I really don’t like Jenny

As I’m reading The Return of the Soldier, it is hard not to roll my eyes at our untrustworthy narrator, Jenny. What are we supposed to make of her?

Jenny is jealous and petty, she is snobby, she assumes much of her companions and their backgrounds, and overall I just don’t think I’d like her much as a person. It is difficult to understand why West would provide us with such an untrustworty and frustrating narrator, would it not have been better to tell the story from Chris’s point of view? From Kitty’s, the poor wife? Jenny is supposed to provide us with an unbiased–third person point of view, but as well all know, she is the furthest thing from unbiased that one can get. Though Jenny tries to sound more likable, the small commentaries she makes here and there ensure that I will never truly appreciate her as a narrator, she is simply too unreliable, assumes too much, doesn’t quite understand what’s going on. Perhaps that’s the whole reason why she’s the narrator and not somebody that is actually affected by the story–maybe West wansn’t quite sure of what to make of her characters…

Mansfield’s Garden Party

Why was everybody so upset with Laura when she wondered whether the party should continue after a death outside the gates of their estate? And what is the significance behind Laura’s fickle-ness on the subject?

In Mansfield’s “Garden Party,” Laura struggled with the fact that a man had just died, and her family was hosting a garden party on that very same day, and she struggles with the fact that they are celebrating when a man has just died. When Laura suggests post-poning the party, her mother and her sister react very strongly, her sister saying “Don’t be so absurd” and her mother only caring whether or not the man died in the garden. When Laura resolves to ask her brother, he needs only to comment on her hat for her to completely forget about it.

I suppose that the reason why everyone reacted negatively to Laura’s concern is because all the preparations had already been made, and the mother and sister explains that Laura need not concern herself with the lower classes. The women seem to think that it is their duty and responsibility to go through with the night’s entertainment, with the mother saying “it’s not very sympathetic to spoil everyone’s enjoyment.” As for Laura’s short term memory on such a shocking event, I think it is a reflection on the view of women, they are petty and fickle, and everything’s ok so long at the party went well, their womanly duties were fulfilled.

Vanity Fair and Realism

How are we supposed to feel about Thakeray’s novel at the end? Are we supposed to even care for any of the characters?

At the end of Thakeray’s novel, I’m in a bit of a difficult place, I’m uncomfortable and not sure whether I should be happpy with the ending or not. As previously mentioned before, Thackeray refuses to include a hero in his story, which is frustrating, because there’s no character that I really root for, or that I care about at all–and what’s the point of reading a story about people you don’t care for?

This situation I’m experiencing is a sure sign of the Realism of the era, Thackeray knows that there is no perfectly ideal and moral character in the world, everyone has flaws, and everyone gets frustrating after you’ve read about them too long. Though I am frustrated with Thackeray and wish to change the ending, I understand that it’s the only realistic ending–in true life there are no knights in shining armor, no epic romance, and not everyone is a stand up citizen

Heroes in Vanity Fair

Are the readers supposed to favor a character and pick them as a hero in Vanity Fair? Is it really a novel without a hero?

Although the subtitle to Thackeray’s novel reads “A Novel Without a Hero,” I can’t help but wonder whether this is true or not, and in my reading of the novel, I have found some possible arguments against this subtitle. So far as I have read, I have determined that there are three possible heroes within this novel, there is Amelia, Becky, and Dobbin. As previously discussed, Thackeray makes a point to explain that Amelia is not a heroine, but later contradicts himself by describing Amelia’s character in detail because she is the heroine of the novel. Similarly, Thackary spends a lot of time showcasing Becky’s deplorable behavior, but makes a point to defend and excuse her behavior by explaining her situation and reasonably explaining to the readers that in Becky’s situation, her behavior is understandable. As for Dobbin, I feel like he’s the only good character in this entire book so far, he really cares for Amelia and would do almost anything to make her happy, and he kind of an underdog as well, he is not from a wealthy family (his family actually worked for their money, the embarassment!), he is not favored by his love interest, and really he’s just kind of cast aside a lot. I can’t help but want to make this novel a tragic love story between Dobbin and Amelia, but with Becky taking such a large part of this it’s so much harder to do that! With these three characters, Thackeray offends and defends them all alike, so I reallly can’t make up my mind yet…

Connections between Carlyle and Marx–the Plight of the Working Class

What are the similarities and differences between Thomas Carlyle’s “Past and Present” and Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto”?

As I was reading this chapter of Carlyle’s work, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Marx’s “Manifesto” and could not help but to draw some connections. While I don’t think Carlyle was a communist by any means, I think it is very interesting to note his similarity to great and famous authors of his time, and after doing a quick google search, I discovered that Carlyle’s “Past and Present” was published in 1843, while Karl’s “Manifesto” was published in 1848, meaning the authors were writing about the exact same time period and probably saw the same problems with society and the working conditions of the people around them. One thing that both authors seem to be concerned with (other than the conditions of the working poor) is the idea of isolation in the workplace, Carlyle states that “Isolation is the sum-total wretchedness to man” and Marx explains in his “Manifesto” that people are being isolated in the workplace, and are thus becoming sub-human. Another similarity between the two works is the idea that workers need to rebell against the harsh working conditions they’re experiencing, when Carlyle addresses the workers in his work he states “ye noble Workers, warriors in the one true war,” by likening their plight to war it is clear that he implies the need for a revolution, and of course Marx’s “Manifesto” strongly encouraged a complete and total revolution.