The Edwardian Duchess
The General focuses a lot on the war, but it also gives the reader a sense of the pre-war period, which is known as the Edwardian Era. The Duchess (Emily's mother) is a good example of the values and ideas that this period represents. Here is a link to an informative site about that era. It is mainly a fashion website, but it contains a lot of other pertinent information, as well as other links to sites. Anyway.....The Duchess is very concerned with titles, as any Edwardian would be. In other words, who you are is more important than what you do. This can be seen in her attitude towards Curzon's accomplishments: "Her Grace was sublimely confident in her share of the universal opinion that it was far better to receive distinctions for being someone than for doing something" (Forester 80). Clearly, she feels that Curzon, a mere general, is not good enough for the daughter of a Duke. Another example of Edwardian attitudes can be seen when Curzon first meets her and her family for dinner. She reflects the desire to be a good, proper hostess, while attempting to create an image of luxury around her. A good example of this is when she says "Only the dear Queen could expect people to dine without drinking" (Forester 66). Unfortunately for the Duchess, these attitudes are quite out of date because of the war and she has to adjust her behavior because of it. She has to let her daughter marry beneath her, and her dinners cannot be as extravagant as she desires them to be. I think that the war was a real shock to the people who embraced Edwardian ideals, and like the Duchess, they probably had a difficult time adjusting to the effects of the war.