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I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle

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I Capture the Castle is Dodie Smith
Dodie Smith
Dorothy Gladys "Dodie" Smith was an English novelist and playwright. Smith is best known for her novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. Her other works include I Capture the Castle and The Starlight Barking....

's first novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

, written in the 1940s during a sojourn in America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Smith was already an established playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

 and later became famous for authoring the children's classic
Children's literature
Children's literature is for readers and listeners up to about age twelve; it is often defined in four different ways: books written by children, books written for children, books chosen by children, or books chosen for children. It is often illustrated. The term is used in senses which sometimes...

 The Hundred and One Dalmatians
The Hundred and One Dalmatians
The Hundred and One Dalmatians, or the Great Dog Robbery is a 1956 children's novel by Dodie Smith. A sequel entitled The Starlight Barking continues from the end of the first novel....

.

The novel relates the adventures of an eccentric family, the Mortmains, struggling to live in genteel poverty in a decaying English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 castle
Castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

 during the 1930s. The first person narrator is Cassandra Mortmain, an intelligent teenager who tells the story via her personal journal.

Plot


The Mortmain family is poor but exotic. Cassandra's father is a writer suffering from writer's block
Writer's block
Writer's block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some "blocked"...

 who has not published anything since his first book, Jacob Wrestling (a reference to Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel is a biblical story commonly depicted in art. The story appears in chapter 32 of Genesis, and chapter 12 of the Book of Hosea...

), an innovative and "difficult" novel that sold well and made his name, including in America. Ten years before the story begins, he took out a forty-year lease on a dilapidated but beautiful castle, hoping to find either inspiration or isolation there; now, his family is selling off the furniture to buy food.

The widowed Mortmain's second wife, Topaz, is a beautiful artist's model who enjoys communing with nature, sometimes wearing nothing but hip boots. Rose, the elder daughter, is a classic English beauty pining away in the lonely castle, longing for a chance to meet some eligible (and preferably rich) young men; she tells her sister that she wants to live in a Jane Austen
Jane Austen
Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature, her realism and biting social commentary cementing her historical importance among scholars and critics.Austen lived...

 novel. Cassandra, the younger daughter and the story's narrator, has literary ambitions and spends a lot of time developing her writing talent by "capturing" everything around her in her journal
Diary
A diary is a record with discrete entries arranged by date reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period. A personal diary may include a person's experiences, and/or thoughts or feelings, including comment on current events outside the writer's direct experience. Someone...

. Stephen, the handsome, loyal, live-in son of the Mortmain's late cook, and Thomas, the youngest Mortmain child, round out the cast of household characters. Stephen, a noble soul, is in love with Cassandra, which she finds touching, but a bit awkward; Thomas, a schoolboy, is, like Cassandra, considered "tolerably bright".

Things begin to happen when the Cottons, a wealthy American family, inherit nearby Scoatney Hall and become the Mortmains' new landlords. Cassandra and Rose soon become intrigued by the unmarried brothers, Simon and Neil. The brothers differ considerably in character; Neil, who was raised in California by their father, is a carefree young man who wants to become a rancher in America, while Simon, who grew up in New England with his mother, is scholarly and serious, and loves the English countryside. Simon, the elder brother, is the heir and therefore much wealthier than Neil, so although Rose isn't attracted to him, she decides to marry him if she can, declaring that she'd marry the devil himself to escape the family's poverty.

At their first meeting, the Cottons are amused and interested by the Mortmains; when they pay a call the very next day, however, the inexperienced Rose flirts openly with Simon and makes herself look ridiculous. Both brothers are repelled by this display and, as they walk away, Cassandra overhears them resolving to drop all acquaintance with the Mortmains.
After an amusing episode involving a fur coat, however, all is forgiven and the two families become good friends. Rose decides that she really is taken with Simon, and Cassandra and Topaz scheme to get Simon to propose to her. Simon falls in love with Rose and proposes to her, which then sends Rose and Topaz to London with Mrs. Cotton to purchase Rose's wedding trousseau.

