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Keeper of the House English Commentary

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In the opening paragraph the origins of the woman are unknown. But we can already sense the presence of preordination, through the language that’s used;

‘I knew what the tea would be like before I got there…the house would smell of fruitcake and pink gladioli,’

The woman has already decided on what is occurring before she is witness to it, it is this knowledge that we see later on in the piece that lend to her power and control.

The mention of these sets a scene for the reader, it is a typical scene, which is commonly reproduced. It plays upon the reader in a way that it assumes that they understand the context of the situation; everything is ‘perfect’, ‘polite’, and mainly sterile. These are to be viewed in the negative, but this is not as prevalent in the opening scenes as it becomes later.

The loss of dependence is shown through her mention of John, we do not know who John is or the woman’s relationship with him but we know that she did what he wanted, simply because he wanted it. This dependence is no longer present by the use of past tense, and thus lends to her character that she may have had to become independent, become able to think for herself. The notion of control shows itself in these opening lines. The woman later found out to be called Abigail asserts her control by dominating the conversation, but the best indicator of her control is when she closes the door of Mrs. Holloway’s behind her; a task reserved for the hosts of any gathering.

Abigail’s conversation with Mrs. Holloway is polite and courteous. This gives a feeling of repression or things unsaid, and while neither has said anything offensive yet, Abigail’s tone is off-putting as it negates Mrs. Holloway’s compliments and statements at every turn. A feeling, while not overtly expressed, is of judgement and standards: the mention of the elaborately fur-trimmed coat. But Abigail does not constrain herself to this, she is above notions of superiority and even brings to light occasions which may have hurt her status; the break-up of Abigail and her husband John.

The deflective nature of Mrs. Holloway becomes even more evident by the mention of her granddaughter. She then proceeds to drag Abigail inside which is an indicator that she is trying to regain control.

Abigail observes that the conversations between people are all similar to conversations she’s heard before, and so stays indifferent to them; not saying a word. Abigail knows the reason why she’s at the party but refuses to bring up the topic that is clearly on everybody’s mind. This is another pass for control over the situation.

‘I said nothing. I could wait. I just didn’t think they could. And I was right.’

Mrs. Holloway is the first one to make mention of the burning of Abigail’s barn. Abigail is almost dismissive of the comments, emphasized by her simple affirmation of Mrs. Holloway’s statement. When she asks Abigail if she knows how the fire started Abigail replies by diverting the topic onto the actual matter at hand, which is who was responsible for the fire.

‘Did I recognise them? They weren’t wearing masks. I’m sure they were in too much of a hurry to bother with them.’

The masks mentioned is a reference to the Ku Klux Klan, as many members of the organisation prefer to remain unknown during their persecution of others. Abigail is likening the people responsible for the burnt barn to the group, but almost issuing a challenge to the ladies in the room; the people didn’t wear masks because they felt no shame for their actions, there is no

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