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Thread: The Forsyte saga

  1. #1
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    Jun 2006

    The Forsyte saga

    I haven`t already read this book till the end nd I don`t know if the heroes will change much or not. I`d like to know your attitude to Soames and mabe express your opinion about the others characters. As for me, I feel some sympathy to him. Maybe just the fact that he was brought up in such a kind of family made him such an unpleasant kind of owner and his strange habit to explain every human feeling by self profit?

  2. #2
    Bibliomaniac Guinivere's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    In Gabriel Oak's arms.
    I found myself strangely in sympathy with Soames. His relationship not only to his family, but also his wife is indeed complicated. Baited by his cousins and not taken seriously he has to put up with a lot. Of course he is by far not an easy character and cold-hesrted most of the time. But his passion for his wife and the want for a family is strong. I think Irene's behaviour towards him is icy and unforgiving. She married him under false pretenses. Certainly not unheard on during that time, but she knew that her dislike for him wouldn't change, yet still she married him. What really got to me is that she desroyed June's life by starting the affair with Bossiney. She clearly didn't stop to think of her friend. And June was the only member of the Forsyte family who took an interst in her and wanted to be her friend. She certainly din't repay her in kind.
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  3. #3

    A personal experience

    I first read the Forsyte Saga about 40 years ago when I was about 15 - the original BBC production had stimulated my interest.

    Like you, I felt very sorry for Soames. He struck me as a man of dep feeling who has sublimated his emotions, and who, when he falls in love with Irene, is swept away by his own passion - and it's passion in the truest sense of the word, because he suffers tremendously.

    Soames pursued Irene ceaselessly - in today's terms he would be accounted a stalker - and she repeatedly turned down his proposals.

    When she did finally accept him, she was beyond herself with misery and fear - her step-mother didn't want her around, as Irene's beauty totally overshadowed her own. The man her stepmother was hoping to marry was just using the older woman as a way to get to Irene and force his unwanted attentions upon her - the day she accepted Soames was the day her step-mother's lover attempted to assault her. Irene had no money, no family and no means of supporting herself. In Victorian society of the time she would at best have got a post as a governess, leaving her prey to the sexual depredations of every adult male in her employers' household. At worst, she would end up on the streets, forced into prostitution.

    Irene accepted Soames' proposal under the proviso that if the marriage didn't work, then he would give her a divorce. Soames agreed to this, never intending to abide by it, and to be fair, never expecting her to request it.

    Irene truly intended to be as good a wife as she could to Soames, but the revelation of what was expected of her on her wedding night by a man that she found repugnant, meant that she was unable to take ay pleasure in the physical side of their marriage. Galsworthy explains later on in the story (when Young Jolyon is telling Jon why Irene hates Soames) that at that time most well-brought up young women had no idea of the facts of life,never having so much as kissed a man before marrying him.

    Soames loved Irene all his life. He COULDN'T let her go -she was everything to him. His pride would not allow him to admit that she didn't want him; and not just his pride, but his pain. It was as though by ignoring her suffering in the relationship, it wasn't happening. Young Jolyon feels for Soames, but although he recognises Soames' sffering, he finds it mpossible to feel sorry for him, because Soames is so self-contained that he cannot admit his pain and rejects all attempts at closeness.

    Irene should not be harshly judged. She truly did attempt to be faithful to Soames, and she truly tried to avoid Bossinney when she realised that her feelings for him were a betrayal of June. The relationship between june and Bossinney had always been one of great passion on June's part, and acquiescence on Bossinney's, though he did not deliberately try to hurt her. Irene was a woman who had, after a marriage which was a desert, reached an oasis of passion herself - and like Soames was with her, she and Bossinney were with each other - swept away, with no hope of escaping their mutual feelings. If the relationship between Bossinney and June had been a strong one, Irene couldn't have split them up if she had tried, and she tried very hard not to.

    All of these people were subject to emotions that were stronger than they could cope with: Soames was infatuated with Irene; June was infatuated with Bossinney; Irene and Bossinney were infatuated with one another. In the circumatances, it had to end in tragedy.

    John Galsworthy himself was ostracised by society when he eloped with his brother's wife (on whom Irene is based, I believe), so part of the story is to a degree biographical.

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