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That Mysterious Unlocking Key-Demelza

Ross and Demelza with their forehead together in contemplative loving thought

Despite Ross's self confessed devotion to Elizabeth of several years, Winston Graham included narrative into the early story of Ross and Demelza's marriage which contradicted that he had a stronger attachment and yearning for Elizabeth of substance, than he had for Demelza. This post will look at one of these nuggets which gave the game away well before the final showdown as to which of the women would truly command his heart and why. This is the analogy that Graham set down for Demelza as being 'that key' that unlocked Ross's attention, desire and love.

Demelza: The Mysterious Unlocking Key 

'He was struck by the mystery of her personality ...that this hair and head and person of the young woman below it....meant more to him than any other because it made up in some mysterious way just that key which unlocked his attention and desire and love."
Narration of Ross's thoughts on Demelza 'Demelza' (internal book 1 chapter 10)

Graham wrote many scenes in the book as if to enhance and reinforce the notion of Demelza as Ross's greatest most meaningful love above any other. Of course this was over a period of time but it was actually not that long after they were married. This was at the beginning, during the course of the marriage and at the end of the saga where he reminded her that for him she was comparable to no other woman. However, much earlier, Graham includes a scene at the start of the second book ‘Demelza’ that followed an exchange of flirty banter between Ross and Demelza on their way back into their house. Inside Ross bent his head against Demelza’s hair and had private thoughts of gratitude that this ‘vibrantly alive woman’ whose personality he was struck by, was all his. It was here that Graham then wrote that Demelza ‘...meant more to him than any other because it (she) made up in some mysterious way just that key which unlocked his attention and desire and love.’ 

A Strong Key Against A Tempting Provocateur

This narration of Demelza as 'that key' to Ross's love, and to much more, is a juggernaut of a nugget. Apart from the fact that it is quite sentimental and romantic, there must surely be a recognition that it also was quite powerful and definitive narration in conveying the strength of Ross’s feeling for Demelza. 

Going back to the last post 'Demelza- The Surprising Underdog Frontrunner Over Elizabeth', this post supports why it was the case that whilst seeing Elizabeth for the first Trenwith Christmas get together may have affected Ross to a degree, that she and the effect she had was still not enough to derail his desire and new love for Demelza.
That was even the case on the second occasion of a Christmas get together at Trenwith. This was after the loss of Julia and where there had been some misunderstanding between Ross and Demelza which caused an unusual 
'cooling' off and detachment between them as well. On that occasion Elizabeth had taken advantage of Ross's grief and trauma from a difficult year and she flirted with him in the kitchen. As covered in the post 'Elizabeth Poldark: A Touch of Red Dress Seduction', with Ross flirting back, he later reflected whether the thoughts this stirred up in him about Elizabeth were a betrayal of Demelza. However, Ross still thought that Demelza, as the woman beside him then, was one that he had loved devotedly for four years, and most importantly that he still did!

The Mystery Of Unlocking Ross's Raging Desire 

It's a mystery when nature takes over like they are each other's 'The One'

But desire, a raging desire moved through his pulses. With another person he would not have struggled to defeat it. 
Narrative on Ross about Demelza 'Ross Poldark' - 1st edition print (Internal book 2 Chapter 6)

Thinking further on the concept of Demelza as Ross's 'unlocking' key and this being something that was unusual and almost unexplainable in how she had been able to achieve this, one should also remember that the magic (or some compelling force) that was at play, had worked between them beforehand. Indeed when remembering this, it does seem like the concept of Demelza being Ross's unlocking key and a mystery around this was woven into the story much earlier. This seems to be at the start of their romantic storyline before they even married. As discussed in a previous post called 'Seduction, A Blue Dress and A Spirit of Love', when narrating Demelza's attempt to seduce Ross in his mother's blue dress, Graham wrote that 'Her attempt at coquetry had been a painful failure.' However he went on to mention that '...nature was coming to her help.' Thereafter matters progressed between them whereby Ross was overcome with a 'raging desire' for Demelza. Ross had been celibate for some years and she had awakened a sexual appetite in him. She had unlocked him! In time his door would open wider for her until it was fully open. Indeed Graham did allude to Demelza having the effect of a key on Ross when he wrote that Ross would have been able to defeat his raging desire for Demelza if it had been anyone else. That is quite a pointed comment to make as it points the finger at Demelza having some uniqueness that caused Ross to react in this way. Ross did not defeat this desire and after Demelza offered him her body but then seemed to back away (in her apology of foul play regarding lying about not being able to undo the dress zip), he still took her to bed in a manner that years later Demelza would express felt to her like he had seduced her in the end, rather than the other way round. 

