Ms Morgendorffer's Profession

Ms Morgendorffer's Profession


Summary: On the final night of the century, Daria Morgendorffer makes a fateful decision. [Completed 2/28/05]


Outside my window I observe the preparations. All Lawndale is to be lit tonight, sparkling with explosion after explosion of fireworks. 'Welcome to the New Century', banners proudly proclaim. While the exact timing may be faulty (A year off, I believe), the intent is visible. Cheery sight. A time of celebration and reflection. Retrospectives have been appearing in the papers all this week. Remembrances of what was. Predictions of what will be, soon to be disproved. 'A time of peace', while our troops are fighting 'savage wars'? Doubtful.


Contradictions, the silent background of our lives. Guaranteed for the next century. Societies will endure. The pomp and circumstance of royalty, the lies of politicians, the old inequities will continue, in perpetuity. Rhetoric and reality are not often alike. Despite their differences, they do share some common ground. Are these edifices built upon air? They would not stand if this were so.  Legacies need their bases. The origins are dim, but must have some foundation. Man is not an (entirely) illogical creature. The scientific discoveries of this century attest to the fact.


Triumphs of civilization. Struggling, we distinguish ourselves through symbols of progress. A foundation, impalpably present. Difference...We are not all equal. This is no utopian world without boundaries. (Utopia= 'No place'. No existence. Fantasy.) There are differences between peoples, between genders. Men and women are not utterly alike. My reading has dispelled such illusions. The dissimilarities, no, inequalities are many. We constantly battle the constraints of our bodies and minds.. Whether we succeed, I cannot say. I am no scientist, and it is not my place. All that can be said is that despite all efforts, the past remains present. The differences remain. We are not one.


With change must remain continuity. This is one instance, where I must disagree with those who advocate radical transformation. To throw aside our society, for all its imperfections, is an act of mere presumption. We must work with what shall remain. A gradual moulding is my ideal. That is the way of safe reform; no startling innovation, no extravagant idealism, but a gentle insistence on the facts of human nature. Such facts are the true foundation, I believe.


They remain in traces, an unavoidable legacy. Our origins are beyond individual control. We are all assigned our positions in life. This is mine, a firmly middle-class young woman. I reflect upon my status. Aspirations in particular. Throughout the turmoil of school, I have been writing. The task is one of enjoyment. There is a certain thrill in controlling the destinies of characters, taking the reader on a journey, their thoughts punctuated by your own. Narrator as navigator. Influencing the reader, in a sense. No, that is too subtle. Controlling the reader, guiding their motions, that is the idea. Sometimes I doubt it.


The reader is an independent soul. Oft-considered questions raise themselves. Is my hobby merely a means of gaining control? At my age, my voice is little heard. Ignored in favour of 'maturity'. Attempted assertion channeled into prose. The need for expression burns within me, fettered only by constraints. There are many.


The need for a supportive reader is just one of them. My works are almost neglected in their present state. Not that I do not receive criticism. It is merely unhelpful. My parents and sister look down upon my pursuit with upturned noses. A waste of time, they say.


-When you could be doing something, says my father, looking with a barely hidden contempt. He guards his reputation zealously. We are held up to his standards. One-sided. In the gathering darkness, I have heard him rant.


-No daughter of mine needs to be, be, a writer!


The very concept appalls him. Must be the spectre of his nightmares. I'd say they're deserved; yet I must maintain respect. He tries his best for us all. My mother is little better. She is more reserved in her statements, but an implied feeling remains. She is seriously concerned for my future.


-It's precarious! She has exclaimed in panic.


Have heard the arguments many times. They differ little from day to day. The essential points remain. I attempt to argue against them. Yet my mother is difficult to refute. She truly believes her position, and worse, I sometimes see why. In this sick, sad world, few who aim for greatness achieve it. Even fewer have it thrust upon them. Neither is likely. My pursuit is perilous, failure, pitiless. Swept into obscurity, and for what benefit! Nothing. And nothing will come of nothing...


