Page 278. " a rendition of 'Yankee-doodle-dandy' "

Yankee Doodle is yet another classic American song in the Colonel's repertoire.  It was created, however, by British soldiers in the 1770s, in mockery of the disorganised Yankee colonels with whom they served in the French and Indian War, 1754-1763.  The term 'Doodle' is thought to derive from German 'dudel', meaning simpleton; a Macaroni wig was the height of 17th century fashion, a hair periwig built up to extreme proportions.  The tune implies that Yankee soldiers were simple enough to believe that a simple feather would have the same effect as the true Macaroni.  However, it is now a popular patriotic song and the state anthem of Connecticut.

Page 280. " Orlando takes his Rosalind "
As You Like It; Orlando, Celia and Rosalind (1853)
Public DomainAs You Like It; Orlando, Celia and Rosalind (1853) - Credit: Walter Deverell

Referring once again to Shakespeare, this time Carter quotes As You Like It in which Rosalind, the heroine of the play who has fled to the forest in disguise as a boy, ends with marrying her lover Orlando.  The line 'To you I give myself, for I am yours,' is Rosalind's from Act 5, scene 4.

Lizzie criticises the line from a feminist angle, seeing how the dominant female of the play is subjugated to the male partner through marriage.  However, the line moves the action on from the gloomy focus on Shakespearian tragedy which has dominated the previous chapters, and hints at a happier ending to come.  Similarly, as Mignon and the Princess met the Maestro on page 272 she commented, 

'It's as though he's found his long-lost daughter,' said Lizzie.  'As at the end of one of Shakespeare's late comedies.  Only he's found two daughters.  A happy ending, squared.'

For Fevvers, however, the prospect of marriage does not necessarily represent a happy ending.  She is the undisputed heroine of the book, of the circus, of London and Paris, of the skies and potentially the globe.  She, unlikely Rosalind, is not prepared to become the possession of any man.

Emmeline Pankhurst addresses suffragettes, 1908
Public DomainEmmeline Pankhurst addresses suffragettes, 1908 - Credit: The New York Times

Early in the 20th century, feminism became increasingly prominent as Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) founded the Women's Social and Political Union in the UK in 1903.  With the loosening of Victorian morals, and increased employment for women, clothing became more practical, education improved and women had more freedom to lead their own lives.  The term 'suffragettes' was coined in 1906, and the right to vote became the leading battle of a wider feminist movement seeking equality in all aspects of society.  Whilst Fevvers' wings flaunt her uniqueness, this movement fought for every woman's individuality and right to an opinion.

On the cusp of the twentieth century, Fevvers is far ahead of her time in seeing Walser as an object of pleasure with out the necessity to make him a husband; a concept which was not fully embraced, for practical reasons as much as any other, until the invention of the contraceptive pill in the 1960s.  If marriage were to take place, she goes on to say, she will be the dominant partner; even today, women are likely to earn less and to achieve less in their careers than men, are less likely to achieve management roles, to enter politics, and are far more likely to stay at home with children whilst partners continue working.  It may be that many western women dominate in their own home or immediate sphere, but Fevvers' assumption that the New Man will become a 'fitting mate for the New Woman', is far from universal.

Page 280. " Orlando takes his Rosalind "
Scene from As You Like It: Orlando, Celia and Rosalind (1853)
Public DomainScene from As You Like It: Orlando, Celia and Rosalind (1853) - Credit: Walter Deverell

Referring once again to Shakespeare, this time Carter quotes As You Like It in which Rosalind, the heroine of the play who has fled to the forest in disguise as a boy, ends with marrying her lover Orlando.  The line 'To you I give myself, for I am yours,' is Rosalind's from Act 5, scene 4.

Lizzie criticises the line from a feminist angle, seeing how the dominant female of the play is subjugated to the male partner through marriage.  However, the line moves the action on from the gloomy focus on Shakespearian tragedy which has dominated the previous chapters, and hints at a happier ending to come.  Similarly, as Mignon and the Princess met the Maestro on page 272 she commented, 

'It's as though he's found his long-lost daughter,' said Lizzie.  'As at the end of one of Shakespeare's late comedies.  Only he's found two daughters.  A happy ending, squared.'

For Fevvers, however, the prospect of marriage does not necessarily represent a happy ending.  She is the undisputed heroine of the book, of the circus, of London and Paris, of the skies and potentially the globe.  She, unlikely Rosalind, is not prepared to become the possession of any man.

Emmeline Pankhurst addresses suffragettes, 1908
Public DomainEmmeline Pankhurst addresses suffragettes, 1908 - Credit: New York Times

Early in the 20th century, feminism became increasingly prominent as Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) founded the Women's Social and Political Union in the UK in 1903.  With the loosening of Victorian morals, and increased employment for women, clothing became more practical, education improved and women had more freedom to lead their own lives.  The term 'suffragettes' was coined in 1906, and the right to vote became the leading battle of a wider feminist movement seeking equality in all aspects of society.  Whilst Fevvers' wings flaunt her uniqueness, this movement fought for every woman's individuality and right to an opinion.

