On the 7 greatest Victorian writers

Oscar Wilde

This Irish playwright, writer is notable for his plays. ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, which I studied back at the university, is one of my most favorite plays other than ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.’ Oscar, as I read from his ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, is a the kind of writer who doesn’t like going in circles when it comes telling stories. His way of writing is straight-forwarded, you may find a lot of descriptions, idiomatic phrases but it won’t take long for readers to get the point of what he says. His writings is deep, sometimes thrilling, breathtaking as in ‘Dorian Gray.’

Elizabeth Gaskell

A little bit too bad that Elizabeth Gaskell is not as highly lauded as her compatriots, such as Thomas Hardy or Anthony Trollope. The fact is that her writings is so beautiful, vivid, authentic, as you can read in ‘Wives and Daughters.’ Her ‘Mary Barton’ is one of the most magnificent books I have ever read so far. In addition, the novel says a lot of the struggles of the poor, especially laborers. For those who are seeking books by Victorian writers which touch serious issues but are delivered in lighter languages without losing its charming, lovely words and phrases, Elizabeth Gaskell is definitely the best option. What I love most from Gaskell is that she includes day-to-day, small, simple things as mode of observations in her works.

Anthony Trollope

Trollope doesn’t showcase beautiful language as Gaskell or Hardy, at least as seen from ‘The Warden,’ but readers can still enjoy his profound values in the novel. Indeed, he is a serious writer who doesn’t apply pleonastic approach to convey his messages. If you look for uncomplicated story lines then Trollope’s works may be the best for you.

George Eliot

Mary Ann Evans or George Eliot is probably the most difficult Victorian novelist I have dealt so far. On the surface, her language is as delicate as her compatriots but on the deeper level, she writes difficult topics, even more sorrowful than Hardy’s. While you can label Hardy as a realist novelist, Eliot is a dark thinker. She clearly puts her personal stories in her books, for instance ‘The Mill on The Floss’ where many say tells her troubled relationships with her brother, Isaac Evans. I also believe Eliot is a complicated writer who takes religion as a serious theme that influences her work, as in ‘Adam Bede.’

Anne Bronte

In my opinion, Gaskell and Anne Bronte are two Victorian writers who are ‘on the similar lane’, which means that they are both lovely novelists in terms of language, fair themes. They voice topics that are not overly controversial at that time. Anne Bronte’s writing is much simpler than Gaskell. If I can compare ‘Wives and Daughters’ and ‘Agnes Grey’ since both of them talk about feminism and women roles in the society, the latter is more straightforward.

Charles Dickens

Now I know why some call Charles Dickens is a difficult writer after I finish reading ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. His labeling as a difficult one is different with Eliot. Dickens brings serious topics in his books, which is different with Eliot who experience personal turbulence in relation with her affairs and also her religious views. While Dickens discusses many topics on the life where industry takes its toll in London. Apart from his concerns about industry, child laboring and poverty in general, Dickens’ way of writing is sophisticated. Though he uses circular plots, his story lines are not straightforward, his writing requires me to devote a lot of focus and time. His writing is not the kind of words that will soothe your soul or blow your mind away like what you may feel when reading Gaskell’s or Hardy’s despite Dickens’s splendid narration. I think this is because heavy topics he is about to deliver.

Also, credit to his characterizations. Completely rigid, each character seems alive.

Thomas Hardy

Hardy is my most beloved Victorian novelist. Although he uses a lot of idiomatic phrases, his story lines are not straightforward mind you for his plot is mostly linear, doesn’t bring up many characters. And his language is really beautiful that usually doesn’t bore me even when I feel a few of his story lines get out of the lines. Reading Hardy’s is truly what it means as enjoying the beauty of literature, savoring the peak of literature as many say happen in the Victorian era. Hardy is a realist or even sometimes pessimist. His writing reflects much of his views about life in general. He likes adoring women, he definitely uses nature as one of the sources of his imaginations. His writing is hard but once you get the flow of his ideas you’ll get hypnotized, just like I.

Finally… Charles Dickens!

I can’t remember how many times I pass through the Charles Dickens section at the Kinokuniya bookstore, Plaza Senayan shopping mall, Central Jakarta, without buying one of his titles until a couple of days ago my mind suddenly shifted from Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘Cranford’ to Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop.’

I have wanted to read ‘Cranford’ not long after I was so head over heels for Gaskell’s adorable language in her ‘Mary Burton’. I read the first few pages of ‘Cranford’ and as usual, Gaskell’s writing is so superb. She can always craft a gold out of straws. What seems to many of us as ordinary, boring views can instead be her rich resource. ‘Cranford’ is no exception.

