The Girls of Slender Means by Murial Spark is a novelabout the girls who lived in the May of Teck Club during theyear of 1945. There are many characters involved, but theone’s who caught my attention the most are Jane Wright andJoanna Childe. They represent different aspects of ideas,lifestyles and, also, have different perspectives on the“World of Books. ”Joanna Childe was the daughter of a country rector. Shewas very intelligent, had “.
. . strong obscure emotions” (8),and “. .
. religious strength” (165). She was very wellbuild. “Joanna Childe was large. . .
” (9), “. . . fair andhealthy-looking.
. . ” (22). She had light shiny hair, blueeyes and deep-pink cheeks. She never used a scrap ofmake-up because she didn’t really care about her looks andshe wasn’t looking for a husband either. Jane Wright, on the other hand, was very fat and feltmiserable about it.
She tried to blame her work for herappetite. “. . .
she was miserable about her fatness andspent much of her time in eager dread of the next meal, andin making resolutions what to eat of it and what to leave,and in making counter-resolutions in view of the fact that her work at the publisher’s was essentially mental,which meant that her brain had to be fed more than mostpeople’s” (35-36). Unlike Joanna, Jane “. . .
was on thelook-out for a husband,. . . ” (32) since she was only twentytwo years old. Joanna’s and Jane’s occupations evolved around theworld of books.
However, they had different perspectivesabout it. Jane worked for a publisher and Joanna attendeda school of drama to be a teacher of elocution. Janethought of the publishing business as “. . . essentiallydisinteresting” (39), while Joanna chose her professionbecause of her love for poetry.
“. . . poetry, especially thedeclamatory sort, excited her and possessed her; she wouldpounce on the stuff, play with it quivering in her mind, andwhen she had got it by heart, she spoke it forth withdevouring relish” (8).
Joanna was highly thought of for itand Jane “. . . was considered to be brainy but somewhat belowstandard, socially, at the May of Teck” (19). Both women were similar in that they did additionalwork besides the one’s mentioned above. Joanna had studentsof her own whom she taught how to speak properly, with noaccent.
“Joanna’s method was to read each stanza herselffirst and make her pupil repeat it. ” (21). Jane had severalkinds of “. . . brain-work” (41).
“First and secretly, shewrote poetry of a strictly non-rational order, in whichoccurred, in about proportion of cherries in a cherry-cake,certain words that she described as ‘of a smoulderingnature’, such as loins and lovers, the root, the rose, theseawrack and the shroud. Secondly and secretly, she wroteletters of a friendly tone but with a business intention,under the auspices of the pale foreigner. Thirdly and moreopenly, she sometimes did a little work in her room whichoverlapped from her day’s duties at the small publisher’soffice” (41-42). Besides the work she had to do in thepublisher’s office, she was doing some detective work on newauthors.
She was supposed to hang out with them, find theirweak spots and report them to her boss, who would use thisinformation to lower the price of the author’s book. From how Joanna was described in the novel, we can seethat she liked the past more than the present. She wantedto preserve the old traditions she grew up with. Theexample of that would be her love life.
When she fallen inlove with the first curate, he didn’t return her feeling andshe “. . . had decided that this was to be the only love of her life” (22). She didn’t return the feelings of the secondcurate, who loved her, because she had “.
. . the notion that anice girl should only fall in love once in her life” (23). Another example would be her ideas about the Prayer Book.
Nancy Riddle, one of Joanna’s students, mentioned that thePrayer Book was “. . . out of date” (99) to which Joannaanswered: “The Prayer Book is wonderful.