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Purity; In the Eye of the Beholder

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Hardy’s description of Tess in his sub-title to the book, calling her “a pure woman”, getting lots of criticism does not surprise me. However, I think it’s important to think about the adjective, “pure” that Hardy uses. What is pure? What are the constraints of being pure? I believe Hardy was not only speaking in terms of sexual purity, but a sense of purity in being a well-rounded human being, a sense of purity in being a loving person, and a sense of purity of one’s mind.

If we first look at this prudish form of purity that many Victorians of the time would have wanted, it’s not a secret that Tess is pure until her rape by Alec. BUT, even though technically she has lost her sense of sexual purity, I would call her still pure because she did not want that to happen to her and we indefinitely see that in the naming of her child, “Sorrow”. To me, that name goes against societal archetypes which could only make sense to someone in her sincere grieving position.

Next, if we look at Hardy’s “pure” adjective as someone who is a well-rounded, loving person, I think Tess fits pretty well. Although, in retrospect, Tess was used and abused by those in society, particularly men. Tess finds love and eventually opens up her feelings. She helps those she comes across and likes to enjoy the smaller things in life, like nature. She’s not a bad person.

Lastly, if we think about Tess having a pure mind, I can’t completely agree with Hardy giving her the title “pure”. I only say this because she is always at a war with her thoughts. Whether it be her rape, Sorrow, or hiding this secret from Angel, she is not free from the guilt in her mind enough to say she has a pure mind.

However, no matter what, she is more pure than the men who use and abuse her in the society. Tess began her life as a nice girl who trusted men, and didn’t associate her body with sexual desire. Tess got victimized, and essentially trapped by the men in this novel which makes society and the ability of men to manipulate her innocence what was not pure, not Tess.

 

 

symPIPthy

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Great Expectations is a novel in which many characters are or become subjects of sympathy.  Mainly, Charles Dickens uses characters’ guilt and suffering to inflict this feeling of sympathy in between characters and readers. Pip, the protagonist in the novel has many instances of guilt and suffering, which ultimately leads to him accepting his place in life and society

From his early childhood days, we could feel pity for Pip and his lousy relationship with Joe, and the consistent torment that takes place between them. Mrs. Joe makes Pip feel like he is wasting lives, just by living his and doing things that a child of his age would see as normal.  “I tell you what, young fellow,’ said she, ‘I didn’t bring you up by hand to badger people’s lives out.”” Her intent from this was to keep him well-behaved and out of trouble, but perhaps it could have been said in a way that didn’t make Pip feel like he was a nuisance to society and those living around him.

As he ages, the concept of Pip’s benefactor is a huge factor in the novel. Who is it? Why is Pip the recipient? Who the benefactor is, is important because it establishes more guilt for Pip and sympathy for Pip from readers. When Pip finds out that the benefactor is Magwitch, the convict, he says, “all the truth of my position came flashing on me; and its DISSAPPOINTMENTS, DANGERS, DISGRACES, CONSEQUENCES of all kinds, rushed in in such a multitude that I was borne down by them and had to struggle for every breath I drew.” (345) This strong reaction has the effect to cause sympathy between readers and Pip because he feels guilty about receiving this money from a convict. It’s like the money is tainted because of who it comes from. Also, since the benefactor was not Mrs. Havisham, like Pip had hoped, and many readers had expected up to this point, he realizes the money won’t help him achieve Estella and that his place in society will always be lower.

All together Pip is a dynamic character. However, this sense of guilt he carries with him from the early part of the novel to the end could cause him to be seen as static. He does change throughout the novel, but the sense of guilt, that he eventually comes to see as his situation in life, stays with him and stays apart of his character causing sympathy for Pip in the novel’s entirety.

 

 

Tug O War

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The concept of love between Philip and Maggie in Eliot’s, Mill on the Floss, is something that can be described a war like. There is inner conflict between the two about this concept through much of the novel. Other characters, like Maggie’s brother Tom, even pick up on Maggie’s deliberation and questions if her feelings about Philip are genuine and for the right reasons. All three characters are involved in these “love scenes”, as the chapter titles call them.

In book 5 chapter 3, Philip desperately tries to justify his/her actions to Maggie. He wants her to listen to his reasoning and afterwards just let him know what will continue on forward for the two of them. Philip begins by saying that “clear reasoning and firm conviction” will eventually “bring [them] the defeat that [they] love better than victory”. (342) When Maggie is not totally convinced even after this long “speech”, if you will, he finally just straightforwardly says, “If we only look far enough off for the consequences of our actions, we can always find some point in the combination of results by which those actions can be justified.” (343) These words seem to work on Maggie and her conscience. She saw “a surplus of passion in him”, and “it was in this way that Philip justified his subtle efforts to overcome [her] true prompting against a concealment that would introduce doubleness in her own mind..” (343)

Tom on the other hand, did not buy that Maggie’s actions and feelings were genuine toward Philip necessarily. He is brash when he is telling Maggie that he feels this way. It’s in a clever way that he tries to convict Maggie with his wording. “If your conduct, and Philip Wakem’s conduct, has been right, why are you ashamed of its being known?” (360) Maggie’s response is interesting because the first thing she says is that, “I don’t want to defend myself.” (360) However, then she goes on to defend herself! What?!