A Mysterious Spiritual Endorsement-(Mother Knows Best)

Ross Poldark kissing Demelza while she is wearing his mother's blue dress
The writing in Demelza's attempted 'seduction of Ross' scene conveyed a sense of providence in their coming together that was way beyond Demelza's contrivances. It was the kind that an author would do for a couple that he or she destined to be, and to stay together. This is so that in time, it would be part of the narrative construct for the reader to later conclude that with all the rest, there had indeed been a general running narrative that served to pitch that they really were each other's 'The One'

As discussed in the previous seduction post mentioned above for this scene, Graham even evoked the spirit of Ross's mother into the scene whereby he wrote that 'Her spirit moved and quickened between them.' So together with the suggestion of Ross and Demelza's union being fated, there was indeed some mystery added to the scene. That includes the suggestion that what was happening between them also had his mother's blessing and her help to bring it about. That perhaps was the 'nature' referred to, but with the implication that beyond the grave Grace Poldark approved of Demelza, a natural assumption is that Grace's contrivance, her 'help' and therefore her blessing, was motivated by her seeing and/or believing that Demelza, the miner's daughter and his kitchen maid at the time, was 'The One' for her son. Again, perhaps at this point she was earmarked as 'that key' to bring him out of his Elizabeth induced depression and heartbreak.

The Key And the Unlocking Nature of Demelza's Personality

"Closely, personally attached in thought and sympathy, interacting upon each other at every turn....."
Narration of Ross's thoughts on Demelza 'Demelza' (Internal book 1 chapter 10)

A Meeting of Minds 

The lead passage that this post is based around refers to Ross being struck by the mystery of Demelza's personality and there are other passages across the saga books to show how this played a role in Demelza being his 'key'. The passage extracted from the book which is the focus of this post goes on to reference how in sync Ross and Demelza were. That is both with their personalities and outlook on life. This was from the very beginning and this set the tone. 

Ross first met Demelza as she was trying to save her dog Garrick, and he then saved her from her life of poverty and domestic abuse. Her remarkable loyalty to her dog meant that unlike most street urchins would have done, she was prepared to declined his live in work offer. This is despite this being an offer of a safe haven and a life of opulence in comparison to what she would leave behind. But this was admirable to him and it was the deciding endearment for him to take her anyway and to include her dog. In keeping with that connection of character (since Ross was depicted as a man whose great loyalty meant he would put himself at great risk to save, help or defend a friend), Graham showed over the course of the saga that Demelza's nature and her traits were a key factor in causing Ross to connect so deeply with her. This continued thereafter whereby she replaced Verity as his best friend and then connected romantically with him as his wife.
In turn, after a fast and therefore seamless transition from being his maid to his wife, whereby she grew effortlessly into his life, Demelza's character and what she offered Ross meant that she in return was also his saving grace. While he may well have eventually married, it is unlikely it would have been to a  woman who offered quite what Demelza offered him which enabled him to experience the kind of happiness, contentment and purpose that comes with the love of a good joy bearing woman in return.  Aiding the theory of their good match and 'oneness', such was the case that early on in their marriage, when worried  that she had hurt her back moving her spinet during Verity visit, Ross had rebuked her, expressing that his happiness was now part of hers. But all the different strands of Demelza's character were extensive to cover all their marital scenarios so that Demelza was also a balm for Ross in the not so joyous struggles of life. This meant that outside of their marital infidelities (which they nevertheless overcame and remained in love afterwards), she was also a consoler where he faced certain upsets that disturbed his soul.  

A 'Key' Woman That Engaged Ross

'...he had a wife whose gamin beauty, wit and earthiness he still found totally engaging..'
Narrative of Ross on Demelza 'The Black Moon' (Internal book3 Chapter 1)

Comparison is often useful to aid understanding. Therefore it's interesting to note that in contrast to Demelza, it was clear that on the other hand Graham primarily set up Elizabeth’s appeal as being centred around her apparent fragility, beauty and her sophisticated and demure countenance. This was just like 'porcelain' that Ross had likened Elizabeth to in the first book. That was when he comparing her against Demelza who Graham narrated was not the raving beauty and was likened by Ross to 'earthenware'. But porcelain in this regard can be suggestive of great refined beauty but also arguably superficial or skin deep. Yet Ross was a man of principle, which in every aspect of his life leaned more to substance over style, rather than style over substance. So it makes sense that Graham presenting Demelza as being of more substance than Elizabeth (and one that aligned more with his values), would put her ahead as a potential 'unlocking key' for Ross. Personality along with values was key in this. 

