CV9: Andrew & Stuart — Doppelganger, Uroboros, or Diptych?

I think I read in The New Yorker piece ‘MuggleMarch’ that there was no way Casual Vacancy would be made into a movie. The thinking, I suppose, is that movie-goers are not ready for Obbo’s rape of Krystall, the Dursley-Mollinsons (and, worse, the Prices) on screen for the whole show, and the ugliness of Comprehensive meanness and The Fields. I haven’t read any reviews or discussion since my first reading late Saturday but I’m guessing that there isn’t a feverish speculation in Jo’s Empire of Fans about whether Milley Cyrus will play Krystall Weedon or which Bollywood god and goddess will play the beautiful Doctors Jawanda.

I get that. I think one of the hardest bits of a very challenging read — and one that would be at least as difficult to experience on screen — is that the story principals are Krystall Weedon, not a charm school grad, and the twins of sorts, Andrew Price and Stuart Wall. As touched on thread #5, they are a Uroboros at story’s start who are so close that they share an identity. Though Stuart (‘Fats’) is the Leopold to Andrew’s relatively pathetic Loeb, it is the latter who breaks out from their relationship, first (and importantly) in his secret love for Gaia Bowden and then in his decision to save his family by posting the Ghost revelation about his father on the Pagford website.

That plays out as Andrew hopes at first, when his dad withdraws his candidacy. When Simon loses his job, however, and Andrew/Stuart learn the Prices have to leave town for dad’s possible job in Reading, Stuart feels cut adrift. His best friend from his earliest memories is no longer his surest companion. He plays the cool dude and acts indifferent to Andrew thereafter largely in denial of how this separation pains him. Andrew pursues Gaia and Stuart meets with Krystall as compensatory consolation.

But their unity is not yet broken. Stuart makes what seems an ex machina appearance in the kitchen at the Mollinson Birthday and Electoral Victory Party and, incredibly, tries to make love to the drunken Gaia, his best friend’s girl. After the death of Robby in the River Orr, Andrew finds and saves (?) his best friend, who hides in their most secret sanctuary, the Cave. Rising from that death of sorts, Stuart confesses that he was the Ghost of Barry Fairbrother, the author of all the online messages, to include, of course, the two written by Andrew about Simon and about Howard and Maureen (which last no one but Howard and Shirley seem to have read).

What’s at play here? Here’s an idea for your comment and correction.

Andrew and Stuart are something of a soul diptych as in Jekyll and Hyde. Just as Stevenson’s character Hyde was Jekyll without conscience, so Stuart only becomes bestial when unlinked from Andrew in his private decision to fight back against his father (and protect their family) with his intelligence, not Fats’, and to love the goddess from afar instead of whoring. Stuart unleashed without the relatively grounded Andrew has no sense of measure than his own ratiocinations and conceptions of “authenticity,” becoming a nightmare, even predatory Holden Caulfield.

The return of Fats to Andrew at the party and his attack on Gaia shows his dependence and loss. His grief consequent to Krystall and Robby’s deaths mark his remorse-heavy birth of conscience, which is so real as to include the sins of his friend and better-half Andrew. Confessing that he did it, of course, makes Andrew’s life much worse because Simon believes Stuart’s confession — and attacks his own son for the boy’s part in the cyber attack.

If I’m right in this, I think we have at least one good reason for why many folks could not get into this novel. the characters with whom we are meant to identify — Andrew and Stuart — all their actions are easy to understand but they’re a real stretch for inspiring sympathy, not to mention ‘identification’ and ‘elision.’

Your thoughts please on the Andrew Price and Stuart Wall relationship — and which actors you think should play their parts in the Casual Vacancy movie that will never be made.


  1. Do we ever go back to Fats’ point of view after the deaths of Robbie and Krystal? If I’m remembering correctly I don’t think we do, and I believe that also plays a part in why I have trouble feeling any sympathy for him. We only see him from the outside, obviously upset, but we don’t know what he’s truly thinking.

  2. You definitely see from Fats’ point of view at the end. He asks himself if the deaths will ever lift from his conscience, and makes himself watch the coffins carried into the church

  3. Susan Stacy says

    I’m not sure why so many people are eager to say the Casual Vacancy is no movie material. It seems that a very stark Winter’s Bone received quite a bit of critical acclaim.

  4. I think the reason I had so much trouble getting into the novel, and I did indeed have the trouble, was that there was no suspense about anything, no pay-off for which to look forward, and no central story to drive the narrative.

  5. John,
    Most of this article was about relationships and the likability of different characters, but the part that struck me was the thought of making CV into a movie.

    If I recall from my reading about your introduction to Harry Potter, you are a Christian, and a devout one at that. I am too. Coming from that perspective, how do we justify making a movie like Casual Vacancy, let alone watching it? I have no problem with acting in general. I don’t mind if someone is the bad guy in a film, because their heart isn’t really evil. I don’t mind a murder scene, because nobody really dies; nobody has hatred against their fellow actors. I don’t mind tragedy in film because it isn’t real. I actually like martial arts. Words are iffy, because it may be a matter of compromise for actors who are trying to tame their tongues. Barring medical footage, how can anyone justify being naked on screen? I don’t know how an actor could ever play a sex scene without compromising their Christianity. I don’t know how a Christian could watch one without compromise. When Moses talked about sexual sins, it always had to do with the uncovering of nakedness. (See: here – read right to left) You can’t act that. When actors do that, they’re really doing it. When people watch it, they’re really watching it. Of course, the way they did these scenes in racey 80’s movies (or broadcast tv now), it left us to imagine what was going on. The adultery was in our hearts – in our minds. Now nothing is left to imagination.

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. I brought it up because of what you said about actors. What I heard you say is which actor you’d like to see naked. The thought makes me feel embarrassed before it makes me feel ashamed. Come to that, what do you think about how we were made to imagine these things while reading CV?

    On a similar note, I read here that it’s considered Pharisaical to decide something is wrong in another person’s actions. Do you think that JKR is under the impression that it’s wrong to tell people what is morally right or wrong to do? Did Jesus condemn the condemnation of sinful actions, or was He going after something else when He criticized their actions?

  6. I had trouble truly identifying with any of the characters. The only characters I really wanted to check up on was Krystal, mostly because I was wondering how much worse her life would get…and hoping some Deus ex machina moment that I knew would never happen.

    Fats life was shattered–his best friend was leaving him, his mother’s secret was something that should not have been revealed in such a way–and you want to feel for him…and JKR does a great job in horrifying you. The closing impression you get is that everyone in that town is despicable and wounded and sad. I was left thinking that every one of us has a dark side that we desperately want to hide from the world, and would do almost anything to keep it that way. For Pagford, Barry’s death was an instrument for this dark side to see the light.

  7. Katherine Grimes says

    Picky detail here: Krystal Weedon’s name is spelled with one “l,” not two.

  8. Katherine Grimes says

    I cannot stand Stuart Wall. He’s the worst sort of boy. He’s just as bad in the series as he is in the book. Maybe I feel a little sorry for him, but I never like him, even when he feels guilty, because even his guilt is selfish (“Will I ever be all right?”). I like and care about Andrew Price and feel sorry for him that his best friend is Stuart Wall.

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