I've been thinking about Bates quite a lot recently. I don't think there's any secret that I'm not a massive fan of his but I don't believe in irrational character hating and he is an interesting character. So I want to get to the bottom of the things I find problematic about him, and I'd really like other opinions on his character especially from people who've thought longer and harder about him than I have!
It all comes down really to how he presents himself. What I don't understand is how his current character of, well, supreme virtue and restraint and stoicism fits with his (supposed) past. (I'm taking it as read that things are probably more complicated than we currently know and that season 2 has some twists in store for Bates and the viewer.) We don't ever see him struggling not to drink, we don't see him tempted by anything - except perhaps Anna, and he manages to keep temptation at bay there too. I hear all these accusations of what he admits he did - but I can't connect that to his current personality at all. Do you think this is meant to be the case, so that we suspect that the version of events that is revealed about him is not in fact true? Or do other people not have this problem? And if you do, how do you explain it?
Secondly, I have problems with the way he conceals things, especially from Anna. I get that he's not going to over-share details of his past that he wants to forget and which are nobody's business, but on occasions he actually makes things worse for himself by not quietly telling e.g. Carson the truth. And what of Anna? She is surely obviously trustworthy and loyal to him. Can't he tell her that, while he has reasons for concealing it in general, he can't pursue anything with her and the reason is that he's already married? Unless he actually wants to string her along - which is a really unattractive trait - I don't understand why he doesn't tell her. It would be far more "noble" than his actual behaviour is.
One thing that did occur to me - do you think he could be almost punishing himself for whatever he did in his past? Is his self-denial of being open to people who care about him, of knowing himself under suspicion and not doing anything to remove it a kind of masochistic self-punishment? I do wonder.
I really hope this post doesn't come across as bashing and I hope nobody takes it as such. I'm genuinely interested in trying to understand Bates better and try to see him from a more sympathetic point of view!
Very interesting Rose!
I agree with most you said above. ^_^
I think it is hard for people in general to understand Bates easily because he is so mysterious and stoic. I think that Bates tries to make up for his past mistakes by up-holding a self-imposed strict code of conduct. I think we have also to remember that his drinking problem started after he returned from the Boer war and that he went to prison too, so that may have give him a lot of time to do a serious in-depth self-evaluation and Bates may have felt ashamed that he let himself down (via drinking) and this may have led (to his belief) Vera to steal the regimental silvery. I think that Bates still hasnít quite over his mistakes, though he wonít admit that, but his behaviour & beliefs (about honour, etc) and kind of masochistic self-punishment leads me to belief so. I think that he tortures himself over Anna, it is almost like when someone is fasting during Lent and they have to endure the temptation of eating whatever you promised to give up for Lent. Maybe Bates is Catholic and may try to redeem himself by putting himself through those painful trails.
It is also possible that Vera may shed some light on Batesí past or that that Anna may pay another visit to Mrs. Bates (mom)
Maybe series 2 shed some light on the fact that Bates still gradually recuperating from his war experiences. I think that PSTDs would have being particularly hard to overcome since it wasnít yet recognised as a medical condition thus making it harder to cope with and help to cure it. (maybe Bates found his cure in the booze).
Inferring from the podcast, I think Bates will still take the same line of approach he took in series 1 in relation to Anna to series 2. The only difference is that Anna will possibly know somehow that Bates does reciprocates her feelings but is stopped due to his code of honour and the thought of Vera coming after him may also prompt him his desire to protect Anna from his wife.
I also think that Bates is a very proud man and likes to hold himself up honourably rather than having others to pity on him due to his limp (that is how I think Bates may view othersí concern for him.)
|I think we have also to remember that his drinking problem started after he returned from the Boer war and that he went to prison too, so that may have give him a lot of time to do a serious in-depth self-evaluation|
I think this is critical to keep in mind when we evaluate Bates and his presentation on the show vs what we know about his previous lifestyle. Keep in mind that in the time fame of DA, the Boer war wasn't exactly yesterday, so his alcoholism/imprisonment could have been a good deal before the show ever began. Also prison is a pretty harrowing experience and could have radically changed the type of person he was.
We also don't know what he was like before the war. The person Bates was before the war could have been similar to the Bates we know now, so his shady past could have been more of the exception than the rule.
|he actually makes things worse for himself by not quietly telling e.g. Carson the truth.|
I don't understand how telling Carson would have made things better. When the truth finally did come out he nearly got fired! This is pretty much Bates' last chance for decent employment so I can understand him not wanting to jeopardize it by blabbing all about his sordid past.
|Can't he tell her that, while he has reasons for concealing it in general, he can't pursue anything with her and the reason is that he's already married? |
But he did tell Anna about his wife. Before the flower show there were implications and flirting, yes, but as soon as she just came out and said, no holds bar, that she loved him, he told her that he was not a free man. Perhaps there might have been some stringing along but it's not like the guy proposed to her or gave her any kind of promise.
I'm not a huge fan of Bates but I do like the character. I guess I don't really understand where the dislike stems from. I find him extremely sympathetic given his past and circumstances, much more so than other characters who are often given a pass based on their circumstances. Soldiers come back from war damaged all the time, even now. It's not pleasant, and it doesn't excuse all the horrible things that they might do when they come back, but it happens.
I think Bates and Lord Grantham know things about eachother. When Lord G told Bates not to lose his temper he seemed to be talking about something specific. Lord G hasn't seen any sign of Bates' temper in the show so it must be something else. Lord G is so loyal and trusting of Bates that it makes me think Bates must have seen a side of him in the war which others did not.