Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rosie's Riveters: Aarti & Guinevere

I have spent quite a bit of time mulling over what I should do for the first Rosie's Riveters post. Should I be consistent and post about a female I really dislike? Or should I switch it up a bit and wax lyrical about one I adore? I really couldn't decide, and so I decided to go for one that just creates a very strong reaction in me when I think about her or get into conversations about her, consistently.

Rosie's Riveters is a weekly posting written by Booklust readers about
riveting females in literature. Many readers have strong reactions to
the women in the books they read- either very positive or very
negative. These are the characters we find riveting, for good reasons
or bad ones, and they form the population of Rosie's Riveters. Through this weekly post, we can discuss females we love to hate, or love to love. And maybe, just maybe - we can determine why we react so strongly to them.

If you are interested in participating, please comment on this post or
e-mail me and I'll add you to the line-up!

Who is your Riveter?
Queen Guinevere

What book does she feature in?
There are many versions of the tales of King Arthur, and I have not actually read the original one by Geoffrey of Monmouth or the most famous version by Sir Thomas Malory. However, the ones I remember most are The Mists of Avalon and Mary Stewart's excellent Merlin Trilogy. I am not sure of the entire history of Guinevere, from the start of Arthurian literature to now, but suffice it to say that when she makes a more-than-negligible appearance, she screws things up.

Do you love her or hate her?
Hate. Of course :-)

Describe her personality- how would you describe her to a friend?
"She's one of those really obnoxious girls that's beautiful and knows she's beautiful, and then goes around and messes up everyone's life because of it."

Can you compare her to a celebrity?
Hmm. I came up with this question and am having trouble answering it. I think it more likely that celebrities are compared to her. Princess Diana kind of leaps to mind, but besides the obvious comparisons here, I don't really know why.

What makes her riveting?
Honestly, I can't say. In most Arthurian retellings I've read (and so probably in the original? Just guessing here), Guinevere is pretty dull and static, as a character. She is also overly religious. How she managed to marry a pagan king and then get his best friend to fall in love with her, I will never know.

She is more famous for all the things she could not do. Most importantly, she couldn't have a child, and this set the course of British history on a very different track. She couldn't reconcile Christianity with the religion present in England before it came. She fell in love with the wrong man. She generally created a ruckus and then acted all pious and high and mighty as though she couldn't have been involved.

And even as I say she has no personality and does nothing but live off her looks, not her brain, I still am openly calling her a "riveting" female. Why? She is, in my opinion, the least interesting of all the characters in Arthurian legend, and yet she makes me so angry. Maybe that's why I think she's riveting- because it is not often that someone seemingly so bland and innocuous can be such a catalyst.

I am not completely sexist- I also think Lancelot is an idiot :-) But that is not for this post.

What do you most admire/despise about her?
The whole Guinevere-Lancelot thing is ridiculous. King Arthur is a genius who manages to unite a country and set up this entire roundtable of equality and is known for being fair and compassionate and fabulous to everyone. Lancelot is a man who can fight, and who looks good doing it. Of course Guinevere of the long-flowing hair and very little sense would prefer the Ken doll. And then mess all sorts of things up by going for him (yes, I know it takes two to tango and Lancelot is the one who went after his best friend's wife, but we are focusing on the females here). And then get caught. Honestly- the girl lived in a castle, surrounded by people. She and her lover decided not to show up at a feast headed by her husband and all his devoted knights. How could she ever think she would not be caught? Yet another example of her extreme lack of sense.

As if that were not enough, she then gets all holier-than-thou, saying that she's sinned (no kidding, genius) and thus must check into a nunnery (because that is the solution to everything). This would have been fine if she had been Hamlet's mother ("Get thee to a nunnery!!!"). But alas, she was not. I understand that in prior centuries, the nunnery was one of the only escape routes that women had from lives they did not want. I think that is perfectly acceptable when one is not the mess-creator. Guinevere, though, created her mess. She should have taken pains to fix it. Instead, the self-centered (and probably still beautiful) adulteress decides to flee the scene and make her peace with God. Apparently, her own inner peace was more important than the peace of the Realm. Can't say I'm surprised.

Would you recommend reading the book in which the Riveter features?
Ah, sadly, therein lies Guinevere's twisted genius. If not for her completely unnecessary drama, we would not have the fascinating and wonderful Arthurian legends we have today. Yes, I think anyone who has not read any Arthurian books should do so- there are so many of them out there and there are so many wide interpretations of what really happened that they are a delight to read. My favorites are Mary Stewart's trilogy above, but I have several more on my shelves that I haven't gotten into yet. Soon :-)

Any parting remarks?
Just for the record, I think a lot of women in Arthurian legend are portrayed in a strong and positive light. They all do their part to shape history and I like all of them much more than Guinevere.


  1. Nice post :)
    I must confess that I really like her, but there is one in just hat story I despise, and that is Elaine

  2. Wow! You've set the standard high with this first Rosie's Riveters post!

    I am going to have to start thinking about my post now! I think I know who I want to do though.

  3. Blodeudd- Yes, Elaine annoys me, too. So much drama :-)

    Marg- Thanks so much! It took me quite some time to write, so I'm glad it came out ok. And yes, start thinking- Eva is next and then it's your turn!

  4. Both Lancelot and Guinevere are complete ninnies, and my loathing for them knows no bounds. Urgh. And your whole rant about their relationship and the whole "how on earth did they think they could not get caught?" sounds exactly like what I've been saying for the past I-don't-know-how-many years. :)

  5. This was great! I enjoyed reading it. Guinevere drives me crazy, but it doesn't seem to prevent me from reading books where she features strongly! :)

  6. What a fantastic post. I'm very close to saying "I can't take it" and making all my feeds as read, so I'm very glad I caught this one. I'll be looking out for everyone else's posts as well.

    I must say, I think I pretty much agree with you. Do you think it's failed potential that makes you so angry - just trying to figure out my own reaction - as she was put in a position where she could have done so much and been so much and instead she went chasing the Ken doll and causing messes.

    I've always been far, far, far more taken with Arthur than Lancelot, so I just don't get it myself either.

  7. Kailana, it's unfortuante that nowadays, she seems to be a strong focus of *many* Arthurian stories, even though I think previously she didn't feature much at all. It's the whole feminist movement, I guess.

    Court & Kerry- Glad I'm not the only one who dislikes Lancelot!

    Kerry- I was actually speaking with a friend about our dislike of females in literature and I think the phrase "failed potential" is perfect! I also think I hold women up to much higher standards than I do men.

  8. Sometimes the most riveting characters in books are the ones you can't stand. That sounds like the case here. I do have to admit that she sounds like a fascinating character, unlikable, but fascinating nonetheless. Great post Aarti, and that's another few books to add to the old wish list!


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