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Elizabeth: A Competitive Spirit Against Demelza Poldark (A Love for Ross? Pt10)

Elizabeth wearing her special red dress for Ross in 'Demelza' and in 'Jeremy Poldark' was one of her early methods to entice and 'rebuild her ascendancy' over Ross. In the journey questioning her love or lack of love for him this post now covers her motives in this and if this was born out of love. A previous blog post 'Elizabeth: A Green-eyed Jealousy of Demelza Poldark' may relate closely as reference there is made to Elizabeth's confirmed feelings of jealousy towards Demelza. Graham narrated this was due to Demelza's 'success' and her 'blossoming'. However, jealousy and love do not necesarily go hand in hand so that jealousy does not necessarily prove the existence of a real love. This blog will consider another factor that might have been at play. A spirit of competition in Elizabeth. After so many years had passed did Elizabeth make her subtle moves to entice Ross because she was driven by an ardent and enduring love of him or instead because of a desire to beat Demelza and be the superior, most wanted and most admired one? 

Love On Hold?

Elizabeth visiting Ross poldark at nampara with a uneasy atmosphere
Turning up at Nampara four years after rejecting Ross and seeming to want something romantic from him might suggest Elizabeth was genuine as she had sought this before she even knew about Ross and Demelza. However on the other hand, as explored in the previous post 'Reaching out for Ross', if she was always and only ever motivated by a true love for Ross why did it take four years? And why coincidentally only when her marriage to Francis was crumbling or maybe over by then?

Here it is feasible to consider that Elizabeth falling out of love and happiness with Francis enhanced the appeal of Ross. Before then i
n the full edition of 'Ross Poldark' Graham narrated Elizabeth feeling 'life is good' with Francis and that her quarrel with Ross had 'healed'. Narrating her pity for Ross in his loneliness there was no feeling expressed of her self pity due to her loving Ross back and being denied of him. Instead Graham wrote in the full edition of 'Demelza' that this night had been the 'peak of her happiness'. Where her happiness with Francis went downhill her interest in Ross renewed itself and went up hill so that where for years she had not sought him out, then she suddenly did. Perhaps if this was not for love of him, it was for her to feel loved by someone else, if not her husband. 

A Trigger In Demelza

'At Christmas she had been a little piqued by the young Demelza's success, and today she had taken pains to see if she could rebuild her ascendancy over Ross, a matter that was becoming more important to her than it had once been.'
Demelza (Book 1 Chapter 3)

Whether Elizabeth loved Ross or not after Demelza's appearance at her visit to Nampara she stayed away. She was prepared at that time to leave Ross alone declaring herself that she was ‘too late’. She did not decide to rebuild her ascendancy in his mind until a year later at the christening of his first child (Julia Poldark). As stated above Graham narrated the trigger as being the Christmas gathering at Trenwith six months before. It was the sight of the happy married couple, Ross and Demelza, that affected her. Graham's 
narration is unequivocally clear in that Elizabeth's motive was that she was 'piqued by young Demelza's success'. This meant the source of Elizabeth's motive was Demelza. Not Ross or a resurgance of love and yearning for him. Just Demelza. The trail of Elizabeth's motive landed firmly at Demelza's door. With her as the trigger, a motive in the spirit of competition is highly suggestible rather than of love.

First Meeting- A Spirit Of Competition Brewing

A Young Demelza holding bluebells in the Nampara parlour
The first meeting between Elizabeth and Demelza will be covered in the upcoming blog post 'That Bluebell Scene'. It e
stablished the Demelza-Ross-Elizabeth love triangle. With it, a theme of competition between Elizabeth and Demelza is subtly enthused into the scene too. This is clear as both women seemed to resent the other as a rival by viewing the other as an obstacle to their pursuit of Ross. Elizabeth's thought realising that 'Oh God, so there is something between them.' seemed a far from happy thought for her. Equally Demelza was deflated seeing Elizabeth's beauty and how Ross looked at her. So in her resentment she had immature thoughts of hatred towards her. Demelza's thoughts also had a competitive edge. As if she knew Elizabeth's intentions with Ross were romantic too, having already slept with Ross the night before, she thought of Elizabeth 'She's one day too late, just one day.' 

Elizabeth Pipped To The Post By Demelza

Demelza’s ‘one day too late’ thought undoubtedly conjures up the competitive imagery of some sort of race and her getting there first just in the nick of time before Elizabeth. But besides their thoughts, the competition in this first scene together was also in Elizabeth and Demelza's words and actions too. Refusing Demelza's offer of bluebells Elizabeth said "I'm afraid they would droop. See they're drooping already. Bluebells are like that." As Graham seemed to honour and give a nod 
elsewhere in his story to the symbolism of bluebells as everlasting love, Elizabeth's comment seemed a smartly and almost challengingly veiled suggestion that whatever romance Demelza had with Ross would also not endure. 

