Monday, April 20, 2015

The Drawbridge

Drawbridge from the Liebig Collection

E. M. Forster's brief "story" of the dead King and the grief - striken Queen always makes me think of that classic exercise in cause - effect analysis: the Drawbridge Problem:
As he left for a visit to his outlying district, the jealous Baron warned his pretty wife: "Do not leave the castle while I am gone, or I will punish you severely when I return!"

But as the hours passed, the young Baroness grew lonely, and despite her husband's warning, decided to visit her lover who lived in the countryside nearby. The castle was located on an island in a wide fast flowing river with a drawbridge linking the island and the land at the narrowest point in the river. "Surely my husband will not return before dawn," she thought, and ordered her servants to lower the drawbridge and leave it down until she returned.

After spending several pleasant hours with her lover, the Baroness returned to the drawbridge, only to be blocked by a gateman wildly waving a long, cruel knife. "Do not attempt to cross this bridge, Baroness, or I will kill you," he raved. Fearing for her life, the Baroness returned to her lover and asked him to help. "Our relationship is only a romantic one," he said, "I will not help."

The Baroness then sought out a boatman on the river, explained her plight to him, and asked him to take her across the river in his boat. "I will do it, but only if you pay me my fee of five Marks." "But I have no money with me!" the Baroness protested. "That is too bad. No money, no ride," the boatman said flatly.

Her fear growing, the Baroness ran crying to the home of a friend, and after again explaining the situation, begged for enough money to pay the boatman his free. If you had not disobeyed your husband, this would not have happened," the friend said. "I will give you no money."

With dawn approaching and her last resource exhausted, the Baroness returned to the bridge in desperation, attempted to cross to the castle, and was slain by the gateman.
A variety of discussion guides are available for studying the motivation behind each character's behavior. Years ago, when teaching "The Drawbridge" as part of a unit on the short story, I asked the class to consider why the Baroness would have risked a visit to this unfeeling lover. One of my students, who was having a tough semester and dealing with a death in the family, shook his head in resignation and answered, "Maybe she thought he loved her." I continue to value his conclusion as one of the best commentaries of all on these conflicted characters. Looking for love in all the wrong places -- sigh -- as is so often the case.


You can read more about the Drawbridge Exercise,
including a cause - effect analysis from my son Ben
on my current post

~ "Causality: King Then Queen" ~

@ The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

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