On the cusp of the tw entieth century, Fevvers is far ahead of her time in seeing Walser as an object of pleasure with out the necessity to make him a husband; a concept which was not fully embraced, for practical reasons as much as any other, until the invention of the contraceptive pill in the 1960s.  If marriage were to take place, she goes on to say, she will be the dominant partner; even today, women are likely to earn less and to achieve less in their careers than men, are less likely to achieve management roles, to enter politics, and are far more likely to stay at home with children whilst partners continue working.  It may be that many western women dominate in their own home or immediate sphere, but Fevvers' assumption that the New Man will become a 'fitting mate for the New Woman', is far from universal.

 

Page 285. " she will tear off her mind forg'd manacles "

Mind forg'd manacles is a quote from William Blake's (1757-1827) poem, London (1792).  The second stanza reads, 

In every cry of every Man,

In every Infant's cry of fear,

In every voice, in every ban,

The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.

The poem is a dark and bitter description of London's streets, as a place of misery and woe, of people ground down by poverty and oppression, in contrast to the rich owners of the Thames and of adjacent palaces.  The poem ends, appropriately to the current theme, with a young prostitute raging at her new born baby, and sending her own diseases back with her customers to their marital beds.  The final phrase, 'the marriage hearse', chimes perfectly with Lizzie and Fevvers' recent discussion of marriage as the end of woman's independence and sense of self, the end of her active life.

The same paragraph reads, 'the dolls' house doors will open'.  A Doll's House (1879) is a play by Norwegian Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), whose chief protagonist is Nora, a young wife.  She secretly borrowed money from a male family friend when her husband was ill, and is paying it back from her own income.  As a woman she is not permitted to receive a loan without a male counter signatory, and the friend threatens to blackmail both her and her husband for the crime.  Desperate not to shame her husband, Nora contemplates suicide, but he discovers the truth and blames her for ruining his life and career.  When the friend repents and returns the evidence of the crime, Nora's husband forgives her, but she sees that he has never valued her for herself nor given her chance to discover her own self and leaves, telling him 'I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was papa's doll-child'.  

With the opening of the dolls' house doors, Fevvers foresees women living freely to discover their own true selves in a new century.  Lizzie's response is less positive; her phrase, 'I see through a glass, darkly', is drawn from Corinthians 13:12.  The passage looks ahead to a perfect world to come, but warns that it has not yet come to be.

 
Page 292. " We told you no other lies nor in any way strayed from the honest truth "

Fevvers' disclosure to Walser reveals the truth of many of the questions which have been puzzling both him and the reader over the course of the novel; the mystery of Lizzie's milk, of her politics and of her power over time.  Indeed, all of the information shared is about Lizzie and tell little or nothing about Fevvers herself, or the central question of her reality.

Waiting for Godot (1965)
Public DomainWaiting for Godot (1965) - Credit: Lazarevsky

The use of open endings in story telling can be frustrating for an audience, but is a powerful way to force readers to form their own opinions on the questions raised.  Over the last ten pages or so, Fevvers has progressed from a single, winged wonder to the archetype of womanhood in the new century; of a dominant woman, soaring triumphantly into the future before an adoring crowd.

Other famous examples of open endings in novels, film and plays include Shelagh Delaney's (1939-) A Taste of Honey (1958) and Samuel Beckett's (1906-1989) Waiting for Godot (1953).  In the first, as the protagonist Jo goes into labour with a mixed race child, the last line is her mother asking the audience what they would do in the same situation.  In Beckett's play, the two tramps begin the play waiting for Godot, continue waiting for him throughout, and are still waiting as it comes to a close.  At no time does the audience learn who Godot is, nor why the tramps await him.  In Charlotte Bronte's (1816-1855) Villette (1853), readers are left to form their own opinion as to whether the heroine's lover, Paul, makes it back from a storm at sea; originally intended as a sad ending, its openness is a concession to her father who found the original unbearably sad.

  
Page 293. " What else but the 'Habanera' from Carmen "

The opera Carmen (1845) by Georges Bizet is one of the most popular and accessible operatic works performed today.  Set in Seville, Spain, its heroine is a beautiful gypsy, who captivates the young soldier Don Jose but soon abandons him in favour of the famous bullfighter, Escamillo.  The tale ends with Don Jose murdering Carmen outside the bullfighting ring, just as a cheering crowd applaud Escamillo's victory within.

Carmen's main solo, and her first in the opera, is the 'Habanera', in which she proclaims her independence and determination, and the peril facing any man who disappoints her.

For love is like a gypsy free, It comes and goes will not be caught

If you love me not, then I love you

If I love you ah then beware!