“Tantalising Lure of a Mystery Never Revealed”: Desire, Fantasy, and Land(e)scape in The Blue Castle (LMMI, 2004)


L.M. Montgomery Institute, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada – June 2004

In the opening scene of The Blue Castle, “Valancy could not find the key of her Blue Castle” (Montgomery 5), the fantasy home in Spain that has been her escape since she was very young. Before this day, Valancy was content with her fantasy life taking her away from her actual life into a world of desire. However, as Slavoj Žižek suggests, “what the fantasy stages is not a scene in which our desire is fulfilled, fully satisfied, but on the contrary, a scene that realizes, stages, the desire as such” (Žižek 6). The blue castle of Valancy’s fantasy stages her desire, teaches her how to desire, but her reliance on that fantasy to fulfill her desire prevents her from engaging with her life outside that particular fantasy. This paper centers on the ways her exile from her fantasy world, combined with the knowledge that she has little time to live, changes Valancy’s landscape forever—drives her out of her castle in Spain and into her own life in Deerwood and Muskoka.

In Chapter 8, “Valancy reviewed her whole life between midnight and the early spring dawn” (Montgomery 39). The anecdotes that comprise this review resemble the narratives of an analysand—Valancy places herself on her own couch, trying to understand her misery. In the course of this self-analysis, she touches upon the three “ideals” that Jacques Lacan names in The Ethics of Psychoanalysis as central to the work of psychoanalysis: “human love,” “authenticity,” and “non-dependence.” She first notes that she has, “never been able to have [her] own dust-pile” (Montgomery 41), which indicates her failure to achieve the ideal of non-dependence: she wants something of her own, no matter how small. She also expresses regret that she prevented the one boy, “who had ever tried to kiss her” from succeeding (Montgomery 42). Valancy understands the importance of human love as she realizes the lack of it in her life: “not even her mother loved her” (Montgomery 39), and, at the age of 29, she is “unsought by any man” (Montgomery 1). At the climax of her review, she resolves to change her life through the ideal of authenticity: “I shall never pretend anything again” (Montgomery 46).

This paper will focus on Valancy’s fantasy as an imaginary framework through which she prepares herself to understand her relationship to her surroundings as she makes the transition from fantasizing an escape to effecting a material escape from the miseries of her life. Taking Žižek’s point that: “It is only through fantasy that the subject is constituted as desiring” (Žižek 6), I will demonstrate that first by constructing the fantasy and second by giving it up, Valancy Stirling comes into subjecthood and a new relationship with her desires.