John Keats never really moved me and the thing which put me off was seeing something about him being washed and clean and sitting down to do some writing. That’s not writing in the sense I understand it, it’s hardly a nine to five job.
Plus it was soppy. At school, for some reason, I escaped having to study his work, as well as escaping most of Shakespeare and Pope, which was a fine primer for an English Lit teacher-to-be decades later.
That was, until yesterday when a trope mentioned by someone else had me exploring Master Keats. The trope was about this person called a manic pixie dream girl and I should have realised it was a modern feminist construction meant to describe anyone female who shows interest in or who wants to support a male in any way.
To a feminazi, that’s the ultimate crime – the way she defines it is that if she does show him any interest, then she is showing no interest at all in pursuing her own career goals and that apparently is anathema. In feminazi eyes, she is meant to either have men hanging about like satellites, supporting her every move, or else she’s to be left alone.
On the latter, I have no issue – more than happy to let her reach old spinsterhood by herself and all the best. But that’s not what anyone healthy should be aspiring to and thank goodness there are enough females who do give of themselves, which has the effect of good men giving back and it becomes a system. It does work until one strays from the other.
I can also understand the manic pixie dream girl [MPDG] being written into novels and screenplays, often by men who can’t handle this creature the feminists call a ‘real woman’ but who is, in fact a selfish, narcissistic brat.
When you expunge all the BS and clean down the reality of relations, the only ones which survive are those with give and take – it’s a simple principle and one western society seems to want to kill off.
Coming back to Keats, there are two aspects I’d like to look at – one was the tale of La Belle Dame sans Merci:
… and the other his own bizarre life.
His own dream girl was Fanny Brawne and I believe I’m closer to understanding what they had than some critics are. It’s a state of perma-betrothal, the eternal fiance and fiancee without ever tying the knot. I know a man who asked a girl three times to marry him and she said yes each time, they stayed in just such a relationship.
She was quite young, not a major beauty, not a perfect character, and yet he idealised her and she was not averse to being idealised – we do like being liked. Certainly it was the only game going at that time in that place.
Her mother, in days when girls were still advised well, stayed her hand and Keats himself realised he was no real catch at that time on account of the life of a poor poet, plus the TB, plus one other thing – his awkwardness with the ladies, resulting in brusqueness. I’d suggest her blunt character was quite suitable for handling such a thing and as she wrote much later, she also idealised him. But the chance of formalising the arrangement seemed to send him round the bend a bit.
He died, she stayed devoted for six years, then she came out again – I believe the mother would have had much to do with this. She became unpopular for stating that after many years to think about it, he wasn’t quite the fine character she’d thought at the time.
Moving onto Keats’s knight in La Belle Dame:
They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Thee hath in thrall!’
We don’t know whether she appeared to seduce him, being of the faerie folk or if he approached her, we know it was fairly mutual and then it suddenly ended, she apparently went away, who knows why?
Coming back to the pixie dream girl trope again, the point is that because she is unreal, fictitious, impossible, then if he falls in love with that and both live in this dream world, neither moves on, neither grows up, neither breaks out until something happens and one does, which leaves the other devastated.
I saw this happening with a character in my long book – Nikki – and so I had to make her more flawed but more than that, she also aged, as he did, they eventually grew together, which seems a bullet dodged to me and lays claim to being more realistic.
There is a way, I believe, in which it would be possible for two people to remain in an idealised state, provided the basics of home and salary were taken care of but it involves both being a bit eccentric or crazy – that really does help, it seems to me.