We are first introduced to Jacob through his mother, Betty Flanders. She describes him as a tiresome boy, and later in the story on page 72 the narrator tells us that “she was unreasonably irritated by Jacob’s clumsiness in the house”; whereas her feelings for her other two sons were more loving. I liken the style of writing in this story as to be stuck inside the head of someone with an extreme case of ADD. I don’t even think stream-of-consciousness is this disjointed. I don’t remember Mrs. Dalloway being as scattered. It reminds me of a mosaic with the pieces seeming to be separate, but when viewed from afar they make a whole picture.
So, let me jump into some of my thoughts after reading the first half of Jacob’s Room. One of the things that first confounded me was why didn’t Betty Flanders accept the marriage of proposal from Mr. Floyd. She doesn’t seem to be a woman of means because her husband was just an office worker and not the “Merchant of the City” as stated on his tombstone. I would think that in that era and her situation; widowed, not well-off, and three children; she would jump on the proposal. Having red hair is not a valid justification for not marrying someone. So I began to wonder if there wasn’t another reason, like another man.
I have a hypothesis that Jacob may be the son of the Captain. So, let’s investigate this Captain Barfoot a little more closely. First, he visits her on a regular basis, every Wednesday is it? She’s known him for twenty years; therefore, more than likely she knew him before she was even married. In the discussion on page 27, we can assume that it is Captain Barfoot who foots the bill for Jacob going to Cambridge University. The most telling statement that possibly supports my hypothesis is on page 72: “Captain Barfoot liked him best of the boys; but as for saying why . . .” The ellipses are part of the direct quote. So it is as if Virginia Woolf or the narrator is planting that seed of doubt that Jacob could actually be his progeny. Otherwise, why end the sentence with the ellipses? I believe that is why she doesn’t marry Mr. Floyd; it would end her relationship with Captain Barfoot.
As with the situation with Captain Barfoot and Mr. Floyd, very little is actually stated in the story. The reader must divine much of the meaning. Taking my hypothesis for an example, can we really even be definitive in our estimations?
What can be said definitively is that the story does carry the death theme throughout as Neverow states in the introduction. After her stating that, the death theme stands out like that proverbial sore thumb. I guess we could say “dead” thumb.
And here is my last observation for this blog, did anyone else notice the irony of Florinda’s name? Her name was supposedly given to her by a painter who wanted it known that virginity was intact. She’s a bastard, and it’s assumed she’s a prostitute. So who was this painter, and when did he give her this name? Is he her father? Did he paint her? Was it a Toulouse Lautrec kind of relationship with a model? (Lautrec had a relationship with a prostitute with whom he painted.) Or did her madam, Mother Stuart, give her that name as false advertising?
That’s all I’ve got until next week!