One evening, while everyone else is away, Cassandra and Simon spend the evening together, which leads to their kissing, and Cassandra is cast into an emotional tailspin. She becomes obsessed with Simon but suffers feelings of guilt since he is Rose's fiancé. Cassandra now faces many pressures: she must tactfully deflect Stephen's offers of love, and encourage him in his emerging career as a model and movie actor; join forces with Thomas to help their father overcome his writer's block by the drastic (though apparently effective) expedient of imprisoning him in a medieval tower; cope with her own increasing attraction to Simon; and record everything, wittily and winningly, in her journal (as the journal advances, the relationships she depicts become subtler and more problematic).

Meanwhile, unnoticed by anyone but Stephen, Rose and Neil have been falling in love. To conceal their budding romance, they pretend to hate each other. When they eventually elope together, Simon is left heartbroken – Cassandra, hopeful. Before Simon leaves to go back to America, he comes to see Cassandra. In spite of her feelings for him, Cassandra deflects the conversation at a moment when she thinks he may be about to propose to her. The book closes on an ambiguous note, with Cassandra reminding herself that Simon has promised to return, and closing her journal for good by reasserting her love for him.

Prose works


Novels mentioned include A la recherche du temps perdu by Proust and War and Peace
War and Peace
War and Peace is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1869. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature...

by Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

. At one point in the book, Rose and Cassandra begin, but do not finish, a bedtime conversation about whether Jane Austen
Jane Austen
Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature, her realism and biting social commentary cementing her historical importance among scholars and critics.Austen lived...

 or Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood, whose novels are English literature standards...

 are "better". (The Vicar describes Cassandra as "Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. It was published in London, England, in 1847 by Smith, Elder & Co. with the title Jane Eyre. An Autobiography under the pen name "Currer Bell." The first American edition was released the following year by Harper & Brothers of New York...

 with a touch of Becky Sharp", the latter being the lead character of Vanity Fair.)

The Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

 short story
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

 "The Fall of the House of Usher
The Fall of the House of Usher
"The Fall of the House of Usher" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in September 1839 in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. It was slightly revised in 1840 for the collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque...

" receives a mention.

Theatre


Cassandra once compares Stephen to Silvius, a reference to Shakespeare's As You Like It
As You Like It
As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 or early 1600 and first published in the folio of 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has been suggested as a possibility...

.

Biblical episodes


Biblical episodes, mainly Jacob's Ladder
Jacob's Ladder (Bible)
Jacob's Ladder is a ladder to heaven, described in the Book of Genesis, that the biblical patriarch Jacob dreams about during his flight from his brother Esau.-Source:...

 and Jacob Wrestling
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel is a biblical story commonly depicted in art. The story appears in chapter 32 of Genesis, and chapter 12 of the Book of Hosea...

, are apparently part of Cassandra's father's successful novel Jacob Wrestling; however the actual subject of that novel is never clearly represented to the reader (Cassandra calls it "a mixture of fiction, philosophy and poetry.") Samson
Samson
Samson, Shimshon ; Shamshoun or Sampson is the third to last of the Judges of the ancient Israelites mentioned in the Tanakh ....

 and Delilah
Delilah
Delilah appears only in the Hebrew bible Book of Judges 16, where she is the "woman in the valley of Sorek" whom Samson loved, and who was his downfall...

 also play a small part in the novel, as the narrator once compares Simon and Rose to the Biblical couple.

Tales and legends


"Heloise and Abelard", "Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault or Little Briar Rose by the Brothers Grimm is a classic fairytale involving a beautiful princess, enchantment, and a handsome prince...

" and "Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel
"Hansel and Gretel" is a well-known fairy tale of German origin, recorded by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812. Hansel and Gretel are a young brother and sister threatened by a cannibalistic hag living deep in the forest in a house constructed of cake and confectionery. The two children...

" are cited.

Poetry


Ralph Hodgson
Ralph Hodgson
Ralph Hodgson , Order of the Rising Sun ,was an English poet, very popular in his lifetime on the strength of a small number of anthology pieces, such as The Bull. He was one of the more 'pastoral' of the Georgian poets...

's works are mentioned, as well as John Keats
John Keats
John Keats was an English Romantic poet. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement, despite the fact that his work had been in publication for only four years before his death.Although his poems were not...

' La Belle Dame sans Merci (Simon wonders if she would have lived in a place like Belmotte Tower), G. K. Chesterton
G. K. Chesterton
Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG was an English writer. His prolific and diverse output included philosophy, ontology, poetry, plays, journalism, public lectures and debates, literary and art criticism, biography, Christian apologetics, and fiction, including fantasy and detective fiction....