But how didn’t I purchase it right after ‘Mary Barton’? Ok, let me be honest here. It’s because ‘Cranford’ features spinsters. No matter how light and cheerful the book is, as suggested by reviewers, becoming spinsters is by all means gloomy. I tend to avoid novels that touch spinsterhood. Apart from private matter about spinsterhood, I faced a very limited option to read after I had completed reading ‘Agnes Grey’ in the bookstore. Knowing that I didn’t have many choices since I have read almost all novels from my favorite authors that are in the store, I immediately remembered ‘Cranford’ once I had decided to read more materials in the Victorian era.

“Better to read a book that will satisfy my hunger on beauty amid personal issue than experiencing something I know it won’t even ignite my imagination,” my mind said at that time. So, I forced myself taking a very tough journey from office in Ciputat, South Tangerang, to the mall. It was a very tiring trip for I had to pass through some traffic jam points all along the journey. But I must not give up and directly went back at home because there was a good book awaiting me.

After a few hours on the road, I reached the store and found out ‘Cranford’ remained at the same point the last time I spotted it. I looked at ‘Cranford’ for a few times and almost brought it to the store’s cashier for payment but the spinsterhood issue moved my mind to reconsider the would-be decision. So, my eyes shifted to a tall bookshelf next to the ‘Cranford’ section. George Eliot, Sir Arthur Conan Dyle and definitely Charles Dickens. Prior to this visit, I have read at some initial pages of Dickens’ most popular novels, such as ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Hard Times’, and ‘The Pickwick Papers’, none of which wowed me by the words. My most wanted masterpiece from Dickens is ‘Our Mutual Friend’. I love it from the first words I read, giving the kind of sensation after I just read books by Thomas Hardy. Unfortunately, the store does not sell ‘Our Mutual Friend’ and I know not when it will be available.

I have read the title of “The Old Curiosity Shop’, definitely but I never thought of it until that evening. I made use some valuable seconds to check some first pages of the novel at the internet given the battery of my smartphone was running out. I was not really awed with them but somehow I made a compromise. I was considering that I should try reading books from first-person narration as the reading experience with ‘Agnes Grey’ that applies such method proved to be impressive. Besides, it was time for me to seek books with complex plots with not many drama focusing on major characters. It was time for me to read novels that would overwhelm me with conflicts.

A refreshment from usual preference of beautiful, magical language as in Thomas Hardy or Elizabeth Gaskell’s masterpieces. So I bought the novel at the end. I was prepared for the long reading journey given its 500-something pages and by the time I currently on the page of 134, I am deeply immersed by the book.

The first page captured my heart. It keeps me wondering what the book will be at the end. Despite the many characters on the book, I can still follow what it has to offer because I know beforehand the core of the book. The characters of Nelly Trent completely touches my sympathy. I suddenly associate her with Hardy’s Tess. Then, I can feel the good humor sense of the book and finally………..

I applaud Dickens’ unquestionable writing skills, his vivid imaginations and his overall mind and heart put in the book. The book is so wealthy by far. In terms of story plots, language, human emotions and all important elements that readers want to digest within one book.

Thank you for myself. Thank you for eventually getting touch with the British most-beloved, prolific author after some years launching a journey into the Victorian literature. I am so relieved that I come to this point where I read books from Dickens, who can be said is the pivot of the Victorian literature.

Why ‘The Warden’ is not one of my favorite novels

Pardon me for all Anthony Trollope fans who happen to read this post for what I am going to say may not be in line with your opinions but I’m saying the truth anyway.

Although I prefer ‘The Warden’ to ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ in previous post, I must say the former falls short of my expectations. I know this is subjective and many will oppose my ideas of comparing ‘The Warden’ with some of my most-beloved titles but surely I have to use my own standard to decide whether of not ‘The Warden’ is really good or not according to MY OWN VERSION.

As I have often said in this blog, a story method is really important to me. I highly value beautiful words, very detailed descriptions and such in SHOWING KIND OF WAY. Not only this method allows my mind to wander, create its own kind of world, I feel so satisfied with this kind of beauty. I believe writing is an art. It’s the kind of human invention that not only feeds your mind but also more importantly entertains your soul.

Sadly to say, I don’t get emotionally nourished while reading ‘The Warden.’ I love its grand idea, the moral lesson it has conveyed but I have to admit the book has failed to give me a beauty. It’s too direct, I feel like I am so easily guarded while as a matter of fact I can guide myself, find another satisfaction other than the messages of the novel itself.

