An in depth look at Louisa

When mentioning the importance of story and expressing a hope that we will learn more of Martin and Louisa’s backstories, I ended up thinking more about Louisa. There’s quite a lot about the character of Louisa that brings up questions. All we know is that her mother left her with her father at the age of 11 so that she could move to Spain and be with Javier, and her father is a gambler and has been involved in illegal activities. (Age 11 seems to be the magic age for both Martin and Louisa to have had the rug pulled out from under them by their parents.) Nevertheless, Louisa has fond memories of times with her father and is the one person who believes he is innocent of stealing the lifeboat money until she finally confronts him and forces him to tell her the truth. Although she has a lot of resentment towards her mother for leaving her at such an early age, she is willing to rely on her mother again even after she learns that her mother has entrusted the local juvenile delinquent with her baby. It seems there’s almost nothing her mother can do to utterly destroy Louisa’s willingness to give her another chance. We recognize this as a character trait because she has treated Martin that way as well. Perhaps Louisa’s tendency to give her parents and others second chances stems from a deep impulse to believe people will eventually stop disappointing her. As Alexander Pope wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

We know she, Danny and Isobel went to school in Portwenn, and when she went to college in London, she met Holly. We don’t know how she decided to go there and how she was able to pay for it. Where did she get her values, her desire to work with children, her drive? (I think we can come up with explanations for these on our own, but we don’t get any from the show.) Although she appears to be quite level-headed, she has returned to Portwenn with plans to stay despite its many limitations for a single woman, especially one who wants to meet the right man and have a family. In fact, she returns to Portwenn two times from London – once after her college days and again after her first wedding is aborted and she moves to London. London is not for her! Everyone is certain that any school in London would be lucky to have her as a teacher, but when she returns to Portwenn pregnant, she says the school was not happy with her pregnancy. Never mind her argument in a later episode that it is against the rules to use pregnancy as a reason not to hire a teacher. (Presumably also not to fire one.)

She describes Martin as moral and straighforward. She, too, could be described with those adjectives, and she is described as liking people. She demonstrates personal concern and sympathy for many others, including Peter Cronk and his mother, Mrs. Tishell, Allison, and Ruth. We can’t leave out that she is feisty. She immediately challenges Martin during his interview to become the new GP in Portwenn, and there are many great moments when she defends herself or her decisions. She’s not afraid to stand up to Martin, Bert, or Mrs. Tishell. In one scene, prior to her first attempt at marrying Martin, she gives the whole group at her house a talking to.

It’s pertinent to look at the clothes they choose for her too. To a great extent much of her clothing seems to come from the line of Laura Ashley clothing. Here we are in the 2000s, up to and including 2013, and Louisa is, for the most part, still wearing little flowered dresses with pink and red cardigans. Her clothes are distinct from all the other women in Portwenn, especially any of the receptionists.

The dresses are actually quite ambiguous to me. I decided to look into this style and discovered some interesting information about them. I learned that Laura Ashley designs according to this website conjure up terms like:
Florals. Milkmaids. Folksy. Quintessentially English.

It goes on to say, “from the beginning, their designs were rooted in the past, looking to Victorian designs to create headscarves which were a success. Women loved the fantasy of pastoral lifestyle and likewise, their homewards also fitted into this aspiration.”

On the other hand, Jane Ashley, Laura’s daughter, “just so happen [sic] to go to art school with two girls from punk band The Slits and Mick Jones and Paul Simonen from The Clash and so they also did a spot of modelling for the brand.” You can check out some pictures of them here. In case, like me, you aren’t sure what punk is, Wikipedia states “Punk bands created fast, hard-edged music, typically with short songs, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics…it became a major cultural phenomenon in the United Kingdom. For the most part, punk took root in local scenes that tended to reject association with the mainstream. An associated punk subculture emerged, expressing youthful rebellion and characterized by distinctive styles of clothing and adornment (ranging from deliberately offensive T-shirts, leather jackets, spike bands and other studded or spiked jewelry to bondage and S&M clothes). They add, “Even as nostalgia was discarded, many in the scene adopted a nihilistic attitude summed up by the Sex Pistols slogan “No Future”; in the later words of one observer, amid the unemployment and social unrest in 1977, ‘punk’s nihilistic swagger was the most thrilling thing in England.'” Jane deliberately mixed the traditional style of the Ashley brand with punk stars in her photographic representations, something of a subversion of the brand. (The little I know about Caroline Catz’s sense of style leads me to wonder if she, too, considers wearing the floral Ashley designs as a means of being alternative. She has been involved in producing films and documentaries that indicate her appreciation of the music of the 70s, she has worn one of the dresses used in Doc Martin to a showing of her most recent music documentary, and the picture of her at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards shows her in a lacy dress that looks sort of retro to me. She may collaborate on the wardrobe choices for Louisa.)

When Princess Diana was a fan of the brand, it marked a Sloane Ranger association despite the fact that the clothes were still very much affordable and from the high street. Again from Wikipedia: “The exemplar female Sloane Ranger was considered to be Lady Diana Spencer before marrying the Prince of Wales, when she was an aristocrat from the Spencer family. However, most Sloanes were not aristocrats as Lady Diana was. Considered typical of SRs was patriotism and traditionalism, and a belief in the values of upper class and upper-middle class culture, confidence in themselves and their given places in the world, a fondness for life in the countryside, country sports in particular, philistinism and anti-intellectualism.”

Today Kate Middleton is considered a Sloane but the brand has changed somewhat and wearing Laura Ashley type dresses is no longer popular amongst Sloanes. Here’s one reference in regard to Kate and her Sloane connection. (It’s kind of eerie that Kate follows in Diana’s footsteps.)

So is wearing this type of dress and cardigan indicative of Louisa being a part of the establishment and settled in her rural life or is it something of a playful way to impart individualism and rebellion? Laura Ashley designs are still made today and sometimes shown with models wearing high top sneakers or other disparate footwear. Jane Ashley’s 70s combination of punk with Victorian style dresses may have been a precursor for today’s fashions.

In my opinion, the outfits Louisa wears when pregnant in the show are the nicest and most flattering to her. That sounds odd, I know, but they appeal to me as more contemporary and sophisticated. S6 used more of that sort of wardrobe too with leggings and scarves, and I think Caroline has aged well and looks more attractive in S6 than in any of the other series. Louisa has matured into a married woman with a child who struggles with many of the same difficulties other working mothers have today. S1E1 began with her wearing something like the corset Edith wears in S4. I found it quite surprising that she would wear a sort of bustier under a cardigan to a serious meeting. But then we could say it was a sign of strength and independence. It was nice to see her relax in jeans at times, even when entertaining Martin for dinner and despite knowing he would be in a suit.

Louisa is a free spirit to some extent and we shouldn’t lose sight of that. Her mother is a non-conformist and Louisa grew up fending for herself from a young age. That she figures she can fend for herself when she’s pregnant comes as no surprise. Louisa is a great female character who contains a lot of ambiguity while also being a symbol of femininity at its best. Is she too harsh in S6? Maybe. But I get a kick out of her.

Originally posted 2014-10-26 09:15:02.

59 thoughts on “An in depth look at Louisa

  1. Mary F.

    This was a fun post. I always thought though, that Louisa’s style of dress was very much like the catalog company, Boden. Its inspired vintage, with updated colors and patterns, and not too pricey. I think it suits her spunky personality and classic looks very well, although she is one of those fortunate women who could look good in a burlap bag. I saw a black and white photo of her and Martin Clunes at a Radio Times party and she was so striking in a little black dress with her wonderful mane of hair, very modern and spare. She has aged very well in the series; I agree she looks better than ever. There are so many instances in the show where she appears to be on the verge of comparing Martin’s past and her own…but never quite gets there.
    Like when Martin is telling her that some children are “simply naughty” and that when he had been naughty his father beat him. She seems very taken aback at that, but then Bert appears, who is always amusing but I really was hoping for more in depth discussion about how Martin had developed his attitudes about child rearing. Or when Martin tells her that her father was caught stealing…not a great spot to do so, while they are on the street getting ice cream. Or when she approaches him after his mother cruelly belittles him. So many missed chances to deepen their relationship…

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks Mary. I’m glad someone responded!! I know Boden and its clothing can be similar too. To me they aren’t quite as oriented towards using so many flowers or such full skirts. But I can see how you could think of them. If you consider them vintage clothing, we would still be trying to figure out how much her clothes are supposed to be reminiscent of the English countryside and rural villages or if, like Boden, it’s a way to be unique and distinctive while being classic. Or we can hedge and say both, as we have in the past. (I’ve seen that Radio Times picture too and think it’s one of the best of her.)

