Humans’ dark sides and literature

Let me begin this long piece of story from my thoughts after reading Jude the Obscure. Before I read this novel a couple of months ago, I had known the title from its movie under the title of just Jude. I stumbled across this movie as I searched every movie Kate Winslet starred. This not-so-famous movie earned her many praises. As curiosity grew, I visited my favorite bookstore and found the book. But I didn’t buy it at once although it first pages stole my heart right away. The reason was I knew beforehand the core story of the novel so I didn’t want to spoil my reading with such bleak, pessimistic story. So instead, I firstly read Far from the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge, both of which have left me with outstanding remarks about Thomas Hardy.

But I always have this kind of tendency; the more I avoid something, the more curious I am. So, it’s only a matter of time that I eventually bought the novel. The book is quite thick but never mind. And as expected, I read it quite fast. About a month to end up reading the thick book and I was completely into the book. I mean, I enjoyed reading it a lot. I was really satisfied; the language, the characters (Hardy is always brilliant in characterization), the plot (he is always focused on major characters), the settings, the story, all main elements met my expectations. But there’s one thing disturbs me a lot, until today: the suicide of Jude and Sue’s three kids, one of whom is the son of Jude and his first wife, Arabella.

I knew that this book is very dark but I never thought that it is that frosted. I would wholly understand if Jude or Sue decide to commit suicide, but their little children? No wonder that many critics condemned the book once it was published. And I understand why Hardy finally gave up writing novels after this one came out. Not only this book earn many negative critics about its pessimistic themes, but also people attacked the novel due to its strong oppositions against marriage institution and definitely Christianity learning. Moreover, Hardy includes incest as the foundation of Jude-Sue’s romance, such a taboo theme when the book was published in late 19th century.

In relation to these after-reading feelings, I would like to bring up subjects about humans’ dark sides that surprisingly (or may be not) put some books into top 100 literary works of all time according to The World Library, a list of 100 best ever literary works as voted by 100 writers across the globe.

Of all the 100 titles, I learn one of the major reasons that make some of the titles to be included in the list is because they highlight human beings’ negative trait. The point of these titles is the characters can’t control their own dark sides that these cause them into downfall. Let me pick up some titles (FYI, I don’t read these titles, I just read their synopsis):

1)    Lolita

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This novel is so phenomenal that it produces terms, like Lolita complex, famous heart-shaped glass that is strongly identical with Lolita. Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov is so brilliant in creating a character so complicated as Humbert Humbert (even the name is already confusing, I mean, why double Humbert?). The book is about Humbert’s possessive love toward a girl, much younger than his age namely Dolores Haze or usually is called as Lolita. As the book progress, Humbert becomes her stepfather after her mother dies. Humbert declares that he loves Lolita but I can see that he turns out to be very possessive as a father and as a lover. Is a love like that a normal thing or not? Or .. Does Humbert have problems with his mentality so that he makes use his true love to justify his deeds? Surely, I don’t want to read this book. I already find it very disgusting to read a love story like this one.

2)    Medea

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This old Greek drama written by Euripides is about the myth of Jason and Medea. Medea is Barbaric woman who takes revenge of his own husband, Jason, because he marries Glauce, the daughter of Creon king. What makes this story is so tragic as ever is that Medea kills their son to completely break Jason’s heart. My question is simple: Why does she do that? Killing her own son to torture his husband’s heart?

3)    Mrs. Dalloway

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This book is the best ever story written by Virginia Woolf. And to be honest, this is the most difficult novel I have read so far. Too many implicit stories with difficult language I find it hardly to digest. Apart from self-identity issue, I think this very high level of language difficulty also contributes this book into the list. I entirely accept the suicidal decision in the book. That matches the plot. But, suicidal themes always trigger me to question on why many authors opt to end their stories with suicides? Has life been that desperate?

4)    The Stranger

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I don’t know what to say about the novel. Albert Camus is definitely such a brilliant, sophisticated writer that my brain will be hardly able to cope with his ideas. The book is about a man namely Mersault who smokes cigarettes during his mother’s funeral then makes love with his friend. He then shots dead an Arabian that later put him into jail. During his trial, he is as cold as stone. He gives no regrets about his deeds and refuses to ask for God’s forgiveness. Understanding one’s strange qualities can never be this hard.

5)    Sons and Lovers

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This used to be my would-be-read book but after reading this synopsis I give it up (probably) for good. The book is about the love of a mother namely Gertrude Coppard toward her two sons; William and Paulus. The novel stirs a debate as Gertrude, who is unhappy with her marriage, clings her happiness on her sons. Her relationship changes from a tender love of a mother to a romance between a man and a woman. At first, she loves her first son who later passes away due to pneumonia then she shifts her love to the second son. The deep connection between the mother and both sons make them unable to intertwine love stories with girls they meet. Even Paul’s latest girlfriend, Clara Dawes, is unable to bring their relationship into marriage because the mother dislikes her. To this, Paul chooses her mother.

A mother loves her sons like a woman devotes her heart for a man? You know why I find it so difficult to understand the characters’ traits.

In my opinion, exploring humans’ unthinkable deeds or strangest traits are always interesting and disgusting at the same time. People always have the bright and dark sides that make them normal. The problem arises when people can’t put everything into a balance hence makes them suffer at the end. Literature provides such a good way for many authors to bring up taboo topics. And I think that’s good. We can’t turn a blind eye on the aforementioned themes as they do exist, like it or not. What must be put into concerns is that I hope readers have their own filters when reading the books. The purposes of the novel, I believe, is to make their eyes open on the presence of the topics, understand the reasons then avoid doing similar things. I strongly hope readers won’t take these kind of books as justifications to make other people believe that their misdeeds are normal, or can be normal, as these have been debated in old literature.


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