Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Period Drama Heroines #6: Molly Gibson

Justine Waddell as Molly Gibson in Wives and Daughters (1999)
Of all the period drama heroines in my acquaintance, it is Molly Gibson whose story most resembles that of Cinderella. I mean, think about it. Girl's mother dies, girl and her father live happily together for sixteen years (or whatever it is), girl's father remarries. Girl is not exactly happy about this, especially since the new stepmother is overbearing and ridiculous, and insists on dragging a stepsister into the relationship who is... actually kind of nice.

Okay, the similarities end there.
Anthony Howell, Bill Paterson, Francesca Annis, Justine Waddell and Keeley Hawes in
Wives and Daughters (1999)

Or do they?  Enter Prince Charming (and his brother).  Enter stepmother's scheming. Enter engagement between Prince Charming and evil flirtatious stepsister.  Enter... no fairy godmother.

Cinderella had a magic wand, a gaggle of rodent friends, a pair of glass slippers and the tiniest feet in the kingdom at her disposal when she fell in love with the prince.  Molly Gibson had.... uh.... well, she liked insects.  And she was clever, intelligent, eager to learn, a good listener and of a most forgiving nature.

Justine Waddell as Molly Gibson
Of the two, I think Molly has much more in her to respect than Cinderella ever did.  I admire Molly, not because she "secured" the man of her dreams, but because she was willing to give up the man of her dreams if he was in love with someone else.  (I still maintain he wasn't really in love with Cynthia. "Boyish fancy", and all that.)  Books and movies are full of the guy who gives up the girl so she can marry the man she really likes (John Chivery *sniffle*), but there are few stories that tell of the girl who gives up the guy.

Molly, at the beginning of Wives and Daughters, is just the wee-est bit spoiled.  She's grown up under her father's loving care, and for years it's been just the two of them.  Then in come Hyacinth Clare (why? why?? why must there be such a name on the face of this planet???) and her daughter Cynthia Kirkpatrick, and proceed to make Molly's life miserable.  Not, perhaps, intentionally, but it happens nonetheless.  Mrs. Gibson crumbles everything special that Molly and her father shared (she even bans cheese!) and Cynthia waltzes in and manages to captivate the man Molly is in love with.
You know who she is by now.  Hopefully.
And Roger, like an idiot, falls for Cynthia.

My parents watched Wives and Daughters for the first time this summer, and they both loved it, though my dad told me that there were times he felt like smacking Roger over the head with a two-by-four.

My sentiments exactly.

Molly, unfortunately, is so sweet and inclined to think well of people that she won't let Roger or Cynthia see how she really feels about their engagement.  She can't help liking Cynthia (how can anyone?) even though Cynthia has basically ruined her life.  She's prettier than Molly (well, actually that's debatable because I personally think Molly's lovely), more accomplished and certainly more charming.  Theoretically, any man would fall head over heels for her.  (If he were an idiot.)  And yet Molly is the one who understands Roger, who takes an interest in his interests, who reads his letters over and over and charts his travels on her maps.  Cynthia takes Roger's love for granted, and though Molly could easily hint as much to Roger, she's far too honorable to do so.  Instead, she tries to persuade Cynthia to be a little less nonchalant about the whole thing.  "Yes, he's in love with you!  And he depends upon you, so you should try to deserve him!"

Poor Molly.  Have I mentioned how much I like her?  Well, I do.

The story of Molly's heroism doesn't end there-- and lest from the last few paragraphs you have developed the highly mistaken idea that Molly is a doormat, may I hasten to prove that theory wrong.

Without going into details (this post is too long already), I'll tell you that Molly was instrumental in saving her stepsister's reputation in the incident with Mr. Preston.   Cynthia was too chicken to confront the odious man herself (odious but still kinda pitiable... I SAID KINDA) and so Molly, the convenient Molly, was sent to do it for her.

And she did a marvelous job.
Molly's Best Scene

And then.... AND THEN Roger comes back from Africa.  Ta-dah-dum!  And he and Molly go to a ball together, and Lady Hawwiet pulls a few strings, and as they say (who? who says?), the rest is history (with one of the sweetest kiss-less proposals ever).  And Molly and Roger live happily ever after.

Because hey, it's a book (and a movie).  And because Molly totally deserves a happy ending.

Even if she did keep her shoes on the whole time.


Victoria said...

Oh, I love Wives & Daughters too! (At least, I love the movie. I haven't gotten a chance to read the novel yet...shocking, I know!) Molly is so sweet, but she's got a spark in her too - I think that makes the best kind of heroine. Plus, her hair looks like mine. I HAVE to love her. :)

As for Cynthia, I detested her frivolous, selfish nature. I was so very angry at Roger for falling in love with her, too! I almost wish your dad HAD hit him over the head with a 2x4! :p But I liked him, despite his blindness, and I was very happy for Molly when he finally saw sense.