The current of competition ran through to the end of this scene with Demelza too seeming to respond to this challenge. This is where as Ross remembered years later in 'The Angry Tide'  '....after she (Elizabeth) had gone Demelza had come to sit at his feet, an instinctive movement as it were to claim him.' E
ven if Demelza did not go on to be an active and cunning competitor against Elizabeth, at this stage this undoubtedly alluded to a claiming of a prize that Elizabeth had missed out on. 

A Competition In Ross's Eyes Too 

Graham kept the underlying theme of competition between Elizabeth and Demelza going in the second meeting and others too. He did this even through Ross's own eyes. In fact Graham wrote of Ross comparing the two women several times during the whole saga. At this early stage and second meeting at Trenwith for Christmas he thought that ordinarily Elizabeth '...started any such competition with advantages of feature and colouring over almost all women.' Nevertheless later that night Ross declared Demelza to have been a 'triumph'. More significantly Ross himself had concluded before then that Demelza '..had never looked so charming before. In her own queer way she rivalled Elizabeth.'

Let The Competition Commence

Elizabeth: The Solo Competitor For A Prize She Had No Claim To

In a sense Demelza was a little naive against Elizabeth. She was wary of her as a rival, saw her making 'she-cat' eyes at Ross but with Ross not falling prey to this to begin with, Demelza relaxed her guard. She concluded of Elizabeth that 'Perhaps she isn't so bad'. Years later in the saga when she saw Elizabeth was still pursuing Ross in 'Jeremy Poldark', she did not want to compete for Ross and thought to herself 'This time I haven't the heart.' Meanwhile before this at Trenwith for Christmas, speaking of her marriage troubles Elizabeth did tell Ross "I have no claim on you, you know that..." To Ross's discomfort she still had nevertheless  also prodded him as to whether he was happy with Demelza. This and Graham's revelation that it was this evening where 'piqued' by Demelza's success Elizabeth was triggered to rebuild her ascendancy over Ross does again help to understand that it was Demelza at the centre of her motives. Because despite Elizabeth's acknowledgement that she had no claim on Ross she was still moved to pursue him anyway because she had seen Demelza as a success that was making Ross happy.

A Fight For A Firm Hold And For Ross's Greater Attentions.

Elizabeth's mission to 'rebuild' her ascendancy over Ross implies a 'reclaiming' of something that Elizabeth had had before and had since lost. Something now lost to Demelza. This would be first place position in Ross's heart and mind. It was lost in his marital bliss and in him directing all his new found love, interest and affection to another woman. Demelza! As the term 'ascendancy' means to dominate over or to be in a superior or advantageous position of power and influence, in the spirit of competition Elizabeth was grasping for that first place position back and therefore over Demelza. It was essentially a fight for Ross's greater affection and love of her instead. But as well as this there was the relish and validation of a greater hold over him than Demelza. That was the supreme goal. That Ross would think of her, value her and prioritise her over his own wife. That was the prize rather than Ross himself. The blog post 'The Greatest Love Above Any Other' refers to Ross feeling there was no flaw in his relationship with Demelza and that his happiness with her was 'the greatest of all'. Graham fed the theme of competition by introducing into the plot that while Ross had felt this way Elizabeth was simultaneously plotting to 'ascend' this and so to essentially knock Demelza off her perch and install herself there instead. It was a love triangle where Elizabeth was competing in the true sense of the word
A fight for priority by Ross in respect of his attentions and affections. 

Elizabeth: Driven By Pride Not By Love

Graham's choice of word to explain Elizabeth's feeling which had prompted her ascendancy mission is very revealing. The dictionary definitions for 'Piqued' essentially defines this as 'a feeling of irritation, resentment or of being annoyed'. However, many official dictionary definitions also make reference to a 'wounded pride'. defines it as 'sharp irritation and resentment, especially by some wound to pride.' The Cambridge dictionary refers to '..anger caused by damage to ones pride..' and the free dictionary refers to 'vexation caused by a perceived slight or indignity: a feeling of wounded pride.' This means that not only did Graham put Demelza and not Ross at the centre of Elizabeth's motive to reclaim his greater romantic interest, but rather than love he put pride and vanity as the nature of the main emotion fuelling Elizabeth's mission to reclaim Ross’s interest back.

