Pointed Roofs

Which of the novel's traits would have seemed unusual or worth notice to readers in 1915?
--the absence of authorial guidance during sections of the novel
--need for the reader to piece together the heroine's past
--Miriam's changes of mood, inaccuracies of judgment
--author's alternately sympathetic and ironic attitude toward her heroine
--Miriam's shifting identifications with men and women
--Miriam's claims alternately to dislike women and men, and at times, everyone
--the unembarrassed and natural expression of romantic attachments both to women and men
--a female bildungsroman without a marriage plot or even romantic closure

Why do you think the novel is titled Pointed Roofs?

What do we learn about Miriam's upbringing? What have been its advantages and for what do they not prepare her?

What kind of life has her father led, and what effect has this had on her mother's life? On his daughters?

What finally precipitates his bankruptcy? Her mother's suicide?

How does Miriam assess her ties to her father and mother respectively? (at first identifies with her father, later turns to her mother)

What difference do we see between Miriam and her sisters? Are the sisters close to one another? How do they view her? (intelligent and resolute)

How does each of the daughters deal with the family's economic crisis?

What private doubts does Miriam express when alone? (doubts her own abilities, unsure of affection of others)

Can you see parallels between this novel and Gissing's The Odd Women?

What use is made in the novel of sounds and music? Is it important that Miriam feels most at home when playing the piano?

How does she respond to the men who express interest in her? (deserts Ted for his friend without compunction) With whom does she feel a kinship while in Germany? (older pastor)

What views does she express on religion and religious orthodoxy? What does she object to in the custom of listening to sermons?

Is she a good teacher? For what does she reproach herself? What motivates her dismissal by the headmistress, and what is her response? Is she accurate in assessing what is wanted of her?

Are there echoes of Villette in Miriam's experiences? If so, what is significant about the contrasting endings of Villette and Pilgrimage?

With what emotions does she return to England? Is this a fitting closure for the volume?

Is Richardson's style enjoyable to read?

Dawn's Left Hand

Who is the "Violet" mentioned in the dedication?

What is the significance of the title, Dawn’s Left Hand? ( a phrase from translation of the Rubaiyat) How may it relate to the general title of Richardson’s sequence, Pilgrimage?

What does this novel seem to be about? What do we know about its protagonist?

What are some of Miriam’s qualities and aspirations?
            --Intense consciousness of others; self-consciousness
            --Feels sense of unity in reality, experiences constant mystical perceptions
            --Condescending in her descriptions, vain
            --Very conscious of her own voice
            --Anti-scientific, opposed to systems (180)
            --Responds intensely to the mundane
            --projects dramatic emotions into single encounters
            --feels intense awareness of the presence and being of others, often to the point of being threatened by them

What occurs in the plot? What seems absent? (little interaction; plot of everyday travel, visits) As the novel begins, what emotions does Miriam experience on her return to London and her boarding house? To Dr. Deasley and his office?

How does she respond to the latter's suggestion of marriage? Had she previously encouraged his interest? (had sent enthusiastic letter from Switzerland)

What are her reactions to a night at the opera with Alma and Hypo? (sense of glow)

How are the names of the novel's protagonists chosen? (e. g., Alma, Hypo, Amabel, Miriam)

What prompts Miriam's move to a new London location? (desire for solitude)

Under what circumstances does she become attracted to Amabel? Does it seem coincidental that this occurs at the height of her highly ambivalent relationship with Hypo?

What are some of Amabel's qualities? (adores Miriam, looks up to her, shares her political interests) Are there homoerotic elements to their relationship?

How does Miriam respond to the handwriting of persons to whom she is attracted? (has felt electric shock at sight of Hypo's handwriting, responds with great emotion to that of Amabel)

What may be indicated that among her many other memories Miriam seldom recurs to thoughts of her mother or the latter's suicide?

How do you interpret her pattern of mild romantic emotions towards a range of potential partners, followed by the desire to sever their connection? May the absence of stable relationships and the denial of sensual expression have encouraged a more generalized projection of affect?