I have expected the book would present me with tiny details on people at that time, landscape background, more information about minor characters but I don’t get as much as I have wanted. The book is too wise as well, particularly about Mr. Harding and John Bold, whom I describe as too perfect fictional characters.

I am not a Victorian literature expert or so but after reading a number of really great titles mostly by Thomas Hardy, I sadly say ‘The Warden’ is well below Hardy’s works. Again, this can be so subjective but Hardy’s works or Elizabeth Gaskell’s are much more … satisfying, whatever that means to each and every reader. But the wholeness sensation that follows after completing reading their books is beyond words to express them all. Although I prefer Hardy to Gaskell in general, Gaskell’s ‘Mary Barton’ is such an exception in terms of language.

By that comparisons, I brutally honest conclude ‘The Warden’ is a flat reading. May be I should read another Trollope’s title but given the first plain reading experience with ‘The Warden’, I am not going to give a second try to read his another work, at least for the moment.

Five fictional characters whose personalities resemble my own

fictional characters

picture source: virtualvictorian.blogspot.com

One of the most surprising things that can happen when reading novels is knowing that one or several characters in the books have personalities that resemble my own. When this occurs, I have mixed feelings; sometimes I feel my weirdness is no longer special because there are even artificial people who behave or think like what I do. On the other hand, I feel that I’m not alone in embracing my oddity; that there are a lot of people who are just as unique, melancholy, overly sensitive, whatever kind of traits that label my personality.

So, these are the characters whom I find some parts of my overall personality are embedded in them:

  1. Jude Fawley

I discover most parts of my personality in this character; a deep thinker, an introvert, a loner, a hard worker, an overly sensitive person. One thing that we share in a common; we work hard on our goals no matter how often we get confused on whether we are pessimist or realists. Oh not to forget: we are both bookworms.

  1. Cynthia Kirkpatrick

She is one of the puzzled characters I have met so far; elegant, educated, very pretty,classy woman. No.. I’m not that physically charming or may not be as intelligent as her. What shocks me when I read about her is that she’s moody and is full of masks. One moment she can be so happy in front of her parents but in another moment she can be look so down in front of Molly Gibson, her stepsister. She seems calm, cool when she talks with Mr. Gibson, her stepfather, whom she respects highly but she looks disrespectful when she is with her mother. She wisely chooses her words when speaking in front of her stepfather or strangers but she does not watch her mouth when she has discussions with her mother.

And she’s so smart in hiding her problems. She won’t tell her matters unless she is forced to do so. Even if she does that, she is opened to certain people only. My similarity with her lies on our mood swing trait. Sometimes I can be extremely joyful then quickly be gloomy. But oftentimes, I can control emotion. On average, I’m a peaceful person.

  1. Molly Gibson

Molly is a very loveable character. She is innocent and super kind person who becomes the best confidante for almost all characters in the ‘Wives and Daughters’. I’m not that agreeable loveable like her but yes I’m a nice person. I see my tomboyishness in Molly. And her rebellious character is just like me. She dislikes ladylike conduct, fashion mode and table manner that are highly held by her stepmother. I have the same saying for this matter as well.

  1. Marty South

It’s too bad that Thomas Hardy does not put her as a major character in “The Woodlanders’ for I think her loyalty to Giles Winterborne is outstanding. Although I can’t foresee myself to be so faithful as Marty South when it comes to romance but I regard myself as a loyalist almost in all aspects of life. I have only John Steinbeck as my most favorite novelist, Juventus as the sole football club, Alessandro Del Piero as the one footballer that sticks in my heart and Westlife as the once-and-for-all musician in my music preference after all these years. And I’ll be way much more faithful when Alloh swt finds me and him one day, ameen..

  1. Tess Durbeyfield

Tess is the perfect person once could ever be in the Victorian era. Among the positive list of her characteristics; decent, patient, good-tempered, Tess properly suits with this trait: the love that I have to my family. And as hard as she works for her family, I do the same thing all for the sake of the ones that I unconditionally love until the very bit of my heart.

“Wives and Daughters” by Elizabeth Gaskell

Twelve years old Molly Gibson has her little world come into a hectic when she is invited to join a gala in the mansion of the earl and the countess Lord and Lady Cunmor of the Towers. This is the kind of much-awaited event for ladies at the Hollingford, the town when Molly, the heroine of the novel, resides with his handsome, respectable father and doctor Mr. Gibson. Her mother has passed away when she is just three years old. Since Mr. Gibson often travels to meet then cure his patients, Molly is taken care by her nurse, Betty.

