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Aware that Harriet is suffering from feelings of rejection and betrayal, and that she resents being under obligation to him for saving her life, Lord Peter decides that the only way to win her is to submerge his own feelings, giving her time to regain her self-confidence and personal esteem.
Harriet must recognize her merits and failings, accept them, and respect her own uniqueness; only then can she achieve a satisfying relationship with another. An alumna of Shrewsbury, a women’s college at Oxford University, Harriet is invited by the dean to help discover the identity of an intruder who is disturbing the scholastic calm; after much wanton destruction, Lord Peter’s help is enlisted.
In the essay “Gaudy Night” (not to be confused with the novel of that name) Sayers tells how her ideas of integrity influenced her writing: “Let me confess that when I wrote Strong Poison, it was with the infanticidal intention of doing away with Peter; that is, of marrying him off and getting rid of him.” But: “I could find no form of words in which she could accept him without loss of self-respect. In the senior common room one evening, when the topic of intellectual honesty comes up, a don recounts how a graduate student from another university deliberately suppressed evidence because it would invalidate his research and destroy the main argument of his dissertation.
Over the dean’s protests that most wives would not give a pin about the loss of their husband’s professional honor, Miss Chilperic shyly suggests that if a wife did accept such dishonesty, it would be tantamount to living on immoral earnings.
This comment delights Lord Peter, who declares that if people ever come around to accepting this standard of honesty -- that is, if they ever learn to value the integrity of the mind equally with that of the body -- a social revolution will take place. Harriet could stand free and equal with Peter, since in that sphere she had never been false to her own standards.
The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays.
by Mary Brian Durkin Sister Durkin is associate professor of English at Rosary College, River Forest, Illinois.
A devout Anglican, Sayers viewed all life in terms of the incarnation.
She lectured and wrote on the imperative need to make Christian dogma meaningful in ordinary life. not in the sense we are inclined to give the word today -- that is, exemption from all external restrictions -- but in a more philosophical sense: the freedom to be true to man’s real nature, that is, to stand in the right relationship to God.” This relationship, she insists, can be achieved only when one in daily life manifests Christlike love for others, a way of life based not on sentimental chatter about brotherly, sisterly love, but on a disciplined integrity toward oneself and others. [it is] hopeless to offer Christianity as a vague, idealistic aspiration: it is a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine steeped in drastic and uncompromising realism.”Only in recent years have Sayers’s readers become aware that many of the Christian truths and ideals expressed forthrightly in her essays are subtly woven into most of her writings: poetry, drama, Dantean studies and even fiction.
In Begin Here, a wartime essay on aspects of peace, she defines freedom as it was understood in medieval England: “Freedom . In the essay “Creed or Chaos,” she stresses that it is fatal to allow people to “suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling . The idea of maintaining right relationships with God, one’s neighbor and oneself is an important theme, for instance, in her third novel, Unnatural Death (1927).
Miss Climpson, the lovable, eccentric spinster who assists Lord Peter in his sleuthing, expresses her concern that young Vera Findlater is so infatuated with an older woman that she becomes her veritable slave.