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By R.A. York

This examine exhibits how she sought to reconcile her attachment to the Victorian prior together with her attractiveness of a brand new society that undermined establishment and in doing so gave extra possibilities to ladies, burdened class-boundaries, prolonged tolerance, allowed the cult of enjoyment and self-assertion and published the ambiguities of respectability.

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This, it has to be admitted, despite all the controversy at the time of the publication, is fair enough. But there are other details that call for some comment. In Chapter 1, he mentions that his sister unreasonably suspects Mrs Ferrars of poisoning her husband. Two pages later he admits that he accepts her view to some extent. In fact, he must agree with the most important point of it, namely that Mrs Ferrars did in fact, as he well knows, poison her husband. In the following chapter, he remembers feeling concerned when he saw Mrs Ferrars in close conversation with Ralph Paton, and at a later meeting is relieved at the frankness of Ralph’s greeting; at the end of the book this obscure anxiety is clarified when he admits that he feared that she was telling Ralph that he himself was blackmailing her.

Poirot, with unusual modesty, tells Hastings that he is no fortune-teller, able to read character at sight, because of the hidden and inconsistent emotions within each person (Edgeware, i). The model is obviously Freudian; what is most important in affecting our character and conduct is not our conscious self, but what is within us, the necessarily unknown unconscious, which is all the more inaccessible to other people. The point is not actually very relevant to the story of Lord Edgeware Dies: Carlotta Adams’s behaviour is based on lucid and rational motives, and puzzling only in so far as it is kept secret for reasons of deliberate deceptiveness.

Actors and Imposters 41 The effect of these falsifications of the self is double. On the one hand, there is a serious questioning of concepts of identity, of uniqueness and integrity: the self is not unambiguously the product of a lifetime’s experience and choices, but can be put on, perhaps provisionally. ”. His interlocutor, admittedly, decides against becoming Mussolini or Princess Elizabeth, but the whole conversation is about whether one could have changed one’s life and become a different person, and the nostalgia for otherness is not quite denied.

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