Study Guide

Blanche Glover in Possession

By A.S. Byatt

Blanche Glover

Glover or leave her, Blanche is another of Possession's enigmatic characters. The novel's twentieth-century scholars assume that she was Christabel LaMotte's long-term partner, but the novel itself never confirms this for sure. Although we're left with the strong impression that Blanche and Christabel were probably lovers, we also have reason to suspect that Blanche's love for her roomie may have been unrequited.

Here are a few things that we know for sure about Blanche Glover:

  • She and Christabel met at a lecture by John Ruskin (10.154).
  • She was working as a governess at the time (10.154).
  • She hated working as a governess and thought of it slavery and "hell on earth" (18.3).
  • She was a painter.
  • She shared Christabel's spiritualist beliefs (18.12).
  • She told Ellen Ash about her husband's infidelity and begged her for help (25.118-24).
  • When she committed suicide, she followed Mary Wollstonecraft's example and drowned herself (18.11).

Before piecing together the story of Christabel LaMotte and Randolph Henry Ash's love affair, Possession's twentieth-century scholars were never sure why Blanche Glover killed herself. Once the Ash-LaMotte correspondence is discovered, Blanche's despair starts to take on a whole new meaning. Suddenly, it's not so hard to guess what she meant when she described herself—in her suicide note—as "a superfluous creature" (18.12). Poor Blanche.

What's In a Name?

At one point in Possession, as Maud Bailey and Roland Mitchell discuss symbolic and metaphorical associations with gloves in the poetry of Christabel LaMotte and Randolph Henry Ash, Maud remarks: "Gloves in LaMotte are always to do with secrecy and decorum. Covering things up. Also with Blanche Glover, of course" (13.41).

As readers, we might also think of a few other associations that Blanche's surname can call up. We know that Blanche's jealousy made her hyper-protective of Christabel's "honor," even to the point of stealing some of Randolph Henry Ash's letters before Christabel could see them (10.169-72). In this sense, the protective purpose of gloves has been perverted by Blanche's jealousy. By stealing Christabel's letters, Blanche isn't protecting her Christabel: she's deceiving her and restricting her freedom. That's straight out of Abusive Relationships 101.

Another association we might consider is the difference between a limp glove and a living, three-dimensional hand. On their own, gloves are flat and empty, and it's only when they're worn that they become shapely and useful. Did Blanche depend on Christabel to give shape and meaning to her life? Although Possession doesn't answer this question for sure, all signs point to "yes."