Elizabeth Mapp and Emmeline "Lucia" Lucas couldn't look more different, and it's fair to say that Lucia is the more... fashionable of the two. Just check out her impeccably elegant 30s fashions, which make her look like the sort of bohemian belle you might expect to see sashaying around Mayfair. It helps that she's also tall and slender, with cheekbones seemingly carved from marble. Yes, if you're the kind of person whose eyes go heart-shaped at the sight of chic, urban glamour, then Lucia is your lady.
But what of Miss Mapp? A "busy little woman with lots of teeth", she certainly can't match Lucia in the style stakes. But you know what? She has her own kind of homely charm, and - unlike Lucia - you could hang out with Mapp without feeling horribly overshadowed by how utterly fantastic she looks. That has to count for something, yes?
In keeping with her exquisite appearance, Lucia has the kind of worldly sophistication which would put even a seasoned traveller to shame. Foodies and globe-trotters may well pledge allegiance to Lucia based on her knowledge of far-flung goodies. She doesn't just brew tea: she sources the finest, specially imported Darjeeling from India. She doesn't just have an afternoon snack: she reaches for glorious groceries from London's foremost food shop, Fortnum and Mason.
But if all of this utterly pretentious to you, then take your place alongside Miss Mapp. Because Elizabeth also has no time for such hoity-toity sophistication, even if she DOES at one point serve up caviar sandwiches (but that was only because she was getting flustered by Lucia's presence). No, the only culinary luxuries Mapp really holds dear are the gorgeous fruit growing in her garden. Have you TRIED the figs?
Now here's something that may come as a surprise. You might naturally assume that Lucia, being the "cool", sophisticated, worldly-wise one, is also the funnier of the two ladies. But no. If you like a bit of casual wit, Miss Mapp is the woman for you. She has a cutting comment for every occasion, and some are almost Oscar Wilde-like in brilliance. Example: "She always follows the latest passions. We hope one day she'll catch up with them."
And of course, Mapp's way with words comes into full force when she's dealing with her nemesis Lucia. On being forced to suffer through one of Lucia's piano recitals, Mapp whispers to a friend: "So many movements of Mozart, I began to think she'd discovered the secret of perpetual motion and we'd be stuck here till doomsday." Ouch.
Right, let's make no bones about it. Both Mapp and Lucia are well-versed in the Machiavellian arts of social climbing, and social backbiting. In fact, if sly cunning earns your respect, then you might find very tricky to choose between them. At first, it's Lucia who looks like the winner, when she charms the entire town by shamelessly flattering everyone she meets. (On meeting a pompous local with an MBE, she flutters her eyelashes and asks "Did you speak to the Queen?" with all the faux-admiration she can muster.)
Mapp may not be as good at flattering people into doing her bidding, but she has other means. Like bribing them with good whisky (just ask the Major). And there's the time she gets her very own Indian guru, whose presence makes Mapp the toast of the town, much to Lucia's annoyance. Well played, Miss Mapp. Well played.
What about sheer strength and stubbornness? Who should we admire the most, when it comes to being a tenacious terrier? Hmm, well, Mapp is the kind of social busybody who will not be stopped, as Lucia discovers when she installs a chain lock to keep Mapp from constantly bursting in on her. What does Mapp do? Simply break it open, of course, with a "teeny little push". That one moment says it all about Mapp's rude resilience. As for Lucia... she's a little too poised and regal to ever use brute force, but she too will never admit defeat, and will fight to the death (socially, not literally) to get her way. And whether you're Team Mapp or Team Lucia, you'll have to watch and see who reigns supreme.