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Post Info TOPIC: Is Ross an existentialist?


Student

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Date: Nov 29 10:59 AM, 2018
RE: Is Ross an existentialist?
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Ha, it is slow and steady wins the race, isn't it? Btw, nice to meet you, Music!



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Date: Nov 29 3:54 AM, 2018
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don't jump to conclusions too quickly Blackelburr. Some folk are slower at responding ,especially those of the music thomas ilk !

Regarding your question.... in a  (contradictory ) word ,YES... yes and  maybe . 

Even a fool like me can recognise a fellow existentialist... theistic/atheistic ..it matters none to we .

I am not about to quote  wikipedia defiintions or brittanica symantics ...but suffice to say  existentialists recognise the absurdity of dogma, and superimposed laws, and are always up for a risky adventure. 

sound like amyone we know. ?? 

and yes I agree 100% that WG wrote on many levels.. from story telling to cornish history to political reform to social injustice to philosophical  musings . just because you or thee or thou don't relate to aspects does not negate it .



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Date: Nov 28 11:45 PM, 2018
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Clearly, no one so far has been overexcited about the foray into existentialism that I proposed - but I'm not giving up that easily.

 

My impression is that WG was in fact quite keen on making philosophical references, particularly via the characters' own words (with the caveat that many of these references have both a philosophical and a "lay" meaning, and it is not always obvious which one of the two had been intended; however, it is also true that usually both these meanings are closely linked together - and perhaps WG even made it ambiguous on purpose?). For example:
Ross Poldark, b2 ch8 (Ross thinking about his father): His father had been a sensualist and a cynic; his father took love at its face value and took it as it came.
Demelza, b2 ch6 (after Jim Carter's death): Verity pulled at her gloves and thought what a strange man Ross was, at once a cynic and a sentimentalist, a strange blend of his father and his mother and a personal x equation belonging to neither. Abstemious enough by the standards of the day, he was now drinking himself into an ugly stupor over the death of this boy, who had not even been employed by him for a year or more before his imprisonment. (...) 
They were all sentimentalists at heart, the Poldarks, Verity thought, and she realized suddenly for the first time that it was a dangerous trait, far more dangerous than any cynicism.
Jeremy Poldark, b1 ch9 (Francis talking to Dwight in Bodmin, after the failed suicide attempt): 'Are you a fatalist, Enys?' Francis brought his brows together in a sudden grimace of nervous resentment. It broke over his frozen face like a storm. 'D'you believe we are masters of ourselves or merely dance like puppets on strings, having the illusion of independence? I don't know.'
The Angry Tide, b2 ch1 (Caroline, in response to Ross's enquiry about how she is taking the news about the gravity of Sarah's illness): 'Yes, it has been rather a shock, but Caroline is taking it well, with all the dignity and stoicism of a lady of breeding.'
 
So isn't it a bit unfair on WG to dismiss altogether the philosophical layer of his story and insist that he was just an incurable romantic writing about his beloved Cornwall and creating characters who appear ordinary enough for us to identify with? Couldn't he have done all that, and thrown in some philosophy into the mix just the same? Surely it should not be impossible to identify with a character who has been given some philosophical underpinning by the author?
 
Moreover, even if one doesn't believe it was WG's intention to make any of his characters a follower, or an illustration, of any particular philosophy - isn't it still possible that philosophical labels could provide a useful description of the characters and their storylines? E.g. the existentialist school of thought could fit well (as I suggested) - or not - with the attitudes and experiences of the character Ross Poldark in the books. If you think it does not, I'd be interested to know why? Is it because - as Stella seems to have suggested - it applies equally to all characters, and therefore cannot be regarded as something distinctive for Ross only? Or would another philosophy be a better fit? Any other reason?


-- Edited by Blackleburr on Wednesday 28th of November 2018 11:55:30 PM

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Date: Nov 26 12:34 PM, 2018
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Yes, perhaps that's the crux of the difference - some of us like to identify, others like to discuss. It makes things more interesting when not everyone is the same

I do not tend to identify with my giraffes in the sky, but I still like to look at them, look for them, and talk about them. If you don't, that's fine. Also, if you feel like identifying with any of my giraffes - you're very welcome!



