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Old 10-17-2018, 08:34 PM   #31
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[...] On the other hand, maybe he's mostly asexual. I think his fascination with Isolda indicates his passivity and his desire to remain uninvolved; he'd rather watch an unattainable, imaginary woman than have a meaningful life (vita!) with a real woman.
I still think we're in a bad position to assess Dick's sexuality in this book, we never see what might have been normal for him.

But I do really like your emphasis of comparing Vita to Isolda. I'd been thinking "life" was some relevance to Vita's relationship to Dick, and didn't see it as very significant, but I think you're right, its relevance is in comparison to Isolda. This led me to look up Isolda, which is apparently the Welsh form of Isolde, which is either "fair lady" or (according to babynames.com) "she who is gazed upon". Ha! It's almost corny in its directness, the author having her little joke with the story.
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Old 10-17-2018, 09:02 PM   #32
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My own assumption was along the lines of worlds existing simultaneously and the drug altering perception (although not the reality). I know that's not what du Maurier said and I know it's got just as many holes, but it worked for me.
At the end of Chapter 14, Dick thinks to himself:


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There was no past, no present. We are all bound, one to the other, through time and eternity.... This would be the ultimate meaning of the experiment, surely, that by moving about in time death was destroyed....To me, it proved that the past was living still, that we were all participants, all witnesses.
For me, the reason that Magnus and Dick see the same people when they take the drug, is because they are in that place, where this story with its strong passions and violence was played out. The landscape itself was a player in the story, and of course its changes made it dangerous to walk through when “lost to the world”.

The Cornish landscape was very important to du Maurier, and something she cared about greatly. One of her non-fiction books is called Vanishing Cornwall.
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Old 10-17-2018, 09:07 PM   #33
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I still think we're in a bad position to assess Dick's sexuality in this book, we never see what might have been normal for him.

But I do really like your emphasis of comparing Vita to Isolda. I'd been thinking "life" was some relevance to Vita's relationship to Dick, and didn't see it as very significant, but I think you're right, its relevance is in comparison to Isolda. This led me to look up Isolda, which is apparently the Welsh form of Isolde, which is either "fair lady" or (according to babynames.com) "she who is gazed upon". Ha! It's almost corny in its directness, the author having her little joke with the story.
Oh my goodness, I looked up Isolda too, but I didn't read far enough--I saw only "beautiful" and "fair," which didn't seem especially meaningful, so I gave up on it. But now the contrast is blazingly obvious. Thanks for finding that!

So ... I just looked up Roger, which means "famous spear," and then there's Dick ...
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Old 10-17-2018, 11:27 PM   #34
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@gmw. Good catch. I think the author was indeed having a private joke with Isolda.

I did not take the view that Dick was homosexual or even asexual, though this is certainly arguable. I took his attraction to Isolda as a genuine yearning for a love totally beyond his reach. How could Vita, a creature of his dull everyday life possibly compete with her. My impression was that he was frustrated with this rather than revelling in it. I think he would have swapped his dull life for Roger's life in a heartbeat if he had the opportunity to do so. And probably live to regret it.
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Old 10-18-2018, 12:07 AM   #35
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[...] For me, the reason that Magnus and Dick see the same people when they take the drug, is because they are in that place, where this story with its strong passions and violence was played out. The landscape itself was a player in the story, and of course its changes made it dangerous to walk through when “lost to the world”.

The Cornish landscape was very important to du Maurier, and something she cared about greatly. One of her non-fiction books is called Vanishing Cornwall.
I agree that the landscape is an important part of the story. Yes it was dangerous, but it seems to me it must rank as one of the safest places in England to have your mind and body wander around 600 years apart. Where else in England could they have gotten away with it for even one journey?

Now, if du Maurier had set the story in Australia the journeys could have been epic!

Last edited by gmw; 10-18-2018 at 04:09 AM. Reason: typos
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Old 10-18-2018, 06:21 AM   #36
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True enough about Cornwall, and no doubt even more so nearly 50 years ago, when the book was written.

Australia would be a very different story, though of course there would still be plenty of places in which to get into trouble.

Nice find on the meaning of Isolda’s name by the way.
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Old 10-18-2018, 10:48 AM   #37
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Did Magnus knowingly encourage Dick to take the potion, knowing it was a paralytic? Perhaps as a means either of asserting final control in his battle for Dick or else out of love?

I found this comment in Dick's last trip to be suggestive.

Quote:
“They taught me their secrets too,” said Roger. “How to make men dream and conjure visions, rather than pray. How to seek a paradise on earth that would last for a few hours only. How to make men die. It was only after young Bodrugan perished in de Meral’s care that I sickened of the game, taking no further part in it. But I had learned the secret well, and so made use of it, when the time came. I gave her something to ease pain and let her slip away. It was murder, Robbie, and a mortal sin. And no one knows of it but you.”
Was Dick's unconscious revealing to him what Magnus actually did? Was this the link to Roger?
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Old 10-18-2018, 11:39 AM   #38
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I did not take the view that Dick was homosexual or even asexual, though this is certainly arguable. I took his attraction to Isolda as a genuine yearning for a love totally beyond his reach. How could Vita, a creature of his dull everyday life possibly compete with her. My impression was that he was frustrated with this rather than revelling in it. I think he would have swapped his dull life for Roger's life in a heartbeat if he had the opportunity to do so. And probably live to regret it.
I think his attraction to Isolda was analogous to an adolescent mooning over a character in a movie. There was nothing genuine about it; there was no possibility of it ever being real. It was just escapism and voyeurism--completely passive. Nothing Dick did could affect what was happening, so he had no responsibility and no choices to make. His trips were a refuge from his real life, where he DID need to make decisions and face consequences.
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Old 10-18-2018, 12:18 PM   #39
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Did Magnus knowingly encourage Dick to take the potion, knowing it was a paralytic? Perhaps as a means either of asserting final control in his battle for Dick or else out of love?

