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Just A Boy And Girl Attachment (Elizabeth: A Love for Ross Poldark -Pt5)

Ross Poldark arguing with Elizabeth Poldark at Trenwith for season 1

'I wished that we should be close friends. Until today I believed that we could. But-if you are like this I can't see you again. Not ever."
Elizabeth Poldark (Book -Ross Poldark)

This is now the fifth blog which looks at this issue of Elizabeth's love or lack of this for Ross Poldark by focussing on a specific section of the book or incident which would help to decipher where Elizabeth really stood on loving Ross. So far these blogs have looked at her failure to wait for Ross to return from the war while knowing that he was still alive and deciding with her own mind that she wanted to marry Francis. As explored in the last blog, during her wedding day encounter with him she offered Ross no real consolation for his woes but did ask him to meet her needs and to offer her his good will and happiness for him. 

All Elizabeth's treatment of Ross so far seemed to have veered to the unloving rather than the loving. This is indeed a reminder of the reference to 'Elizabeth, the loved but the unloving, the Galatea who never woke.' That is taken from book three (Jeremy Poldark) but here in this blog we are looking at Elizabeth's third encounter with Ross in book one (Ross Poldark). It presents as a head to head confrontation following Ross's outburst to her about his disappointment in how she had let him down. The encounter proves to be quite revealing in respect of Elizabeth and the more emotive language used by her here provides more to decipher if there was a loving or unloving instinct towards him by her.

A Long Awaited But Feeble & Irritated Explanation

Elizabeth Poldark talking with Ross Poldark at Trenwith
It was about six months after Elizabeth's wedding that Ross got a chance to have this third encounter with Elizabeth following his return to Cornwall. This one was by chance as he had intended to see uncle Charles for legal advice about keeping new girl on the scene Demelza in order to be his scullery maid but without having her father's consent. It would be this meeting where Elizabeth would finally lose her composure and where she would finally say something of substance about her reasons for marrying another man. With uncle Charles not being home she still asked Ross in to the Trenwith estate. Presumably she was hoping to have a friendly chat. As Ross had faced Elizabeth and her dismissiveness previously and was probably still stewing about her unexplained betrayal, on this occasion he was not so friendly. After stating his intended business with uncle Charles in a manner that was to the point and lacking in warmth, crying tears she told him that he was being 'Viciously bitter'. In the circumstances where her only explanation to him so far for breaking a promise to marry him, and which he had relied on for two years, was just a vague comment that 'We were so young.', Elizabeth's accusation against that backdrop was probably rather harsh and disproportionate. His polite but curt standoffishness as opposed to maintaining a bubbly demeanour was quite understandable. Nevertheless it was this comment which seemed to unleashed Ross's inner resentment and provoked him into an outpouring of his feelings about her broken marriage promise. 

Ross's Emotional Release

Ross proceeded to explain at some length the depth of his hurt due to Elizabeth's betrayal. This is that he had certainly relied on her promise and had had no eyes for any other woman after he met her. That his only thought while he was away was of her. That his one certainty in his life had been her and he had believed that feeling was returned by her. He used some powerfully emotional expressions as he also said that whilst she had the right to choose her husband that "..every bone in me, every breath I take, refuses the idea that all my love can evaporate into air...But is nature so blind,..that it can create in me such a need of you that everything is void without you, and yet leave you cold and untouched." 

Elizabeth: "Dont speak" "Please go"

There is no doubt that Ross's emotional release was of a desperate and despairing man in need of some answers long denied to him. Yet Elizabeth's response was again quite consistent in seeking to shut him down. Most likely this was because he was making her feel uncomfortable. Her response was to tell him to stop or to go as she first said "Ross, please...", and then "Ross! You mustn't speak like that." When he continued to do so she asked him to "Please go... Go now." In response to that Ross asked "Can one dismiss one's thoughts so easily?" and added "I wish I could." However it was indeed a worthy question for Ross to ask her in respect of him. 

A Hurtful silence with Love?

