“The Pleasure Pilgrim” by Ella D’Arcy

06Mar05

Gah, what a disturbing story.

D’Arcy’s psychology and characterization of her characters is troublingly accurate. Lulie—what a ridiculously appropriate name, by the way—is portrayed in such a way that the reader continues to doubt her sincerity as Campbell does, but not so much so that the reader cannot imagine that Lulie has not turned a new leaf, if you will pardon the cliché. Or that she is simply young and naïve but not vindictive. Most likely this young woman is a nymphomaniac, so caught up in her fantasies that she destroys herself.

However, D’Arcy encourages the reader to question the conditions of Lulie’s suicide. Was it accidental or intentional? As tiring as Mayne’s monologues have become by that point, he presents a somewhat believable argument that perhaps Lulie did not realize that the chamber she was about to fire was loaded. As skilled as she seemed with guns, however, I’m inclined to think that she knew that the chamber was full.

As disturbing as Lulie can be in the story, I found Mr. Campbell’s behaviour even more unsettling. D’Arcy presents this man as very uptight, very sexually-repressed, and very English. He lectures Lulie that,

to all right-thinking people, a young girl’s kisses are something pure, something sacred, not to be offered indiscriminately to every fellow she meets. Ah, you don’t know what you have lost! You have seen a fruit that has been handled, that has lost its bloom? You have seen primroses, spring flowers gathered and thrown away in the dust? And who enjoys the one, or picks up the others? And this is what you remind me of – only you have deliberately, of your own perverse will, tarnished your beauty, and thrown away all the modesty, the reticence, the delicacy, which make a young girl so infinitely dear. You revolt me, you disgust me. I want nothing from you but to be let alone.

Campbell’s description of a woman’s purity—not just her virginity, but her “purity”—is highly idealized. The speech seems to suggest that he would consider a woman defiled if she neglected to lower her eyes from a man’s gaze. This idealization of women’s chastity and modesty leads him to torment Lulie to the point of suggesting that only her suicide would convince him of her love for him. She does kill herself and yet he still is not convinced of her affection.

And what if she wasn’t a nymphomaniac? What if she was truly in love with Campbell, in whatever form of love a woman of her age and disposition could manage? The story also has the undertone that a woman with a promiscuous past, or even a rumored promiscuous past, can never redeem herself, even in death.

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