Oh, and I love your small-print commentary. That made the whole post so much funnier! :)

Well, enoough of my chattering now. :p

- Victoria

Alexandra said...

OMS, I adore Molly! She's just sooo sweet and forgiving and just...such a lovely person. And I do want to hit Roger several times. When he kisses Cynthia right there in front of poor Molly...I could just murder him. And it is true...I never really thought about it, but she does give him up for Cynthia like the guys in most films.

Mrs. Gibson has to be the most annoying character on the planet!!! She beats Mrs. Bennet in my mind. :-) And I still, after two years' worth of viewing this, have a difficult time exactly understanding Mr. Preston. He's a villian...yet he isn't. Was or was not Cynthia to blame? Did he have a legitimate claim there? You know? But then he did besmirch Molly's good name...but then...ack. My mom and I are still trying to figure him out.

And I bawled at both the proposal...and ohhhh my goodness, that last scene! I was sobbing. :-D It's just soooo sweet and she's just the PERFECT wife for him...would Cynthia have gone trekking across Africa with him? I think not. Molly's the perfect definition of a helpmeet! :-)

LOVED this post, in case you couldn't tell.

Lauren said...

I love Molly so much! She is one of my favorites:) My sister gave me the Wives and Daughters DVD set for Christmas, and I'm looking forward to watching it again soon. It is one of my favorite movies:)

Miss Dashwood said...

Oh, you should read the book! It's just as good as the movie, if not better. Much of the dialogue is exactly the same.
Glad you enjoyed my small print. I can never resist doing that. :)

Now, I beg you, do not be so harsh on poor Roger! Yes, he was a fool, but he definitely improved by the end. :)
And I never thought of that, but certainly Cynthia would never have gone to Africa! Good point.
Hopefully someday I'll write something about Mr. Preston. *adds yet another idea to the long list of posts in draft*

How exciting that you got W&D for Christmas! My sister gave it to me last Christmas, and now I'm feeling like I want to watch it again. We're watching Little Dorrit right now, though, so W&D will have to wait!

Ella said...

I hadn't noticed the simalarties between Molly and Cinderella until you pointed it our.

Julia Rogers said...

I think Molly is my absolute favorite British period drama heroine....no PLEASE dont hit ME over the head with a 2 by 4!! I still LOVE Lizzie Bennet and nothing can change that but Molly....aaahhh!! 'nuff said! =)
And I DO love Cynthia!! She had NO training no one to care for her but some school governess and when her mom finally does give some input in her life it not worth a flip so really? could Cynthia help turning out the way she did? but as she said.. "Mr. Gibson i believe you'll make a good woman of me yet" ..and he did!! A
Anyway.. GREAT post Loved it!!

Miss Dashwood said...

I hadn't noticed them either until I started writing about "wicked stepmothers" and then the whole thing just went from there. :)

Of course I will not hit you over the head with anything! Molly isn't my favorite period drama heroine, but she's definitely in the top ten. (well, obviously...)
You make a very good point about Cynthia... really, her behavior is completely her mother's fault. She's never been taught to take responsibility.
Glad you enjoyed it!

Julia Rogers said...

AH! THANK YOU Miss Dashwood!!
I didn't think you would be so cruel as to do such a thing =) ..but I just wanted to lay a claim to your mercy before you got a chance =)

Juanita's Journal said...

I like Cynthia, but she is a user. She used Mr. Preston and she used Molly. And yet, both Mr. Preston and Molly's reputations ended up being smeared.

As for getting involved with Mr. Preston in the first place, Cynthia had no one but herself to blame.

The Rush Blog said...

You make a very good point about Cynthia... really, her behavior is completely her mother's fault. She's never been taught to take responsibility.

Mrs. Gibson may not have been the world's greatest mother, but in the end, Cynthia has no one to blame but herself in regard to how she manipulated Mr. Preston and Molly. This habit of blaming the parent for the child's mistakes has got to stop.

And Molly seems willing to blame everyone, but Cynthia. She willfully blinded herself to how Cynthia had manipulated Mr. Preston, because she didn't like his manner. The only time Molly is willing to open her eyes to Cynthia's follies is when Roger Hamley is involved.

Laurie said...

Loved your post, especially since W&D is my favorite story ever :)

Another similarity to the Cinderella story is that the heroine in W&D also has a sort of fairy-god mother who makes everything right. Lady Harriet uses her power and influence to fix Molly's reputation after the gossip going around town. And she invites Molly to the "ball" held in Roger's honor and sets them up together.