If Elizabeth was truly in love with Ross would she have been satisfied that he had been left with no proper explanation for six months about pain that she had caused to him? Would she so consistently have sought to minimise and dismiss his distress and also his right to that decent explanation knowing that having an explanation might be less painful than having none at all? If she truly did love and care for him would she have been satisfied every day and night thinking he felt that not only did she not love him but all that time at war and beforehand she had never really loved him then either? It is difficult to imagine that wanting to leave things so up in the air and unsaid and therefore quite painful for Ross would be the loving thing to do.

Elizabeth's Unfair Complaint

Ross Poldark arguing with Elizabeth at Trenwith
Again Elizabeth's continued response to Ross was once again typical of her in that she seemed to put his feelings and his needs last and behind her own in saying "It is not fair to Francis or to me to speak as you have done." She added that it was also not fair to himself but without any explanation of why not, other than to continue in saying that 'she' had hoped that they could be good friends, good neighbours and to offer " and companionship to each other." Apart from demonstrating a lack of regard and probably also a lack of love and understanding for his emotional turmoil and his need for some consolation, the suggestion that they could seamlessly revert to being 'good friends' and that he could rely on her for 'help and companionship' was incredibly na├»ve given her treatment of him in this matter of the heart. 

A year before, whilst Ross was at war and Elizabeth had begun courting Francis she had sent him letters which Ross in retrospect realised had demonstrated a 'slackening interest' in him. Then she followed this up by administering the 'worst blow of his life' to him at her engagement dinner and his 'darkest hour' following her rather insensitive encounter with him at her wedding. Therefore her proposal here that he embrace her as a help and companion showed an overwhelming lack of insight on her part and also some self absorption too. Perhaps too a lack of love since love generally requires the absence of self absorption and a focus on the person being loved.  It is reasonable to question how he could then have trusted her to be a true friend, helpful and mindful of him in future, if she had not been in this?

"Ours was a boy and girl attachment."

Ross Poldark and Elizabeth talking at Trenwith in season 1Unfortunately for Elizabeth in this face to face encounter, six months after her offence to Ross and alone with him she was compelled and put on the spot with no escape but to give a more substantial explanation than just 'We were so young.' Bearing in mind that Ross was still clearly devastated and distraught this would have been the time for a loving or at least sympathetic and careful explanation for letting him down so badly and for not keeping her word. Maybe even some words of comfort that she had loved him and had struggled with her decision. But yet again on this third occasion she did not do this. Thinking back on the exchange here Ross later remembered that in no uncertain terms she had denied loving him. 'I don't love you.' Elizabeth had said: Well, that was straight: discarded like a rusty ornament: thrown aside;....' Not only did she deny loving him but possibly quite worse than this she did not confirm that she had ever loved him at all. She went further in belittling their past relationship when she said "Ours was a boy and girl attachment." In contrast to that she highlighted that in his absence and having 'grown up' she had met Francis and loved him. She continued that they (she and Francis) were not children and their tastes were the same. She reduced her feelings for Ross to a mere fondness when she said "I was, very, very fond of you." Her further comment that "You went away and I met Francis. I loved him." provides additional flippancy to whatever she ever felt for Ross. It is no wonder that he felt 'discarded like a rusty ornament: thrown aside;....' 

A Smack In The Face- Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Elizabeth did not give Ross any impression at all that she had experienced much inner turmoil in getting together with Francis but instead conveyed that it was more a situation of Ross being out of sight because he 'went away'. Accordingly he was out of mind to her. Indeed Francis and Verity's own accounts of how they got together support this. Francis having already declared to Ross that his getting together with Elizabeth "...was like a stroke from the blue." and Verity also having previously told Ross that " was strange the way it was just one of the things that happen. You don't argue with the clouds or the rain or the lightning. Well, this was like that. It came from outside them.' Of course this may explain why Elizabeth had told Ross at her wedding that maybe she could not give him an explanation. Indeed her comment saying "I love Francis and married him... There is no more that I can say than that." is very much in that vein.

A young Ross and Elizabeth Poldark standing together
Of course Elizabeth's explanation was clearly not the most compassionate response or delivered with care and certainly the last thing Ross would have wanted or expected to hear was that she had only ever been 'fond' of him and that on reflection she did not even think they would have been a good match. This is certainly what she implied when she said "We could not be happy together, we are not the right temperament to blend, to live in amity." (*) Considering that Ross had been at war dreaming and wishing to return to his first love and expecting her to be waiting for him so they could marry and walk off into the sun together, this comment at a guess would have been like salt in his wound. Some would say a smack in the face to Ross.

