Does West talk to us through objects?

There are many objects in the novel West employs to illustrate imperfections. Some objects she uses are the neighborhoods described by Jenny, Margaret’s hat and Baldry Court.  Jenny describes the neighborhood with a “score of houses” with “hideous patches of bare bricks that show like sores through the ripped-off plaster and uncovered rafters that stick out like broken bones” (97).  Her description is notably different than the grounds of Baldry Court, which are mutinously groomed.  Another imperfection West includes is Margaret’s hat. Jenny “pat[s] its plumes” in an effort to fix it, but concludes that it is “an inoperable case” (106). Here, West uses the theme of imperfection to create a contrast to Jenny’s desire to control and change imperfections, whereas Margaret chooses to live with them. This object also sheds light on the differences in Margaret’s and Jenny’s characteristics. Margaret is content with the imperfections in the world. However, Jenny along with Kitty feel the need to modify and groom the world around them. This is also evident in the state of Baldry Court.

I consider the grounds at Baldry Court to be especially important for the theme of imperfections In the beginning of the story, Jenny describes the grounds of Baldry Court extensively and highly. She claims it could be the subject of “innumerable photographs in the illustrated papers” and that Baldry Court reveals the not “the wild eye of the artist” but the “knowing wink of the manicurist” (48). The land that is the most perfected and controlled, Baldry Court, was the last place Chris should be in. As his cousin and his wife only “wanted to snatch” Chris “from the wars and seal him in this green pleasantness” (48).

The Baldry’s estate illustrates the differences in class between Margaret and the two women, Jenny and Kitty. Importantly, it also helps Chris’ cousin and wife understand what Chris needed after he came home. The grounds of Baldry Court are so manicured and altered that Chris feels out of place upon his return. Jenny notices Chris looks like he was an “outcast” and wonders if “Baldry Court so sleek a place that the unhappy felt offenders there” (67)? Her feelings towards the grounds are further questioned when she witnesses Margaret’s reaction to the estate. Jenny notices “there is no esthetic reason “for the strip of turf; the common outside looks lovelier where it fringes the road with dark gorse and rough amber grasses” (90). She realizes Baldry Court’s “use is purely philosophic” as it “proclaims that the Baldry’s only admire “controlled beauty” (90). Jenny realizes through this object that the perfect estate would only act as a prison for someone like Chris and that he appreciated a more natural, or even imperfect setting.

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