This innocent, poor, sweet girl visits the Towers with Miss Browings, who have been so close with the Mr. Gibson’s family, ever since the mother is alive. The occasion proves to be so boring, hot for Molly that she decides to take a walk to the garden without any knowledge of the Miss Brownings.

She wanders around the yard, gets exhausted then falls asleep. Thanks to the good care of Mrs. Kirkpatrick, or she goes by name of Clare, the governess of the house, Molly is very well treated although she feels so awkward being the mansion. Her father, or Molly calls as papa, picks her up the next day.

Years go forward and Molly is now 17 years old. She grows into a beautiful, innocent and super tender young girl. Her kindness catches the heart of Mrs. Hamleys, who repeatedly persuades Mr. Gibson of bringing her to her Hamley mansion for a couple of days for companionship. Mrs. Hamley, who have two sons – Osborne and Roger, is so fond of Molly. Mr. Gibson takes his daughter to the Hamleys after he finds out that one of his pupils has a crush on Molly. Mr. Gibson thinks Molly is too early to fall in love thus he puts her in the Hamleys for summer holiday and for the best reason is distancing her from the student.

Despite all of her unawareness on the cause of her visit to the Hamleys, Molly agrees to go there. She befriends with the sick Mrs. Hamley and both of them share a lot of good times. She even becomes her confidante. Mrs. Hamley regards Molly as her daughter. She tells the stories of his sons, of how she is so proud of Osborne as someone who is so skilled at poetry writing. Given Mrs. Hamley’s complimentary opinions about Osborne, Molly starts developing her admiration to him.

Mr. Gibson and Mr. Hamley are such good friends. Mr. Gibson likes his pal’s straight-forwarded, honest, easily get-tempered yet good-hearted traits. On one occasion, Mr. Hamley mentions Mr. Gibson’s widower, the subject that takes the latter’s by surprise yet catches his deep thinking.

At the same time, Mrs. Kirkpatrick is surprised that the Lady Cunmor and Lord Cunmor brings up the possibility of the marriage between Mrs. Kirkpatrick or Clare with Mr. Gibson. In short, Mr. Gibson proposes Clare then get married despite an initial rejection from Molly. Cynthia, Clare’s only daughter, is not present in the wedding. In spite of Clare’s kindness when Molly gets lost in the Towers, both of them often get caught in arguments. Clare notices small details, she wants Molly to behave ladylike. She turns out to be a bit demanding, manipulative. She sometimes complains of not being taken whenever her husband sets out for curing his patients. Although Molly gets sick with her stepmother’s beautiful yet vain trait, the young girl prefers to stay silent for the sake of her father’s happiness as what Roger advises her to do.

Meanwhile, the Hamleys sets into a period of darkness not long after the wedding takes place. Mrs. Hamley’s health deteriorates after the family learns on the overwhelming debt Osborne has to bear during his education. What makes it even unbearable for Mr. Hamley is that Osborne does not want to explain where the money goes. Mr. Hamley expels him, asks him to only return home when he can pay all the debt. This father-and-son conflict causes Mrs. Hamley’s condition to get even more worsening until a few days before Molly leaves her, Mrs. Hamley barely concious, she does not even talk to her, she grows much more distant and depends much of her life on medicines.

She eventually passes away and the life in the Hamleys never gets the same again. The relationship between Mr. Hamley and Osborne are often involved in arguments; Mr. Hamley gets frustrated with Osborne’s unexplained debt causes, the firstborns reluctant outdoor activities and his relatively high spending. On the other hand, Mr. Hamley’s ill-tempered character does not align with Osborne’s yet is in tune with Roger given the second-born patience.

Molly finally welcomes Cynthia. Surprisingly, they become very close in relatively short time. Cynthia is a graceful, pretty, charming young lady who spends two years studying in France. Initially, Cynthia is a gracious listener and they can get along very shortly. Cynthia admits that she really loves her new stepsister and can get closer to her than her own mother because the mother-and-daughter have not seen each other for two years.

Cynthia is such a complex and complicated character. To Molly, she is so warm, cheerful and can share a lot of stories with her. To her stepfather, Cynthia can be so calm, relaxed, a good kind of daughter but in front of her own mother, Cynthia is sarcastic, a bit mean, outspoken. Mrs. Gibson and Cynthia sometimes can argue over small things that Mrs. Gibson find it a bit hard to control Cynthia.

