I mentioned the Quarreling Couples — the Walls and Jawandas — who get together at one of the possible centers of Casual Vacancy in thread #7 on Ring Composition but there are other couples in the book, of course. I think immediately of Stuart Wall and Krystall Weedon, the Romeo and Juliet of this postmodern, alchemical romance, Gavin the Cad and Kay Bowden, Samantha and Miles Mollinson, and the tragic Terri Weedon and Obbo, her twisted drug dealer partner.
But the pair who have the most interesting names outside of the royal Stuart and divine Krystall, the aptly named King and Queen of the Chemical wedding, are Andrew Price and Gaia Bowden. He is the man, quite literally, as the Greek for mensch is andros. Gaia is a nightmare frankly, given that her mother’s name is Gay (can you say “confusing around the house?”), but as interesting as Andrew, I think, because of his over-the-top love for her. To be brief, ‘Gaia’ is the name of the Earth goddess. She’s Mother Nature.
That sort of naming just invites an allegorical interpretation, no? Andrew’s dad, Simon, is the greedy guy you’d expect (think Uncle Tom’s Cabin‘s violent and insensitive miser, Simon Legree) with a surname like Price. Andrew, a good guy twisted by a life of fear and submission to this capitalist gone mad, is a walk-on for fallen man. They live with Ruth the mom and Paul the little guy (paulos means ‘shortie in Greek) in the House on the Hill, which, outside of Sweetlove Manor, seems the best house and view in town.
Gaia has a relationship with her mother that is at least as bent out of shape, if nowhere near as violent, as Andrew and Simon’s. She resents mom uprooting her life outside London in the fairy tale hope that Cad Boyfriend will marry her and give her life some stability. When Krystall decides pregnancy via Fats is the route to stability for her and Robby at story’s end, we have a pretty good idea from Kay-Gavin’s model that this is not going to work out.
Andrew thinks Gaia seems a goddess of cool descended from London to the parochial West Country, something of a real world Maria Merryweather. He dreams of winning her, though he is ugly, awkward, and as unlikely a match as any Pagfordian could be for her. Incredibly, he actually gets to know her because of a Dickensian coincidence and his winning a job at ‘The Copper Kettle’ where she works. She seems oblivious start to finish of his great ardor for her.
The goddess, though, befriends the great ‘other’ of the Pagford comprehensive, Sukhvinder Jawanda, who Andrew’s other half Stuart stalks sadistically on the internet. Gaia gives Jolly her first friend not on the Crew team, and, though Jolly feels betrayed by her when she sees Fats kissing her after the Mollinson birthday party, the earth mother does not forget her. I’d go so far as to say that Gaia is the engine of redemption for Andrew, Sukhvinder, and Kay Bowden. No small work for the young Jo Rowling stand-in!
Or am I all wet? Let me know what you think of the Andrew-Gaia relationship as a parable of fallen man and the spiritual earth.