2. Claudia and the men
2.1 Claudia and Gordon
2.2 Claudia and Jasper
2.3 Claudia and Tom
This paper is a drawing up of the group work I did with some students on Penelope Lively’s novel Moon Tiger in our seminar Penelope Lively’s Juvenile and Adult Fiction.
In the novel Moon Tiger, the female main character, Claudia Hampton, tells the story of her life when she is lying on her deathbed in a nursing home.
In the following paper I am going to take a closer look at the relationships Claudia has to three men during the story.
First, there is Gordon, Claudia’s brother, with whom she has a very close relationship. He is followed by Jasper, the father of her child Lisa, and the last but maybe most important man in Claudia’s life is Tom, her only true but short lasting love.
My aim is to show how Claudia feels for each of them and it gets clear that she has three definitions of love - one for each man.
2. Claudia and the men
Claudia Hampton looks back at her life and during this story the relationships Claudia has to several men play an important role. It seems as if Claudia’s life is divided into several parts. Every part is accompanied by a man or sometimes by two of them.
There are three men who are important for Claudia: her brother Gordon, Jasper, who is the father of her child and Tom.
2.1 Claudia and Gordon
Gordon, Claudia’s brother, who is one year older than she is, has always been one of the most important people in her life. She grows up with him and they stay in contact wherever they are in the world (Lively, Penelope (1988). Moon Tiger. London: Penguin Books, 71).
Claudia feels strongly related to Gordon. She says that Gordon and she “[…] were birds of a feather.” (Lively 1988, 3) In contrast to their intensive connection to each other there is also a certain rivalry. They compete with each other for example for fossils at Charmouth beach when they are ten and eleven. (Lively 1988, 3-6) During this fight, Claudia falls off a cliff plateau, which shows that they take these competitions very seriously. Three years later, they fight for the attention of a young man their mother hired one summer as tutor. The competition begins when Claudia comes into the schoolroom and sees Gordon and the young undergraduate, who is called Malcolm, at work.
I came into the room one day when Gordon was alone with Malcolm, construing Virgil, and I noticed two things: that Gordon was enjoying what he was doing and that there was an affinity between them. Malcolm’s hand rested on Gordon’s shoulder as he bent to look at an exercise book. I looked at the hand – a lean brown hand – and then at Malcolm’s face with its thick dark eyebrows and brown eyes intent upon Gordon and what Gordon was saying. And I was filled with hot jealousy; I wanted the hand on my shoulder; I wanted that adult, male, and suddenly infinitely attractive look trained upon me. (Lively 1988, 24-25)
They argue a lot, even when they get older. But then they explode in laughter when the argument suddenly ends (Lively 1988, 34). Another extraordinary point in their conversations is that Gordon talks to Claudia in a voice he uses to no one else (Lively 1988, 141). You even can get the feeling that “[…] they seemed set apart when they were together [and that] they made you feel you were not there.” (Lively 1988, 193) This shows again how strong they are related and Claudia goes even further when she thinks about her love to him some days before his death.
I love you, she thinks. Always have. More than I’ve loved anyone, bar one. That word is overstretched; it cannot be made to do service for so many different things – love of children, love of friends, love of God, carnal love and cupidity and saintliness. I do not need to tell you, any more than you need to tell me. I have seldom even thought it. You have been my alter ego, and I have been yours. (Lively 1988, 185-186)
There are more hints in the book that they really love each other. In one scene Gordon and Claudia get so close, that they kiss (Lively 1988, 137-138) and Claudia mentions that no other man interested her as much as Gordon until she was in her late twenties. “I measured each man I met against him, and they fell short: less intelligent less witty, less attractive.” (Lively 1988, 136) In this context, there are also several suggestions of incest in the text, for example when Claudia and Tom visit a pyramid the guide says that “[…] The wife of pharaoh is also sister of pharaoh. He is loving his sister.” (Lively 1988, 74) But Claudia and Gordon also think about incest in connection to themselves.
Incest is closely related to narcissism. When Gordon and I were at our most self- conscious – afire with the sexuality and egotism of late adolescence – we looked at one another and saw ourselves translated. I saw in Gordon’s maleness an erotic flicker of myself; and when he looked at me I saw in his eyes that he too saw some beckoning reflection. We confronted each other like mirrors, flinging back reflections in endless recession. We spoke to each other in code. Other people became, for a while, for a couple of contemptuous years, a proletariat. We were an aristocracy of two. (Lively 1988, 136-137)
Claudia and Gordon even talk about this topic when they are sitting at the table with their mother and Sylvia, Gordon’s wife.
[…] ‘I don’t mean you’re peculiar,’ she [Sylvia] wails. ‘It’s lovely, really.’ She has not got it right. They are both looking at her now, Gordon and Claudia; she has their attention all right, but not in the way she wanted. Are they laughing at her? Is that the tilt of little smiles at the corners of their mouths?