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Marguerite Poland


Chapter 23, 24 & 25:
Questions to challenge you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 4 March 2014
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Victor visits Grahamstown for a day yet his short time with Frances is uneasy, especially when he discovers she has pawned the engagement ring.

The story then takes us through his brief period of military action till he is laid low with a fever. In the meantime, Crispin searches for Tom and Reuben and eventually finds them.


Walter's work at Mbokothwe is successful but he cannot get Frances out of his mind. On a trip to Stutterheim to buy fresh provisions, he meets Klaus Otto who informs him that Frances is not yet married but that the marriage will take place in but a few weeks.

Walter decides to write to Frances to wish her well in her marriage but also to tell her that he can no longer remain a missionary with the memory to haunt him of the magical times he and she had shared.


Benedict receives news about Tom and Reuben, and about Sonwabo's imprisonment and probable death. He learns that it was Victor who was responsible for their conscription.

In the meantime, Frances in Grahamstown confronts her mother, pointing out that she does not wish to marry Victor. Then she receives Walter's letter and realises for the first time that he is in love with her, but it is now too late!

The classical love letter is used in a novel for a specific purpose.

We are used to thinking that a love letter must be filled with sweet nothings: "How beautiful your feet, your graceful legs the work of a craftsman's hands, your breasts like twins of a gazelle."

If one contrasts this to the classic letter that appears in Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice, one is presented with a remarkable contrast.

That letter was written because Fitzwilliam Darcy had been rudely rebuffed by Elizabeth Bennet upon his asking for her hand in marriage. He wrote for no other purpose than to rebut Elizabeth's accusations.

The letter, however, proved a turning point in their relationship. Elizabeth saw the error of her judgements while Darcy realised he had been an arrogant prig.

From then on, Elizabeth and Darcy became friends -- and eventually married.

It is in this sense that we must view Walter Brownley's letter to Frances. He writes solely to wish her well in her marriage to Victor. He also tells her of his decision to return to England.

In doing so, however, he speaks of the magical times that he had shared with Frances at Nolovini.

Frances, on the other hand, never realised that Walter had these strong feelings of affection for her. His letter therefore makes her examine her own feelings towards both Walter and Victor.

Ultimately it causes her to break off her engagement with Victor.

Reference is sometimes made in Shades to a "letter book". This was a book with detachable pages upon which the letters were written.

Between each page was a thin sheet of translucent paper which blotted up the excess ink. Once the letter had been posted, therefore, a copy was automatically retained in the letter book.

It was much like an old-fashioned carbon copy that we used not so long ago before the advent of computers.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

It is clear that Frances does not love Victor, but rather that she loves her memory of Victor.
  • Explain carefully. (5)

[Need help?]

Is Frances merely playing another game with Victor by her offensive attitude?
  • In answering this, you must explore the emotional pressures which surround her during Victor's stay in Grahamstown. (6)

[Need help?]

The death of Charlie Fraser is Victor's first realisation of his own failure. Explain. (5)

[Need help?]

To what would you ascribe Pusey's very changed character now that Walter has taken charge of Mbokothwe Mission? (4)

[Need help?]

When Walter meets up with Klaus Otto, what is the purpose of his long discourse with him? (3)

[Need help?]

Walter has written many letters to Frances but none have actually been posted.
  • Why does he now write yet another letter, and why does he decide to post this one. (5)

[Need help?]

"Walter's letter to Frances is ostensibly a letter of farewell. In reality, however, it is a classical love letter."
  • Comment carefully and at length. (10)

[Need help?]

"Was it a terrible sin?" Frances asked.
"It was a binding commitment," her mother replied.
  • Comment on the logic of Emily's argument in which she attempts to persuade Frances that marriage to Victor was the only moral solution. (5)

[Need help?]

Why does Frances insist on not being married from St Matthias and that her parents were not wanted at the wedding? (5)

[Need help?]

Explain Frances's reaction upon reading Walter's letter to her. (5)

[Need help?]

Try another worksheet?

See also:
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