned with the vanity aspect of women's dress and not the social costs of this preoccupation.

Ps. Today, I was talking to my brother in law who brought up Flo and said she often spoke of the students at William Lunn. She remarked how the Jewish parents would be upset if their children only got 90's.

That's for the final part of Flo in the City, when she is working. She does mention in a 1914 letter that Parent's Day is a great success, with all the moms and dads coming out wanting to know about Johnny and Sally.