What does "much dreaded by the poor" mean? (from Agatha Christie's novel) I was wondering if you could help me out with a question. It's probably some culture reference that is not particularly obvious for me. I stumbled upon this question when I was taking a quiz on Agatha Christie's mystery novel The Murder at the Vicarage the other day: "Miss Marple, in this novel, is frequently seen in the company of three other "old pussies". My favorite is this lady, whose ministries to the village poor are much dreaded." The lady's name, Miss Hartnell, was revealed afterwards, but I didn't get the explanation attached (because I'm not a religious person and never belonged to any type of congregation): "Anyone who has belonged to a small-town church of any denomination knows this type all too well." Can you please explain what did this lady have to do with the poor? There are two passages about Miss Hartnell and the poor from the book: 1. "Miss Hartnell, who is weather-beaten and jolly and much dreaded by the poor" 2. "On my way home, I ran into Miss Hartnell and she detained me at least ten minutes, declaiming in her deep bass voice against the improvidence and ungratefulness of the lower classes. The crux of the matter seemed to be that The Poor did not want Miss Hartnell in their houses. My sympathies were entirely on their side. I am debarred by my social standing from expressing my prejudices in the forceful manner they do. I soothed her as best I could and made my escape."
Oct 11, 2019 10:50 AM
Answers · 4
The cultural context is as follows: The Christian Bible exhorts believers to be compassionate to others and to help the poor and the sick. Some believers "help the poor" ("minister to the poor" in churchspeak) in an arrogant and condescending manner. The description of the arrogant and condescending Miss Hartnell complaining about "... the improvidence and ungratefulness of the lower classes" is instantly recognizable.
October 12, 2019
"much dreaded by the poor" simply means 'highly feared by the poor [people]. The poor are afraid of her. I'm not aware of any particular cultural or religious significance ( although my experience is much the same as yours) She doesn't go into details, but I suspect that Miss Hartnell probably gives out more than just help. She possibly judges the people she visits, and/or preaches to them as well, and/or doesn't actually provide much concrete assistance.
October 11, 2019
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