    I think we all would say it is time for all those truncated talks to actually be allowed to run on.

  3. Santa Traugott

    The series Boardwalk Empire came to an end last night. The series’ primary creative director gave an interview to a reviewer named Alan Sepinwall, which goes into some detail about their thinking through the story line, including back story. (If you haven’t seen the series, it contains spoilers, obviously). But anyway, I wish Martin and Phillipa would give us something like this after the series finale (which I believe will be with the last episode of S7). http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/boardwalk-empire-creator-terence-winter-on-nuckys-fate-and-the-series-finale

    I’m thinking still about Louisa. Many people feel there’s little to no core consistency to her character and that she behaves and changes according to the needs of the plot, rather than being consistent with what the character would do, or with any plausible back story. I do feel that her character has been consistent enough over time, with some traits sharpened or diminishing in different circumstances, but I think that’s true of most of us, not necessarily an indictment of the writers and showrunners.

    Anyway, still thinking.

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.comm Post author

    It’s good to know you’re thinking and will hopefully tell us what you decide soon. As you can tell, I am much more inclined to agree with your sense that there is consistency in her character even if she can be volatile. She’s a much more intriguing character as a woman who waivers between self-protection and self-exposure. I love her spunk when she reacts to Martin’s disturbingly critical comments by getting mad instead of withdrawing. Of course, it makes for much better dialogue and tension between this two, and the humor is always lingering in the air.

    I haven’t been watching Boardwalk Empire, but I believe it’s based on some people who really existed and they included historically accurate events. Without the benefit of having watched it, the interview got very hard to follow for me. If we ever get an interview after Doc Martin ends, I would imagine they won’t have nearly as much to say. Like Terence Winter notes, throughout the seasons they make decisions to leave in and take out scenes based on how they feel about them on the spot. That may have something to do with how erratic the character of Louisa can get at times. Martin’s more steady because of their decision to give him a fundamentally flat and unchangeable personality, until S6 that is. Anyway, I’d like to see what they have to say as long as we get a good person to do the interview!

  5. Mary F.

    I just watched some early episodes with Louisa and contrasted them with those of series 6…it seems to me that she has matured in some of the ways in which she deals with Martin’s attitudes or odd behavior. She seems to sweat the small stuff much more in the early days…but after becoming a wife and mother she tries to engage him about his father’s death or his sleeping problems by making him breakfast and suggesting that they take a weekend away from it all. I think most women do change over time as we are often expected to be the keepers of the flame when it comes to our families comfort/happiness by sacrificing our own needs or putting them on the back burner. We still get mixed messages from society which expects us to have successful careers as well as do most of the work of keeping the family together. I think Louisa feels these types of pressures in addition to the frustration of dealing with an emotionally distant husband. Martin doesn’t yet appreciate the old saw “happy wife, happy life”.

  6. Linda D.

    Louisa has been a fascinating character throughout the series. I love her spunk and the fact that she stood up to Martin, from the first day. She has often been wrong about him but is clearly quite taken by him. I would imagine she has never met a man like him. He is obviously quite different than the men she knows in Portwenn. She finds him both intriguing and frustrating. As their relationship has matured, she has come to realize that she cannot change him. He baffles and annoys her but the feeling is mutual. He has no experience with romancing women, a fact that she doesn’t know from the start. He is not used to a woman standing up to him and is often quite befuddled by her.

    She does have an interesting style which seems to work in this setting. I would love to see her change her hair and adopt a bit more modern style but Martin approves of her style and she seems able to be a bit of a rebel when she dresses casually -a real contrast to her husband. She really could use a new purse! The only change he has made is to wear old man pj’s instead of what he wore in the earlier series. One thing about Louisa is that she never seems bothered by his wardrobe choices. I wonder what she would think if he showed up in some snazzy casual outfit? Wouldn’t that be a laugh? I wonder what he wears to bed when they are having sex? For that matter, what does she wear?

    I am still mulling over her “back story” and how it plays out in her life. Getting inside her head is not going to be easy but it will be fun!

  7. Linda D.

    Louisa cares very for Martin’s feelings and woes. She does try to engage him in conversation in order to find out what is at the root of his distant behaviour. Unfortunately, he fails to reciprocate. It is clearly in her nature to try to care for the needs of others. She is loved and respected by everyone in the village. She gets frustrated with Martin and falls back into a familiar pattern. This is to run away, to “think” things through. Or, as in case of the first ill-fated wedding, she apparently just ran. Interestingly, she runs to her mother who ran away from her in much the same way! I suppose that she didn’t have many other choices. She has not learned that running away has never solved the problems. Each time she runs off, she and Martin have a great deal of difficulty re-connecting. They have never seemed able to discuss the important issues together. As a teacher and headmistress, one would think that she would be god at this. I think perhaps she does not take enough time to try to find out more and to understand where Martin is coming from. We know that he simply does not get why such conversations are important. He lets her go and just accepts it. He is sad and doesn’t like it but never does anything to resolve things. Is he just a bit scared of what would happen if he did challenge her or try to make things work by making the first move towards reconciliation? Is she also afraid to talk to him?
    It infuriates me because I have trouble leaving things that need resolution.

    I expect that Louisa learned at an early age to be a people pleaser but there are limitations on her willingness to do this. She has learned to stand up for her values and ideas and is not intimidated by anyone, including Martin. I imagine this stemmed from the fact that she kind of raised herself from the age of 11. He father, whom she loved, was not a role model and he obviously let her down a lot. Still, she loves the idea of her father and as others have said, she continues to hold out hope for her family.
    Am I right in remembering something about her living with a grandmother? I just can’t verify this. Maybe someone else could comment on this? Really, she must have been quite a self starter to get through school and university. It is not surprising that she does not like London, given her background. Portwenn represents the only security she has ever known – even though it was fleeting.

    Louisa makes a lot of assumtions about Martin. This was never more clear than when she became pregnant and just assumed he would not want to be part of their child’s life. There were a few clues she missed such as when he asked her if he shouldn’t be the one to take her to her appointments. she completely missed this important comment which showed that he DID want to be involved.

    Well, I will think more on this topic. It is really quite a fascinating one!

  8. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for all your thoughts Linda. Just a quick note: when Louisa and Martin talk in the classroom after she has returned pregnant, he does at first point out that it’s too late for an abortion. She just grits her teeth and says nothing in reply. The implication is she never had any interest in aborting the pregnancy and would have liked to have heard him say something much more supportive. It’s not too big a leap to think that his comment reconfirms her original belief that he wouldn’t want a child and that she shouldn’t expect him to be happy about her pregnancy. We see him warm to the idea as time passes, but she has her pride and is probably waiting for him to tell her his feelings. When he finally does so while she’s in labor, she reacts with strong emotion. That could be related to the circumstances, but it’s also because she’s been waiting to hear him say these things and he finally has.

  9. Santa Traugott

    Yes, I do take your point that if you don’t know the series in the first place, the interview would be hard to follow. Still, I think it is an example of the kind of serious thought and commitment to the integrity of the characters they have created, that I believe Doc Martin’s creative team has.

    I think a basic question that the writers for Louisa ask is whether certain dialog or plot action is actually “in character.” I suppose for good and sufficient reason they can occasionally do something that is “out of character” but I think it would stand out in the drama, and to me, there really aren’t many of those instances.

    The central mystery of Louisa to me is why she came back at all to Portwenn. If there is something “in character” about Louisa’s decision to return to PortWenn, I’m not seeing it. (I’m quite open to being convinced on this point, though.) So I think we have to start with an initial suspension of disbelief.

    I imagine her as in her early 30’s when she returns to the village that essentially raised her. Plenty of time from about 18 to maybe 32 or 33 (or older) to experience what a wider world has to offer; two or three failed love affairs, perhaps, a couple of different jobs that weren’t entirely satisfactory. (I assume the affairs because from somewhere she got the confidence to try to seduce DM in Erotomania.)

