Having ensured that Naomi is spiritually healed, EBD can now allow her to be
physically healed as well.  After the St. Mildred's pantomime Naomi is
driven home by one of the young doctors in his 'motorcycle combination', but
he skids as he drives and Naomi is injured.  A long and difficult operation
is performed, which must be undertaken at once if Naomi is to live.  The
reader also learns that if Naomi does recover, her lameness and twisted
spine will be cured.

For some time it is unclear whether Naomi will survive, and once again the
girls' religious commitment is demonstrated, as they pray for her recovery.
Their generosity of spirit is notable, for they seem very affected by the
near-tragedy, despite the fact that Naomi is hardly one of the most popular
girls.  This is reflected in their gathering a collection so that updates on
Naomi's condition can be put into The Times throughout the holiday.  The
girls seem genuinely to care very much for Naomi, and to be delighted that
she will not only recover but also be "more or less alright" as Mary-Lou
puts it.  In the world of the Chalet School, this sense of caring for a
member of the community is depicted as an essential element of a healthy
soul, and is clearly meant to contrast with Naomi's former egocentric view
of the world.

In Ruey Richardson at the Chalet School this is stated clearly, once again
in connection with Naomi.  She is still recovering in this book, but suffers
a setback in this book, and once again her life is in danger, a fact which
causes the whole school to unite in prayer and concern.   Ruey contrasts
this with her own experience from her high school:
"Well, this girls Naomi What's-her-name.  From what you all say she wasn't
at school for more than one term and then she was awfully queer and didn't
fit in, except just at the end.  Yet you all think so fearfully much about
her pulling through this illness - well, I do myself! - and I can't see
why..Girls at the High used to be ill sometimes.  I remember one was awfully
crocked up in a motor smash but no one made any fuss about it except her
particular pals.  But here, you all seem to act as if she was your special
chum.  Why?"

Mary-Lou arrives in time to enlighten her on this subject and sets out
Chalet philosophy, explaining that two things matter even more than lessons
at the school; one is the girls' health, and the other is their having
healthy characters, and that this goes deeper than at other schools:  "Here
we learn to help other people and to understand them as far as possible -
learn what makes them tick over".  Naomi is then cited as an example of
this.  Mary-Lou tells Ruey of Naomi's troubles, explaining that she'd had an
accident, which twisted 'her soul' as well as her body, and in which her
parents had been killed.  "The worst thing of the lot" however, is that
"Naomi had nothing to fall back on" since her parents were agnostics, and as
a consequence she had no religion, and either believed that there was no
God, or if there was, "he just didn't care", an attitude Mary-Lou dismisses
as "all poppycock, of course", but then adds, "but can you wonder that when
she thought like that her mind was in as bad a mess as her body?"

Here the case is set out plainly; EBD does not dismiss the problems of
physical disability, but to her they are relatively unimportant when
compared to the issue of spiritual health.  Phoebe Wychcote suffers
physically, but is spiritually strong and healthy.  She is selfless,
concerned only with making the best of her situation and not being a burden
upon others.  Such a person is rewarded with a romantic fairytale ending, as
she is engaged to her own particular Prince Charming.   Naomi Elton,
however, has been weak enough to let her disability affect her mind and
soul, and must be cured of this mental twisting before she can receive the
physical straightening which will be her reward.

It is also an essential point that both characters suffer from isolation, in
Phoebe's case through no fault of her own, but in Naomi's through her own
self-imposed mental barriers, and the removal of this isolation is part of
the rehabilitation process for both.  As a result of the selfless
friendships of Joey and Mary-Lou, both are able to return to their rightful
places in society, as Phoebe begins to live a normal life and marries [9],
while Naomi returns to religion and Christian society.  To EBD, if one wants
to share in society and receive of its benefits, one must contribute to, and
be a member of that society [10].  Since the importance of spiritual
strength is emphasised at the expense of physical incapacity, no one is
excluded from participation in society.  Whatever one's physical condition,
it is possible to be a good and selfless person, whose moral uprightness is
in itself a contribution to the community.  Thus, the portrayal of physical
disability in EBD must be seen in the context of communal responsibility, a
vital concept in the ideal community of the Chalet School.


[1] although not beauty, perhaps because beauty can lead to vanity, and
hence to moral weakness.  Sometimes a lack of beauty is even stressed, as in
the case of Janie Lucy, but it is still stressed that she is attractive to
look at, because of her good skin and find personality which shines out of
her.  See Chalet School in Exile.

[2] "Jo to the Rescue", ch. 7

[3] interestingly, Dr. Peters himself is a very ugly man; would only such a
person look at a 'cripple' and vice versa?  Or are the two big enough of
character to see beyond the physical to the soul?

[4] perhaps the only person in history ever to do so? <g>

[5] Trials for the Chalet School, ch.9

[6] It is tempting to see here also an attempt to deal with the
philosophical question of  why, in a world with a merciful god, people
suffer.  EBD does not seem to be dealing directly with this question,
however; or at least, if she is, no real answers are offered.

[7] This is despite the fact that Naomi, naturally, 'lay.still, white and
senseless - to all appearance, dead'!

[8] The middles, fed up with being told off for untidiness, have taken
belongings from the whole of the two sixth forms and placed them all in the
lost property cupboard, since the key to their classroom cupboard also fits
the lock.

[9] and a doctor's wife no less!

[10] See e.g Bride Leads the Chalet School where prefects deal with
'anti-social behaviour' by preventing the those who refuse to abide by the
rules of their community from enjoying the benefits of their society.

Girlsown mailing list
For self-administration and access to archives see
For FAQs see http://www.club-web.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/girlsown/faq-0.htm

Reply via email to