And in the event of my being a writer, can my works succeed? Perhaps I am limited by my position, living in a world of interiors. Outside, the world passes on. Preparations continue. Life flows and ebbs. Great wars come and go. Every second, everything is happening out there. I always have wanted to tell the truth through fiction.


It's queer how out of touch with truth women are. They live in a world of their own, and there had never been anything like it...


Telling the truth (from my perspective) may be impossible.


I am often compared to Quinn. The picture of beauty, they say. Underneath this picture lurks an utterly shallow personality, caring for little but clothing, cooking and romance. Only rarely does she read, and when she does, it is always the same sentimental titles. Society loves her.  For amusement, Quinn prefers questioning my reading.


-Gee Daria, why don't you get your head out of a book for once, she asks.  She fears it will give me wrinkles. Beyond this, there may be a greater fear. A complaint I hear constantly. Even now, it echoes within me. Worse, this call is sounded by my parents. They wish me to be more 'social'. Reach out to people, rather than drive them away. Only then, will I reach my full potential.


In this family, writing is not considered a virtue. It is merely a necessity, to be avoided when possible. A stern view, expressed impalpably. It is not only I who is affected. By all accounts, my Aunt Amy is herself a writer. I met her once at a wedding, talking of her career and my doubts:


-I do not know whether I can succeed.


-Daria, you can do this. Society is not always right. It is difficult to resist tradition, but the smaller voice can prove stronger. You should at least try.


Our interpretations of the world differ. Around the house, she is mentioned with scorn. Amy may be a writer, but my mother says she has not fulfilled her true vocation. In a sense, she is right. Amy remains a spinster, earning her own living. No mention of potential marriage or motherhood was mentioned at the wedding. In contrast, Aunt Rita spoke of her six children. It was difficult to respond.


The difference is clear within our house. Rita is discussed with warmth. When I have met her, she is smiling broadly, truly content in her place. Satisfied. Society does not question her. Indeed, it bathes her in praise, a woman who saw her duty, and did it singing the while.


Duty... We owe our place to hard work, aiming for a goal in the distance, never questioning the journey itself. If we had, the journey may have already ceased. It is not a glorious world, but it is the best we have. The best we will have, I mean. Must work within it from the inside. Cannot abandon my family and society, as much as I sometimes wish to... We are unusually well made for the task. Fine suited, our true place designated.


Somehow, we have not only survived the disasters of the century, but have triumphed despite them. Temporary setbacks, they were. Our achievements endure. The march continues, in confident strides. Preparations are complete.


It is a truly noble goal itself. The idea redeems its flaws.  All this pervades society, delegated throughout the chain of humanity. Authority survives, and necessarily so. Many people are mere fools, as my school experience suggests. They were unable to function without guidance. This is too the case abroad, on a wider scale. The examples do not need stating. With a guiding hand, the government 'encourages' (enforces) democracy. Their methods may be harsh, but beneficial.


The lowest tribe, the most miserable and backwards variety of the human species, is at least capable of imitation.


Only then will these peoples be closer to their full place in humanity. A place designated by authorities.


I am not superior enough to imagine that the same process does not occur in our own society. Its operation is subtler, diffusing itself constantly. Infinitude of indications guiding us to our proper place.


Looking around me, my family follows this motivation, a benevolent guide. They do not want me to become an outsider, living a lonely existence. Reflecting further, their encouragement of being 'more social' is ultimately guided by compassion. The guiding hand appears elsewhere, in the paternal voices speaking through literature. An assignment ideally suited for both sexes alike:


Man for the field and woman for the hearth,

Man for the sword and for the needle she:

Man with the head and woman with the heart:

Man to command and woman to obey.    


I do not dare to question the foundation of our society, difference (And it is not my place). It must be maintained. By writing, I am only narrowing it. We are suited to our positions. Complaint may be our natural right, but it must not come from the wrong source. That could threaten the entire edifice. It is nobler to leave it unspoken, to smile despite adversity. And by writing, I cannot achieve that. Despite some reluctance to part with the pen, it is not the true path for me. It is not my place. Damnit, Quinn was right.