    I’ve never been very convinced that problem-child parents have a lot to do with the difficulties she and Martin have getting along. “Abandonment issues” is a catchphrase that has been tossed around to describe her difficulties — I just don’t buy it. I don’t think she has any deep psychological scars from Eleanor running off to Spain. Truthfully, I don’t even really see her as “insecure” — but what I do think is that she probably became “Parentified” pretty early, grew up fast, and learned early that people who ought to be responsible for you, can’t be relied o in practical terms at least. Therefore, she had to get ahead on her own, cope on her own, and has become at some level, fiercely independent and unwilling to let go of what she has had to work so hard to attain.

    To me, the best way to understand Louisa is to ask, what is it that Martin lacks? She exemplifies the split-off part of himself that sternly represses emotionality (except anger and annoyance). The essence of Louisa is that high level of emotion that is the antithesis of Martin’s way of being in the world. She is volatile, often angry, easily frustrated, leaps to unwarranted conclusions and intuitively,is passionate about her teaching and her pupils, and ultimately, Martin. She is not afraid of her feelings — even the ones that sometimes are not very attractive. Rationality is not her strong suit. She is probably someone who has never been nurtured enough, but in spite of that, has grown to become someone capable of passionate attachments to work and family. At bottom, she seems to be a deeply loving person. I’m pretty sure that is a large part of what draws Martin to her.

    She seems also to be prideful, stubborn, and overconfident that she understands and can deal with Martin, and overconfident in her ability to juggle roles of wife, mother and head teacher. And she has a temper which is both aroused more easily when she is stressed, and more difficult to control. I think we see the less attractive sides of her mostly play out in S6 — it was way less balanced than say, in S4, where she was also difficult at times. But I think that in S6 she was very stressed, and in over her head with Martin, whose mental state was deteriorating rapidly over S6. I think viewers who are disappointed in how she behaved in S6 are expecting her to be some kind of living saint, immune to the tensions, overt and covert, all around her. She deteriorates as Martin deteriorates — that’s the point. Her decision to leave is her recognition, I believe, that she is not functioning well as a person, in her relationship with him. Nor was she. I think she herself did not like the way she was behaving.

    In the end also, we can’t overlook that it is Martin who has been the brunt of the less pleasant sides of her character, and while he may do so partially because he has some sense that he doesn’t “deserve” better from her, I think he continues to love her unequivocally, in all her complexity, even as she baffles and frustrates him.

  10. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Santa, this time you and I are definitely united in our view of how Louisa has been developed. I was thinking exactly what you said: that I can’t think of any time when something Louisa does seems entirely out of character. I also agree, and hope I expressed this sufficiently, that because of her childhood, she has taken care of herself for a long time and feels quite capable of that. They set that up quite nicely.

    I have to admit I haven’t spent much time trying to figure out what she was doing from the point when she completed college until she decided to return to Portwenn. It’s not clear to me what age she was when she returned either. That she would have had some love life must be expected. She’s attractive and intelligent. Exactly what that would have meant, we have no idea. The only thing we know is that she has never felt like she found the right man with whom to have children. These are all areas that could be explored in S7. If they have a backstory that was created for her, it would be fascinating to hear more of it.

    I agree that we are supposed to notice how stressed she feels in S6, especially on Sports Day. He doesn’t want to have breakfast with her or go on a weekend trip away from his mother, he has forgotten about the awards ceremony, and the bottom literally falls out of the box she’s carrying to the event. Immediately following she sits down and looks like the bottom has fallen out of her. But she soldiers on only to have another awful experience with Martin followed by getting hit by a car. Talk about a bad day!!

    I agree that her life is not how she wants it and she’s reached the limit of her capacity to handle it. They have created another climax where she needs to hear something nice from him. They did that in S4 and 5, and he came through. He did in S6 also, but she was sedated and may not be able to remember it. I don’t think she can be faulted for being upset about the state of their relationship and she does several things on the last day that are conciliatory. She tells him she’ll call him when she gets to Spain, she says she’ll follow his advice and drink fluids, she defends him to his mother at the airport, she tells him she likes how he looks while on the operating table, and she’s grateful that he came after her. She can’t be much nicer after all that’s happened.

  11. Mary F.

    You are so right too Linda D., about the puzzle of Louisa not finding some way to reach Martin, since she is such a fine teacher and headmistress. Teachers are generally very good communicators and know how to get people to relax and open up.

  12. Santa Traugott

    Speaking of those last conciliatory gestures, especially in the scene outside the surgery before she got in the taxi, I’ve never been quite sure how to interpret them. Was she trying to reassure him? Was she trying to apologize to him because she felt she had to leave? Was she feeling a bit guilty, knowing how devastated he was (which she had to have known)? Was she angling for a last minute gesture from him to keep her from leaving? Would she have left in fact if he had been able to try to convince her to stay, that he would do whatever necessary to make things better? I’ve never really thought so, but I can see how others could.

  13. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I think all of your possibilities are in play except perhaps the last one. She’s not open to reconsidering when he calls her in the car and she says they’ve already been through this. There’s a slight possibility because she may just not like his tone, otherwise I can’t see her staying.

  14. Santa Traugott

    Yes, I think she specifically did NOT want him to try to persuade her to stay — that’s why she was hiding in the bathroom. The only question in her mind, I think, was whether she would return to their marriage at all, or if so, what she absolutely needs from him as a precondition. That’s what I think will play out in S7.

  15. Linda D.

    I meant that she “ran” from the aborted first wedding and I don’t think they spoke again until her return.

  16. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I just realized what you are reacting to. I’m trying to say that Louisa is justified in thinking Martin doesn’t want children, or at least this baby, because he mentions that it is too late for an abortion. She did run away from the aborted wedding, as you say.

  17. Linda D.

    I didn’t see his comment about an abortion as a sure sign that he didn’t want the baby. He perhaps said it because, as is often the case, he was blindsided by the news and may have felt that SHE might have not realized that the abortion was now not an option. I’m a bit soft on Martin in this matter, I realize but she really had only given him about 3 minutes to react and this all came with the presence of Edith making the whole situation untenable. Would they have had a softer and more gentle conversation had he invited her to come in and asked Edith to leave? Was Louisa perhaps reading too much into his abortion comment because she was miffed about Edith? I don’t think he had a fair chance to mull things over and that would be Louisa’s doing. She NEVER talked to him about children and she has just made an assumption that he didn’t want any. Would she have fainted if he had been HAPPY when she told him? Now wouldn’t that have been fun to watch?

  18. Linda D.

    I think she would have stayed IF he had opened that bathroom door and told her he was ready to work on the problems and didn’t want her James leave! Something demonstrative would have worked much better than his tap dance outside the bathroom door! They were both afraid to say ANYTHING for fear of making it worse. That has been a problem for them many times in the past. But, usually, HE wises up, says the right thing, and asks for another chance. He KNOWS he has screwed things up royally but has not figured out to say to get her to stay. He just missed his best chance by letting her go without protesting or begging her to stay. She didn’t really know what she wanted to do but going to Spain was the chance to get away and think.

    I also wondered IF she heard what he said in the operating room and if she did, why didn’t she acknowledge it when he came to see her after the operation? That was such a powerful scene. It would be a shame if she didn’t remember it! It was one of the most touching things Martin ever did!

  19. Mary F.

    Perhaps at that point, when they are on opposite sides of the bathroom door, Martin had already tried his best at talking her into staying but apparently nothing he said convinced her it would be a good decision to stay. Remember when he calls her a bit later in the taxi and she said something like “we’ve been through all this already..!” (not sure of her exact words) It was enough to convince me that he had given up trying to get her to stay by the morning of her departure. Still something about the way she tentatively touched the door while he spoke to her…gosh, I’m always amazed at the subtlety of every gesture in this show…made me think that if he would just try one more time, they might have a breakthrough…figuratively and literally. I also wonder how much Louisa remembered of his pre- surgery thoughts. Another great scene…..another cliff hanger, guess we’ll just have to wait to find out.

  20. Santa Traugott

    I too think that he had made some efforts to convince her to stay, but he probably used practical arguments about her health, the unreliabiity of her mother, danger of too much sun for James Henry, — anything but really put himself on the line. Imagine if he had been able to give her that speech he gave pre-op, only through the bathroom door. Could she have resisted? I wonder.

    About the pre-op speech — why have the actor read those lines if we are not intended to believe that Louisa hears and will remember them — if not immediately, then she will at some point. But if she did hear the lines and remember them, why would she not acknowledge this, instead of going right to “This doesn’t change anything.” What is “this”? I guess it’s that she can’t go to Spain now, but their marriage is still in trouble and (I suspect) she still feels that she needs a temporary separation. But why, after that heartfelt plea from him, which would seem to offer some hope that he’s willing to work to make her happy? A puzzle, which I’m sure it was meant to be.

