Thursday, April 20, 2006

My crush on Farebrother

(Isabella's going to be so miffed if nobody posts! Where is everybody?!)

I haven't always had a soft spot for Farebrother. My first time through, I was 21 years old and much more taken with sexy Ladislaw and tormented Lydgate. The self-deprecating Farebrother came across as, well, an old fuddy-duddy. He steps out of the way of the happy young people, and he should. He's a geek and an antique.

Ah, times change. I'm now closer to Farebrother's age than Dorothea's. His renunciations look different from here, more poignant and complicated. I've been there and done that -- with significantly less grace.

Here's what I admire this time around:

  • Although he's in the wrong career, he doesn't get down about it. He does what he can to pursue his entomology on his own time. There's a lot to be admired in a passionate amateur.
  • Although he's in the wrong career, he doesn't shirk his duties. When Fred asks him to speak to Mary, he takes the charge as a clergyman and manages to be simultaneously compassionate and dispassionate. He doesn't undermine Fred's case, and goes so far as to speak up when he sees Fred slipping.
  • He doesn't try to conceal or rationalize his shortcomings. There is no pretense with Farebrother, and being honest with himself helps him deal with others compassionately.
Much of this book seems to be about disillusionment and failure. Farebrother has weathered both with grace and humility. Maybe I don't so much have a crush on him as want to be him when I grow up. Disappointments will come whether we will it or no; he offers us a model for dignity, philosophical equanimity, and good humor in the face of life's sucker punches.

(Interestingly, his approach also fails at one point. But that section is not yet under discussion here, so I'll save "Farebrother vs. Dodo: Deathmatch!" for another time.)

10 Comments:

Anonymous Danielle said...

So how old is Farebrother? Did it say and I missed it? I always have such a hard time gaging these things. I am nearing the end of Book V--I want to read those last paragraphs that were shockers! Only three books left! Now I want to see the BBC production of this...

9:35 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

I want to say he's 38. I think he's mentioned as being ten years older than Lydgate at one point, so you kind of have to do the math. And of course, the book takes place over about three years, so he's over forty in the end.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Diana said...

Pfft. Isabella doesn't scare me.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Ella said...

Farebrother's in his forties at least...argh, now I'm flipping through my copy and I can't find the reference.
I think his serenity and dignity make him seem much older. He's very Zen. Until the end. Which I'm not supposed to talk about, right?

Anyway, he's a favorite of mine, too.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Diana said...

Yeah, I just read that part this afternoon. Something about how Fred wished that he'd been fat and ugly, as so many men at 40 are...

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Julia said...

It just shows that some of us never grow up. I'm afraid I'm still in love with Ladislaw (or maybe it's Rufus Sewell)

12:53 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

Hey, we do not dispute the hotness of Rufus Sewell!

1:27 AM  
Blogger Raehan said...

Do I have a real crush on anybody in the novel? Let me think.

If I had to choose, I'd take Lydgate....

But instead of choosing I'll play matchmaker.

Lydgate with Dodo. (Except there is just no attraction there. Oh well.)

Farebrother with Mary. (Except that Mary loves Fred. Okay...I guess Mary and Fred should stay together.)

8:21 PM  
Blogger piksea said...

Now, that I'm pondering this, I think that Lydgate and Mary would have been great together. I am at a loss as to why Elliot didn't ever have them do more than peripherally cross paths. I get that Mary had her hands full already, but still.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Isabella said...

I'd say Farebrother, and maybe Caleb Garth, is about the only real "grown-up" in the book.

3:56 PM  

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