's "Song of Quoodle" and Thomas Nashe
Thomas Nashe
Thomas Nashe was an English Elizabethan pamphleteer, playwright, poet and satirist. He was the son of the minister William Nashe and his wife Margaret .-Early life:...

's "Spring, the Sweet Spring". Stephen quotes lines from Percy Shelley's Love's Philosophy
Love's Philosophy
Love's Philosophy is a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, written in 1820.-Original text:The fountains mingle with the riverAnd the rivers with the Ocean,The winds of Heaven mix for everWith a sweet emotion;Nothing in the world is single;...

.

Comparable literature


I Capture the Castle is easily comparable with 19th century English novels, including Austen's Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice is a novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. The story follows the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of early 19th-century England...

, Emily Brontë
Emily Brontë
Emily Jane Brontë 30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848) was an English novelist and poet, best remembered for her only novel, Wuthering Heights, now considered a classic of English literature. Emily was the third eldest of the four surviving Brontë siblings, between the youngest Anne and her brother...

's Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights is a novel by Emily Brontë published in 1847. It was her only novel and written between December 1845 and July 1846. It remained unpublished until July 1847 and was not printed until December after the success of her sister Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre...

, Thackeray
William Makepeace Thackeray
William Makepeace Thackeray was an English novelist of the 19th century. He was famous for his satirical works, particularly Vanity Fair, a panoramic portrait of English society.-Biography:...

’s The History of Henry Esmond
The History of Henry Esmond
The History of Henry Esmond is a historical novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, originally published in 1852. The book tells the story of the early life of Henry Esmond, a colonel in the service of Queen Anne of England...

and Vanity Fair and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. It was published in London, England, in 1847 by Smith, Elder & Co. with the title Jane Eyre. An Autobiography under the pen name "Currer Bell." The first American edition was released the following year by Harper & Brothers of New York...

.

Adaptations


A play based on the book appeared in 1954. Heidi Thomas
Heidi Thomas
Heidi Thomas is an English screenwriter and playwright.-Career:After reading English at Liverpool University, Thomas gained national attention when her play, Shamrocks And Crocodiles, won the John Whiting Award in 1985. Her play Indigo was performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in their...

 wrote a screen adaptation, which was filmed by Tim Fywell
Tim Fywell
Tim Fywell is an English television and film director. Fywell started his career in British television, directing episodes of Brookside. In 2003 his made his feature debut with I Capture the Castle, an adaption of the novel that goes by the same title by Dodie Smith...

 in 2003.

Quotes

  • "I know of few novels—except Pride and Prejudice
    Pride and Prejudice
    Pride and Prejudice is a novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. The story follows the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of early 19th-century England...

    —that inspire as much fierce lifelong affection in their readers." – Joanna Trollope
    Joanna Trollope
    Joanna Trollope OBE , is an English novelist.-Life:Joanna Trollope was educated at Reigate County School for Girls followed by St Hugh's College, Oxford. From 1965 to 1967, she worked at the Foreign Office...

  • "This book has one of the most charismatic narrators I've ever met." – J. K. Rowling
    J. K. Rowling
    Joanne "Jo" Rowling, OBE , better known as J. K. Rowling, is the British author of the Harry Potter fantasy series...

  • "I think it is a book that will be very much lived in by many people; because you can live in it, like Dickens." – Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...


See also


  • Cold Comfort Farm
    Cold Comfort Farm
    Cold Comfort Farm is a comic novel by Stella Gibbons, published in 1932. It parodies the romanticised, sometimes doom-laden accounts of rural life popular at the time, by writers such as Mary Webb...

    (1932) by Stella Gibbons
    Stella Gibbons
    Stella Dorothea Gibbons was an English novelist, journalist, poet, and short-story writer.Her first novel, Cold Comfort Farm, won the Femina Vie Heureuse Prize for 1933...

    , an earlier comic romance novel about an eccentric English family living on a derelict farm in an unspecified near future. In this novel, various Brontë-esque, Lawrencian
    D. H. Lawrence
    David Herbert Richards Lawrence was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation...

     and other turgidly romantic literary tropes
    Trope (literature)
    A literary trope is the usage of figurative language in literature, or a figure of speech in which words are used in a sense different from their literal meaning...

    are exaggerated for comic effect.

External links