Both men manipulate the women to their advantage, leaving a trail of broken hearts behind them, as, unfortunately for the women, for them it is true love – although for the men they were just an afterthought, the women hate being rejected or even rejecting. For the Victorian women this is due to the era that they are in – although few women/girls believed that they were inferior to the men, since their own eyes and evidence disproved it.
Tony is cautious when it comes to the women – he shows concern for their feelings, or perhaps just his own, when he hides them from view so as not to upset other people: “Now dearest Unity, will ye, to avoid all unpleasantness, which I know ye can’t bear any more than I…” He is just manipulating Unity’s feelings, and using it to get his own way by telling her things that he knows she wants to hear: “…will ye lie down in the back part of the waggon, and let me cover you over with the tarpaulin and perhaps I shall put a loving question to you after all…”
He uses the same method with Milly: “…I’m rather afeared of her temper if she sees us together. Now, Milly, would you do me a favour – my coming wife, as I may say? Then would you creep under the empty sacks just here in the front of the waggon, and hide there out of sight until we pass the house?” By calling her his ‘coming wife’ he is implying that he will marry her rather than Unity. As women of that era were ‘intent’ on marriage, Milly readily agrees to almost anything he asks of her. John Thomas has the same conniving nature as Tony, but uses less ‘direct’ methods to get what he wants. He gets the woman’s trust before approaching them with sexual intent:
“…he put his arm round her and drew her a little nearer to him, in a very warm and cuddly manner. Besides, he was fairly discreet…” Tony isn’t so intent on the sexual side, but takes marriage in his stride. He acts as though marriage is an everyday occurrence, and so do the women. This is due to the fact that most working-class women in the Victorian time wanted to find a husband for reasons of status and respectability. In the countryside, couples generally waited until they had some possessions before marrying, but the system of poor relief was much more generous to married couples rather than single men and women, and this encouraged early marriage among the poor. Although Tony isn’t poor, he is working-class and not very rich, and for this reason he is marrying ‘young.’
As for the women of the wartime: Back in world war one, the Civil Service made angry comments about ‘hussies’ with ‘3 inches of powder on their faces’ who declined to behave in a ‘womanly way’ by surrendering their jobs to the men. These wartime women are much more assertive and independent than the Victorian women. By taking over the men’s’ jobs while they are at war, they also take on their aggressiveness. As they are not accustomed to this amount of power, they lose control of their actions when angered. Angry, uncontrollable women, are not things to be meddled with, especially when they are seeking ‘revenge,’ as John Thomas found out.
Victorian women are meant to be reserved, for example, it would be scandalous for them to ask men for a lift: “My dear Tony, will you give me a lift home?” – Unity. Unity is very up-front woman, who has no trouble at all in complaining to Tony about Milly, to whom he is engaged, or persuading him that she is prettier than Milly: “In fact, I never knowed you was so pretty before!” – Tony. When Milly arrives, Tony tries to stall time to think up an excuse as to why she shouldn’t ride with him: “I was thinking you might be going ion to town to meet your mother. I saw her there – and she looked as if she might be expecting ‘ee.”
When all else had failed, he has to take her home, meeting Hannah Jolliver on the way. When John Thomas is with Annie, the author does not include any speech that he has with her. We can’t really tell the tactics that he uses on her, other than he fact that he tries to get her trust first. Although John Thomas doesn’t find his women so quickly interchangeable compared to Tony, he does like to swap them around almost every night. He probably has more women than Tony, though he isn’t prepared to marry any of them. John Thomas likes the women when they play hard to get, like Annie:
“And John Thomas liked Annie, more than usual.” This makes them seem like more of a challenge. Tony doesn’t like challenges, even though he seems to put himself into all sorts of situations that require careful thought to sort them out! He doesn’t like it when the women play hard to get, otherwise he would have followed Hannah or Unity at the end of the story. Tony lies at least once on every page of the story! He finds some excuse or fabrication to save him from the women, some as unbelievable as he is:
“But Hannah, I’ve really a couple of ferrets in a bag under there, for rabbiting, and they quarrel sometimes. I don’t wish it knowed, as ‘twould be called poaching. Oh, they can’t get out, bless ‘ee – you are quite safe! And -and – what a fine day it is isn’t it, Hannah, for this time of year?” He quickly changes the subject to save himself from conjuring up another lie. Tony frequently come close to being caught, but when he does in the end, then women are angrier with each other than him!