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Oct 15, 2021 at 7:39am
Edited: October 15, 2021 at 7:49am
July 10, 2021: Prompt # 9
by Sunny
Prompt # 9: Edith. A hard luck woman, sister of Mary and Sybil. Gave birth to a child and couldn't claim her as her daughter until later. Write about your views on Edith.

Some days later, Michael revealed to Edith that he had an idea to divorce his mad wife by becoming a German citizen and finding out what was involved by moving to Munich. That night, at Michel's literally party, Edith admitted how touched she was at such lengths he would go in order to legally marry her, as the nation hated those who consisted to be German, and was worried how he would take people hating him for it, but assured him that she would love him more than ever. He then gave Edith some papers to sign, which would give her authority over his legal affairs while he was away. At the Rules, Edith enjoyed spending time with Michael as much as she could before he would leave for Germany in a few weeks. Expressing that she would miss very much, she requested that kiss her, which he did.They then stayed all night at his flat and made love for the first time for several hours.

A few months had gone since Michael's departure for Munich, Germany, where he was eventually reported as missing. Edith was especially worried for his safety and expressed deep concern as to why he would not answer her calls. Some days later, she received word from Dr Clarkson that she was, in fact, pregnant with Michael's child. With no one else to turn to, she confided her secret to her aunt Rosamund, as she knew that her parents would never accept that she would be mother of a bastard child. Thinking that she had no choice, Edith went to the alternative of an abortion. She admitted that she still loves Michael and would have loved his baby. She soon came to realize that going though with the abortion was a mistake. Rosamund is certain there is way forward for both her and the baby.

One year later, in 1923, Edith had returned from Geneva, Switzerland, and has secretly given birth to Michael's child; a daughter whom she had given up for adoption to the Schroeder family.

final thoughts of Edith:

Edith may not be lucky, but she is not stupid, and she had come to understand that when one disappears into post-WWI Germany after being last seen with some disagreeable fellows in brown shirts, one may never be seen again. This would result in Edith taking over for Michael in his business (because that's what he arranged), and she could not bear the thought of not passing any of what he had on to the baby. Also, one senses that perhaps Edith, who kept her daughter for a few months for the sake of the breastfeeding and therefore had likely formed a fairly fully developed bond with her, would rather she weren't quite so far away, and perhaps were even somewhere that Edith might occasionally see her.

And so, Edith undid the informal arrangement and brought her baby back to Downton (while everyone else is away), and placed her with a local farmer and his family. The farmer agreed to pretend to accept her story that this baby totally belonged to a terribly scandalous friend of Edith's, and Edith couldn't keep her in the house because of the terrible shame that would result from her family being associated with this scandalous friend. And he pretty much said, "I feel so sorry for you about your dead imaginary scandalous friend and your terrible shame that I will even lie to my wife about where I got this baby, because although it is quite a few decades early for this expression, I am picking up what you are putting down."

On the surface, this may seem to be the saddest thing of all for Edith, in that it seems to be, for her, a far more profoundly important pain than her various suitors would be alone. But really, this is one of the first times Edith has well and truly made her own decision, in defiance of her family, and has taken care of business, as it were. (I will admit that I skipped some of the middle of this season, while Edith was getting herself into all this mess, and was interested to see her right back in the thick of misery when I returned.)

Aunt Rosamund shame-bullied Edith into the Swiss adoption, which she never wanted, and when it came right down to it, Edith ultimately did what Edith thought was right, for reasons other than wanting to get married already before she gets old. (Which, quite frankly, she already is, to these people.) (This is all leaving aside the fact that Edith's ideas about adoption seem odd, in that an adoptive family, of course, brings its own blessings, meaning the child's life is not simply devoid of joy because she cannot inherit from her birth father.)

The social limitations on and the punishing of the Crawley daughters have always been central themes of Downton – consider Mary's scandal with her literal death bed (the bed of death!), her initial frustration at the idea of marrying Matthew to save the family, Sybil's chafing at the limitations of her life, and Edith's perpetual wheel-spinning over what to do if she doesn't get married. At times, the story of Edith has seemed needlessly sadistic, in that one eventually wonders how many ways (foiled by beautiful sister, dumped at the altar, abandoned in mystery, foiled by wife, foiled by another wife) one woman can be thumped with the giant rubber mallet of life until even the little cartoon birds flying over her head are dizzy.

But in a way, Edith is where you really see the difficulties that the daughters' lack of autonomy brings. Edith is certainly sad that she's not married yet, but it's the limits on her other options that make this life-breakingly depressing for her. Otherwise, she would work, and wait, and hope, and be happy. But because there is such a narrow idea in her family of what constitutes success, her writing career has never been more than tepidly received, and certainly is understood to be a poor substitute for multiple pregnancies when it comes to getting some meaning in her life.

Perhaps the lesson of all these stories of Edith being left and left and left again is nothing brings in misery like being entirely at the mercy of other people's decisions to stay or leave, which is where Edith's father, well-meaning though he may be, has left her. It is oddly her grandmother, the Dowager Countess, who seems to understand most fully that Edith's options are limited, and that this is not to be taken as a happy thing, only one the D.C. would argue cannot be changed.

On the one hand, Edith's story – like Mary's – contains a sort of gross "don't have sex when you're not supposed to or you'll pay a horrible price" lesson. Maybe he'll die! Maybe you'll get pregnant! There is no sexual agency without karmic punishment! But on the other, there is this: In becoming a mother, Edith got out from under the thumb of her father. Given the opportunity to be responsible for something instead of responsible to everyone, she seems remarkably at peace as this season closes. Very sad, but at peace.

July 10, 2021: Prompt # 9 · 10-15-21 7:39am
by Sunny

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