Oh dear. Some vestiges still remain. The weight of authority crushes me. It is not painful, soon lifting. Almost liberating, really. No longer am I struggling against impossible odds. Now I feel the support of society itself, encouraging my newfound sense of direction, thrusting me forward into the future.


I cannot amend my ways suddenly. The process must be slow, small gestures indicating those to follow with greater clarity. A light flooding the darkness. I run out the door to meet my family in the streets.  It is not a short walk, but I can make it. It may be a new beginning, a new...  In the distance the fireworks are already beginning to explode. My thoughts dissolve in hurried movement and cheers.



With chimes at midnight, the nineteenth century ceased to be.


Notes and Sources

To an extent, we all reflect our context. It is interesting to ponder how people and characters may appear thrust into another period, not through time travel, but through lived experience, knowing no other time.

This story is intended to be an example of temporal transposition. The speaker is of course Daria Morgendorffer, but it is the Daria of 1899. It should be firstly noted that 'her' writing style reflects literary developments of the nineteenth century, the style of punctuation echoing that of Madame Bovary, and the term 'stream-of-consciousness' being introduced in Appearance and Reality (1890).


More importantly, this Daria reflects the dominant thought of her times, ultimately believing in rigid gender roles and racial stereotypes. At the same time, this dominant thought is not inescapable, as reflected in Amy challenging the system.

Unusually, Daria is shown showing more respect to Rita and Helen as a result of this challenge. Sadly, the Daria of 1899 is already stuck in her ways. The battle has already been fought and lost, if it has been fought at all. It is likely that her copious reading has contributed to her conception of the world. Indeed, these ideas are internalised. This is why I have presented quotes through italics, with little other indication. The point is that they literally flow through her thought process.

To emphasise the point, these sources are all contextual;

'Savage wars of peace' Rudyard Kipling, 'The White Man's Burden' (1899)

No startling innovation, no extravagant idealism, but a gentle insistence on the facts of human nature.
-George Gissing, Dickens: A Critical Study (1898), Chapter VII; 'Women and Children';

This source may appear unusual in coming from a work of literary criticism, yet the intention is to display how deeply patriarchal ideology pervaded both contextual texts and Daria's mind. The passage excerpted below illustrates this more clearly;


"There are who surmise that in the far-off time when girls are universally well-taught, when it is the exception to meet, in any class, with the maiden or the wife who deems herself a natural inferior of brother, lover, husband, the homely virtues of Ruth Pinch will be even more highly rated than in the stupid old world. There are who suspect that our servant-question foretells a radical change in ways of thinking about the life of home; that the lady of a hundred years hence will be much more competent and active in cares domestic than the average shopkeeper's wife today; that it may not be found impossible to turn from a page of Sophocles to the boiling of a potato, or even the scrubbing of a floor. When every spendthrift idiot of a mistress, and every lying lazybones of a kitchen-wench, is swept into Time's dust-bin, it may come to pass that a race of brave and intelligent women will smile sister-like at this portrait of little Ruth. They will prize Dickens, instead of turning from him in disgust or weariness; for in his pages they will see that ancient deformity of their sex, and will recognize how justly he pointed out the way of safe reform; no startling innovation, no extravagant idealism, but a gentle insistence on the facts of human nature, a kindly glorifying of one humble little woman, who saw her duty, and did it singing the while."

Nothing will come of nothing- William Shakespeare, King Lear, I, 1, 92.

It's queer how out of touch with truth women are. They live in a world of their own, and there had never been anything like it... Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1899), p.28.

The lowest tribe, the most miserable and backwards variety of the human species, is at least capable of imitation., Count DeGobineau, On The Inequality of the Human Races (1853), p.82.

Man for the field and woman for the hearth,
Man for the sword and for the needle she:
Man with the head and woman with the heart:
Man to command and woman to obey.

Lord (Alfred) Tennyson, The Princess. (1847)