But Admiration Was Elizabeth's Due

Why should Elizabeth feel
'perceived slight', 'indignity' and issues of 'wounded pride' simply because Demelza was successful and happy with Ross? This suggests that behind her sophisticated and graceful demeanour was a vain woman who perhaps also felt a sense of entitlement. Vanity wise she was a woman who reminded herself '...not to smile much in private, for that would deepen the (her) lines, but to smile much in public, for that would hide them.' She knew herself to be beautiful but there was a pressing emotional need and sense of entitlement to be greatly admired. In 'Jeremy Poldark' Graham explained that despite her husband Francis’s wishes against this, that one of the reasons she wanted to keep George's friendship was because 'Admiration such as he brought was rare enough in the life she led. She knew it was her due, and the knowledge made it all the harder to be without.' 

Indeed Elizabeth’s thought that admiration was her due confirms her entitlement. True to this innate need, in 'Warleggan' Elizabeth was prepared to be dishonest and disloyal to Ross by lying to him when asked that she was not receiving significant support from George. All because she had to have  the approval of both men. She was a woman who craved adoration so much that she would defy the principles of friendship and honesty in order to have this. Admiration meant more to her and certainly helps to understand not only why losing Ross's greater interest and admiration to Demelza would be an ‘injury’ to Elizabeth, but also that she was willing to forgo the principles of integrity to reclaim it. Even when she knew she really had no rightful claim to Ross any longer!

A Similar Trigger Of Admiration For Competition

The scene 
in 'Warleggan' of Elizabeth telling Ross she made a mistake marrying Francis is an example of Elizabeth responding to a threat to the admiration that was her due and which in the moment she may have irrationally perceived was being stolen away to another woman. Immediately before this major bombshell of hers she had observed Ross engaging with Caroline directly opposite on the dinner table. After Ross did admit to her that Caroline was "Very striking", herself striking at her own values of physical beauty and admiration she asked him if he thought "..that what the eye doesn't admire the heart doesn't desire?" She went on to engage with him in what Graham wrote as 'flirtatious conversation'. In doing so Elizabeth showed that her tendency to pursue Ross was not due to a reaction and feeling of love for him but as a reaction to a threat of loss of admiration or ascendancy. First and earlier in the story this was from Francis in her marriage and then this was when another woman through her eyes was a challenger to her ascendancy/admiration. In the main, Demelza, who was the chief offender.

Something About Demelza- Nothing About Ross

There was something about Demelza that lit Elizabeth's competitive flame irrespective of Ross. Despite a cool and cultured temperament, besides the scene where Elizabeth furiously swore on the bible for George in 'The Four Swans', much to Francis's alarm she lost her cool on one other occasion concerning Demelza. Set out in the full and first edition of 'Demelza' the trigger was Francis praising Demelza and expressing that he liked her and that she would ingratiate well in to their gentlefolk society. In a blaze of anger and before leaving the room and running up the stairs ‘....with tears on her cheeks...’, Elizabeth made several insulting comments about Demelza. She referred to Demelza as Ross's 'little wife' who could be mistaken for the servants. She made a sarcastic comment about Demelza trying " play the great lady before she has even learned to play the small one." Also she had said that Francis should "keep ...your praise for the beggar girl Ross has married!" 

This scene was very important in demonstrating the highly charged and emotion uncharacteristic of Elizabeth that Demelza could provoke in her. Purely due to jealousy of Demelza's success and blossoming, and that where admiration that was her due this instead was being lauded on Demelza. The revelation of her derogatory views on Demelza however and again aids understanding on why Elizabeth would feel 'wounded in pride' and 'slighted' in competition against someone as lowly as she thought Demelza was. Perhaps she may not have felt so outraged against another woman of her own status. Perhaps she would not have seriously competed in that case.

The Lady Versus The Beggar girl

Resentment -The feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc,, regarding as causing injury or insult.

In light of Elizabeth's dismissive attitude towards Demelza on her visit to Nampara and her real views on Demelza as a 'little wife' and 'beggar girl', it is easier to understand why Elizabeth  was later so provoked and 'Piqued' by Demelza’s success. Since Elizabeth viewed Demelza as inferior to her and insinuated she would not have a lasting love with Ross it would then have 'wounded her pride' for Demelza to turn up at her door months later as his wife. The added audacity for Elizabeth was having it flaunted before her that Ross had in fact fallen quite happily in love with Demelza, the 'beggar girl' and it was she that now commanded his attentions. She might then see that as a 'perceived slight' against her if it made her feel inadequate. She most likely did felt feel lowered in Ross’s mind than before. Certainly if she felt she needed to 'rebuild' her ascendancy, as this suggests she thought her place of importance in Ross's mind had been descended to a lesser position and naturally Demelza was the cause. As with the definition for resentment (a component of ‘piqued’), Elizabeth did feel displeasure and indignation over this. Just as if she had been insulted or injured. 