  21. Linda

    Yes, that’s right Mary! We don’t know if they talked the evening before she left or not. He did try to talk to her in the cab and she was having none of that. By then though, her head was aching and she was in distress. I expect she was a bit annoyed at his last ditch call because she didn’t know what he knew no he was almost yelling at her.

  22. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Santa, I know you’ve heard of dramatic irony. You know, when the reader/viewer knows more than the characters in the story? We viewers are meant to know that Martin has had this moment of emotional clarity, but perhaps Louisa doesn’t know it because of her sedation, her shock of needing a brain operation, or the combination of the two. That’s the critical tension in the latter part of the episode.

    “This” is again somewhat ambiguous, but to me it is the fact that he caught her before she left and repaired her AVM as well as her inability to go anywhere. The fact that he once again reverts to being unable to repeat what he said in the operating room makes clear that he still has a long way to go in his efforts to change. Hopefully she will hear that call for help from him again sometime early in S7.

    I think you must be right in assuming that whatever talk they had about her decision to leave would have been more clinical and rational than emotional. I find it hard to imagine that she wouldn’t have reconsidered if he had appealed to her for help at the bathroom door like he does in the operating room. She looks sad to be in this position and almost, to me, is supposed to look like she’s once again hoping to hear that sort of comment from him. Instead he tells her he has a patient and leaves. They know how to make us react!

  23. Mary F.

    Yes, unfortunately his visit with Aunt Ruth came after the bathroom scene and not before. Thats when he finally stops the clinical examination of what is wrong with him and gets his moment of emotional clarity, as Santa put so well (you guys are great writers!). But then he gets clinical with her again after surgery which was pure dramatic irony after a soul-baring pre-op and subsequent tears in the lavatory.

    But perhaps he wasn’t ready to launch into a discussion, his emotions were still quite raw and he really wanted her to rest. He did say he agreed with her and didn’t want things to go back to the way they were, nor insist that she come back home, which appears to take her completely by surprise. Her reaction also convinced me that she did not remember anything of the pre-op talk.

    The poor man was striving to keep the lid on his emotions all day as they appeared to boil out of control. If he had stayed another minute in the recovery room, I think he would have been on his knees.

  24. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Great point, Mary. If she had remembered his request for help, we would imagine that she would have mentioned something about that. Again, I suppose we could also guess that she wasn’t comfortable bringing that up right then. Lots of possibilities as usual.

  25. Linda D.

    I ached for them both at that moment. Surely, love for each other, (never in question), would have won out somehow at such a dramatic moment if EITHER had said the right thing, He was trying so hard to maintain his professional control while trying to convey to her that things had to change. Would not a loving couple have embraced and given some comfort to one another when they realized the pain each was in? It was SO painful to watch. The acting was amazing. If she did remember his speech in the OR, there was no evidence of it, sadly. Perhaps he should have realized she might not have heard him and repeated it?

  26. Linda D.

    Her style of dress IS reminiscent of Boden! I am not quite sure why her style has not progressed over time. The flower dresses and cardigans are lovely but certainly not timeless. Of course, she does not watch the telly nor travel to the big city often but she does know Prada as she joked to Martin when he sprayed her while washing his car. Even when she came back from London in Series 4, we didn’t see much change in her style. I thought that was odd. Perhaps, she didn’t want to be considered a “tosser” by over dressing?

  27. Mary F.

    Perhaps, perhaps Linda D…it was indeed very painful to watch. It almost reminds me of Scarlett O’Hara at the end of Gone With the Wind when she is trying to explain all the years of misunderstanding to Rhett, that she loved him after all and he says something like “well it seems we’ve been at cross-purposes, doesn’t it?”, but even with new understanding, he feels it is too little too late. Of course Scarlett’s “tomorrow is another day!” gives us a bit of hope for them. As does Martin’s telling Louisa he doesn’t want things to go back as they were. Hope springs eternal.
    Happy Halloween!

  28. Mary F.

    I think her clothing style is much like herself, pretty, practical, modern, but not over the top. Notice how often they show her wearing the same outfits; she doesn’t spend money foolishly on clothes but she likes to look nice. If she were an American she’d probably shop at Marshalls or TJMaxx. She doesn’t seem vain when it comes to her looks, nor does she wear much jewelry. The styles she chooses she could wear at any age. My daughter has very similar taste and at only age 14 her friends often tell her she looks “classy”.
    I think she really looks nice when she is pregnant. The clothes are smart, youthful, not dowdy and make her look even more lovely. But then I think most women look lovely when they are carrying. They all seem to have that special glow about them.

  29. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Just want to say that I have a little more to say on the subject of clothes but will have to post it tomorrow because I am not at home and need to use my computer.

    Also, more posts to come soon. Please keep checking!

  30. Mary F.

    Don’t worry Karen, I don’t think any of us are about to give up on your blog anytime soon! Its much too fun!

  31. Linda D.

    Santa,
    I’ve been mulling over your excellent comments about Louisa – especially concerning her emotions being the antithesis of Martin. I like what you said about the best way to understand Louisa is to see what Martin lacks. He, as you say, only shows annoyance and anger. He has had limited romantic experience and that was driven by the controlling, evil Edith. He has never experienced affection and knows nothing about giving it. Romantic gestures and overtures baffle him. He turns to “medical babble” to cover his inability to respond adequately. He has never experienced something like the blood phobia, having been a well respected and successful surgeon and he is ill equipped to handle it or figure out what to do. He would never consider emotions as being part of the problem and he thinks he can handle everything without intervention.

    Her romantic experience is very limited as well but as you say, she has obviously got some idea of seducing a man although she has held back from this in Martin’s case – perhaps thinking that he was much more experienced than she? She doesn’t get overtly excited when they date, perhaps fearing he would ruin things if she got to exhuberant or forward with him. They could have had such fun together if they had run with their emotions and learned more together as a couple! And, maybe their time together was much more than we have been shown and that’s good in my view! I am just saying that two people who waited so long for one another should be much more comfortable and open with each other – in and out of the bedroom.

    She expresses emotions when they involve her professional decisions or when she feels annoyed at Martin because of the ways her responds to her efforts to romance him etc. I’ve been thinking though, that she is pretty reserved in terms of expressing romantic emotions with the exception being the leap into his arms when he first proposed. She doesn’t kiss him in public, or reach for his hand. She does smile and sometimes teases a bit. But, on the whole, she is quite reserved. There have been so many times when I thought she might have reached out for him but instead, she just walked off. It has taken her quite a while to realize he is in REAL distress and she looks inward for answers because she too thinks of him as being invincible. When he refused her breakfast and the suggestion of the long weekend, she huffed off instead of reading the anguish on his face and going over to give him a kiss and a hug and some re-assurance. Yes, she WAS ticked off but didn’t she see his face and the anguish? Does she just get so frustrated when he clams up and she can’t reach him that her only option is to run away? She has done this often in the past with mixed results. I think giving up on him is understandable in some ways but if she loves him, as she says she does, then staying the course and showing him she is on his side, no matter what, would seem to be a better way to go.

    I think if either of them really let go and demonstrated emotion instead of holding back, that things would be quite different. His comments about not wanting to worry her when she found out about the blood phobia returning, was rubbish and his face showed it. Her face showed how hurt she was but he missed that whole thing. The whole incident points to their continued lack of confidence in confiding in one another and showing their true emotions

  32. Santa Traugott

    I’m trying to respond to Linda’s last comment (of Nov. 1) but can’t quite figure out how to do it. Anyway, Linda’s post reminds me a remark that CC made in the piece that a public TV station put together — Doc Martin Revealed. She said something like, a large part of their problem was that they were both “British” and thus very reserved when it came to expressing their feelings for each other, not wanting to be too forward. So they never really were sure about the other’s feelings for them, I think was implied.

    My difficulty was Louisa in S6 was that, as they portrayed her, she was too involved with motherhood and career, to really notice that her husband was coming apart at the seams, and when she did pick up on it, it was to worry that it was about her and their marriage per se, rather than looking at the larger picture. If she had been able to confront him, lovingly and firmly, in a truly supportive way, assuring him of her love for him and insisting that he get help, for all of their sakes, I think things might have turned out differently, (before the Sports Day fiasco.) But she made only a couple of not very effectual gestures and then gave up, and worse, bailed when things hit bottom. Prompting a friend of mine to ask, “does she love her husband or what?”

