The Differences Between Us

The Clothes They Stood Up In

I just finished the novel, The Clothes They Stood Up In by the British playwright, Alan Bennett. I found it a romp which begins one evening when Rosemary and Maurice, an uneventful, ageing, and childless British couple, return from the opera and find their home completely stripped of everything: rugs, clothes, furniture, toothbrushes, even toilet paper. There’s nothing left in the house but bare walls and thudding floors.

I loved this absurdity, and I loved Rosemary’s take on the situation: unlike Maurice, she finds it liberating. But what seems so odd to me was everyone’s reticence, their flat emotional responses, and their complete lack of opening up to talk about it. It seems most characters in English novels behave with this sort of indifference, unlike us Western American types would rant and scream and invect and accuse. Not the Brits, the Brits carry on, stiff lipped, as if something as remarkable as having your home burgled and stripped were nothing more eventful than missing the morning newspaper.

What is it with the British? Or maybe what is it with Americans? Hmmmm.


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