Occasionally, Mr. Preston, the Tower’s agent, pays a visit to the Gibsons. The man who is detested by Lady Harriet, is attracted with Cynthia and sometimes, compliments Molly. This coquettish behaviour makes Molly so sick. On the other hand, Roger falls in love with Cynthia. He even proposes her before he departs for a scheduled two-year experiment overseas. Although Cynthia accepts his proposal, Cynthia does not want to inform this news, even to Roger’s father. She hardly calls this as an engagement for no one knows what may happen in two years to come. Their agreement is known by Mr. Hamley via Mr. Gibson who has promised to tell everything to Mr. Hamley if there were a special relationship between Roger and Cynthia or between the former and Molly.

After Roger leaves for his funded observation about nature, the center of the problems in the book is all about the suspicious connection between Mr. Preston and Cynthia which forces Molly to take actions. It is later revealed that Cynthia once agrees to marry with Mr. Preston, a promise that keeps his eyes on her throughout the years. She admits to Molly that she does that because she once owes some amount of money back then. She once likes him but the feeling is no longer present. Molly urges Cynthia to tell all of her problems to her father so that Mr. Preston won’t press her about the marriage but Cynthia refuses to do so.

Molly comes to rescue her stepsister’s fate. She agrees to meet Mr. Preston to persuade the latter to abandon the promised marriage, which goes unfulfilled somehow. Their meeting and another one that takes place in a different spot arises suspicions among the Hollingford citizens. The Miss Brownings then investigates this matter and informs Molly’s affairs with Mr. Preston to his father. Luckily, Mr. Gibson does not let his mind be consumed with this gossip. He questions his daughter about the matter. Molly answers his father’s curiosity with firmness, honesty without any harsh words that may downgrade Cynthia’s reputation.

On the other hand, the house of Hamley is so full with problems after Roger leaves the house. Despite the money that he will send back to his father, Mr. Hamley feels lonely. His relationship with Osborne doesn’t get any better. The two seems hesitant to start things all over again. Mr. Hamley is too occupied with his financial problems, his anger to Osborne remains on fire. Osborne is too absorbed with his own problems. He seeks money by writing poems but brings no significant outcome thus he has to ask for Roger’s help on this. The news that his wife, Aimee, gets pregnant brings him joy yet causes a headache for he lacks of money. The silence of the two is broken with the death of Osborne, who has been battling with his digestion for some moments.

The fact that Mr. Hamley does not know about his son’s condition plus their war of words has made him so deep in sadness and regret. And when Molly tells him all that she knows about Osborne’s secret marriage, Mr. Hamley gets even more depressive. He believes that the marriage plays a key role on his quietness for he completely understands Mr. Hamley does not like him to marry a Frenchwoman. Instead of potentially putting his father in an outrage, Osborne opts to keep silent all this time.

Molly, under the advice of his father, writes a letter to Aimee concerning the health of his poor husband, who has passed away by the time the letter is composed. Aimee, who has plenty experiences in taking care of the sick, feels the condition is worse than she thinks. She holds her son then sets out a journey to Hollingford.

She cries all the way in the trip and by the moment she gets to the house she learns that all her anxiety is indeed true. While Mr. Hamley is more interested with taking care of his grandson, Molly and Mr. Gibson helps Aimee to cope with the hard times. The widow initially does not want to eat. All she wants to do is motionlessly gazing at the windows. Only after Mr. Gibson thrusts her son to Aimee’s body that the woman starts swallowing the food.

As the sorrow plaguing the house of Hamley starts subsiding, a contrastive fact occurs in the Gibsons family as Cynthia’s affairs are uncovered. It is Lady Harriet, who after learns the gossip about Molly, confronts Mr. Preston and inquires him. Mr. Preston tells the truth which satisfies Lady Harriet. Although Lady Cunmor once promises not to opn the secret can’t help telling this to Clare when the latter pays a visit. Lady Cunmor even attack Clare on the latter’s ways of raising Cynthia for her actions put Molly into a great trouble.

The tension boils up when everything that relates to Cynthia’s affairs are completely untold. Mr. Gibson’s fury makes his relationship with his wife a bit shaky for Clare defends Cynthia. Cynthia is angry with Molly, too. But not long after this incident, Cynthia amends her mistakes. She sends a letter to Roger saying she cancels the marriage proposal. When Roger gets back home a few months earlier that the schedule because of her brother death, Cynthia later gets married with Mr. Henderson, a lawyer from London.