    When I first saw those last couple of episodes, I was just appalled that she would leave him. Alarm bells should have been going off all over the place — there is something deeply wrong here; this man is in deep trouble, and whatever else is going on between us, right now he needs help. I have mellowed somewhat, but I still deeply don’t like the fact that she chose to leave at that crucial moment, without making some further effort to sort things out. At that point, I think, if she had just said, “look, we have to get this resolved, because it’s gone too far. If we can’t work together to figure things out, then we don’t really have a marriage, and I’ll have to leave, which neither of us wants” — I think he might have been just jolted enough by the Sports Day events to have heard her and really tried to work it through — once convinced that she really meant it and he couldn’t bluster his way out of it.

    0

  33. Linda D.

    Santa,
    You have summed things up SO well about the end of S6 as always. We seem to see things about this similarly. You are SO right to say that the way they were behaving should have set off alarm bells! You are also right to say that she needed to confront him lovingly and supportively and insist that they deal with the issues which were so evident to the viewers. How did she miss his angst? She has always noticed his disposition in the past. As a teacher, in fact, a head teacher, or principal as we call such a person here in Canada, she would have special training and tons of experience in sorting out problems and dealing with people directly. Why then, could she not deal with Martin? That confused me endlessly. If she had not let him “welch out” of the discussion about the return of the blood phobia and had put some pressure to re-visit the topic once he had dealt with the emergency with Penhale, I am betting they might have gained some traction on his sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and stress. What kind of wife would let all this go, unexplored? I thinked they painted her in a very bad light and it was not in character for her. Martin was lost. He was so destroyed by then that she could not have missed it. Also, why did she not confront his mother about her motives for being there or the way she treated him while she stayed there? Why didn’t she try to get him to explain why things were so tense with dear old Mum in the house? Boy, if she had known how Margaret had treated Martin for his whole life and especially if she had known what happened when she visited the last time, I expect she and Margaret would have come to blows. She would never have tolerated the evil way she treated Martin and would certainly not have wantedJames exposed to his grandmother.

    I remember the comment about Brits being “reserved” in that interview. That was sharp of you to remember! I wonder if that is really true? If yes, things must be quite different there. There seems to be very little “reservation” in North America these days.

  34. Mary F.

    I remember that interview also! It was referring, I think, to the first “bad breath” scene in the car. The Brits are indeed more reserved than we are, to put it mildly. I don’t think we Americans have a clue; most of us wear our hearts on our sleeves. Both of those last episodes were so very disappointing and hurtful, I’m not certain how much of it could be blamed on British reserve but ugh! It still hurts to watch!

  35. Linda

    He made the abortion comment outside house when Louisa FIRST came to tell him the news. She was ticked off but I think he was just stating it as information rather than suggesting he would have favoured an abortion. In the classroom, I think it was SHE who said something about an abortion. She told him she had wanted to talk to ” the father ” when she found herself single, pregnant, 37 years old, living in a bedsit in London. She asked him what he’d have said, “hmmm Martin?” He then threw it out that he would have backed her up absolutely. I interpreted that as meaning if she had an abortion or decided something else. I felt he was trying to be conciliatory and she was just assuming he was there to do battle. I suppose she was sensitive at being called “high handed”. I think it a sad scene because she made the assumption he wanted her to abort the baby when he was checking up on her and, I think wanting to have a very different kind of discussion with her.

  36. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    First, I want to acknowledge that you are right about where those remarks took place, Linda. His comment about it being too late to have an abortion was outside the surgery directly after she had returned to Portwenn and it was at the classroom that she retaliates to his remark that she has been high-handed and scoring feminist points. I would say that the groundwork was laid by his initial mention of abortion, even if he was being his usual literal/medical self. She had chosen to be dropped off at his surgery to tell him first. When he opens the door, Louisa looks happy to see him and hopeful that he will be happy to see her too. She has to know that her pregnancy will come as a total shock to him, but then Edith comes as a shock to her. So nothing plays out the way she had expected and then he follows her and seems anxious to do something to help. But the damage has been done to Louisa’s ego and offering to marry her possibly only makes her feel more like a charity case. Here she is returning to Portwenn after having lost her job in London, pregnant (and wanting the baby. After all, she could have aborted the baby and never told him about it), and thinking perhaps she would find Martin alone at a time when they could talk. Nothing works the way she planned, which often happens in their interactions and in life. At the school, he questions her motives for thinking the new headmaster is crazy and then confronts her about not having told him anything. Once again they miscommunicate, a standard of their relationship that continues to the end of S6.

    That is what I want to throw into this conversation. No matter what we wish they would have said, or think were lost opportunities, the one constant is their difficulty talking to each other. The bulk of the series is predicated on the humor entailed in this circumstance; however, by the time we get to the end of S6, their inability to communicate is no longer funny, and neither is the show. Both of the main characters are operating differently from even the first few episodes of the series. For whatever reason, that is the direction that was taken for the show, the thing we keep trying to figure out. I’m not one to believe that just because someone is a teacher she will know how to handle her personal problems better than others. Teachers are people too. It’s much easier to know what to do when you’re helping someone else than when it’s your emotions that are involved. We can psychoanalyze Louisa and imagine that she harbors some insecurities about people not loving her enough throughout her life, and Portwenn is her safe place where the community has become her family, etc. When she returns, even Pauline thinks Martin should be offering to have her live with him rather than stay in a hotel. I just have to once again assume that the writers, et. al. made a conscious decision to handle the story this way. Most of us think they changed the characters too much, changed the tone too much, and the end of S6 has left us feeling disappointed and with too many questions. If Santa is right and there was always a plan for a S7, we will find out next year what they had in mind. At this point, everything we keep wondering about cannot be resolved. But, as I said sometime ago, they sure did a good job of stimulating conversation!

  37. Santa Traugott

    In response to Karen’s last post (Nov 2)

    I think the basic plan has been and remains to play the theme like an accordion — bring them together, pull them apart, together, apart – usually the sequence plays out in one season, as in S1 — apart, gradually closer, then snap! apart. S2 — apart, gradually closer, a lot closer, and then — abruptly, apart. S3 — coming together, then ending apart. S4 — apart, moving toward the crescendo ending, bringing them together. S5 — together, moving apart, then reconciliation at the very end. S6 — together —moving apart — no resolution– a disharmonic clash that goes on and on. I think that they miscalculated, or overshot their usual mark, and needed a S7 to bring what we hope will be a final reconciliation. B/c it just wouldn’t be plausible this time (in S6) that things could be fixed quickly — too much had gone wrong. But they will bring them back together, slowly, in S7. I am confident!

    See Kate’s site — Portwennonline — she now has a clock counting down the days to the start of filming.

  38. Linda D.

    Well said Karen! You have many some awesome points in this comment. I guess it is because I am a teacher some sometime Principal, (now retired), that I feel she shoulld have been better able to get the conversation on track. You are right though, when you say that it isn’t quite the same when it is our own problems we must deal with.

    I so agree with you when you say that her plans to drop by and have a nice conversation with Martin about the baby were thwarted by the presence of Edith and his ill timed comment about it being too late for an abortion. I really don’t think he said that to suggest it and he was really trying to be kind and helpful – having had only a few minutes to digest the big news. I wonder if he was actually a bit pleased about her returning and about the baby until she got annoyed and left? That conversation could have gone a lot better but was obviously not intended to be a touchy feely moment! when he went to see her at the school, he began the conversation asking her if everything was OK and congratulating her on gettng the job. I wonder if he intended to call her high handed or if things just deteriorated in the conversation? I think she WAS high handed not to tell him – no matter what her assumptions were. She expressed the assumption that he would have wanted her to get an abortion had she spoken to him but he really never said that did he? Then, she hurt him by telling him she was registered for care at Truro and missed the look on his face. He was speechless and could only think to shake her hand as he turned and left. She had an odd look on her face. I wonder if she regretted what she had said and had wished for a warmer end to that conversation? She was quite combative but I think he really wanted to have a good chat and find out a bit more about the situation. It seems that she came to town prepared to fight and never considered that he might be just fine with the idea of the baby and the renewal of their relationship. I really felt for him.

  39. Mary F.

    Very interesting points by all! I do think Martin was trying to be helpful when he mentioned the option of abortion, but Louisa was apparently in a bit of shock (and possibly envy) after discovering he was with another woman. Instead of telling him she’d talk to him later, she just snapped and told him it wasn’t his problem.

