Friday, October 06, 2006

Excerpts from Bea’s Novel (2)

“Some people knew how disturbed her home environment in Montclair had been, but not many. She had a way of making it sound more like everyone else’s than it was. But those who had spent a weekend with her family in New Jersey were quick to enlighten her for her own good about the family’s shortcomings. One friend had said, 'Bill changed his mind about marrying you after he met your family.'

She didn’t need their comments to be aware of social inadequacy. That same Bill had said, ‘You never should have gone to Vassar.’ Where, she thought contemptuously, would she have fitted in? New Jersey College for Women? And, hadn’t she endured the snobbery of some classmates freshman year? …

But all the more painful was the weekend her mother arrived in a cheap knitted dress that was too tight, as if she had done it on purpose.

Ellen survived Vassar and even learned. When her mother sent an awkward homemade dress for Ellen to wear to a party, Ellen borrowed her roommate’s instead. She studied hard, always aware that she was less well prepared than her friends from Brearley and other private schools. Ellen knew she was at one of the best colleges in the country and was proud to have gotten in. She would make the most of it. Yet, when all the families came up for graduation at the end of her fourth year, it was hard to be one of the only two girls in ‘the Group’ who were not invited to the dinner party given by the parents of Ellen Bacon Endicott of Beacon Hill …

It never occurred to her that she was on the make. She only wanted to realize her abilities, express herself, and fulfill the social obligations inculcated in those years at Vassar …”

Up until now, Bea has called her heroine “Ellen.” In the final paragraph of these three pages, Bea switches to her own name:

“In those years, she couldn’t decide whether to call herself Bea or Bee. She didn’t expect anyone to call her by her full name – Beatrice. She had learned that early on after the family dubbed her ‘Beata’ and her mean uncle changed the nickname to “Beat-an-egg.” So, when the family moved from Belleville to the more viable suburb of Montclair, she decided, at 15, to take no chances and told fellow students at Montclair High School that her name was B. But B…what she wasn’t sure.”


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