Posted by Cassia on October 22, 1997 at 18:05:58:
When I first read the novel I couldn't stand Val ( notice we never learned if she is a Valerie or a Valintina though the former is the more likely). Complain, b***c, moan, whine, winge, that's all she seems to do. But this time through I was struck by a new thought? Why shouldn't she complain?
Val is dissappointed with the things that life and Roland have provided for her. After her hard work at University she's been rewarded with a job a temporary secretary. Her devotion to Roland is lost on her dear 'Mole'. Nothing has turned out quite right.
I see Val's main problem as being born in the wrong age. Devotion in a scoffed at attidtude; loyalty a somewhat bitter concept. That Val sabataged her own academic career to reinforced Roland's could get her hanged in certain feminist circles. Yes, Val should have done Robert Graves instead of Ash, but her devotion to Roland made her want to be with him, to be his. Roland is her key to the kingdom but the key is beatten down if not quite broken man. No one values Val (perhaps her name is one of Byatt's word plays)including Val herself. She'd lost track of the thing she wanted, her reason why from almost the moment she met Roland. This is an almost shameful thing to admit in the age of self-enpowerment. Val is not a self-starter (which always sounded too mechanical to describe a person to me). Val needs support. All of this makes sense when you take the fact that she is the only child of an unreliabel (alcoholic) single mother. She wants someone to hang on to; some who can buoy her up and when she met Roland at the tea all those years ago she thought she found him. Poor Val.
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