Indeed, comparing Ross and Elizabeth's personalities against Ross and Demelza's, most readers would probably concede that Ross and Elizabeth were not the better match. That can consume an entire post of it's own but on a basic level there were differences between them as to societal values and outlook. Also Ross considered himself a morbid man who needed Demelza's spirit to counterbalance with his. This is part of what made Demelza 'The one' or a key to trigger and stimulate feelings of happiness in him too. Where she could achieve this by her wit, vitality and optimism, (which as per Ross's thoughts narrated by Graham and quoted above), Ross recognised traits of Demelza that 'totally' engaged him, Elizabeth as a more conservative, restrained and vainer character did not present this way. Apart from Ross's throwaway words about Elizabeth such as 'lovely' 'sweet' and 'kind', there is very little across all twelve books that really advocates for Elizabeth having personality traits that were particularly unique and outstanding, and therefore which would engaged Ross in the long term and in such a way that she could be a stronger contender as his 'The one' or 'that key'. 

When comparing Ross's thoughts of Demelza's impact on him with his of Elizabeth, it can be seen that much of what attracted him to Elizabeth were about her delicateness, beauty and her cool or sophisticated and cultured demeanour. Like 'porcelain' these are surface deep and perhaps on a short term basis they could unlock the average man's interest and love but would not be enough to hold this on a long term basis. It is unlikely they would be of enough substance to save a marriage and keep it lasting long with the same or near enough the same level of interest, desire and love in the other person as when it started. Within a year of marriage Francis had become a disappointed, disheartened husband and as early as the end of the first book Francis referring to her making " a mortal serious business.", indicates he did not find her an illuminating character to engage and bring out the best in him. Yet he had started out as the besotted FiancĂ© and husband. 

The One That Lights The Flame

"It is not just looks,'s the total commitment of personality: it's the ultimate spark between people that lights the flame...I want you."
Ross to Demelza 'The Angry Tide' (Internal book 1 -Chapter 3)

Staying on the topic of the mystery of Demelza's personality, Graham made a point in his narrative to present Demelza as such an outstanding character that she appealed to many. Those characters included both men and women. It was such that she really was able to charm many of the characters she came across in the story with something a bit more than physical beauty. It was her personality too! Several references were made to Demelza's charm, wit, vitality and to her 'light'. In the later section of 'The Angry Tide', speaking to Ross, Caroline spoke of Demelza's 'peculiar vitality and charm' and she had previously told Demelza that this would cause her to be swarmed by men when out in society. In contrast, despite Elizabeth's beauty and her being positioned as a woman that was seen as the ideal, Graham never narrated that Elizabeth had quite the same effect on others. This is except for the occasional man wowed by her physical beauty but who had little of substance to say about her character. It certainly was not suggested that Elizabeth's personality played the greater part in any interest shown in her and she was never presented as a thoroughly witty or 'vibrantly alive' lady.
But for Demelza, 'the key', whether it was a sexy, womanly, friendly or a charming aura, Demelza did draw suitors and interests from men including the more hungry ones like Hugh Bodrugan, Captain McNeil and Hugh Armitage. And this was based on both her looks and character! She certainly unlocked something in them to cause them to make ferocious pursuits of her. But all of those men still individually referenced a cocktail of personality points that made Demelza magnetically appealing to them and also to a broad scale of people across the classes. With Ross once telling Demelza in 'The Angry Tide', that it was not just looks but her personality that brought about the 'ultimate spark' that lights a person's flame, we are once again firmly on 'the one' and 'soulmate' territory. This is especially since Ross was conveying that this flame lighting up was indeed more than just about appearance, but instead a deeper connection based on personality. 