Naturally for Elizabeth, having established that Ross’s happiness with the 'beggar girl' was a matter of pride and vanity for her as a woman who sought his greater admiration, the competition for her was to redress that balance and to restore her pride and sense of self worth, This appears to have been her reason rather than it being due to a burning love for Ross.

Competition Regardless Of Ross

Graham showed that Elizabeth's competitive spirit against Demelza was not necessarily connected to Ross. Leaving the Truro ball 
in 'Demelza' where Demelza was a huge success Graham wrote in the full and first edition that Elizabeth was now feeling 'lonely and unhappy' and that 'Her marriage had not at all turned out as expected.' Though he referred to her as a 'beautiful, rather over-reserved disappointed young woman.', as narrator Graham did not link this disappointment to not having Ross. In fact though she had hinted to George of her unhappiness with and at Francis, there was no reference made at all of Elizabeth even thinking of or longing for Ross at this entire event. Instead he pointed to the source of Elizabeth's disappointment as simply being of Demelza. To clarify Graham wrote that  'She was also jealous of the blossoming Demelza...'

Seated with Demelza on the journey home Elizabeth even had a competitive spirit deciding to talk to her about motherhood, because '...with Demelza the mother she could expand and talk as she could not have begun to with Demelza the wife.' Motherhood was an ideal choice as Elizabeth specifically thought that 'She had one great success in life Geoffrey Charles.' It is clear that Elizabeth as a character was so determined not to look a failure (such as in her own marriage), that she had to find a discussion topic which she thought she rivalled or equalled Demelza on. But if Elizabeth was determined not to look a failure in the trivial matter of small talk then she likely was determined not to look a failure in the bigger matter of her loss of first place in Ross (her own first love’s) mind and affection. It clearly related to her self esteem and self worth. Therefore given her vain outlook on the heart desiring what the eyes admire, it is no surprise that as set out in the 'A Touch of Red Dress Seduction' post, Elizabeth’s first formal step to rebuild her ascendancy was to out do Demelza by comparison in looks. Simply by wearing a more stunning and ‘mesmeric’ dress for Ross than Demelza would care to or have available to wear herself even to her own child’s christening.

Pursuing Ross- More Important Because Of Demelza

Another but very key indication that Elizabeth's mission to reclaim Ross's greater admiration was more to do with a spirit of competition against Demelza than a true and real love for Ross Poldark is in the added context Graham gave to this goal of hers. He specifically wrote that her wish to rebuild her ascendancy was 'more important to her than it had once been.' This is quite a major revelation because Graham was essentially explaining that it was her annoyance and piqued feeling at Demelza's success that made her want Ross's romantic attention and that more powerful hold over him, than any other time in the five years before. Yet if love is supposed to be a most powerful and dominating emotion that can barely be suppressed, why was this not Elizabeth's trigger instead of Demelza's success? Along with all other indications starting from her failure to ‘keep the faith’ and wait for Ross in the first place, it is fair to question if this was because there was never really a 
powerful love for Ross by Elizabeth ever.

Syndrome Of The Dethroned Prom Queen

By her own private admission Elizabeth was a woman that craved adoration. Her finding this 'hard to be without' confirms a significant ego and vanity hidden by her outward niceties and poise. Her stimuli was to strike out against a 'wounded' ego/pride or her being made to feel  a failure. It was this that caused her angry outbursts, her shed tears, her sudden flirtatious talk and her plans to outshine another woman in choice of dress or conversation. It was this which made her 'stiffen up' at the mention of Demelza's name by Francis and later in her life by George. Even after she had made her peace with Ross at the grave yard in ‘The Four Swans’Graham never documented that the stimulus for Elizabeth's pursuit of ascendancy with Ross was a love of him. Ross was never highlighted as the trigger. A percieved failure or slight to her was and the need to beat Demelza was the trigger and true goal. 

In a sense Elizabeth acted like a dethroned prom queen who could cope without the prom king when she had other good things and attentions paid to her but when this dried up would be fired up into action at the loss of this from him and the insult of being usurped by another and more inferior prom queen. An inferior who had since taken the crown she once wore and the pedestal of admiration she had previously held. That the prom king should be happier and completely  absorbed with her inferior replacement would be an outrage and would be the most unfathomable blow to the ego because like with Elizabeth, though she knew she had 'no claim' on Ross, she did nevertheless feel she had a claim to his ultimate admiration and attentions which was 'hard' not to have. Therefore as Elizabeth did, she would fight back in competition. Love was not the issue. The fight was to salvage ego which Demelza's success belittled.

Next post in this series- With the absence of any clear and straightforward declaration from Elizabeth or confirmation by the narrator that Elizabeth loved Ross, the next blog post will look at Elizabeth's continuing but more bolder pursuit of Ross's attention and what appeared to be 'A Vague Confession of Love for Ross Poldark'.

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