    But I am puzzled when she kind of blows him off during the rest of her pregnancy. Did it hurt too much for her to think of him being involved with someone else, assume he had no love left for her and thought their baby was a mere nuisance?

    If so then its a negative assumption that proves how terribly insecure she is. A reflection of her own sad childhood; being unable to trust the people she loved and counted on. If there is anyone she could depend on, it would be Martin, but she doesn’t really give him much of a chance, does she?

    Well, at least kudos to Martin for choosing NOT to be intimate with Miss Edith. (I would have thrown both shoes at the tv!) In spite of all their wrong assumptions about each other his heart still belongs to Louisa.

  40. Santa Traugott

    I think I agree with you and Karen that their inability to communicate is the chief plot device that creates tension in their relationship and perhaps because it is so exaggerated, makes the show more comedic than realistic.

    No matter how tongue-tied or quick to leap to (and stick with) erroneous assumptions, it is just not plausible that these two people would go three months in the same small town without sitting down to have at least one conversation about Martin’s reaction to impending fatherhood and what he wants to do about it. This failure to communicate is summed up perfectly at the beginning of SS4E7, when they have the converstion outside the school about his move to London. Louisa says something like, I didn’t think you’d want to be involved and he reacts: “that is an OUTRAGEOUS assumption.”

    The irony is that it is both an outrageous assumption and at the same time, not an outrageous assumption. At this point, Martin may believe that he all along wanted to be involved, given half a chance, but it did take him a while to warm up to the idea. If they had had a conversation about his role when they first came back, maybe he himself would have wound up talking himself out of any role, given his assumption that he wouldn’t be any good at it in the first place.

    Similarly Edith. At one level, it’s preposterous that Louisa’s misconceptions about their relationship didn’t get straightened out earlier. Maybe she was too afraid of what she’d hear to press further, or had too much pride, but asking just a couple more questions would probably have straightened things out. The irony here, though, is that her very jealousy of Edith spurred her on to some further rethinking of her feelings for Martin and got her to realize how much he still mattered to her.

    So their absurd failures to communicate not only operate to lengthen the suspense as to when they will reconcile, and operate as comedy, but at least here (maybe elsewhere) are really plot devices that allow other things to happen.

    In fact, perhaps Karen, there is a whole blog post talking about communication — between Martin and Louisa but also a whole range of other devices: the giggling girls, the way “truth” sometimes seems to come from the mouths of buffoons (Bert); the way the villagers all ignore DM’s attempts to communicate good hygiene, and I’m pretty sure there are more ways in which they play on the theme of communication.

  41. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’ll give some thought to a post on communication. In the meantime, there will be a couple of other posts that are in process. It won’t be long before they are published.

    One word about Edith. I think (not so uniquely) that she was used as a counterpoint to Danny in S2. Louisa and Danny seemed to be pretty chummy at times even though there were many occasions when we viewers could tell that Louisa continued to be quite interested in Martin. When Danny asks Louisa to marry him, I think she is supposed to be surprised that he had arrived at that idea so quickly. She hadn’t realized that all her effort to spend time with him had led him to fall in love with her. The word gets out in the town almost immediately and Martin is clearly unhappy about it. Edith’s presence is used to make Louisa jealous and much of the time we are given evidence that Edith is doing her best to cause trouble and get Martin to be interested in her again. The scene where Edith drives by Louisa while she’s talking to Pauline and Al on the scooter is particularly telling. Edith’s expression is something between a sneer and a gloat. The funny thing is that once again Martin doesn’t get it, often leaves Edith in the lurch, and then walks out on her at the conference. Like Louisa, he really isn’t attracted to anyone else.

    Basically, the show has used the evolution of the Martin and Louisa interaction as it gains momentum until they finally have gone through so many permutations that, in my opinion, there was no where to go but marriage. So now they’re married and their marriage has to undergo a series of ups and downs. It’s been mostly downs so far, which is why we expect and think it should be mostly ups in S7. I remember an interview early in the show where MC says that Martin and Louisa are meant to come close to getting together but then something will happen to make them clash. For the first 4-5 series, that worked pretty well and was humorous. We can’t deny that any device can get tired after a while. The good news is that along the way many intriguing subjects regarding life and relationships were imparted, most of which we have interrogated on this blog. The show isn’t only about a couple and their interplay and that’s what makes it so good.

  42. Mary F.

    “What we have here… is a failure to communicate” …that wonderful line from that despicable warden in “Cool Hand Luke” comes to mind. So yes, a discussion about communication-lapses used as a way to drive or expand the plot would be quite interesting.

    As Santa says, they live in a such a small town there would have to be many times when they couldn’t possibly avoid seeing each other. The whole town is fairly humming about their impending child so at some point they would have to sit down together and sort out their real feelings about becoming parents and to at least make peace with each other for the benefit of their child. It is so absurd when they don’t and this does indeed create a lot of tension between the characters.

    At times I find myself believing in and getting carried along by the absurdity of things more than I realize. Exactly what the writers are hoping for.

  43. DM

    I believe that understanding Louisa’s character means understanding that she is principally written as Martin’s foil, although that doesn’t make her any less of an interesting character. Someone wrote here that she is largely his antithesis, which I have to agree with for just that reason. Louisa is written as emotional, sociable, lively, cheerful, pleasure-seeking, confident, and optimistic- or in other words: sanguineness. On the other hand, Martin’s character is written as, what is most simply described, distinctly unsanguineness. As such he can also be described as: unemotional and undemonstrable, as in phlegmatic; in terms of his being easily angered, he is choleric; and in terms of being serious, analytical and subject to melancholy, he is melancholic. Long before there were Briggs-Meyer personality “inventories”, or compatibility “heuristics”, or any wholly unscientific personality “tests”, medicine had it all figured out. Medicine made it possible for an individual to be comprehensively understood and their traits fully described with their compatibility with others precisely defined by just those four simple terms; all by virtue of the sound and reliable medical principles known as: humours (no joke).

    The funny thing is that Martin could almost believe that “humours” or “humourism”– the balance of four bodily fluids in the human body– might still actually determine individuals’ temperaments as well as their mental and emotional health together with their physical health. Medically, he knows better, although this was the prevailing belief right up to the late-1800’s (and thus possibly still influenced the medicine known to Martin’s grandfather). Nonetheless, Martin’s battery of medical tests on himself in S6 was certainly anachronistic and all for naught, as was clear to us viewers that the true source of his difficulties lay elsewhere.

    Therefore what we have for Louisa’s defining trait is her sanguineness, that is her sanguine nature. To a humourist this means she is clearly dominated by the humour of blood. Blood, the very thing that personifies Martin’s greatest fear (and all that it represents). That interesting antithesis is no accident.

  44. Linda D.

    DM,
    As always, you bring great depth to the discussion! The issue of sanguineness is WAY out of my depth of understanding for sure. So, I began to read about it. The first article I found was called The Four Temperments by Fr. Antonio Marin, O.P. I read about sanguineness first. I offer this excerpt for others who, like me, might be lost!
    “Psychologists have many opinions about the definition and classification of temperament. For our purposes we define temperament as the pattern of inclinations that proceed from the physiological constitution of the individual. It is a dynamic factor that takes into account the way that the individual will react to stimuli of various kinds.

    Since it is rooted in the physiological structure, temperament is something innate and hereditary. It is that element of personality which makes the personality unique, since individuality is rooted in matter, and temperament is the natural inclination of the somatic structure. It is, therefore, something permanent and admits of only secondary modification. One’s temperament can never be totally destroyed without destroying the individual. The axiom “grace does not destroy nature but perfects it” has its most obvious application in the area of temperament.

    The classification of the temperaments is nothing more than a handy framework which has been constructed according to the predominant characteristics of various physiological constitutions. It is by no means exclusive or definitive, nor does it signify that there are “pure” temperaments.

    As a matter of fact, individual persons generally manifest a combination of the characteristics of several temperaments. Whenever there are several elements combined in any composite, however, one or another will usually predominate at any given time. In the matter of temperament we find that, although persons are usually a composite of many characteristics, one or another characteristic will specify the temperament.

    Bearing this in mind, we shall discuss the four temperaments according to the ancient classification of sanguine, melancholic, choleric and phlegmatic.

