People forget it alot, but a story of the past and research on that past are both called history. So calling history in general a foreign country is actually stripping the word of its second meaning. One of the most moving accounts of Alfred is often overlooked today, epic poetry not being all that popular, and G K Chesterton too long dead to be much remembered but too young to be resurrected, but "The Ballad of the White Horse" is wonderful.
At the one hand Hartley admits that past people's behaviour WAS different, but by "pulling" this realisation up into the present, he suggests that past behaviour still has relevance now Because it invites us to question our own present deep motivations? The quote is used at the beginning of one of cognitive moral psychologist Steven Pinker's recent books, I believe it is the monumental book, Enlightenment Now.
I am surprised that some of your commentators take the comment literally. I immediately took it as clever irony.
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That is, we often think of ourselves as so smart, modern, trendy and therefore superior to other people. In fact, humans don't evolve that fast. We are often doing the same things as ancient people. Confucius and Buddha, for example, were trying to develop a higher system and sense of morality because they were surrounded by polarizing politics in which people were insulting and belittling each other, and calling the members of their group to arms to "fight the prejudices" and immoral behavior of the opposing group.
The groups were fighting for the moral high ground and "social justice" Sound familiar. I taught Psychology at various Universities for a couple of decades, and I would often open a Social Psychology course with a similarly minded quote that was not ironic. I don't remember to the exact wording now, but it went something like this. The quote was from about AD. What history, anthropology and psychology show is that when strip away the anachronistic language and details of custom, the past is not so foreign and they acted much like we do.
Post a Comment. Out of curiosity, I looked it up on Google, and found that many others have made the same mistake. But I think perhaps the point I want to make is almost the opposite one: that we actually know more than we think we do about the way things were in the past. Did they do things differently in that other country which is the past?
In many ways the answer is outstandingly obvious: of course they did things differently there. But in terms of how people thought, what they cared about, how they related to each other, what they were afraid of, how they felt about life — in those terms, were they so very different from us?
When I go into schools and talk about it, this is the story I tell them about how I came to write it. Still inexplicably unpublished, still available… Obviously, the first thing I did was to turn to Google. I thought that Athelney would be to Alfred as Tintagel is to Arthur. But there were no itsy witsy shops with punning names, no explanatory pamphlets. We know what happened — we know that he emerged to defeat the Danes, and then made a peace which lasted long enough for him to create a country which was stronger and safer for his people.
But he did. A number of things intrigued me about this. But the other thing was — what was he like? What motivated him? Apart, obviously, from the understandable wish to stay alive. He was the youngest of five children, four of them boys.
He was clever, sensitive and thoughtful. Would he ever have expected that he would become king? It seems unlikely, given his place in the family.
Was he prepared for it? What went through his mind during those weeks when he was holed up in the marshes? How did he manage to persuade other people — and himself — that he could defeat Guthrum, despite all appearances? Where were his family, his wife and children, while all this was going on? In the book's prologue , Leo Colston chances upon a diary from , the year of his thirteenth birthday, and gradually pieces together a memory that he has suppressed.
Under its influence, and from the viewpoint of what he has become by the midpoint of "this hideous century", Leo relives the events of what had once seemed to him its hopeful beginning. The importance of his boarding school 's social rules is another theme running through the book and complicates Leo's interaction with the adult world.
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As a result, he is invited as a guest to spend the summer at Brandham Hall, the country home of his school friend, Marcus Maudsley. There the socially clumsy Leo, with his regional accent, is a middle class boy among the wealthy upper class. Though he does not fit in, his hosts do their best to make him feel welcome, treating him with kindness and indulgence, especially their daughter Marian.
When Marcus falls ill, Leo is left largely to his own devices and becomes a secret "postman" for Marian and nearby tenant farmer Ted Burgess, with whom she is having a clandestine relationship.
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Leo is happy to help Marian because he has a crush on her and likes Ted. Besides, Leo is initially ignorant of the significance or content of the messages that he is asked to carry between them and the well-meaning, innocent boy is easily manipulated by the lovers. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Marian is about to become engaged to Hugh, Viscount Trimingham, the descendant of the area's nobility who formerly lived in Brandham Hall.
As he begins to comprehend that the relationship between Marian and Ted is not to do with "business", as they have claimed, Leo naively believes that Marian's engagement ought to bring the correspondence between her and Ted to an end. Feeling increasingly uncomfortable about the general atmosphere of deception and risk, Leo tries to end his role as go-between but comes under great psychological pressure and is forced to continue.
Rereading: The Go-Between by LP Hartley
Ultimately, his unwilling involvement has disastrous consequences when Marian's mother makes him accompany her as she tracks the lovers down to their hiding place and discovers them having sex. The trauma which results leads directly to Ted's suicide and Leo's nervous collapse. In the epilogue , the older Leo sums up how profoundly the experience has affected him. Forbidding himself even to think about the scandal, he had shut down his emotions and imaginative nature, leaving room only for facts. As a result, he has never been able to establish intimate relationships.
Now, looking back on the events through the eyes of a mature adult, he feels it is important to return to Brandham some fifty years later in order to tie up loose ends. There he meets Marian's grandson and finds Marian herself living in her former nanny's cottage. He also learns that Lord Trimingham had married Marian and acknowledged Ted's son by her as his own. He had died in , while Marcus and his elder brother were killed in the First World War and Marian's son in the second. In the end, the elderly Marian persuades Leo, the only other survivor from her past, to act once more as go-between and assure her estranged grandson that there was nothing to be ashamed of in her affair with Ted Burgess.
Knopf in the summer of , and the book was slow to sell at first. However, it was greeted with favourable reviews. The New York Times called it "a triumph of literary architecture",  while two articles were devoted to it in the Los Angeles Times. There have been regular editions from Penguin Books and other sources since The novel has also been set as an exam text with a study guide dedicated to it  and there have been interdisciplinary studies on psychological  and philosophical themes there.