 

The inner conflict between all 3 parties about Philip and Maggie’s love are all very interesting to look at because they are all three so different, and have different agendas behind each one.

 

Victor’s Anagnorisis

In volume I, chapter IV, readers see the creation of the monster in two ways, externally and internally, that construct Victor’s anagnorisis. In the first paragraph, we get a very detailed description of the environment in which the monster was created. “A dreary night [in] November”, with “rain patter[ing] dismally”, and lightly lit by “half-extinguished light[s]”sets up a tone  and mood of dreadfulness and gothic elements for the readers. (83) I believe Shelley did this to MAKE us feel this way because Victor is feeling this way as well.

 In this first paragraph, not much is described of the monster just yet besides his “dull yellow eyes”. (83) The rest of the entire paragraph is exclusively written to describe the environment in which the monster is created in. This shows how important setting is, to not only this gothic scene, but the novel in its entirety as well. Shelley’s detailed descriptions of many other gothic and sublime scenes to the novel show how important these minuet details are also. This paragraph shows Victor’s external feelings during the creation. He can’t clearly see just how terrible his creation is, because the lighting is so dim, but once he is able to, he comes to terms with the faculties of his situation with the monster.

The second paragraph in Volume I, chapter IV, gives us a different approach on the monster’s creation, and Victor’s internal feelings. Victor realizes at this time that the creation of life is a “catastrophe”, in which he is not ready to come to terms with. (83) Readers get intensive details on the monster himself, instead of the environment in which he was created, which gives readers a chance to make judgments of the monster for themselves. The physical qualities of the monster are interesting themselves as well because there are many opposing details. For instance, we are told about the monster’s hair that is “lustrous black” and then get the description of his “white sockets.”(83) His descriptions are not of a positive connotation.

After both of these paragraphs, Victor’s anagnorisis comes to life. He comes to terms with the nature of the situation that he put himself in by creating life. Once Victor realizes the consequences that he will have to come to terms with, he is filled with “horror” and “disgust”. (84) “Now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room.” (84) Victor ends up having to leave the dreadful space in which his creating the monster took place, and the monster himself lay because he just cannot deal with reality.

“I love him, I love him not…”

flower-2              In Austen’s 19th century novel, Emma, it’s a twist on the old elementary game of “he loves me, he loves me not”, for the protagonist Emma Woodhouse and her suitor, Frank Churchill. In this case however, Emma is not the one wondering if Frank loves her, but rather if she could or even should fall in love with the new, big deal in town. Women of this time period are expected to fall in love and be married at a young age, but not in Emma Woodhouse’s case. Austen loves playing with this rebellious type of behavior with Emma throughout the novel, in other cases than just her love life.

Emma is the head of her father’s household. Her mother is dead and her older sister is already married. This makes for a special relationship between her father and her. She doesn’t want to leave him to care for himself if she were to get married. Thus, her anticipation toward falling in love. However, when a new guy in town starts to get in her eye sight, she begins to fall…or so we think.

Emma’s first impression of Frank is honestly, rather shallow. She describes him first as, “a very good looking young man; height, air, address, all were unexceptionable, and his countenance had a great deal of the spirit and liveliness of his fathers…” (191) Austen has Emma first describe his physical attributes. This is when I, as a reader, inferred that this would not work out in the end. Emma did have an urgency when it came to talking to Frank though. “She felt immediately that she should like him; and there was…a readiness to talk.” (191) Without even seeing him in person first, Emma thought she should like him just because he was the new deal in town. This comes across very shallow to readers.

Further in the novel, in Chapter XIII, readers finally see Emma become honest with herself and this “I love him, I love him not”, situation. The narrator tells us first that Emma had “no doubt of her being in love”, but then immediately explains that, “at first, she thought it was a good deal; and afterwards, but little.” (244) Later it’s determined that their affection could only ever be a friendship after all. “When she became sensible of this, it struck her that she could not be very much in love.” (244) As readers, we see Emma go from having no doubt, to having doubt.

This love game between Emma and Frank is important to the novel because it helps develop Emma’s bildungsroman, and we see her become more honest with herself and the situation of rather she will ever marry or not. As a romanticist, I wanted this to turn into some form of lovey dovey love relationship, but I was let down by Austen rather quickly. Oh well! Emma DOES end up getting married, so I am satisfied.

“My life story was spaces.”