Unloving Manipulations - A Game Of Blame

In this confrontation there is a layer of discreet emotional manipulation from Elizabeth which can only be regarded as unloving and unsupportive. This can be found in her underlying attempts to lay blame and criticism on Ross for his emotional response to her betrayal and then to cleverly change her status to the victim and Ross's to the one who has done the wrong. 

First of all this emotional manipulation starts with her accusation that he was 'viciously bitter' when as referred to above it was probably quite reasonable for him not to be offering her warm and friendly smiles. But in any case he had not demonstrated any viciousness. Just that he was hurt. The exaggeration was a method to put at fault Ross's reasonable behaviour. Elizabeth did not demonstrate a level of understanding and tolerance in the first instance. 

Elizabeth then drew the matter to how this made her feel when she added on to that "It hurts so to feel you hate me." Of course without acknowledging what she had done to make him feel this way in the first place this again implied that she was the victim or the wounded one whilst at the same time laying guilt on to Ross for making her feel that way. A more nurturing response would have been to address Ross's hurt feelings, her role in this and further to have taken consideration that any feelings of hate festering in him over the last six months may have been due not only from the original offence but also exasperated by the fact that she had left him hanging six months and therefore half a year without an explanation which he was only now getting at his behest. It might have been be fair to ask 'what did she really expect?'

Manipulative Half Truths

Elizabeth Poldark standing by the window at TrenwithIn putting her defence to Ross Elizabeth said she had heard word that he was dead. We know as set out in the previous blog (Then came word that you were dead) that in spite of this word she still never believed he was dead. Therefore she sought to mask the truth and downplay her guilt with a manipulative play of words here. After saying this she continued that "If there had been any way to make amends I would have made them." Of course it would be fair to say that indications are that this again was not a true statement and that given the lack of effort Elizabeth had made over the six months beforehand to even do the very basic of offering Ross an explanation, that she hardly demonstrated the likelihood of truth in this statement by her actions. 

Elizabeth by now had shown herself to be extremely passive and dismissive in dealing with Ross and responding to his hurt. There did also seem to be a lack of motivation by her to do the leg work involved in making amends and helping Ross through his distress. As noted in the previous blog 'Wedding blues for two?', when she saw Ross at her wedding she made it clear that she had expected him to come and see her as she had wanted to speak to him. It is disappointing from what she said that this was not actually to explain her broken promise to him and make amends to him but instead to ask for his support and good will for her wedding.

Turning The Tables: Making Ross The Villain 

Elizabeth continued her emotional manipulation of Ross saying "I wished that we should be close friends. Until today I believe that we could. But-if you are like this I can't see you again. Not ever." With some thought and reflection it is easy to see the subtle emotional manipulation in this. She was seemingly stating that a wish of hers for friendship could not be met, not because of her, but because of Ross's behaviour. "..if you are like this..." It was quite an unfair comment to make when in fact Ross's behaviour was entirely reasonable and hers really was the one to be questioned and actually may have been partly or wholly responsible for why he was "like this..." in the first instance. The "Not ever." served to reinforce her resolve and this emphasis of severe consequences of his behaviour could be viewed as a subtle way to threaten and ensure the compliance she hoped for. That was that he must stop acting "like this.." 

Punishing Consequence For Expressions Of Hurt

There was indeed a consistency with Elizabeth's approach here in this Trenwith meeting as it is reminiscent of her response to him when in his hurt and upset state he was sharp and rude to her mother at her wedding. There she declared "You are hateful! I wish I had not asked you here." Here her approach was clearly one of avoidance whilst putting the blame on Ross for his hurt response. When dealing with the hurt emotions of an apparent loved one she voiced her wish that he was not there for her to have to deal with it. Here at Trenwith she did the same thing remarking to Ross "I can't see you again.." All this sings to this a familiar concept and pattern with her as she once again sought to remind and reinforce to Ross the consequences of showing his upset or not responding to her in a manner that she could cope with. In such a case there was then this constant threat made multiple times over the conversations she had with him that the punishment for his behaviour was that she would not prepared to see him at all. At the centre of this is her needs and what she could cope with rather than helping Ross to cope with his upset and how this could have happened.