Molly can’t help being overjoyed with his arrival. Although she initially acts normal as a good friend to Roger but she gradually acts a bit weird that raises Roger’s suspicions. He eventually admits to Mr. Gibson on his love to his daughter and delays confessing his true feeling as he fears his past feeling to Cynthia taints his love image to Molly. Mr. Gibson encourages Roger to fight for her love and he does that implicitly right before he sails back again in the sea. He makes unique, funny gestures under the rain that are visible from Molly’s room window. It’s a bit insufficient to translate Roger’s gestures for readers but the writer says Molly feels genuinely happy with what Roger does before they parts for several months to come.

Why Analyzing ‘Wives and Daughters’ A Difficult Task

On the surface, “Wives and Daughters” is no special than a story of a well-to-do orphan girl namely Molly Gibson going through her puberty years till growing up as a young lady. Her quiet life that is filled with a sole love from his papa, Mr. Gibson, significantly changes with the coming of a new stepmother, Clare Kirkpatrick and a new step sister, Cynthia Kirkpatrick. The fact that her friend, Roger Hamley, whom she falls in love with prefers her step sister exacerbates Molly’s condition. Then there is Mr. Preston to make things much more complicated. The gossiping nature among residents in Hollingford puts Molly as an innocent victim concerning the past relationship between Cynthia and Mr. Preston.

And all internal problems plaguing the house of Hamley adds more color to this book that eventually readers learn how precious the virtue of Molly is. The novel ends happily as Roger, a very good man, sends signals how he finally realize his love for Molly while Cynthia gets married with a lawyer namely Mr. Henderson.

If you think the 766-pages book is all about that then you may miss the point. The book which takes almost four months long to finish reading it goes way beyond the overall summary. The fact that Gaskell puts so many little stories here and then have got me to think what the novel is all about. That is why digesting each little story, putting my eyes as if I were in the novel are the tools that lead me to realize the values or changes in each and every character’s personality.

As I complete reading all the pages I learn that Molly grows from a tomboy, spoiled girl to a compassionate, understanding and very patient daughter. Her kindness becomes her very prominent value after has been tested in some hard moments.

Her father, Mr. Gibson, is probably the one who does not change a lot. He remains a firm, loving father who maintains his dignity in his profession. He can fairly share his love and attention for Molly, his wife and his stepdaughter. For Molly, he remains a closed papa who trusts her when others don’t. He keeps his head cool whenever his wife acts like a drama queen. His love does not undermine his assertiveness when it comes to professionalism. For instance, he gets so furious when Clare admits she overhears his conversation with his fellow doctor regarding the health of Osborne Hamley that leads her to gradually accept Roger Hamley as the future husband of Cynthia. While for Cynthia, Mr. Gibson’s opinions are the only things that worth obeyed. Mr. Gibson is the only person in the house that worth her respect, not even her mother.

It’s interesting to learn Mrs. Gibson’s changed personality. What was used to be an elegant, kind-hearted woman for Molly when she was a teenager has turned into an annoying and materialistic wife and mother although she is not a cruel one.

While Cynthia, you can hardly guess how moody she is. What was used to be a smart, sort of high-class woman has altered into a flirtatious, sarcastic and moody person. She is brutally honest to even her own mother in a way that she often argues with her or, you can say, she does not respect her mother as much as she does to her stepfather. She is an indecisive one when it comes to love. Despite her intelligence, she is powerless to solve her own problems with Mr. Preston that she needs Molly’s help. Cynthia is a nice, loving sister to Molly but I think her indecisiveness sort of taints her good image.

Roger Hamley,a kind of boy-next-door person; a good-hearted, introvert, slowly-but-surely learner, shy man who does not envy his brother, Osborne Hamley, for an unfair attention shown by their parents. You can find all good values in Roger; a devoted son, a very decent brother, a supportive fellow, a very faithful lover. One thing that is missing from his personality: his failure to see a golden beyond silvery things; he prefers Cynthia to Molly although he finally sets his heart to the latter after Cynthia annuls their engagement.

What makes analyzing the novel is difficult even without your own knowledge is understanding the alterations of each and every character through small events, reading the gestures, imagining his/her motions and finally learning their personalities through their actions and languages. And these are all presented in detailed moments, some are even trivial, that may fail catch your attention. On the surface, you read their talk about certain topics or debate on important decisions but actually you learn their personality. I think it is learning the characters’ shifted personalities is the main lesson that I draw from this book not a mere knowing the plot of the book.

