Study Guide

A Great and Terrible Beauty Power

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Chapter 3
Minor Characters

"An actress," Tom sneers. "What sort of way is that for a woman to live, without a solid home, husband, children? Running about like she's her own lord and master. She'll certainly never be accepted in society as a proper lady." (3.28)

Besides trying to strong-arm the whole world, Tom has very narrow ideas (like teeny-tiny) about what a woman should be allowed to do and how a man should keep his wife.

Chapter 6

I'm ready for Miss Moore to straighten her spine and humiliate Ann in front of everyone by forcing her to admit her shame—and calling her all manner of names as well. There's a certain type of spinster lady who takes her amusement by torturing others under the guise of setting a good example." (6.40)

Power loves an easy scapegoat—someone to blame when things go wrong, who cannot fight back and make things messy. But Miss Moore is different. Even though she has teacher power, she doesn't use it to keep things quiet, and instead she actually tries to problem solve.

Ann Bradshaw

"I invite you to sit with us and this is how you repay my kindness? By stealing the ring my father gave to me? I should have expected something like this from a girl like you."

We all know what "like you" means. Low-class. Common. Plain, poor, and hopeless. (6.35-36)

Poor Ann is always getting pushed around. Why do the other girls feel so powerful? Why does Ann feel powerless against injustice, like Felicity blaming her for stealing a ring she didn't steal?

Chapter 10

The Torture Twins are not alone. All the better. I'll surprise the lot of them, let them know I won't be their willing fool ever again. (10.21)

Sometimes power simply comes from gaining the upper hand, like here when Gemma has the opportunity to sneak up on Felicity and a man, whom she would die to be caught with. In this way, Gemma holds all the cards.

My mother was here. I'd choose her. It's what I said before I fell asleep. Somehow, I've brought her back with this strange power of mine. (10.82)

Gemma's got some magical power too. But why is it called power? Perhaps because other people can't do it. If no one knew how to blow their nose and everyone just let the snot run down all over, it'd be pretty powerful to be the one to figure out how to blow it all into a tissue, now wouldn't it?

Chapter 11

It means passing up an invitation to Felicity's suddenly open sanctuary in the great hall—thanks to my new status as the keeper of her secrets—but there's only one thought in my mind: there has to be a way to control my visions rather than have them control me. (11.1)

Gemma works hard to develop power over herself and control her visions. You might even say she has to summon a ton of power in order to control her power.

Chapter 12
Minor Characters

"Magic?" Elizabeth asks. "They were witches?"

"Not as we've come to think of witches. They would have been mystics and healers, women who worked with herbs and delivered babies. But it would have made them suspect. Women who have power are always feared," she says sadly. (12.15-16)

In patriarchal society, women are kept quiet, weak, and dependent in order to be easier to control—because nothing's harder to control than empowered people.

I've underestimated Felicity's need for control. She'd rather be seen with Ann and me than admit defeat to her acolytes. She's an admiral's daughter, after all. (12.116)

Felicity is pretty obsessed with power, and she'd rather maintain the illusion of control than admit to not running the show, no matter the cost.

Chapter 13

We're alive with our new secret, with the way we belong to each other and to something other than the dull passing of hours with nothing to look forward to besides our routines. It makes me feel even more powerful than the whiskey, and I want it to go on forever. (13.49)

Belonging to a club or group of people is powerful because you feel like one large being, instead of just one small you. Maybe that is why there are so many different clubs, groups, religions, and such.

Chapter 18

Felicity ignores us. She walks out toward them, an apparition in white and blue velvet, her head held high as they stare in awe at her, the goddess. I don't yet know what power feels like. But this is surely what it looks like, and I think I'm beginning to understand why those ancient women had to hide in caves. (18.15)

Even though women are generally denied power in this book, they still have sexual power. It's not much, but here we see Felicity working with what she has.

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