Mar 242011

When Polly Andrews, one of the young women portrayed in The Group, is faced with a sudden and astonishing marriage proposal, she first thinks of all the reason to refuse, all the reason why this would not work. And one of her first thought is for the apparent lack of common book culture with her groom-to-be:

«What bothered her most was the thought that she and Jim had so little in common – a phrase she kept repeating anxiously to herself. Outside the hospital, they had not a single common acquaintance. And as for those old friends, the characters in books – King Arthur and Sir Lancelot and Mr Micawber and Mr Collins and Vronsky and Darling Prince Andrei, who were like members of the family – why, Jim seemed hardly to recall them. When she mentioned Dr. Lydgate tonight, he confessed he had never read Middlemarch – only Silas Marner in school, which he hated. He could not read novels, he said and he had no preference between Hector and Achilles.»

In the end, she accepts to marry Jim, and unfortunately Mary Mc Carthy ends the novel before the reader knows if Polly’s concerns were justified or not. Meanwhile, it is the first time I remember encountering the question: would my literary culture go with yours? Something to ponder, definitely…


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