    1. The sanguine temperament

    A person of sanguine temperament reacts quickly and strongly to almost any stimulation or impression, but the reaction is usually of short duration. The stimulation or impression is quickly forgotten, and the remembrance of past experiences does not easily arouse a new response.

    Among the good qualities of the sanguine temperament, we may list the following: • affability and cheerfulness;
    • sympathy and generosity toward others;
    • sensitivity and compassion for the sufferings of others;
    • docility and submission to superiors;
    • sincerity and spontaneity.
    There may at times be a violent reaction to injuries received, but all is soon forgotten and no rancor remains. There is no obstinacy and stubbornness but the ability to act with complete self-detachment. Others are attracted by the individual’s goodness of heart and contagious enthusiasm.

    Sanguine persons usually have a serene view of life and are optimists. They are not discouraged by difficulties or obstacles but hope for a successful outcome in all their efforts. They are gifted with a great deal of common sense and a practical approach to life; they tend to idealize rather than criticize.

    Since they possess an affectionate nature, they make friends easily and sometimes love their friends with great ardor or even passion. Their intellects are alert and they learn quickly, although often without much depth. Their memory dwells on pleasant and optimistic things, and their imagination is active and creative. Consequently, they readily excel in art, oratory and the related fields, though they do not often attain the stature of the learned or the scholars.

    Sanguine persons could be superior types of individuals if they possessed as much depth as they do facility and if they were as tenacious in their work as they are productive of new ideas and projects.”

    This has given me much to chew on but at first reading, I do see a lot of things that shout “LOUISA!” Of course, not everything applies, but it is a good way to begin examining what you have said.

    For sure, her being sanguine in in nature does make one wonder about it’s connection to Martin’s blood phobia and especially her question to him about whether it was her that was causing his anguish. I doubt that she knows anything about being sanguine but it is, as you say, an interesting antithesis!

    Now, onto Martin being phlegmatic and choleric! I am so lost in this stuff that I might be at it for days! I do enjoy the challenges you put before us DM! Thanks for a very interesting post!

  45. Santa Traugott

    Wow, DM, great post — thought provoking, particularly the last line.

    My mind goes to the scene just before his mother arrives, where Louisa is asking Martin what it is that is bothering him so much. She asks first whether it’s the cramped living conditions/chaos and he denies it. Next she asks him, “is it me?” [Some have suggested that by this point, Louisa may well believe that he regrets their marriage and doesn’t love her — I think that goes a bit too far.] Of course, Martin denies that it is Louisa, and by implication, their marriage, that is the source of his difficulty.

    But I have never quite believed either of those denials, wondering if perhaps Martin himself is “in denial.”

    Side note: there is a precedent here, I think, for saying things to each other that belie feelings or sentiments that they are not able to articulate. I’m thinking of the scene on the balcony of Louisa’s house, where she tells him that the only available date for their wedding is just 3 weeks away. They reassure each other that it is just fine with them, but we are able to see, I think, that each has reservations which they choose not to acknowledge, possibly to themselves and not to each other.

    So is there a sense in which the return of the blood phobia represents a reaction of Martin’s to his being in an emotional situation, with a “sanguine” woman, that he doesn’t have the emotional wherewithal to handle? Is he retreating, shutting down, from the demands of intimacy with Louisa? Certainly the “payoff” of the blood phobia return is that he can justify to himself his preoccupation with his physical condition, and his shutting out of Louisa, on the basis that he has to figure this out.

    In other words, does the whole intimate family situation arouse so much anxiety, at some level, that he has to find a reason to retreat, and the blood phobia could be it.

    Think about his being married to Edith — what that situation have brought about his reaction? I think not – b/c Edith (what would call HER temperament) doesn’t really reach him at the deep emotional level that Louisa does.

    Anyway — great post.

  46. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Although I enjoy the exercise of using the humors, I have trouble believing you are being serious when you refer to them. Are we really going to revert to medieval medical views to analyze these characters? Martin would never use the humors — he doesn’t even like herbal medicine or alternative medical applications. He’s a thoroughly modern man. I can without hesitation understand why Martin would resort to testing himself. That’s his predisposition — he looks for medical grounds for his condition. That’s actually not all that far off either. Depression, insomnia, and mood swings can have a basis in medical conditions. Moreover, finding a medical origin for his symptoms would be much easier for him to accept than any psychological investigation. Doctors are taught to rule things out and that’s what he’s doing.

    Mary checked out the information about what sanguinity meant in those days. Great fun, no doubt. They used those unfounded beliefs to literally try to cure people by “bleeding” them. Their understanding of how the body works was truly rudimentary at the time. Indeed, if Martin subscribed to that sort of belief system, he could have used it on the headmaster’s porphyria. They “bled” King George III when he exhibited signs of porphyria (which of course they knew nothing about at the time).

    I can agree that Louisa and Martin are opposites in many ways, and meant to be for the purposes of the show. Nevertheless, they have several similarities that could be fairly convincing as common sources for their behavior. They are both single children born to parents who cared more about themselves than for their one child. Like Margaret who blames Martin for her unhappy marriage, Eleanor tells Louisa that it was her decision not to come along when she left for Spain. Louisa was 11 y.o. then just as Martin was 11 when his parents refused to let him visit Aunt Joan anymore. The pre-pubescent children are the ones to blame. They have been living independent and successful lives without ever being married, despite having had other liaisons. They both take pride in their work and have reached a level of respect in their chosen professions — they are leaders.

    C’mon DM. It’s Halloween time, so lets keep the blood with the vampires!!

  47. Mary F.

    I do think DM has made some very interesting comments and comparisons between Doc and Louisa using some very old medicine, and perhaps we could also draw similar conclusions using astrology as well. The last few sentences really hit home though…the bit about Louisa being primarily “sanguine” in temperament and since Doc has a fear of blood this type of temperament would only serve to make him even more freaked out. This is a connection that never occurred to me before and its piqued my curiosity. I’m sure I don’t understand it completely but its certainly entertaining!

  48. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Sorry Mary and Linda, it was Linda who took the time to look up the properties of sanguine temperament in Medieval days.

    I find it entertaining, but cannot get on board with this being “no accident.” You really think there was a conscious effort to use the qualities of the humors to offset Martin and Louisa? Really?

  49. Mary F.

    I doubt very much the writers were thinking about medical humours when developing the characters relationship, but its fun to think about. Louisa is unafraid to show her feelings on just about any subject. Martin keeps his emotions under lock and key, although I think he secretly respects and admires her openness, passionate nature and willingness to stand up to him. She’s no wallflower. I think this is where the application of humours is interesting. Its a different way to consider their opposing natures and how these differences both attract and repel Martin.
    On the subject of humours, I wonder if the idea developed because people in times past lived primarily in small villages and families were thoroughly familiar with each other, they knew each others quirks and personalities much more so than we do today, and I wonder if this kind of local intimacy influenced medical thinking at the time. ( I got a kick out of reading Linda’s explanation of them. )

  50. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    It is fun to throw around ideas of all kinds. No argument with that here! If you want to know more about the history of the four humors/humours, there are plenty of sites to check. As far as I’m aware, it was an early attempt to come up with something to treat medical problems that wasn’t purely based on superstitious behavior. It still was a far cry from solid medicine, although it recognized the importance of keeping one’s body in balance. I just think we’ve now gone far afield from what the show creators were thinking.

    Coming up with the notion of four humors is certainly another interesting idea. To go along with that, we can look at earth, wind, fire, and water. We have to keep the blog going!!

  51. DM

    Well, I was actually entirely serious about proposing that the writers have drawn from Humourism to create the defining traits for Martin and Louisa (Wikipedia gives a concise description: Humourism)- I didn’t really mean to apply it to them literally, but to possibly discern the writers’ intent for some of their characteristics. I also wasn’t trying to apply the terms per their etymological origins that refer to the literal bodily fluids either, but the terms as they have entered the vernacular as basic dictionary adjectives which we have inherited as metaphors to describe sets of traits and dispositions for individuals. Yet as the four humours of blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm correspond to sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic- what is not sanguine with its corresponding traits can be ascribed to the remaining three humours and their corresponding traits as their opposites- which seems purposeful as the writers may have done to establish the scaffolding to create these two characters and their interactions. It strikes me as not coincidental and by the writers’ design (your mileage may, of course, vary). What I find fascinating, as I believe Mary and others have too, is that by sometimes trying to understand the writer’s intent- we can better understand the story (not exclusively, as you may have said elsewhere, but as another facet by which we might possibly discern more deeply the story being told).

