If you are unfamiliar with the early story of Ross and Demelza Poldark then please be aware that this post may contain some spoilers. I also refer to one plot line which has not yet aired in the current TV series.
I am very old. Thus I remember, back in the day, watching the original television adaptation of the Poldark novels by Winston Graham. How I enjoyed that series. It even led to one of my first acts of rebellion. My Brownie Guide leader had been trying to instill a sense of competition in her charges as to who amongst the older girls should carry the unit flag at a ceremony to be held in our church. I was smarting from the perceived insult of not having been made a Sixer (this did happen eventually) and informed Brown Owl that I would prefer to spend my Sunday evening watching the latest adventures of Ross and Demelza. She was not impressed.
My sister bought herself the Poldark books and I read them avidly. At first my heroes behaviour fed my aching heart, but then they began to act in such a silly way. I persevered but the joy was gone. Why couldn’t they all have just stayed with their loves and lived happily ever after?
I was content to dislike Elizabeth who, having made her decision, should have tried harder with Francis. George Warleggan was easy to despise. It was Ross who hurt me so. I still feel disappointed when I hear of people giving in to temptation as he did. How can they expect such behaviour to ever cause anything but pain and regret rippling out amongst those they know and are supposed to care for?
All of these years later and the remake is causing quite a stir. The stills did not appeal to me with their objectification of Aiden Turner, the actor chosen to play Ross.
In my view, Eleanor Tomlinson could never be Demelza after the wonderful Angharad Rees.
However, I dislike being left out of the conversation. A few episodes in and I realised that I was enjoying the remake as much as I had the original. The actors have made these parts their own.
This time around I am seeing the story through different, older eyes. I also know where the plot is going.
At the end of Episode 4, Ross tells Demelza that he loves her. I have stopped watching here. I want to imagine that he will continue to be kind, generous, loving and giving. I don’t wish to watch the handsome hero fall.
In the books that I choose to read, the films that I enjoy, I am not a happy ever after sort of person. I find such a premise unrealistic. Life goes on and is never going to be entirely sunshine and roses. Why then does this story affect me so? What is it about the character of Ross that evokes such a desire that he should continue to be true to the young serving girl who loves him and who he took for his own?
The only other fictional character I can think of who has affected me in this way is Mr Darcy, but Pride and Prejudice finishes when he and Elizabeth wed. The reader is not required to consider what happens next.
Mr Darcy may have raised Elizabeth’s status in society but not to the extent that Ross did Demelza. In quite literally picking her up from the gutter and then teaching her how to be a lady Ross changed Demelza’s life irrevocably. His character is shown to be caring of all; he should have appreciated how far his wife had come for him and treated her more generously. He himself should have behaved better.
I recognise that I am intolerant of those who seek the excitement of the new when experience shows that hurting those we should be caring for is never going to lead to a happy outcome. The new all too soon becomes the mundane and, whilst it is possible to forgive, it is not possible to forget. My cynicism when I hear of affairs or marriage breakdown is reflected in my generally negative attitude towards fictional romance, except it would seem for Ross Poldark.
The first four episodes of the series see Ross rebuild his home, his land, his mine. He offers practical help to his tenants with jobs and housing. He rescues an urchin and, despite the disapprobation of his peers, marries her. He tells her that he loves her.
Ross’s willingness to work, alongside his disinterest in how society views him, makes him so very appealing to me. When he falls all those admirable qualities are tarnished.
I have still to decide if I will watch beyond Episode 4 although I wonder how my older eyes would view what is to come. I wonder how much understanding I have gained in forty years of living, and if increased tolerance of such behaviour would be a good thing.
Do you have any fictional characters who affect you deeply?