Poldark Character Spotlight: the One Who Made Me Fall in Love with Poldark

By Tuesday, August 11, 2015 , , ,

{Fair warnin’: there be big spoilers afoot!}  
You may know from a previous post that I’m a new fan of Masterpiece’s new show, Poldark, which is based on the novels of the same title by Winston Graham. If you saw my Twitter activity during the recent season finale, you likely also thought I’d gone schizophrenic, but rest assured, it was just Poldark. If you’ve also been watching, I know you get me.

With the finale a little over a week gone, I’ve thought a lot about this series. Admittedly, I’d never heard of Poldark before this new TV adaptation premiered, but from what I understand, it’s pretty faithful to the books, and I’m so glad to have found these stories through the show. I do now intend to read the books…maybe all of them before season 2 airs. It might be too tempting. But the season that just finished is based on the first two books in the series, Ross Poldark and Demelza, and I’ve fallen in love with the story. And I think one major character is the primary reason for it all. Her name, of course, is Demelza.

Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza in Poldark
{Via FanPop}
Demelza Carne Poldark, played brilliantly by Eleanor Tomlinson, is the emotional heart and courage of the story. I’ve rarely encountered a heroine quite as instantly delightful to me as Demelza. She’s tough, intuitive, and deeply compassionate. Her transformation in this first season was one of the most fascinating aspects of the story to me. In the first episode, she’s an abused urchin mistaken for a boy. Ross, offended at the thought of her going home to beatings, takes her in as his kitchen maid, and she not only becomes valuable help for him, but also a comfortable companion. They’re married by the end of episode three, thus beginning her transition from lowly country girl to proper lady as Ross’ wife.

It’s fun, fascinating, humorous, and heart-wrenching to see Demelza journey from abused waif to hardworking handmaiden to the dignified Mistress Poldark and mother of Ross’ child. She’s eager to learn, caring toward others, and has a temper and heartfelt honesty that she never apologizes for. That makes a refreshing contrast between her and Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark, wife of Ross’ cousin, Francis. Elizabeth is the poster girl for the proper 18th century woman – always classy, ever appropriate, and constantly resorting to duty, even if it goes against her true wants. Demelza does learn propriety, but still never loses her fieriness and isn’t afraid to say what she thinks, even if it goes against the socially acceptable thing.

But Demelza’s softening influence on Ross was one of my favorite things about her. Shortly after they’re married, Ross’ cousin Verity tells Demelza that she’s very happy about the marriage and has great hopes for the good it will do Ross:

“Before he met you, he was broken. Lost. So I was relieved to think he’d found someone to console him – to save him from his loneliness. But now I see it’s more than consolation. You’ve given him hope.” 

Aidan Turner as Ross and Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza in Poldark
{Via FanPop}
Demelza is hope personified, as one of my favorite bloggers, Laurel Ann Nattress, put it. In a touching scene when Demelza expresses uncertainty about why Ross married her, he tenderly assures her of his love, saying that not only are his feelings sincere, but she’s redeemed him. And in many ways, I think Ross’ rescue of her and giving her a new life instill fresh energy into her qualities that end up changing him most. He just didn’t see at first that he needed her as much as she needed him. Her liveliness, optimism, and childlike joy come exactly when he needs them, for he returns from war a bitter, hardened man. Demelza’s cheerfulness is a balm to his spirit initially, and as their marriage deepens, her steady perseverance in difficult circumstances reminds him to push forward without losing faith. Their difficulties often arise from uncertain finances and the enormous responsibility Ross feels towards his mine workers, and these concerns lead to many exchanges in which Demelza is clearly a voice of wisdom and encouragement for him. These are two of my favorites:

{Discussing their financial situation}

Ross: You must be regretting your marriage to such a destitute rogue.
Demelza: Must I? After what you’ve brought me to? Am I such a great lady now as to forget where I’d be if we’d never met?
Ross: (laughing) Women. None are created equal. Some are never satisfied, some could never be brought so low. And others thumb their noses at adversity and roll up their sleeves.
Demelza: Well, perhaps you wish you’d married a rich lady!
Ross: I’m quite aware of my good fortune, I assure you.

{Ross feels responsible for the death of one of his employees} 

Demelza: You did what you could.
Ross: I wonder.
Demelza: Ross, you cannot fight all the world. You can only make your own small corner a fairer place.

Demelza’s hope and compassion are perhaps most poignantly expressed at the end of the season following the tragic death of her and Ross’ baby daughter, Julia. Her grief is undoubtedly deep and painful…honestly, those scenes after Ross breaks the news to her had me undone. Major props to Eleanor Tomlinson for acting her socks off in those heart-wrenching exchanges. They’re very telling moments for both Demelza’s and Ross’ characters. Even in her grief, Demelza sees that from it, there’s a chance for healing her and Ross’ strained relationships with Francis and Elizabeth, and she begs him to make the most of it. Her eagerness to forgive and love is probably never more pointed, offering a powerful challenge to Ross’ skepticism and tendency to condemn more quickly. He hugs her tighter as he says in resignation,

“You make me ashamed. Your heart is so generous. You always see the good in things.”

Ross and Demelza grieve together after Julia's death
{Via FanPop}
Indeed she does. So much so that she even sees that her child's death will not be in vain. I deeply appreciated that about this particular storyline, heartbreaking as it was. And as Demelza’s sweet, hopeful spirit softens Ross throughout their journey together in this first season, we’re also reminded in the audience that even though life can be difficult, we musn’t lose heart. That hope is not empty and love will last. 

 Thanks, Demelza. We need people like you. Here's to your forthcoming heroic efforts to free Ross in season 2! We're all waiting eagerly to see you keep on fighting for him.

*I do not own the rights to the photos in this post. All photos used were retrieved from credited Internet sources*

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  1. Well, Demelza is the one that made me hate Poldark. I don't like neither the character nor the actress. One thing that made me hate her even more is this excessive worship for her when she has proved so many times to be a flawed woman.

    1. i don't hate demelza, but the treatment of her (by the show and fans) is what i loathe. my sister was telling me what "a queen" mella was as i started the show, and i saw how very simple she was as a character and didn't have much appeal outside of simply being likable. and i'm not even going to get into the hypocrisy of the show and the fans when she cheats on ross and they just gloss over it (my sister says she straight up ignores it), but beats anything liz does over her head. so the unfair treatment she has by everyone soured me towards her a bit, i cannot lie.

  2. She is supposed to be a flawed person and character. That's what we don't observe, all characters in the series have flaws, minor and major. She has them too. People like her too much because she brings energy, optimism, love and compassion for Ross and everyone involved. You'll see her make mistakes as you read the books.