First, backstory - this story was written by LKH for an antholoy called Never After, which I haven't read all of. The idea behind it is to produce fairy tales with a twist or something like that.
The Earl of Chillswoth was a pervert, and everyone knew it.
The things he did with curtain rods was simply disgusting!
the sensation of his age-spotted hand over her pale young one frightened her more than anything had ever frightened her before,
…. except for clowns. She was terrified of clowns.
So our heroine is Elinor. What is speshul about Elinor? Well, her father is an impoverished nobleman who plans to marry her off to the Earl in exchange for money and court connections.
because the earl, though a known abuser of every kind of vice,
You notice how if the person with those "vices" is attractive, it's just a sign of how sexually edgy he is… and if he's old and unattractive, it's that he's a pervert?
The fact that the price for saving the family reputation was his only daughter’s health, happiness, and body didn’t seem to bother her father. Elinore found that . . . disappointing.
Um… shut up, bitch.
I'm sorry, but I find it kind of annoying when people try to pull the "rebellious princess doesn't want to be peddled off for her family's gain" thing as shocking. Hello, that is ALL people did with their royal/noble children back then: use them for the gain of the family, usually by peddling them off through an arranged marriage. It was neither shocking nor unusual for a girl - especially one that was sexually mature and even slightly attractive - to have her dad decide on a marriage for her.
Yes, it can be handled well
but when a less skilled author tries to evoke Feminist Raaaaaaage for the horror of an arranged marriage, it doesn't really work.
And yes, I know that in fairy tales it's all for love and stuff. But if you're supposed to be doing an edgy twist or whatever, how about we drop the pretense that love was the norm, or that a noble girl wouldn't KNOW what kind of marriage she would eventually end up in? Give us some Game of Thronesinstead of Cinderella.
Now, admittedly not EVERY girl had no choice in the matter. Just considerIsabella of Castile, who rejected one engagement and managed to pray herself out of another. Her brother eventually declared that nobody would try to make her marry. And there's Queen Isabella of Valois, who (at the age of EIGHT) refused to marry the future Henry V, defying the current king.
Isabella seems like a good strong-woman name, huh?
Forget I said anything.
Other shocking fact: men didn't really have it much better. Sons ended up with wives they hated. It's not like men could just pick and choose, and the girls had to ALWAYS go along with it.
He’d never been particularly affectionate, except in that absent way that fathers have,
Good job insulting all attentive, loving dads.
LKH really needs to get to some therapy over her parent issues.
The fact that he had already agreed to marry her to the aging earl, with his hungry eyes and wet lips and overly familiar hands,
How is that any different from JC, who is depicted as a living sexual harassment suit? Oh wait, JC is hot and French, and this guy isnt.
without so much as, I’m sorry, Elinore, had made her realize that to her father, she was not real.
Oh, bullshit. Yes, Ye Olde Times were hideously misogynistic in many ways, but not to the point where daughters weren't "real" except as bargaining chips.
She was not a son, and thus was only something to negotiate with,
Again, sons were used in these negotiations too, you idiot. Remember Isabella of Valois? Guess who the king was using to try to keep peace… HIS SON. He didn't decide, "Oh, he's not something to negotiate with because he has a dick. I guess I won't even try."
She was property. Legally, she knew she was, but she hadn’t realized that her own father believed it.
Well, then you're too dumb to sympathize with.
Elinor has already established that her father was distant and not affectionate, and that she lives in a society that doesn't value women. If she had two brain cells to rub together, she would already have KNOWN this. Now, she might be upset about the guy her dad chose, but it wouldn't come as a SURPRISE.
Her mother had been deaf to her pleas,
"Honey, we've been telling you for years that your father would arrange a marriage for-" "I'M NOT REAL TO HIM! HE DOESN'T CARE ABOUT ME BECAUSE I'M A WOMAN!" "Dear, he's already arranged marriages for your brothers, and neither of them are happy either. Michael keeps threatening to kill himself if he has to marry 'old pig-face' as he calls her." "IT'S JUST BECAUSE I'M A WOMAN! NOBODY CARES ABOUT MEEEEEEE…"
It was the celebration for midsummer. It was a time of games, dancing, bright colors, and looking the other way when some of the young girls and men went off by themselves.
… and nobody at a banquet with nobility at it would be doing that. Are we kidding? Those were peasant things to do.
Elinore had always been a good girl. She had refused all those handsome young men.
WHAT handsome young men? Is LKH trying to imply that the local lord, impoverished or not, had random peasant dudes propositioning her?
UM, NO. That would not happen. At all.
She had been dutiful, and pure, and everything a daughter should be.
… and in older societies, it would be EXPECTED. It wouldn't be a "I was good, so you gotta let me have my way!" situation.
So I'll give LKH some credit and point out that she finally wrote about a heroine who isn't short, curvy, black-haired and half something-or-other. Elinor is explicitly described as having long blond hair, fair skin, and blue eyes.
Her grandmother had been a great beauty in her day, but sadly stubborn.
… and that's all we're gonna hear about her grandmother.
Elinore was even named after that lost ancestress.
LOST? We're talking about a grandmother! Yes, that grandmother is dead, but "lost" makes her sound like a mythical figure!
She had been pliable, and look where all that good behavior had gotten her.
See girls? There's a subtle message here! If you misbehave for its own sake, it will somehow make things BETTER for you when you really NEED to rebel! That's how it works! A St. Louis housewife and author of bad vampire porn told me so!