Sunday, April 19, 2015

Madam Crommelynck

I think one reason that Mitchell painted Jason's schoolteachers as extremely nasty is so they would later act as a contrast to the person who turns out to be a much more better teacher than any of the school teachers: Madame Commelynck. Her advice in regards to poetry, literature, and language have immediate impact on Stephen (translating that French book for example). Furthermore, like Hugo, she acts as a character that shows Stephen that its OK to write poems. Hugo does it by liking poetry *and* being cool. Madame Commelynck simple says screw everyone else, if they think you're gay for writing poems they're bafoons.

She's an interesting character because, while she seems very cultured and knowledgeable, when she started talking about living next to Charlie Chaplin and all those other famous people I felt a hint that she might not really be everything she makes herself out to be. I don't really have any concrete evidence... the whole situation just seems really weird. And then, to make things weirder, she gets extradited. Are you kidding me? Mitchell is totally playing with us.

"Hey, here's this cool character who's helping Jason with his poetry and overcome his inhibitions aaaaand she's extradited"

All in all, Solarium is kind of a weird chapter. We'll have to see how Jason responds to his short experience with a great teacher and how this effects his membership with the Spooks


  1. Yeah, I saw Madame Crommelynck as the kind of character you would never expect to run into in reality, but simply the author playing with his license to reconstruct reality. I think she's the real thing, it's just not a credible reality.

  2. It's interesting how ridiculous Madame Commelynck seems, and yet she lectures how Jason should be truthful in both his poetry and his life. Like you, RJ, I find it hard to believe all of Madame Commelynck's story, but from what she tells Jason, I feel like she must be telling the truth.

  3. I like Madame Commelynck for some of the reasons you highlighted. She convinces Jason both that his poems are his "work" and that he shouldn't censor his name in his poetry/his emotions in life (e.g., she harps on his constant apologizing, "more or less", "kinda", and also comments that emotions that are real have beauty...). I like that the song wasn't real, because it fit with the surreal-ity of the Mme and the chapter in general, and I don't really get the vibe that she was supposed to be taken seriously (the extradition/punch line also fits in the structure of the past few chapters -- but I feel like this is uncharted territory as far as Jason's next move). Nice job anticipating class discussion!

  4. I'm not much of a poet so I wasn't sure if the advice on beauty and truth helped him as a poet, but if I were him, it would definitely help me as a person. I also wouldn't compare her with Hugo. Hugo's stance on poetry is because he thinks it's cool to like something everyone thinks is lame; like a confidence booster that he can pull it off. With Eva, it's because she really doesn't care. To her poetry should be the only thing you do, not really but basically. Her out of this world appearance only enhances her power. I didn't raise any eyebrow when she mentioned her "credentials," it made a giggle. Here's a woman who's in a place in her life to talk to Jason. (Kind of, I mean she did get extradited...)

  5. Chloe wrote about how Mme. Crommelynck seems like more of a projection of Jason's imagination than a real character within the physical setting of 1982 Black Swan Green (and she IS a fictional character, drawn from one of Mitchell's earlier novels, _Cloud Atlas_). You're not *quite* going so far as to call her imaginary, but the idea is the same--there's a "deus ex machina" quality to her appearance at just the right time in Jason's life. I like the point about her contrast to his other teachers--with the exception of Miss Lippetts, Jason's teachers generally seem adept at coming up with verbally ornate ways of making kids feel stupid, and other than that, they're just really depressed about the pointlessness of their jobs. (Sounds like some depictions of high school I've encountered before, though not at Uni.) As Jason says in his conversation with Eva, he's not used to actually being compelled to "think about stuff" in English class. But then later, in Miss Lippetts' master class on "secrets," they all *do* have to think about stuff--it seems a rare exception.