Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Clan of the Poes (Page 83)

//Panel 1//
School Official:
Yes, we have the Baron's word. This Saint Windsor is
//Panel 2//
School Official:
primarily a boarding school, but we have a few commuting students, all from good families…
//Panel 3//
A new kid…
from the house on the cape.
School Official:
Mass begins at 7:00… But you can attend services at home if you have a chapel.
//Panel 4//
School Official:
Classes start at 8:30.
We will provide textbooks—Latin, Greek, and Geometry…
//Panel 5//
Edgar's Narration:
Keeping their distance…well, that's how it goes, the first day.
—By the way
—where on earth is he?

Having had romantic, idealized images of preppy boarding school life myself when I was growing up, I am amused and intrigued to see how these imaginings would play out within the mind of someone from a completely outside culture, such as a Japanese person like Hagio Moto. It is clear that she is fascinated by this enclosed, hierarchical world with its rich traditions on the surface, and underneath that, its rigid social structures with boys assuming different roles within the pecking order. A boarding school may not be literally as enclosed and tight as a spaceship (as she mentioned in interviews, Hagio likes placing her characters in claustrophobic situations), but it's certainly not a place where it is easy to go about one's business unobserved, or to do whatever one wants without consequences.

My Japanese husband informs me that 転校生 (tenkousei, a transfer student) really is a cause for excitement among other schoolkids, probably because Japan is a much less mobile society than, for example, the United States. People don't move around as much, so the appearance on the scene of a fresh face is something that would cause at least mild curiosity among the other kids.

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