As such, I enjoy witnessing the growing up process of Molly although, yes, it’s a tiring journey. As I have read ‘Mary Barton’, it’s fascinating how Gaskell paints a picture of a good character, who through errors and mistakes, she stands out from the crowd. Molly provides a good sample of this. If one asks me what makes me like the book I would say that I salute on Gaskell’s message of showing the good will come out as a winner in the end and gets what she wants no matter how, as I sometimes perceive, naive, stupid she is. It goes in parallel with Mary Barton, who rescues her love after putting him in danger because of her own mistake. After errors, losses, she eventually lives the life that she wants. In short, Gaskell crafts good stories about life through these novels; a life that is about ups and downs, good times and hard times, errors and remedies, losses and acceptance, and all that is grey in between.

Let me be honest. Four things I dislike from Victorian novels

Reading less than 30 Victorian novels from four different writers is, I know, insufficient to call this dislikeness list a representation of the overall canon literature era. I have created this list, however, according to my readings so far that will likely change in the near future for I promise to myself to read more books written by authors, except Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot and Oscar Wilde.

Too women centric

This may sound too subjective but I always feel women bear too much in almost each story that I have read. Even if they are heroines I find women during Victorian era suffer too much. The first sample is Molly Gibson in ‘Wives and Daughters’, a super thick novel that has been completed this week after a 3.5-month of an on-and-off reading process. She is a flawless character; honest, really good-tempered, compassionate, very tender, lovable girl. She is too soft-hearted that she acts kindly to her stepsister Cynthia who gets engaged to the love of the former. Even when Molly becomes the subject of gossip among Hollingford people as resulted from her intention to fix the relationship between Cynthia and Mr. Preston, Molly remains in good terms with Cynthia. What distresses me while reading the novel is how much Molly disturbed by the Victorian womanhood standards set by, particularly, her stepmother, Clare or Mrs. Kirkpatrick who later changes her last name as Mrs. Gibson. The stepmother is so noisy and annoyed with Molly’s curly hair, messy dress and her relatively tomboyish traits. I feel this kind of similiar disturbance when reading ‘The Mill on the Floss” in which Maggie Tulliver is often teased by her relatives and is compared to her girlish cousin because of her tomboyish personalities, too. How hard it is to be a good woman in the eyes of the soceity at that time even if Molly and Maggie come from rich families. How complicated their lives are…

For women from low social status their sitution is much more difficult, for instance is Tess Durbeyfield. This heroine is my most unforgettable one because of her tragical, depressive life story. It’s her real life struggles that are just beyond my senses. Not only her romance is so heartbreaking but also her impoverished family forces her to do whatever she can to make ends meet. Although yes she marries the love of her life, Angel Clare, yet their sweet tale lasts so quick, incomparable with their long separation.

Excessive details

There are some novels which I think contain too many details, some of which are unnecessary, making the reading process sometimes burden my mind. For instance in ‘Adam Bede’. George Eliot allocates a number of pages about Methodist whenever she wants to describe the characterization of Dinah Morris. Apart from my limited knowledge about Methodist, I think that it does not really shape Dinah Morris as a distinctive character compared to, say, someone who is a Catholic follower but not a Methodist one in particular. She is really a religious person who spends a lot of time to help those in need but what makes her especially distinctive to those who are close to God without any certain sect is uncertain. Or may be you can shed another light on this topic for this is beyond my understanding.

Another sample for this point is in ‘Wives and Daughters’. As this super thick book wants to depict the growing period of Molly and another character, needles to say that Elizabeth Gaskell needs to write this really long story. Yet there are some chapters which I think are insignificant to the formation of the characters. For instance is when Gaskell puts a chapter on Cynthia’s visit to the Kirkpatrick family in London which although she meets Mr. Henderson whom later she marries with, I don’t think this should be a certain chapter for another visit to the family takes place later on.

Too depressive

Some stories in this Victorian era proves to be too somber with “The Mill on the Floss” is my leading example. It is very miserable to recall what happens between Maggie and Tom Tulliver for it costs their lives to eventually realize how much the latter loves the former.

Another fine example is of course “Jude the Obscure”. Very desolate, dark, pathetic. Sorrowful tone is all over the book even if yes, there are some lovely moments between Jude Fawley and Susanna Florence Mary Bridehead or called as Sue. Hardy’s attempts to go against social norms by presenting the affairs between Jude and Sue, who are distant relatives, turn out to be disastrous. Their decision to elope then register their marriage only after they get sick of people’ gossips make the matter even worse. You can find almost all tartness here: divorce, poverty, sickness, death, rumours, forced reunion. And the finale sparks my anger as Sue gets back to her old lover Mr. Richard Pillotson while sadness leads Jude to death.

