Thursday, February 4, 2010

Behind a Mask

Behind a Mask is well, surprising. Given the time it was written, and especially the author, I was not expecting to read a tale of deceit, lies, and manipulation – especially by a woman. But Alcott created Jean Muir as such, and while not the most favorable protagonist, she demonstrates a lot of craft and cunning. The immediate foreshadowing of Jean’s true character was interesting, and left me hoping for some sort of redemption for the girl who had undoubtedly led a hard life. But as the story drew to a close, and all Jean did was complete her despicable plan, I was left with much sympathy for the victims of her plot.

The other works from this course so far have upheld the view of women in their traditional roles as domestic, weak, and rather unintelligent, but this blew those ideals away. I’m not familiar with other tales of this era that have similar concepts, namely the powers that women can hold over unsuspecting men, but I would be interested in reading more.

I am left questioning the plausibility of such a case, though. A family of either nobility or wealth falling victim to a poor woman’s con game seems almost far-fetched, and I’m not sure if Alcott is trying to imply something about wealthy families or just demonstrate her cleverness.

The class discussion today revealed to me that as Jean Muir was doing all of this "behind a mask," Alcott in a way was behind the same kind of mask in creating the story. The whole concept of people either assuming the identity of another, or just different roles to serve different purposes fascinates me.


  1. The issue of plausibility is important, Matt. I think your idea that Jean can get away with her disguise because the wealthy family members are too blind to see what she's up to is right.

  2. i completely agree Matt! I find t interesting that Jean was able to pull off such an act for as long as she did! It makes me think about, in today's day and age, what kind of masks we put up and how few people are able to see through them as well. While we do not put on disguises and create a complete false identity, we do manage to build ourselves up (or drag ourselves down, for that matter) all in the sake of reputation and self-satisfaction. I wonder, would any individual be able to pull off such a scam in this day and age, what with modern technology as advanced as it is today?