nineveh_uk (nineveh_uk) wrote,

Tha’s bin a courtin' Mary Jane

This is absolutely not what I was supposed to be doing tonight.

[personal profile] antisoppist said: Is there nothing you haven't already thought of? Except possibly Sara's suggestion which doesn't bear thinking about.

Said suggestion referenced this somewhat unfortunate illustration to Clouds of Witness, described by [personal profile] sara as "an evil giant vagina".

Honestly, people. Will you not have pity on my brain?

My first response was, "No, I've never thought of that." My second was, "But I bet some literary critic has." And the third was, inevitably, to make sure of it.

Tha's bin a courtin' Mary Jane

...If the destructive power of the feminine lies at the heart of Clouds of Witness, it surely reaches its apotheosis in the episode of the bog at Peter’s Pot. Hunting for the farm at Grider’s Hole (does not the very name recall the vagina dentata?), Wimsey stumbles through the fog and rough ground into the dreadful bog. He has, metaphorically speaking, encountered rough ground in this neighbourhood previously, and specifically feminine rough ground at that: 1) The vanity of human wishes; (2) Mutability; (3) First love; (4) The decay of idealism; (5) The aftermath of the Great War; (6) Birth-control; and (7) The fallacy of free-will. The death of masculinity indeed! The landscape itself is hideously physical, viscerally present, a “slobbering black bog” that makes a “noise like a wet kiss”.

How comes Wimsey to fall into the bog? He and Bunter, “like two cockney innocents” (one is inevitably reminded of the lily-white boys of another rushy place) wander about the moor, citified, helpless, lost. Wimsey, moved to masculine heroism – or feminine pity? – (one notes that the working class man is not thus moved, significant either way) by the hideous shriek of a horse, runs off and is captured with a “dreadful sucking noise”, enveloped, drawn in to the monstrous, squelching, slimy, heaving, all too symbolic ground.

It is, of course, all Wimsey’s fault. Having avoided the townish, malacca cane with the compass in the top in favour of the rural ashplant, pretension has ironically got the better of him. And yet the two men’s sticks are instrumental in their salvation, an implication that can hardly be missed (any prick will do in a pinch!). Bunter, “[driving] his stick well into” a “tussocky” bit of ground in a symbolic penetration is thus enabled to hunt for Wimsey. Finding him, he reassures him “you won’t peg out”, and indeed with Bunter so determinedly on top of the bog, Wimsey is certainly not the man doing the pegging. Fortunately, Bunter is able to locate Peter’s own stick, the hitherto inadequate ashplant. Reinvigorated by his possession of the other man’s stick, Bunter obtains “relief” and transforms its weakness into a supportive strength until the other men arrive and “[sweating] and [sobbing]” they pull Peter out of the bog, “something unrecognisable in slime lay flat, heaving helplessly”, a monstrous parody of birth.
Tags: fandom corrupts the mind, there are no words, wimseyfic
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