Monday, July 8, 2013

Betsy Was a Junior, Group Read, Part 5

Even after Betsy Ray vows to make Okto Delta more serious it was uphill work. The girls’ activities become more and more frivolous, and Winona suggests the boys should either join or start their own group. Carney drives the girls to the St. John game in the Sibley auto, with an Okto Delta pennant fastened to the front. Even with Tib sitting on Winona’s lap, how did they all fit in the car? (I always wondered how the Gilbreths all fit in their car too.) Dreadful moment – when Hazel Smith starts over to join Betsy at the football game, realizes she’d be intruding on the sorority and withdraws. That is an awful feeling, whether you are the inadvertent crasher or someone like Betsy who did not intend to hurt Hazel’s feelings (but made no reparation). And isn’t it typical that all of Deep Valley High knows about the sorority except Joe Willard? Of course, Joe has better things to do, like earn his living, but in a way he is the unwitting cause of the Okto Deltas – had he been dating Betsy instead of Phyllis, suggestible Betsy might have had a more serious junior year.
This year is one party after another (and how did Tacy and Katie manage to host the Okto Deltas and the whole football team in that tiny house? And how could there have been room to waltz?) By now, Betsy has (more or less) put aside her chagrin at Joe’s involvement with Phyllis Brandish and spends hours discussing with Tib whether she should date Dave Hunt. She and Tib give Dennie and Cab their pins to wear, which causes a sensation (I am surprised Winona doesn’t pulverize Tib). Julia comes home for Thanksgiving with the song that Barbara still hasn’t been able to identify: “You are my Rose of Mexico, the one I loved so long ago…” And then Dave Hunt finally asks her out – to a big dance at Schiller Hall! It is that night, getting ready with Tib, that Betsy burns her bangs like Jo March! But at least that give her something to talk about with Dave Hunt who is his usual silent self at the dance but seems to be enjoying himself.

Among the enticing parties in Deep Valley is the Okto Delta progressive dinner. I always yearned to attend a progressive myself but the closest I have been was attending what was called a Stairway to Heaven party in college where a different type of alcohol was served on each floor. I am afraid the NewBetsys live too far apart to make such a function feasible. All these parties are having a bad effect on Betsy’s grades (identical to Maud’s), as is the stress of dating a handsome basketball player who never tells her if he is going to show up at her front door or not. In fairness to Dave, she never asks him and he probably doesn’t realize he should be more communicative. By the way, basketball was only invented in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts. It spread quickly indeed for Dave Hunt to have been starring on the Deep Valley team in 1908!

But while Dave Hunt is beauing Betsy around, Tony has dropped out of the Crowd because he refused to join a fraternity. This worries Betsy but she doesn’t know what to do about it, so she puts it out of her mind. Even worse, in February Margaret asks Betsy to help her have a party for Washington and Abie, but Betsy lingers after school and then at Heinz’s with Tib, Cab and Dennie instead of going home to her waiting sister. When she finally gets home, she finds the house dark, and Margaret had disastrously tried to start the party preparations without her, and sizzled off her eyelashes when she tried to light the gas stove! Fortunately, Margaret’s eyes are not hurt but this is Betsy’s lowest and most shameful moment. It is also the most cringeworthy moment for the reader and why, I suspect, many readers dislike this book. There is something about Betsy’s failure to take care of Margaret when Mrs. Ray is in the Twin Cities and on Anna’s night out that makes the reader very judgmental although let she who is without sin cast the first stone…

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