I found this comment in Dick's last trip to be suggestive.
[...]
Was Dick's unconscious revealing to him what Magnus actually did? Was this the link to Roger?
I didn't get the impression that Magnus was anything more than careless with the drug. I think the lack of Magnus's physical presence in the early stages speaks for a lack of sinister or possessive intentions. It never seemed to me that Magnus felt threatened by Vita; there was no battle - for his part - it was as if she was of no consequence to him. On the other hand ... I guess we do have Dick thinking over moving to America, so perhaps there was intended to be some concern from Magnus. It wasn't apparent to me, but as you say, that quote from Roger is quite suggestive.

Maybe the suggestion is only that Magnus's drug has come from a recipe that Roger left somewhere in the old part of the house. Perhaps we are supposed to note: "How to make men dream and conjure visions,[...]", without assuming poison and murder. Or maybe she wanted to keep us guessing.
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Old 10-18-2018, 06:13 PM   #40
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I think part of it for me is that I can't see the name "Magnus" without also thinking "Magus" with the n as a null character. It fits with Magnus as a continuum of a long priesthood in darker activities. Dick also specifically invokes the image of the alchemist.
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Old 10-18-2018, 08:15 PM   #41
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I think part of it for me is that I can't see the name "Magnus" without also thinking "Magus" with the n as a null character. It fits with Magnus as a continuum of a long priesthood in darker activities. Dick also specifically invokes the image of the alchemist.
And that image (which I found on the internet) disturbed Dick very much. On the other hand, Magnus was also taking the drug, so I doubt he was deliberately trying to paralyse either himself or Dick.

It’s an interesting thought that he might have found some sort of old recipe in the house. We have no idea how he came to concoct the drug, but I can well believe it was accidentally, and also that he sampled it just to see what effect it had. There are many stories of scientists trying things out themselves.
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Old 10-18-2018, 08:20 PM   #42
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I've written Magus a few times while posting here and had to correct myself. Given some of the other names, I wouldn't put it past du Maurier to intend this association.

I kept wondering why Roger seemed to have no obvious association. I mean "famous spear"? I see that Wikipedia says: From c. 1650 to c. 1870, Roger was slang for the word "penis", probably due to the origin of the name involving fame with a spear.[6][7][8] Subsequently, "to roger" became a slang verb form meaning "to have sex with", "to penetrate".

I always wondered where "to roger" came from. Anyway, this does mean that Roger now has two associations, one with the name Dick, and the other - perhaps - in his role with Isolda?
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Old 10-18-2018, 10:16 PM   #43
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I think his attraction to Isolda was analogous to an adolescent mooning over a character in a movie. There was nothing genuine about it; there was no possibility of it ever being real. It was just escapism and voyeurism--completely passive. Nothing Dick did could affect what was happening, so he had no responsibility and no choices to make. His trips were a refuge from his real life, where he DID need to make decisions and face consequences.
No one in their right mind would choose to live in that particular time. Yet it is endlessly fascinating to us. What you say about lack of responsibility and consequences is very true. And certainly the past did represent a form of temporary escape, and Dick clearly knew this. But in my view the escape was not so much from his responsibilities than from his mundane everyday life.
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Old 10-19-2018, 08:36 AM   #44
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How and why was the time jump forward achieved in Dick's last trip? Presumably something tweaked in potion C tied into different, more tragic elements in the ether. Certainly it put a far different cast on dabbling in the past; the Black Death doesn't have the same theme park aspect Dick's earlier visits had. The deficient little girl also seemed significant in the same way that art was symbolic as well as representational, but symbolic of what?

(It was admittedly touching to see how her father loved her and cared for her in the midst of such crushing tragedy.)
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Old 10-19-2018, 09:07 AM   #45
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You mean other than being a convenient way to close off the story?

It sort of argues for the whole thing to be a hallucination: Dick knew his trips were coming to an end so he hallucinated an ending. At first I thought that if it was made up then he'd have made up a happy ending for Isolda, but maybe he didn't want her to have a happy ending without him.

But if we accept the effect of the drug as real - which, within the story, I did - then it seemed possible that maybe whatever it was in formula A and B that tied us to Roger (and jumped us to a certain age rather than growing up with him), that maybe formula C did this with Robbie. (Thinking of a polyjuice-like potion with a dash of hair to tie us to a particular person - but something not so flippant as that sounds.)

Bookpossum's first post on this thread includes a quote suggesting that du Maurier liked irresolution, and perhaps that's what we're seeing here: a twist calculated to open such questions in the reader's mind.
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