Wednesday, April 04, 2007

From Schoolboys to Gentlemen Part II

Christopher is often referred to throughout the text by Sylvia as the perfect English country gentleman. How true is he to this label?

“The country gentlemen were the magistrates, the solons, and the clergy; and that they were not also to any great extent the statesmen of the first rank only enhances the mystery of their persistence.” (Kirby, 15)

“They and their immediate families, comprising both nobility and gentry, were the aristocracy, distinguished from the other agricultural classes and from the urban bourgeoisie and proletariat, and for want of a better name have been called country gentlemen (14).” After his father’s death, Christopher inherits his father’s property, Groby. However, he rejects his wealth; because of the way it was acquired. As a result, he rejects his birthright, which others such as Levin and Mark view as strange. As we have learned from Ann’s post (
), his rejection of wealth is one of the reasons that the General is led to believe that he is a socialist.
In this case, his refusal of wealth does not conform to tradition. He defends his beach of tradition by the accusation that his father committed suicide under false pretences, “One’s friends ought to believe that one is a gentleman. Automatically. That is what makes one and them in harmony…. The point is, my father should not have believed him (Ford, 497)”.

“When peace and plenty eventually return to England the country life will begin again, but to a large extent there will be a new race of squires; no one can foretell how they will compare with the squires of the past. We have seen how that in the nineteenth century they had no longer the splendid quality of the eighteenth century, for the simple reason that they became merely sporting and bucolic, and neglected the refinements of taste and culture without which no one can be a real gentleman (Lytton, 199-200).”

Christopher embodies the country gentleman in manner and tradition, “Of course Christopher would cultivate an English accent so show that he was an English county gentleman. And he would speak correctly – to show that an English Tory can do anything in the world if he wants to (Ford, 408)”. Throughout the text, we are reminded by Christopher of what a gentleman should do what he should not do – for example he abhors making a scene in front of the lower classes/servants, sees the war as a duty of patriotism, and refuses to divorce Sylvia because it is not a gentlemanly thing to do. As a superior officer he suppresses emotion in front of his troops, “It is proper that one’s individual feelings should be sacrificed to the necessities of a collective entity (357).” Christopher provides an example of the “stiff upper lip” that often characterizes the British protagonist to the point of stereotype.


Chester, Kirby. London: James Clarke and Company, 1937
Lyton, Neville. The English Country Gentleman.
: Hurst & Blackett, 1925

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