-- Edited by Blackleburr on Monday 26th of November 2018 01:07:01 PM

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Date: Nov 26 12:26 PM, 2018
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"I don't see any fun in discussing their plain, ordinary lives - unlike discussing the books."

"They were ordinary people doing for the most part ordinary things.  That is why we can identify with them."



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Student

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Date: Nov 26 11:58 AM, 2018
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Stella Poldark wrote:
If you push me I would say that there is an existential part to us all and I'm not sure it is helpful to describe Ross in this way.

 I see. Still, I would say that that part is bigger for some of us than others, and I think it is helpful to note the difference - but I'm happy for you to disagree



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Date: Nov 26 11:20 AM, 2018
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Blackleburr wrote:

Stella, I'm not sure which way you meant your quote to point, but doesn't being "alone and completely responsible for their own actions" sound like a very precise description of Ross? The "aloneness" is pretty obvious (also, we've just discussed recently the comment Ross made after his mother died: "All right, then, I've lost her and I'm alone. All right then."), and he is always the first to take responsibility, be it for his own actions, or even - quite often - those of others (as in: Jim's death, mining disaster, venture failure, and so on). There was even a line in a letter from Verity to Demelza at some point about Ross tending to treat "any failure as his failure".

Also, it seems to me that the existentialist attitude explains well why Ross is always so gutted in the face of death or failure - the fact that they often appear senseless, random, with no direct responsibility or blame to be pinned on anyone, goes against the grain of all the "individuality and personal responsibility" line of thinking - leaving mostly just doom and gloom, on top of any natural feelings of grief.

 


 Blackleburr - My quote was not intended to point in any particular direction but rather to give a definition of 'existential'. If you push me I would say that there is an existential part to us all and I'm not sure it is helpful to describe Ross in this way.



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Date: Nov 26 11:13 AM, 2018
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Stella, I'm not sure which way you meant your quote to point, but doesn't being "alone and completely responsible for their own actions" sound like a very precise description of Ross? The "aloneness" is pretty obvious (also, we've just discussed recently the comment Ross made after his mother died: "All right, then, I've lost her and I'm alone. All right then."), and he is always the first to take responsibility, be it for his own actions, or even - quite often - those of others (as in: Jim's death, mining disaster, venture failure, and so on). There was even a line in a letter from Verity to Demelza at some point about Ross tending to treat "any failure as his failure".

Also, it seems to me that the existentialist attitude explains well why Ross is always so gutted in the face of death or failure - the fact that they often appear senseless, random, with no direct responsibility or blame to be pinned on anyone, goes against the grain of all the "individuality and personal responsibility" line of thinking - leaving mostly just doom and gloom, on top of any natural feelings of grief.

 



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Date: Nov 26 10:24 AM, 2018
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I certainly agree that the Poldark characters were meant to look like ordinary people doing ordinary things, but I don't think this is quite the same as them actually being those people - kind of like "nude" make-up is not the same as no make-up at all, or like family pictures in advertisements are not the same as real family photos. In all of the "imitation" examples, there is a certain intention, a composition introduced by the author, which sets them apart from their "real" counterparts, even though the whole point of the imitation is to capture the defining features, the essence of the real thing.

 
Also, while my tenure on this forum is a far cry from Ross's 14 years, I'm sure I would never have spent even the little time that I did here on discussing ordinary people doing ordinary things. Even though many people I know have this or that in common with some Poldark character, I don't see any fun in discussing their plain, ordinary lives - unlike discussing the books. But we all have different preferences, so I wouldn't expect everyone to agree on this.
 
Going back to the philosophy question - to me, spotting themes like that is a little like seeing shapes in the clouds: If I raise my head and spot a giraffe shape in the sky, then - while I'll realize that the giraffe is really in the eye of the beholder - I will still get excited at the discovery, stop to marvel at it for a little while and then probably try to share it with someone else. But if I'm looking at a painting of the sky and see a giraffe there, I'll have more questions to ask:
1. If the sky has been painted "from nature", had the author seen the giraffe I'm seeing? If yes, is it because of the giraffe that he decided to paint that particular picture of the sky? Did he want me to see the giraffe the way he had seen it? Or was he just painting the sky, and noticed the giraffe in passing? Did the author see any other shapes in the sky?
2. If it has not been painted "from nature", was it meant as just a generic picture of the sky, and it's just me who's seeing the giraffe? Or was the author thinking: what if I saw a giraffe shape in the clouds one day - what would it look like? Or, perhaps, is he saying: just like in my picture, there is always a giraffe in the sky - see?
 
