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Old 11-27-2018, 08:10 PM   #91
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[...] What you call love I'd call a combination of lust, wishful thinking and stupidity. She really did know better. [...]
But it can be worth remembering how young Mary probably was at the time. Older than Grace it seemed (did we ever get an age for Mary?), but Grace was still very young then so I'm guessing Mary might have been 16, maybe. There's a reason YA romance is its own genre: teenagers get soppy and extreme. So I imagine it probably was "lust, wishful thinking and stupidity", and we had it in Mary's own words that she knew better, but knowing and acting are different things, especially for teenagers.
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Old 11-27-2018, 08:27 PM   #92
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[...] I think I read the book as a story and didn’t bother so much about the boundaries between fact and fiction. I was prepared to accept that the story about Mary was true, that she existed in Grace’s world I mean, as opposed to being part of Atwood’s fiction. Her fate was sadly such a common one back then, that it was all too possible. [...]
I, too, was content to accept Mary as a real person in Grace's life (but not necessarily, later, as a real personality in Grace's mind), for pretty much the same reason ... although I wonder how much our impression of this being a common fate is the result of the fiction we read?

(By its very nature, fiction tells the more interesting, often tragic, tale, and not the one where people live happily according to the standards of their times. And even non-fiction tends to emphasise how bad things could be, not necessarily how bad they always were. Actual stats might be interesting, just to see how prevalent such tragedy really was.)

There is also the possibility that what we might call "Mary's tale" had become a parable of the times, a lesson to all incoming servant girls about what might happen to them if they do not behave. It might be difficult to distinguish between the real occurrences and the stories passed around as "I knew", "my friend knew" and so on.

I can't find stats going back to the 1840s, but U.S. stats for the 1880s show Mary was by far the most common name. Perhaps in choosing this name Atwood is highlighting the nature of the tale.
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Old 11-28-2018, 09:01 AM   #93
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But it can be worth remembering how young Mary probably was at the time. Older than Grace it seemed (did we ever get an age for Mary?), but Grace was still very young then so I'm guessing Mary might have been 16, maybe. There's a reason YA romance is its own genre: teenagers get soppy and extreme. So I imagine it probably was "lust, wishful thinking and stupidity", and we had it in Mary's own words that she knew better, but knowing and acting are different things, especially for teenagers.
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I, too, was content to accept Mary as a real person in Grace's life (but not necessarily, later, as a real personality in Grace's mind), for pretty much the same reason ... although I wonder how much our impression of this being a common fate is the result of the fiction we read?
Granted, although even given hormones working class children had to grow up a lot earlier than they do now.

It's impossible to know. In fiction, I think there's a zigzag between portraying that illegitimacy happened rarely because of morality and the more recent trope where girls/women are having sex without a thought to the possible consequences, both of which seem unlikely.

I'm projecting here, but my own take is that morality while it mattered was less important than the practical consideration of the catastrophic nature of an unintended pregnancy, which worked to keep girls "good" into the 1960s. Somewhat earlier, another limiting factor had to be opportunity. With little leisure and no privacy, the deed must have been harder to achieve. Aside from general meanness, a reason for servant girls to share a room probably was to limit the opportunities for a young master to find recreation there. But if said young master forced himself on a girl, what could she do? She had no options at all other than finding another situation, which might not be easy to achieve and might be no different.
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Old 11-28-2018, 12:04 PM   #94
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Granted, although even given hormones working class children had to grow up a lot earlier than they do now.

It's impossible to know. In fiction, I think there's a zigzag between portraying that illegitimacy happened rarely because of morality and the more recent trope where girls/women are having sex without a thought to the possible consequences, both of which seem unlikely.

I'm projecting here, but my own take is that morality while it mattered was less important than the practical consideration of the catastrophic nature of an unintended pregnancy, which worked to keep girls "good" into the 1960s. Somewhat earlier, another limiting factor had to be opportunity. With little leisure and no privacy, the deed must have been harder to achieve. Aside from general meanness, a reason for servant girls to share a room probably was to limit the opportunities for a young master to find recreation there. But if said young master forced himself on a girl, what could she do? She had no options at all other than finding another situation, which might not be easy to achieve and might be no different.
When I was reading Pepy's diary I noticed that while he had no qualms about messing around with attractive women of a lower class who needed his good will, it seemed that he normally refrained from activities that might have led to children.

This provides another alternative to being either being completely chaste or completely without a thought to possible consequences.
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Old 11-29-2018, 07:39 AM   #95
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When I was reading Pepy's diary I noticed that while he had no qualms about messing around with attractive women of a lower class who needed his good will, it seemed that he normally refrained from activities that might have led to children.

This provides another alternative to being either being completely chaste or completely without a thought to possible consequences.
Pepys was a man with a semi-conscience, but I'm sure the women were grateful enough at that. Which is the root of it; it was still down to the man.

Then there was the New England practice of bundling, where a courting couple spent the night together fully clothed, permitting experimentation but not penetration. The climate had a lot to do with the practice.
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Old 11-29-2018, 11:26 AM   #96
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Pepys was a man with a semi-conscience, but I'm sure the women were grateful enough at that. Which is the root of it; it was still down to the man.

Then there was the New England practice of bundling, where a courting couple spent the night together fully clothed, permitting experimentation but not penetration. The climate had a lot to do with the practice.
I'm fairly sure that Pepys refrained because he didn't want to deal with possible complications however unlikely they might be (and just maybe he remembered how upset he was when his Uncle offered to sire a child for Pepys and his wife and decided to avoid doing the same to another man ).
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