 

In Foer’s, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a captivatingly playful novel about a young boy on a mission to make sense of a post 9/11 world, the readers are introduced to diversions other than just print on pages. We see these diversions in the form of pictures, irregular spacing, pages of just numbers, a page of handwritten text, and then the eye catching red annotating that fills up three pages of Foer’s text. So why does Foer choose to add these diversions? They cause the reader to step back from the text as a whole and concentrate on particular points at specific spaces in time. We’re truly able to feel what the characters are feeling and see what they say. It makes what Foer is writing about come across to his readers EXTREMELY loud and INCREDIBLY close.

One thing that is found numerous times throughout the novel is the irregular spacing in Oskar’s grandmother’s narrative. Upon first stumbling upon this, myself as a reader did not think of it to be of much importance, however my mind did wonder as to why Foer was writing the grandmother’s narrative this way. On page 176 the grandmother finally gives readers a discreet, yet powerful line that could explain why she writes this way. “I hit       the     space     bar     again    and    again   and   again.           My    life    story was      spaces.” (176)  The spaces within her writing could symbolize the spaces of void and emptiness that she feels toward the loss of her son, as well as her strained relationship with the grandfather that fostered many years ago.

This conclusion causes readers to empathize with the grandmother, and by Foer adding her personal narrative letters throughout the text as well, readers become aware of what these spaces in her life are caused by. It is a playful narrative technique that Foer uses, but it makes readers take a step back from Oskar and the key mission, and focus on the grandmother who has been hurting much longer.

Tropic of Orange, a “magically real” novel

Karen Yamashita’s intriguing novel, Tropic of Orange explores unexplainable supernatural events, the blending of cultures, and causes the reader to begin to think of the world in a new, refreshing view. All of these characteristics of Yamashita’s novel fall under the literary category of “magical realism”. Although these two words seem to be oxymoronic, Yamashita shows her readers how the two can be blended well.

In Tropic of Orange the readers see characters of many cultural backgrounds like Japanese and Latino, different economic situations and education levels, as well a character whom doesn’t seem to be real at all. One of her characters, Emi, who is a Japanese American dates a man named Gabriel whom is Latino. Although the two come from very different cultures, we see the two have a thriving relationship. We also have a homeless man named Buzzworm becoming “friends” with an educated Gabriel. It’s almost an intriguing type of relationship between the two, especially during an interview that they have together. These blending of cultures and backgrounds show magical realism throughout the entire novel.

Another way that Yamashita exhibits magical realism is points in her novel where she plays with the idea of real world versus imaginative world, as well as keeping a question of “real” time and space. Archangel, a character with whom we can question his true human ability plays with our idea of this in his chapters. What world is he really living in? At times he seems very humanlike, but then others he seems supernatural. His narrative also has a tone of death so it is easy to think of him as less humanistic and more supernatural. Yamashita also plays with “real” time and space on page 223 where Rafaela and Gabriel “magically” show up at home when they should really have an hour left of travel left. How does this happen unless it is magical?

The way that Yamashita constructs this novel is intriguing from the very beginning paratexts. The magical realism elements just continue this intriguing nature that readers are met with. She causes readers to question what they know and believe, as well as begin to understand how beautiful it can be when cultures blend together in harmony. The novel is magical in itself, but also real because we can hold it in our hands. Coincidence? Or just Yamashita laughing behind her computers at readers realizing this? Either way, her novel is a great read for those looking to broaden not only there reading horizons, but their worldly views as well.

 

 

Through my sister’s eyes…

Sisters. This seven letter word has a great connotation in our world. It’s not only just those who are blood related to us, but can also be those with whom we feel close connected and trust. The sisters in McEwan’s novel, Atonement, though being blood related and having great love for another, definitely share differences and view the world in skewed ways. Through McEwan’s writing focalizing on certain instances through each of the girl’s eyes, it is easy for the reader to tell how these two differ.

Briony, a spirited twelve year old, is the younger sister in the novel, but likes to act in an adult manner. In the beginning of the novel we see Briony as a precocious, hard-working, imaginative, and romantic type of young girl. Along with these traits however, as the novel goes on, Briony gets extremely frustrated when things aren’t organized, orderly, and going her way. We especially see her frustration as she feels her cousins are trying to sabotage a play she is writing, “The Trails of Arabella”, and as she feels her older sister, Cecilia, is being submissive to her “lover” during a scene at a fountain. Briony’s once abundant, romantic and imaginative mind seems to be staggering toward non-existent as she realizes the world around her. When Briony takes the scene at the fountain between her Cecilia and Robbie in the wrong way, she realizes, “as her sister’s head broke the surface—her first, weak imitation that for her now it could no longer be fairy-tale castles and princesses, but the strangeness of here and now….and how easy it was to get everything wrong, completely wrong.”(37) As much as she loves her sister, it is almost that her sister causes Briony’s imaginative and hopeful downfall in the novel.