The last situation is what I would call a blatant peddling of an idea. I'm sure WG is not doing that in the books, and I even have proof of that: I simply can't stand books that do this, whereas I love the Poldark books, so there - proved by contradiction!
 
However, any of the other options I listed seem valid possibilities to me - that's why I wanted to know what your thoughts were.


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Date: Nov 25 4:57 PM, 2018
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The Cambridge dictionary defines 'existentialism' as "a system of ideas made famous by Jean Paul Sartre in the 1940s in which the world has no meaning and each person is alone and completely responsible for their own actions, by which they make their own character." 

The Urban dictionary defines 'existentialist' as "One who follows the philosophy of existentialism."  and goes on to say "Existentialists get a bad rap due to the fact that some retards treat it as if it's a philosophy of despair. However, it's quite the contrary. While the philosophy does state that life has no meaning, the notion is not intended to make the individual powerless, but rather empowered to live life with a sense of exuberance and accomplishment in order to give meaning to his/her existence. 


Furthermore, existentialism emphasizes individuality and personal responsibility for the ramifications that come with being an individual. Since the individual possesses the freedom of choice to choose his/her experiences and non-experiences, he/she is solely the one responsible for the consequences that come with these actions and non-actions. "

I do not think Ross was such a person.  Although he felt a need to get away on various ventures during his life, the centre of his life was his family and, in particular, Demelza.




-- Edited by Stella Poldark on Monday 26th of November 2018 10:39:44 AM

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Date: Nov 22 1:24 PM, 2018
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"They were ordinary people doing for the most part ordinary things.  That is why we can identify with them."

Nicely put Mrs.G my thoughts and feelings exactly starting with the Prologue right through to the end I wouldn't have spent 14 years running the forum otherwise.



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Date: Nov 22 9:41 AM, 2018
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In a word No!

WG set out to write a novel, a story which began dismally and ended with happiness.  Alongside the wonderfully created characters, perhaps even over-riding the cast of humans who make the story so engrossing, the star of the whole 12 novels is Cornwall.

WG fell in love with the county having moved there in his late teens.  He was an incurable romantic and I believe the Poldark novels were begun because he wanted to write a story based firmly in Georgian Cornwall.  A place at a crossroads, where the industrial revolution was having its effect and the threat of war was ever present.  But it is also a place where because of its relative isolation, things changed more slowly.  The books flow so well because he knew Cornwall, had drunk in all it had to offer during his impressionable years as a young adult.

WG says in his memoirs that he wrote instinctively and certainly in books 2-4 felt the characters themselves taking over. I don't think he consciously had any hidden agenda, underlying messages or endowed any of the characters with a particular  'classical' philosophy type.  They were ordinary people doing for the most part ordinary things.  That is why we can identify with them.

I expect there will be as many opinions about this subject as we have members.

Mrs G



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Date: Nov 20 9:41 AM, 2018
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How many boxes on the list below do you think Ross ticks?
 
(1) the dread of death or of the failure of his projects; 
(2) the "shipwreck" upon insurmountable "limit situations" (death, the struggle and suffering inherent in every form of life, the situation in which everyone daily finds himself); 
(3) the guilt inherent in the limitation of choices and in the responsibilities that derive from making them; 
(4) the boredom from the repetition of situations; 
(5) and the absurdity of his dangling between the infinity of his aspirations and the finitude of his possibilities.
 
The list is from Britannica's definition of existentialism, https://www.britannica.com/topic/existentialism
 
To me, he ticks all of the boxes, and of the two major variants of existentialism - Christian (theistic) and atheistic - I think he represents the former more than the latter. Ross's parents - the Nietzschean Joshua, and Grace - also fit well with the philosophies considered as precursors of existentialism.
 
Do you think WG intended to make this parallel? Are there any other philosophies to be traced among the Poldark characters?


-- Edited by Blackleburr on Tuesday 20th of November 2018 09:49:33 AM

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