It is very clear that Elizabeth was very self focussed in her encounters with Ross and in her approach with him generally. It is also clear that instead of seeking to soothe Ross's disappointment she did the reverse by rather skilfully dismissing his distress, turning the attention on her own distress and then essentially laying the blame on Ross for this because he was acting "like this..."

Easy: Just Forgive And Forget It

Ross Poldark looking out of the window at Trenwith
In continuing her dismissive approach and her high expectations of Ross, yet whilst meeting very low expectations herself to make amends to him, not only did Elizabeth seek to shut him down from expressing his hurt by telling him that he  "...mustn't speak like that." or to "Please go....Go now.", she expected him to just forget and forgive just like that and just on her say so. The magnitude of this request was for him to forgive and forget something which for Ross as stated in the book was the 'worst blow' and 'biggest disappointment of his life' committed by her to him without explanation. There is also a hint of unfair expectations from Elizabeth to Ross about his ability to just move on easily when she said "But you-cannot forget. You can forget nothing and forgive nothing." This she said after Ross had made his long emotive speech about how distressed he was over her broken marriage promise which he had relied on over two years at war. 

As referred above Ross had showed himself to be quite emotional and despairing over his hurt for her betrayal but since he quite fairly acknowledged her free choice to choose the husband that she wanted, his despair was most likely largely based on a lack of understanding shown by her for this unexpected betrayal and how she could do this to him. If there was a time for Elizabeth to finally understand his distress and why it was not so simple for him to just forget, it was now. He had set it out very clearly. To ask that he simply 'forget it' after hearing his long emotional speech of his hurt an pain was actually quite disrespectful in it's dismissiveness. It was an 'aloofness' she would typically show and which she would later irritate Francis with when responding (or failing to respond and attend to his pain) as set out in the post 'The Untold Story of Francis Poldark- A disappointed & Lonely Man'. 

To be almost critical here of Ross that he 'cannot forget' was incredibly unfair and cold. Especially when Elizabeth had not yet helped him to gain the understanding and consolation from her in order for him to do this and have some peace of mind. It was quite inconsiderate when she had actually disturbed his peace of mind more. To say he could 'forgive nothing.' lacked thought that a significant factor for forgiveness is understanding first and that from this healing tends to follow. Essentially Elizabeth was putting quite a lot of the responsibility and expectation on Ross to essentially just get over it without her taking any responsibility to give him the tools to assist him in doing so. Furthermore after now being told that actually she did not love him, that she was only ever fond of him and that on reflection they would never have been a good match, he received some tough blows in this meeting and surely would have needed some time to process this upsetting explanation first before offering his forgiveness with the kind of ease Elizabeth expected.

A Tiny Passing Sorry From Elizabeth 

Another interesting observation in this encounter is that this is the first one where Elizabeth uses the word 'sorry' and only once. In a conversation where she more or less implied that Ross's behaviour was the wrong and unfair one, she states "When you came back I was so happy, and so deeply (*) /very sorry that I had not been able to keep the faith with you." This was Elizabeth's only sorry. After nearly three years at war believing her promise to marry him on his return and receiving letters from her leading him to believe she was keeping that promise but had six months before started court another man without telling him, a much bolder and bigger 'Sorry' was surely Ross's due.  Of course it is great that Ross received this 'sorry' but it is not a credit to Elizabeth that it should take so long for her to say this word, and only once. Also it is not a credit to her that it was said almost defensively, in passing and only because she had been put on the spot. It was almost resentfully said. Resentful at him. Typically she seemed to imply a detached helplessness in letting Ross down as if it concerned matters beyond her control when she said "sorry I had not been able to... "

Elizabeth: Mixed Strong Emotions 

Elizabeth Poldark standing by the window at Trenwith for Season 1In this Trenwith encounter with Ross the text does states that Elizabeth had conflicting feelings and 'mixed motives' for asking Ross in to talk to her despite uncle Charles not being in. They are listed as 'the liking', 'the affection', 'the feminine curiosity', 'the piqued pride'. Curiously none of  these are Ross focused but once again are rooted in some element of her vanity or her need for information. There is nothing there which points to a concern for Ross such as perhaps a curiosity as to how he was coping. Readers are told that 'all these (feelings listed)  merged into indignation to repel some 'some stronger intruder' (*) / 'something stronger'. This 'something stronger/intruder' is not defined. Could this be the love that Ross was hoping she would confess to having had for him and still had for him? Could this be the love that some readers may feel she genuinely did had for him? 

