In the novel “As for me and my house” by Sinclair Ross the nature, wilderness and weather are very present. Sinclair Ross gives more life to his characters by using the climate and weather. He emphasizes the way they feel on their inside and their different attitudes toward their lives. The climate and weather are always present whispering to the reader what the character’s attitudes really are, the way they are really feeling. Climate and weather are used by Sinclair Ross to represent the dark and bad side of our society.
The different characters in the novel, all have different attitudes towards nature and wilderness. Phillip Bentley, his wife, Paul, El Greco and Judith West all have a different perception of nature and wilderness and this perception really shows how they are in the inside. Those various attitudes really describe what they want and what their fundamentals characteristics are. Always in the house and sometimes roaming around in the garden. El Greco is the dog of the family. But he never goes too far towards the prairie.
His masters would never let him: “He was a wolfhound; we should have let him live like one”(1) For El-Greco his life was comparable to a life in a prison with two guards always watching him and never letting him go far or escape. El-Greco is a wild animal. His original habitat is the wilderness. When he goes with Mrs. Bentley to see the moon rise, he starts howling at it: “… and when it was well above the horizon he went off and howled at it … “(p. 169) For him, he lives in a fake world where everything is artificial and without meaning. That’s why from time to time he tries to run away and go to the prairie.
The house of his masters isn’t his place. He wants to go where he really belongs. But again, his masters won’t let him go. Because he, after being domesticated, can’t go back in the wilderness, the wolves would kill him. Maybe knowing this, El Greco feels powerless. He wants to go but inside maybe he is scared of what could happen. Ignorant about this, El-Greco can’t control his need anymore and decides to go. El-Greco the day after is found dead. Paul, friend of the family, is a teacher in a school. He is educated and very knowledgeable. Mrs. Bentley and Paul are kind of close.
His personality attracts her. He is sweet and gentle unlike her husband Philip. So sometimes, Philip gets jealous of him. Paul follows the rules at the letter, justice and law. Paul is not made nature, but he defies it. He is defiant of the wilderness. Even though he knows that the nature and wilderness are a no trespassing zone, his education, his principles and knowledge makes him in a way stronger than those natural forces: “Faith, ideals, reason – all the things that really are humanity – like Paul you feel them there, their stand against the implacable blunderings of Nature… “(p. 05)
We could picture him standing alone, in some very windy place, in the middle of the prairie resisting all negative forces. In a passage of the book, Philip is doing a drawing with a school and how the environment looks around: ” It stands up lonely and defiant on a landscape like a desert. “(p. 105) This drawing can easily represent Paul and how he is towards nature and wilderness. Mrs. Bentley, wife of Phillip, strives a lot throughout the book looking for a way of trying to fix things between her and her husband. Things are not going well in her conjugal life and she really can’t stand it. She tries many things.
She attempts to get closer to him but he always rejects her. Mrs. Bentley is very tranquil, doesn’t talk a lot. She has a lack of self-esteem and hardly will state her deep opinions and stand for herself. Instead she just writes everything in her diary. Mrs. Bentley always keeps distance with nature and wilderness. She, in short terms, is scared of it: “The wilderness here makes us uneasy. “(p. 131) And she would never go too far from the house.
When out for a walk, she analyses and complains about how bad the wilderness is, fearing it even more: “… we feel abashed somehow before the hills, their passiveness, the unheeding way they sleep. (p. 131) Her garden, another place where she often goes to, is all the time destroyed by the wind. She struggles a lot against those natural forces most of the time, her garden, the house with wind almost demolishing it. Mrs. Bentley was grown in a nice, calm and anti-nature environment so she is really against the nature. She is simple and wants to stay at home secure for the rest of her life, every night sleeping below the Hereford. She hates change and would never even dare trying to approach the dark side. Judith West is a pretty woman with whom Phillip has an affair.
She would easily represent wilderness and nature. She is the reason for Philip’s visit to nature and wilderness. Judith is the horse of freedom that Philip draws. Her liberty will eventually attract Mr. Bentley making him commit a major sin. This sin will take him to the extreme side of nature, it is very risky and dangerous. Philip and Judith can be portrayed by what he sees on his way to partridge: “… he saw two horses frozen on their feet. They had drifted against a fence and perished there… “(p. 201) Philip Bentley is the husband of Mrs. Bentley and preacher in a small town.
Philip Bentley lives a very normal and boring life. He, for twelve years, was with a wife who didn’t bring him any kids and was probably not made for him. There was no interaction between them. The relationship was lifeless and very boring from Philip’s point of view. He always shuts himself in the study room and draws to escape from his life. Clearly we can see his attitude towards the nature and wilderness. He sees nature as something mysterious and he absolutely wants to go there. He is somehow scared of it since he has never been there before. Philip has never been on the other side, so-called bad side.
But after many years, he is tempted and wants to see how it would be. In his drawings, the wind is often present. He draws a lot of the nature too. Philip draws often horses in his pictures because they represent for him wilderness and freedom. His curiosity will bring him to the point where he will meet Judith West. She is his only chance for freedom. She will help him with his miserable life and accompany him in the wilderness:” The wind was too strong for Philip or the choir, but Judith scaled it when she sang alone… “(p. 51). This shows how Philip is not used to nature and how he’s trying to be so.
Also it shows how Judith is into nature and how her strong and powerful voice guides the other ones. Since his wife isn’t offering him much, he will be much more tempted to discover nature and wilderness. He then has an affair with Judith. Later on he gets a kid and Judith dies. This was a gigantic event for Philip and his wife. The only thing they needed was a kid and they got it and with a kid they can fill their lives with better things therefore fixing the tension and the problems between the two. This even really changed Philip and his perception about nature and wilderness.
At the end of the book after they adopt the baby, he does a drawing but with oils this time: “A file of cattle plowing their way across a field piled deep with snow. “(p. 206). This clearly demonstrates how he’s now coming back to the house and how he got his lesson. Phillip’s visit to nature created obviously some pressure and stress in the house but contrary to what others might think, this visit brought them good. It was to a degree Mrs. Bentley’s error that caused this gasp between them. She never faced the problem and or talked about it with her husband. She just kept everything inside her and they could not have kids together.
This visit really settled a lot of things between them. The different characters in the book see nature and wilderness differently. Each one of them has a different position. And they all react to nature and wilderness differently. Sinclair Ross really uses those two factors, nature and wilderness to express what his characters really feel inside them. Mrs. Bentley sees it as something awful but on the other hand, Phillip loves it. Fed up of his current life, he wants to try changing it. Throughout the book they face this major problem, always dealing with the wilderness, at the end, they taste what it is and it brings them some resolution.