    But you are right, you’ve caught me trying to be humour-ous 😉 about Martin’s possible views on Humourism as a medical practice. But you may still agree with me that he is a bundle of contradictions here: “He’s a thoroughly modern man”, and yet he’s endured his phobia for years rather than seriously seek psychological help? I absolutely don’t fault him for giving himself a full medical workup as a fundamental process of elimination- but is he being faithful to his medical self by stopping the search for a differential diagnosis there? Was Aunt Ruth’s utterly brilliant insight about his difficulties “not being medical” surprise anybody but Martin? And besides, was I the only one to notice that amongst all the battery of nearly noninvasive tests he performed on himself, a simple, and generally most-telling, blood test, was not performed?

    Of course you’re right about blood-letting, that is bleeding, a practice to rebalance the humours that derives directly from Humourism- which was not such a very ancient practice, but was still practiced up to the late 1800’s, as I mentioned. I was being tongue-in-cheek whilst perhaps trying to channel Martin Ellingham and his often pompous and parochial views on people, how they work, emotions, relationships, and his surety that all things can be explained by logic and medicine. I am the thoroughly scientific sort myself, but I’m reminded that embracing medical or any other sort of dogma too tightly can mean people suffer; after all, it was not more than a dozen years ago that GPs were still treating stomach ulcers as if they were caused by stress and spicy food- rather than a bacterium infection. The poke I took at Martin was meant to be the same sort which the programme has taken at him from time to time that we laugh about notwithstanding the keen suffering he endures from this identification with his persona.

    Finally, Martin may be more open minded on the matter than you give him credit for. He has properly derided bleeding patients although he would also know that it did prove beneficial in many cases (albeit for the wrong reasons- and dangerously so, as an iatrogenic effect beyond any mere placebo effect). Someone will remember better than I, but somewheres he properly rolls his eyes at the worthless practice of homeopathy, but when it comes to alternative medicine he does well to accept that it can be helpful. The exchange with Louisa I remember went something like:
    L: “I’m sorry if you’ve closed your mind to alternative medicine but, you know, it can be effective.”
    M: “It frequently is. Unfortunately with this charlatan, it’s a lottery.”

    As Mary has delved into this topic and has perhaps become as intrigued with some of the symbolism possibly at work as I have, she’ll appreciate that the everyday meaning of sanguine, a truly positive and complimentary trait, equates blood to emotions. And if an earlier remark I made is taken into account, then maybe we can sense the awfulness of Martin’s blood-phobia, as the fear of a fear of emotions. And if we try to mine the symbolism concerning this vital bodily fluid further, we come across this other meaning for blood as well, “a relationship or kinship through being of the same family,e.g. being of the same blood”.

    My motivation for proposing that Humourism might give us some insight into the writer’s intent for these two characters as the antithesis of one another, was not to frame Martin and Louisa’s relationship as more unlikely or thusly doomed to failure or even to dismiss all their commonalities. I see it as just one more obstacle that was established for them to overcome which makes it such a wonderful love story that nonetheless prevails. Likewise, I can’t imagine them taking some personality test or daring science to prove their compatibility by some silly heuristics anymore than some silly comparison of the excesses or deficiencies of the four bodily humours can tell us whether, “they were meant to be.” Whenever Martin dismisses what is not logical or medical (modern or otherwise), I think we’re supposed to recall another model of rationality from literature, who comes to learn differently wherein he might tell himself: “There are more things in heaven and earth, [Martin], than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

  52. DM

    Thank you Linda! I must apologise to you as well for misattributing you as having delved into the subject matter. Intriguing isn’t it? Of course we can’t know the minds of the writers and creators, but some of the possible symbolism embedded in the story might tell us a little more about it and the characters.

  53. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    When you explain your reference to humours as really being about Louisa’s sanguine nature versus Martin’s lack of sanguinity, I get a better picture of what you are trying to say. But let’s look at that then. Is Martin really the antithesis of sanguine? Actually throughout series 1-5, he’s pretty sanguine (as we understand it now). He’s confident, assured, and relatively comfortable about his life. He’s got his routine, his capability to practice his profession, his Aunt Joan, and what turns into a successful procurement of Louisa’s affections. He’s even got a son, something he never thought would happen. It’s once again only in S6 that we see Martin become a more melancholy person.

    If we stick to the definitions of humors, we won’t find any of them that really fit Martin. Choleric may come the closest, on the other hand he’s really pretty willing to consent to a lot. He’s irascible and quick-tempered in certain situations, yet they show him being mighty even-tempered much of the time. I don’t know about your husband, but there’s no way I could have left our babies with mine when he had to see a patient. He loves his children, and hopefully me too, but his schedule has always been pretty sacrosanct. Much of what we see in the show is done for the inappropriateness or discordancy it demonstrates. We laugh at the patient who has to whisper because of the baby, or Martin reading his journal while rocking the baby. We also find it charming and indicative of how important James is to him.

    I’m glad to know that you were being “humorous” with several of your remarks. Nice to know I didn’t totally overshoot. I can agree that even Martin would recognize the value of placebos or nocebos. In that case, he would also realize that a doctor’s approach to treating a patient is iatrogenic by definition. The persona they give him does not take that into account. What they seem to have done is put together a character with a mixture of traits that work for the comedic aspects of the show but can’t be pinned down to any exact disorder or temperament, then they add on the medical conditions that suit the storyline and are often exotic or esoteric. He’s pretty impressive as a GP after being a surgeon, and that makes him exceptional as a doctor.

    I like your thoughts about blood and its various meanings. We could talk about the life giving properties of blood and the various associations with blood that have been made over time. All sorts of things. Although there could have been some thought given to all of that, including its meaning as blood relative, I lean more towards thinking they chose it because it’s so incongruous for a surgeon to be phobic about blood.

    You’re right, we don’t see him doing a blood test, which would be a good way for him to find out more about his physical health. Who would he get to take his blood?

    What they’ll have in store for them is going to be a treat for all of us. There are so many ways they can take this situation. I’m happy to have your input. We’re all going all out now to find things to talk about and all of it is good for stretching our minds. We shouldn’t limit ourselves!

  54. Sandra

    Does no one else see how manipulative and selfish Louisa is? For several painful seasons , Louisa continues to raise the bar for Obnoxious, Self-Centered Nags Everywhere. She nags, manipulates every situation according to her own capricious whim without a thought for others, she nags, she is sanctimonious and sure that she is the only perfect person in existence, wholly lacking in common sense, she nags, throws a big baby fit when she doesn’t get her way, and nags some more… shall I go on? This is a supremely annoying woman who cannot live without drama and, if it isn’t there, she’ll create it. This horrible woman needs to be stopped. Ugh. I was hoping her plan would crash in Spain.

  55. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Sandra, I am a bit astonished at the degree of anger in your comment. As I’m sure you know, whatever reaction you, or any viewer, has to a character should be moderated by how the show is using that character and arises to some extent from our own sensibilities. If Louisa makes you have such a strong reaction, we could say the writers are doing a good job of allowing for all sorts of emotions to result from the actions of the characters. We could also wonder what has brought you to find Louisa so hateful and to overlook some of her good qualities. Since you’ve read my assessment of her, you know I think she has quite a few redeeming qualities. In addition, she, too, has been given a background that ought to be taken into account when assessing her behavior.

    Based on what I’ve seen of this show and of the remarks made by the actors, without Louisa there is no show. Or at least no show like the one we’ve been watching. Wishing her plane would have crashed is rather extreme, don’t you think?

  56. Amy Cohen

    Fascinating post. Does S7 change your assessment of Louisa at all? She certainly no longer seems quite the upbeat and kind person she had been, at least with Martin. But maybe that’s just the anger and frustration. We’ve been here before, I know.

  57. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I think we might even say that it’s Louisa who has changed the most rather than Martin. Without even putting much overt effort into the act of changing, Louisa has been the character whose nature and behavior have changed. And it’s not an improvement! We have to expect that she is responding to Martin’s overall rejection of her after they’re married, especially toward the end of S6 when he is so disagreeable at Sports Day and when Louisa suggests taking a holiday together. Still, she sustains her anger and resentment for much longer than we would ever expect given how much effort Martin exhibits in S7 and her typical nature prior to the events of S6. Maybe that’s what the message is…Louisa changed organically and Martin has to really try to change?

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