Helga explicitly says, "Nobody cajoled me; nobody put any pressure on me." This is not a case of "marrying off young women to old men." The "old man" simply states that he is interested. Clearly, she could have simply refused and that would have been the end of it. She marries him for distorted reasons associated with guilt and religion. Since she was not pressured in any way (except by her own conscience, of which Gregorius could have no inkling), it is not unreasonable for him to think that she wishes to be his wife in all ways. I have to think that Vollman is the exception, not the rule.
The doctor specifically says that he has hated Gregorius since the first time he saw him, twenty years before the events of the story. It is explicit that he despises him for purely physical reasons. There is no particular sense that the doctor hates all pastors. It is not even explicit that he despises religion. He hates Gregorius because he finds the man to be ugly, which is, of course, pretty loathsome, because obviously the man can't help how he looks.
Of course he's lying to himself. The entire diary is filled with rationalizations and self-deceptions. He believes himself to be diabolically clever. In fact, he's pretty clueless. Guillermo asked for psychiatric insight. Well, I spend my days listening to people who do not understand themselves, who are hiding things from themselves, who pretend that they don't know things about themselves that they obviously do know but don't want to admit. To themselves. Unreliable narrators are not necessarily looking to fool others. Often they are fooling themselves.
: We seem to be reading not a confession but a
: personal diary meant for the doctor's eyes
: only, so he has no reason to be lying to us.
: He may, of course, still be lying to
: himself, and is unreliable to that extent. I
: do think he is unaware of the source of some
: of his feelings.
: He feels distaste for the pastor even before
: Helga comes to him. Why? Perhaps some of it
: is the distaste of a man of science for a
: man of faith. Perhaps the pastor really does
: have an ugly face; that is reason enough to
: dislike someone until they make some
: favorable impression. Most of it is probably
: because of his attraction to Helga. He knows
: the pastor has a pretty wife before she
: comes to him. Does the pastor deserve the
: doctor's distaste?
: pastor seems to be
: hypocritical, lecherous, selfish, cruel and
: Surely that would have described most of the
: town. Sterling says his main crime is that
: he wants to have sex with his wife and that
: he can't be blamed for that. But to me this
: seems like one of those old situations in
: which the pretty young girl was married off
: to the established older man. Of course, we
: can't expect all men to be as sensitive to
: young women's feelings as our dear Vollman
: from the Bardo (by the way, I came across
: the term Bardo in yet another book I'd never
: read before; it seems to be the word of the
: year), but such a thing is surely sufficient
: to heighten distaste for a man, at least
: once the young woman's distaste is
: I am not sure the doctor ruined anyone's
: life. He cannot be said to have ruined the
: pastor's. He has ended the pastor's life; it
: is no longer a source of pain or pleasure to
: him, or if he was right, as a pastor, his
: state has improved. Whether or not he has
: ruined Helga's life depends on the situation
: she is left in. If she is financially
: secure, she is almost certainly better off.
: And as he seems to be in no danger of
: arrest, the doctor has certainly not ruined
: his on life.
: I think the doctor is in a quiet revolt
: against his time or his society. Why does he
: bring up the abortions at all? He
: sympathizes with the women and would like to
: help them, but feels he can't in his world,
: and surely he was right. Part of his
: distaste for the pastor is his distaste for
: the practice of marrying off young women to
: old men they couldn't possibly be attracted
: to, indeed with the whole philosophy of
: marriage of the time. His distaste for the
: society he lives in makes him think of
: suicide, of his right to die whenever he
: wants, and so he carries his pills. Is there
: anything wrong with him? Well, he is who he
: is. Could he feel better, be happier? Maybe,
: but he could also take one of his pills.
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