What intentions or purpose lies behind the novel's prose style? What is distinctive about the length of sentences--and with what effect? Why, for example, are verbs often placed at the end of sentences?

Do you find Richardson's style poetic? Confusing?

What things does the narrator refrain from telling us, and for what reason?

What experience does Miriam seem to have had at Oberland, and what effect does this have on her present life? What is Oberland? (apparently a Quaker retreat)
--experience of unity of being (167, 177)
--her past transformed (168, 172)
--her being changes—expands and contracts (151-52, 173)
--emotions given physical movement (145)
--senses a human being in light (214)
--we feel beyond ourselves (228)
--sense of communion with something always there (229) 

What do you make of these sensations? Can you think of analogues in other literary or religious texts?

What are some ways in which Richardson conveys her sense of mystical truth? (through repetition) Can you think of earlier writers who use similar techniques to convey the transcendent?    

Of what kind of generalizations about men is Miriam fond? (150, 166-67, 171, 177, 184, 215, 223, 230, 234)

What views does she hold on science? (opposes scientific narrowness, defends mysticism, 181-82)

What claims does she make regarding marriage? (184, 202) About the social relations of men and women? (158, 162, 234)

What are her opinions on "emancipated" women and feminism? Do these belie her own behavior?

Who are the Lycurgans, and what is her reaction to them? How does she define herself politically?

What role does Hypo play in her life? Alma? (Hypo=Herbert George, Alma=Amy Robins)

What do you make of Miriam’s “affair” with Hypo? What portion of the experience is conveyed? Is it significant that none of the trio seem concerned with the issue of adultery?

What views of herself, and of women in general, does she attribute to him? (condescending towards her and women in general, 222, 223, 240) What has characterized his prior relationships with women? (223)

What does she state to be her own goal in this relationship? (222) Does she believe direct communication is possible between men and women? (223)

What does she see as the difference between herself and Hypo? (226, 228-31, 235, 240; she experiences religious perceptions, 224, 228, a sense of the unity of time, 230; his thought is patterned [that is, limited], 225)

What do you make of her claim that the female feels a need for homage? (230-31)

In her brief sexual encounter with Hypo, how does she react to the sight of his naked body? (prefers it clothed) To her own physical self? (sees self through his eyes, as beautiful)

What is her actual response to the sexual act? (231, 232; wishes to realize, not act, 238; in general, overt sexuality repressed throughout the novel)

Does this experience prompt shame or regret? (no) How does she interpret what she sees as her and Hypo's different responses? (men experience sex and love differently than do women)

What may motivate these generalizations? (defensiveness, desire to assert her own gender identity which has at times in the past seemed in flux)

To what extent does she generalize from Hypo to all men? (unfair!)

What seems Miriam’s most intense emotion toward another human being during the period of Dawn’s Left Hand? (her communion with Amabel, 242)

Does Miriam make any statements about novel writing? (239) Does her fictional style seem appropriate for conveying her view of life? For conveying her experience accurately? (experiences the difficulties of finding words to convey a non-analytical experience)

Are there ways in which Miriam's consciousness reflects the elan vital? (significance of semi-voluntary memories which form essential part of creative act)

If throughout Pilgrimage Miriam seeks independence not connection, why does she seek out so many social relationships? (independence seems further by shared or conflictual relationships)

At what point does the sequence Pilgrimage end? (as Miriam begins to write Pilgrimage, a 25 year gap) Has the sequence justified its title? (despite arbitrariness of some of her conclusions, follows her own perceptions systematically, refuses to follow alien lights, does increase in consciousness by refraining from trying to be like other people)

What shifts have occurred between Pointed Roofs and Dawn's Left Hand? (consciousness has deepened if not progressed since Pointed Roofs, heroine is more self-assured, consistent, has found her own form of religion)

On balance, do you think Dawn's Left Hand, and Pilgrimage in general, was a successful experiment? What views of literature, and of life, underlie its representations?