Joanna’s and Jane’s lifestyles.
The Girls of Slender Means by Murial Spark is a novel
about the girls who lived in the May of Teck Club during the
year of 1945. There are many characters involved, but the
one’s who caught my attention the most are Jane Wright and
Joanna Childe. They represent different aspects of ideas,
lifestyles and, also, have different perspectives on the
“World of Books.”
Joanna Childe was the daughter of a country rector. She
was very intelligent, had “…strong obscure emotions” (8),
and “…religious strength” (165). She was very well
build. “Joanna Childe was large…” (9), “… fair and
healthy-looking…” (22). She had light shiny hair, blue
eyes and deep-pink cheeks. She never used a scrap of
make-up because she didn’t really care about her looks and
she wasn’t looking for a husband either.

Jane Wright, on the other hand, was very fat and felt
miserable about it. She tried to blame her work for her
appetite.“…she was miserable about her fatness and
spent much of her time in eager dread of the next meal, and
in making resolutions what to eat of it and what to leave,
and in making counter-resolutions in view of the fact
that her work at the publisher’s was essentially mental,
which meant that her brain had to be fed more than most
people’s” (35-36). Unlike Joanna, Jane “…was on the
look-out for a husband,…” (32) since she was only twenty
two years old.

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Joanna’s and Jane’s occupations evolved around the
world of books. However, they had different perspectives
about it. Jane worked for a publisher and Joanna attended
a school of drama to be a teacher of elocution. Jane
thought of the publishing business as “…essentially
disinteresting” (39), while Joanna chose her profession
because of her love for poetry. “…poetry, especially the
declamatory sort, excited her and possessed her; she would
pounce on the stuff, play with it quivering in her mind, and
when she had got it by heart, she spoke it forth with
devouring relish” (8). Joanna was highly thought of for it
and Jane “…was considered to be brainy but somewhat below
standard, socially, at the May of Teck” (19).
Both women were similar in that they did additional
work besides the one’s mentioned above. Joanna had students
of her own whom she taught how to speak properly, with no
accent. “Joanna’s method was to read each stanza herself
first and make her pupil repeat it.” (21). Jane had several
kinds of “…brain-work” (41). “First and secretly, she
wrote poetry of a strictly non-rational order, in which
occurred, in about proportion of cherries in a cherry-cake,
certain words that she described as ‘of a smouldering
nature’, such as loins and lovers, the root, the rose, the
seawrack and the shroud. Secondly and secretly, she wrote
letters of a friendly tone but with a business intention,
under the auspices of the pale foreigner. Thirdly and more
openly, she sometimes did a little work in her room which
overlapped from her day’s duties at the small publisher’s
office” (41-42). Besides the work she had to do in the
publisher’s office, she was doing some detective work on new
authors. She was supposed to hang out with them, find their
weak spots and report them to her boss, who would use this
information to lower the price of the author’s book.
From how Joanna was described in the novel, we can see
that she liked the past more than the present. She wanted
to preserve the old traditions she grew up with. The
example of that would be her love life. When she fallen in
love with the first curate, he didn’t return her feeling and
she “…had decided that this was to be the only love of her
life” (22). She didn’t return the feelings of the second
curate, who loved her, because she had “…the notion that a
nice girl should only fall in love once in her life” (23).

Another example would be her ideas about the Prayer Book.
Nancy Riddle, one of Joanna’s students, mentioned that the
Prayer Book was “…out of date” (99) to which Joanna
answered: “The Prayer Book is wonderful.

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