Demelza: The Woman That Was Ross's Stimulus

 'Beside him his father was silent, but since Ross was not ever really a talkative man except when under the stimulus of his wife's company Jeremy did not think anything of this.' 
Narrative of Jeremy Poldark's thoughts of his father Ross Poldark 'The Stranger From The Sea' (Internal Book 3 Chapter 4 Part 2)

Assuming the general concept is to be followed of there being only 'one key' to unlock a door, it is clear that through Graham's writing and his specific wording, that he presented Demelza in the story as a woman for Ross that was fated to be paired with him and would be topped by no other. But this was because of reasons of substance. Essentially the deep connection and understanding between Ross and Demelza was this matter of substance. As well as this, just as Ross thought in 'The Miller's Dance' Demelza's character illuminated him. He considered how fortunate he was to have a '....woman whose nature is devoted to loving all life, appreciating the small things, seeking them out.....' Ross recognising that he followed behind her, knowing of his happiness through her, really explains it all, as to why she was 'that key' for him.
It seems pretty clear that Demelza and the unique essence of the character she was, happened to make Ross happy and for most people, the things that make them happy also open them up. Happiness can be infectious in that way. Add to that, that Ross found Demelza to be 'vibrantly alive' and like happiness, that energy can be infectious too. Jeremy's observations in 'The Stranger From The Sea' are very much in line and supportive of this notion, with Graham writing that Jeremy perceived his father not to be a talkative man '...except when under the stimuli of his wife's company.' Indeed as a 'vibrantly alive' partner who made him happy, Demelza also stimulated Ross more than any other. She made him feel alive so that, as he considered in 'The Fours Swans', when under threat from Hugh Armitage, he knew her to be the centre of his world and if he had lost that he thought that his life with all his achievements would be 'hollow and empty and without purpose or future.' Demelza was not just the key that unlocked his attention, desire and love, she bad become his driving force. 

Finally, What about Caroline Enys, Harriet Warleggan & Elizabeth?

Of course when considering the possibility and the threat of more than one woman being Ross's 'unlocking' key, all of the ingredients within Demelza that made her this for Ross could only be so because they worked together with his and what he needed as a person. The fact that Demelza's unique blend of personality traits matched or otherwise complimented Ross's, enabled them to have a fairly effortless synergy together. The blend between him and another woman had to be right and in a kind of perfect (or near perfect) harmony. Having regard to Elizabeth, since Ross and Demelza had a deep level of connection and compatibleness, this then put Demelza at an advantage over Elizabeth. But it also did so for all the other potential love interests that Ross had across the saga. For instance despite the sexual tension Ross may have had with other women, there are indications that they did not have the same pull and hold on him as Demelza.

Caroline Enys

There were indications in the saga that Caroline Enys had an interest in Ross and that had he not been married to Demelza she could have pursued this romantically. On the other hand Ross's impression of Caroline was a developing one but he never voluntarily thought of her in that way. Before they spoke about this towards the end of 'The Angry Tide', and where Caroline counselled Ross on his jealousy over Hugh Armitage, Graham wrote that 'Ross found Caroline an agreeable companion, witty when she talked, economical of speech.' But he added that Ross thought that 
'She didn't have Demelza's small conversation.' That implies that Demelza was the bar or rather 'the standard' for Ross and it was for other women to meet the challenge of this bar. Having gone from thinking Dwight would be crazy to court and marry Caroline, Ross eventually took the view that she was an 'exceptional' woman. However, when Demelza told him in 'The Black moon' of her suspicions that Caroline was 'more than half in love' with him, whilst he retorted that he believed he was more than half in love with her too, he qualified this by saying that this was not in the way Demelza meant and that instead it was in 'The way of friendship-companionship. We accord so well. But on my side it is quite different from what I feel for you..." 

Harriet Warleggan

As well as Caroline Enys, there was also Harriet Warleggan that seemed to intrigue and excite Ross. However, whilst Graham may have led some readers to believe that Ross liked her so much that he was falling for her, he cleared up any misunderstanding in Ross's feelings towards her when he wrote about Ross's thoughts on this towards the end of the last book 'Bella Poldark'. This was that 'It was truly a physical sexual attraction. But the sexual appeal was short of lust, the liking not near enough to love.' Graham implied that Ross had deep insights into Harriet's nature and in particular her reasoning for marrying a man like George explained a lot to Ross and seemed to influence his view of her. So as he said, whilst he had a total commitment to Demelza and her personality, this was not quite the case with Harriet. Nevertheless like with Caroline, Ross saw Harriet Warleggan as a potential friend and felt that if not for George they could be 'fast friends'


Despite all the above, there is still Elizabeth. Although there has been some reference to her in this post for the sake of comparison, she has to be considered separately from Caroline and Harriet as a potential 'unlocking key' because this is a woman that Ross did once think he loved and therefore was devoted to for some time. The next post will be 'Elizabeth And The Analogy of The Key That Unlocks Ross's Love'. It will explore this along with her ability to unlocked Ross's attention and desire.  

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