Still No Love Defined

In wondering if Elizabeth's unnamed but stronger emotion might have been love, this contradicts much of Elizabeth's behaviour which did not manifest a real love for Ross just by the way she treated him so harshly and unfairly. For a character who never directly without any vagueness declared as she would do ten years later that she loved Ross, (but in fact declared the opposite), the expectation is that Graham as the narrator would do so in her place via narrative. But Graham did not in any of the twelve books narrate that Elizabeth loved Ross or define her feelings in that way. 

Graham could have but did not even use the opportunity in this scene to show to the reader that despite treating Ross so sternly that deep down she loved him or to share that she was thinking that she loved him. Instead whatever feeling or stronger intruder there was, the exact nature was left undefined by Graham. Graham in his consistency doubled down on this ten years later in book time, in the fourth book 'Warleggan'. There he wrote a scene where George Warleggan was listing numerous reasons as to why Ross was not a man Elizabeth should admire or have affection for. Again at this point Graham narrated that 'Her feeling for Ross had never quite been definable to herself.' In doing so Graham was consistent that whatever this stronger emotion was it was not without a doubt true love which in any event should be clear to the person and certainly should be clear ten years later but still was not. In comparison Graham was able to write without a doubt that Morwenna, Verity and Caroline felt a true love for their respective love interests during and including after their breakups with them. It is probable that Elizabeth's emotions might have been closer to a curious attraction and lust for Ross which were strong but not as strong and as easily defined as a true love that would compel her to keep the faith and want to wait for him believing he was still alive. 

Elizabeth: I Want Your Friendship-Nothing More

Despite Graham not confirming Elizabeth's mixed motives for inviting Ross in to speak to her as being due to love, he does report that 'All the conflicting feelings inside her suddenly found an outlet.' It is then that she asked Ross to leave and also then that she explained her original motives when she said "I was wrong to ask you to stay. It was because I wanted your friendship, nothing more." She went on to refer to her desire for them to be good friends/companions. This is fair enough but also quite consistent with the concept referred above about Elizabeth wanting to be loved and admired though not necessarily wanting to love herself. It would appear that as it was at her wedding Elizabeth's motives were to have Ross's good favour, friendship and good will but only on her terms and on the basis that he would forget and forgive her and would not show his resentment which she clearly could not cope with. Of course that is reasonable going forward but again only if she had done her bit to enable him to do this. Without this Elizabeth conveyed that she was willing to forgo her relationship with Ross entirely and told him "It's goodbye. If you could forget me it would be better."

Elizabeth An Unloving Instinct 

Ross Poldark wearing his army clothes outside Trenwith
The encounters that Elizabeth had with Ross at her engagement party as explored in the Keeping the faith blog, at her wedding and in her third encounter here at Trenwith, on close examination are all devoid of that instinctive behaviour that would normally arise naturally for someone who loved another. Three occasions of this so far is unlikely to be coincidental, whereas in each of them her behaviour pointed to the same instinct for self preservation, avoidance, easy admiration and approval. All this with a desire still to ensure that she was not thought badly off and to retain Ross's good will and friendship. She sought this at the expense of meeting Ross's own needs for some recompense and salving of his despair. Instead her explanation of having a fondness of him could have made things worse and consistently her instinct was not to be apologetic to Ross but to avoid his spoken criticism and ill will by him towards her. Surely if love is an emotion that compels someone to uphold the interests and well being of another, then so far Elizabeth had shown little of this towards Ross.

At the end of Elizabeth's encounter with Ross, though she tells him 'good bye' and to forget her we know that their paths do continue to cross and the next blog in this series (The Real Love Triangle, The Powerful rival) will look at Elizabeth's love for Ross during her period of newly wedded bliss with Francis through to the period where she begins to reach out for Ross and evidently changed her mind about him forgetting her.

(*)   First edition book one (Ross Poldark)
(3) Jeremy Poldark

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