The days grew increasingly shorter, the nights colder; the huge mansion’s walls seemed to close in. Music offered the only legitimate vent, and I would pursue it with fervor; easier said than done.

I had begun the same piece for a forth time, one such quadriplegic eve, when Charles all but drove me over the edge, “Bravo! Very goodl”

My unitary, tone-deaf audience, would not abate, “You’re wrong to stop. Go on!”

“Oh, no; it’s execrable! My fingers are rusty; lead-like.”

Next day too he urged me in begging refrain, and I had to sport, “Very well; then, anything to please you.” My heart though floated elsewhere.

And even Charles confessed I was off somewhat, as I blundered on enough wrong notes.

“Ooh! It’s just no use. Would that I took some lessons, but…” I bit on a lip, “at twenty francs a lesson, why, that’s a fortune!”

“Well, it is somewhat steep,” Charles nervously giggled, “seems one might be able to do it for less though. There are artists of no repute – often better than the celebrities.”

“Then pray – find ‘em!”

Next day, he returned rather taciturn, but in the end could no longer hold back, “How obstinate you are at times! I went to Barfucheres today. Well, Madame Liegard assured me her three young ladies who are at La Misericorde have lessons at fifty sous apiece, and from an excellent mistress!”

With a shrug, I let the piano be, save for when I’d pass by it and if he were around, “Ah! poor piano!”

But I did keep those who came to see me abreast of my having quit music; for important reasons, which elicited due commiseration – “Pity! You could have done wonders with such talent as yours!”

Thus was Charles put quite to shame, as he let on in a private moment; the Chemist had insisted, “You’re wrong! Never let any of the faculties of nature lie fallow. Besides, just think, ol’ chap, by inducing madame to quit you compromise on the subsequent musical education of your offspring. Mothers surely ought themselves to instruct their children. That’s an idea of Rousseau’s, still rather new perhaps, but one that’s bound to triumph ultimately. It’s no different than mothers nursing their own children and vaccination.”

Thus Charles hovered once more around the piano. “If you like,” he buckled, “a lesson from time to time – that wouldn’t be too ruinous.”

“Better to sell it,” I lashed out, knowing full well the poor piano had given my vanity so much satisfaction and to see it go would be to him an indefinable suicide of a part of my self. Would he call my bluff though?

“Yet lessons,” I added, “are only of use if followed up.”

And thus it was that I had my husband’s consent to visit town once a week, and fuse with my lover.

At month’s end I was even considered to have considerably progressed! Love is to music, what music is to love.

 

***

 

The beginning of winter seemed to seize the wife with inexplicable musical fervor. One evening, as I listened to her begin the same piece over a fourth time – each with scarce progress – I actively became a disciple of brave attempt,

“Bravo! Very good! You’re wrong to stop. Carry on!”

“Oh, no,” She protested, if shy, “it is execrable! My fingers are quite like lead.”

The next day I had to beg her to play me something again.

“Very well then; if only to please you!”

I confess she went off by far, blundering through some wrong notes; only to resign, “Ah! It’s just no use. I ought to take some lessons; but… ” she bit her sweet lip, “At twenty francs a lesson, that’s too dear!”

“Yes, yes so it is, rather,” I was giggling – stupid nerves. “But surely one might be able to do it for less: there are artists of no reputation, often better than celebrities.”

“Pray – find ‘em!” Emma could be so compelling when she chose.

Next day when I got home I looked at her shyly, but finally could no longer hold back, “How obstinate you are sometimes! I went to Barfucheres today.”

And Emma was all ears, “Well, Madame Liegard assured me that her three young ladies who are at La Misericorde have lessons at fifty sous apiece, that too from an excellent mistress!”

Funnily, she simply shrugged her shoulders and would not touch the piano again. Yet I observed her pining as she passed by it, “Ah! My poor piano!” the lament bore through me.

And whenever anyone came to see her – my good grief – she never failed to inform the world she had given up music, albeit for important reasons.

“What a pity! You had so much talent!” The commiseration ensued with debilitating might. They would even pull me aside on it. The shame came to crest with the chemist, “You’re wrong! Never let any of the faculties of nature lie fallow. Besides, think, ol’ chap, by inducing madame to study you economize on the subsequent musical education of your offspring. Mothers surely ought themselves to instruct their children. That’s an idea of Rousseau’s, still rather new perhaps, but one that’s bound to triumph ultimately. It’s no different than mothers nursing their own children and vaccination.

So I returned once more to this question of the piano.

“Let it drop!” she protested bitterly, “it would be better to sell it.”

Could she not see? The darned piano had given her vanity so much satisfaction that to see it go was surely the indefinable suicide of part of herself!

“Perhaps,” I offered, “a lesson from time to time? That wouldn’t be too ruinous.”

“But lessons are only of use when followed up.”

And thus it was that she connived out of me permission to go to town once a week to see a lover, while I, by month’s end, even considered her to have made considerable progress.

 

Instructor Response

Excellent work. You have captured both points of view with superb skill and demonstrated the purpose of the assignment–to work in different points of view effectively by writing within the character using character-credible ideas and language, and expressing character-reasonable emotional valence. Both versions convey the essentially same information but with different effects on the reader, and different from Flaubert’s original as well.

You’ve created, too, what might be called an objective first person in each case. By keeping tightly contained in each point of view, you have stayed in the consciousness of that character. Very difficult to do, but the effect is dramatic, and there is little for the reader to wonder about with respect to unreliability or credibility. And the irony is maintained, at times slightly different, but still it is intensely dramatic irony with both Charles and to a lesser extent Emma.

Practicing this type of point of view (POV) shift is useful in third person also. That is, to sink into the character’s world (within the story world) without either narrator world or author world slipping into the prose. The world for a character is all experiences, memory, actions, opinions, images, etc. that are contained within that character. The clearer the world is to the reader, as expressed through the prose, the stronger the characterization and the integrity of author thinking about how the story can be created regarding credibility, drama, and impact. Very few authors can do (what you have done) this well.  And to carry it into third person, as I know you already do, strengthens the fictional prose story. Characters and narrators should be pristine in the story world so that their character is effective and contributes to emotional story arcs, and plot momentum, in significant ways. You demonstrated this well in your assignment submission of two first-person POV characters based on a classic scene. 

Thank you for your participation.  WHC

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