Cecilia, the older sister, is very opposite from Briony. She lives an untidy, scattered, and unorganized life. Cecilia also is very restless, dis-satisfied and craving attention. McEwan does a fantastic job of showing readers her need for adventure and attention through her point of view at the fountain scene with Robbie, which is much different than how her younger sister took it. The two lovers were merely just getting the broken vase out of the fountain. This vase, a symbol of their love.

Though Cecilia sees life much more realistically and straightforward than Briony, the two sisters both want the best for each other and in the end are just concerned with the well-being of the other. Through focalizing events through the two girls eyes, readers can sense these characterizations, alike and different, and keeps you drawn in.

 

Traits, traits, and more….traits.

Dostoevsky certainly takes his readers of, “Notes from the Underground” on a tilt a whirl type of ride when dealing with the protagonist of the novel, the underground man. From the very beginning we are told that this man is sick, spiteful, unattractive, and has a problem with his liver. Little do the readers know that this is the good characteristics of this man. The many other characteristics that readers could place upon him are as follows: dishonest, self-conscious, envious, petty, immature, and sarcastic to say the least. However, lets give him some literary characteristics just for fun! After all, adding a few more traits to his list can’t hurt his already pathetic empathy towards himself. Classifying the underground man as an unreliable narrator is quite easy to do because he is consistently condescending things that he says and views that he believes in. He never gives us, the audience, a clear reason for why he is writing his story, except that “writing is work…[and]work makes you good and honest.”(49) At the same time however, he could be viewed as reliable because is very aware of his audience and connects with us personally, though we may not agree with what he is saying. So, maybe he is an unreliable narrator, or maybe he is a reliable one. He is so on and off that its hard to attach one certainty to him. Nonetheless, some other literary characteristics we could dub upon him would be that he is flat and static. From the beginning of the book until the end, we see him progress in no ways. He remains bitter inside and miserable with really no chance of changing. Even when he meets Liza, whom could’ve been a companion, he treats her with disrespect and hatefulness because he is envious of her. Throughout the novel there really is no hope for this man because he lets his inner thoughts and emotions wreak havoc in his life, and therefore is just spinning around in a consistent circle of going insane and the audience is made very aware of this

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Eyes of the Sublime

Shelley’s use of the sublime in Frankenstein is key in engaging the characters emotions and conventions. This is especially shown to the reader in Part I, Chapter II of the novel when Victor visits grand sights that Shelley goes into very specific details about how this makes Victor feel. Victor at this point in the novel feels a sense of failure, fear, and angst over the monster that he created and tries to escape these emotions in the scene that Shelley lays out for the reader. Victor says that the “sublime and magnificent scenes afforded [him] the greatest consolation that [he] was capable receiving”. However, this is not much of a feeling considering Victor is so down on himself for his failed creation. He then goes on to say that this great vast scene, although it didn’t take away his pain and worries, “subdued and tranquilized” it. It “diverted my mind from the thoughts over which it brooded for the last month,” says Victor.

The reader can see the sublime here taking not only Victor on a literary journey, but us as well with Shelley’s grand scenes. The sublime described here made my view of Victor as pathetic even grow stronger. He is surrounded with such beauty and greatness, yet he still cannot escape his agony with the monster. This scene foreshadows the fact that Victor will not be escaping the monster, and Shelley lets the two meet very soon after. This is no coincidence and I feel Shelley uses the sublime to set the reader up for this inference of the upcoming scenes.frankenstein

Implied Reader vs. Actual Reader–Don Quixote

In Cervantes’, Don Quixote, narrative elements are consistently seen and stretched throughout the many pages of this best-selling novel. One technique which one can easily find Cervantes pulling in this work is “implied reader vs. actual reader”. Starting off just by judging this book by its cover, a reader will be quick to notice the noble knight head gear that covers the front, while the title appears across it. Words that come to my mind as I looked at this were noble, bold, heroic, and brave. So before a reader, or myself, has even opened the cover of this novel, the actual reader has already made his or her assumptions about what great journey or quest we will soon be reading out. Not soon into the novel Cervantes makes it very clear that the text itself is going to take us on a quest, but a heroic, valiant one it is not. Not far into the beginning of the novel, we quickly find out that this seemingly noble knight is really just a mediocre farmer who wakes up one day and decides to fulfill every boy’s childhood dream. I felt thrown for a loop when finding out my assumptions were clearly wrong about this knight whom on the cover of the novel appeared very differently in my mind than in the pages of Cervantes’ work. This book clearly takes the normal “implied reader vs. actual reader” technique and throws it for a loop, just as it does for the actual readers as well. So, what response was Cervantes trying to convey and make the readers feel? I feel as if this cannot be precisely answered, as it is truly open to our own judgement as we see Don Quixote’s character develop throughout, and maybe that’s the fun of this narrative technique!