Some of you may choose “Jude the Obscure” as more depressive than “The Mill on the Floss” but I select the other way around because “The Mill” is very heartbreaking while “Jude” is sometimes like a karma as they should not get married given their relative status. While Hardy ignites controversy at that time due to their forbidden romance and illegal union the end of the book suggests you that he advices readers not to go against the norms.

Where is the romance?

 

If you want to read Victorian novels for finding romance story, like major scenes about romance, well I think you’ve got a relatively wrong reason although this depends on which books you choose. I think most of Victorian writers put society norms, family mattters, materialism, manner aspects above love stories. From Oscar Wilde to George Eliot, they have the same tendency; that society completely influences characters’ personal affairs. Worse, there are some books that reveal happy love stories after the novels almost come to a close. For instances are ‘Mary Barton’, ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ and ‘Wives and Daughters’. Elizabeth Gaskell reunites the love of Mary and Jem just after they have gone some misunderstandings and have escaped from death penalty.

In ‘Tess”, things get much wretched. While the joy between Tess and Angel begins at the center of the novel when they meet in a dairy I think their most enduring lovely moments start only when they have separated for quite a long time. Their joy lasts too quick for Tess is later executed for killing Alec.

Although ‘Mary’ and ‘Far’ are written by different authors yet Gaskell and Hardy’s views on romance is similar in a way that the love story can only tasted only when characters have gone through difficult moments that test their faith. In ‘Far’, Batsheba and Gabriel Oak gets married in a very quite, modest ceremony just when the book is about to end.

I get dissapointed with the ending bond between Roger Hamley and Molly Gibson for they don’t even verbally confess their true feelings. In the last chapter, Roger is seen to have given gestures that attract Molly’s attention. It’s too bad Gaskell leaves this novel unfinished after 766 pages long yet readers can fancy that both Roger and Molly share the same feeling. And that happens just a few pages after the book ends.

How I wish to complain to those authors who give little enjoyment when it comes to real romance!

Under the Spell of Gaskell’s Magical Words in “Mary Barton”

“Mary Barton” is such a beauty. I lack of adjectives to describe how magnificent the language of the book is. Beautiful words are all around in the thick book. I even type many lovely, memorable phrases and sentences in my BlackBerry to make me easier reread them all whenever I wish to read something artsy.
It’s the first book that I would like to put it into my most favorite novel list because of its language. If there were people who later ask me on why they should read the novel, I would say the language is all what makes it really worth your precious time.
Mind you. Almost all of the novels that I have read so far, particularly those by Victorian writers, are indeed artistic. “Far from the Madding Crowd”, “The Mayor of Casterbridge” and “The Mill on the Floss”, to name a few, fall into this category. I am completely hooked by “The Mill on the Floss”, by the way, but its sentimental, sad plot is the most memorable aspect that is left in my mind until now. “The Mayor of Casterbridge”, for me, is outstanding for its characterization. “Far from the Madding Crowd” is the kind of story that leaves me with contentment because of its relatively gloomy plot, unconditional faith that ends in a happy, modest marriage among its two protagonists.
I can say I feel so sad reading “Mary Barton”. There are some quite funny moments but most of the time the book is all about bitter facts faced by the working class people in Manchester where the poor really suffer from unfair payment while the rich keep living luxuriously. Coming to the parts where several minor characters, one of them even passes away, due to hunger, is indeed heartbreaking. But nothing is more depressed than the scene where John Barton says farewell to his only kid, Mary Barton, on the night before he sets out a journey to Glasgow for labor-related affairs. I almost cry when I read those parts. So sorrowful because, as I expected, nothing is not the same again after that. John goes away without any news, and when he returns home, he looks lost. Although Mary and Jem are two characters that become the centre of the novel, I think it is the traits of John that makes the book “a complete story of human being”.
While Mary and Jem are described to be those who are mostly kind-hearted, John is the one that makes me hard to define. He is the one who is so overwhelmed with the labor condition at that time that he neglects Mary. He puts the interests of others above Mary’s future. He feels so miserable when he is out of work. Even when George, his best friend, dies, John looks unmoved. He says to Mary that is better for George to have passed away than to watch the worsening condition in Manchester.
I have sympathy for him for voicing, representing the needs of the laborers. However, I pity him for being unbalanced between labor-related affairs and his domestic matter. The way he abuses Mary after his London mission is fruitless triggers my anger. And my reaction gets harsher whenever he ignores her super tenderness with all the meal service despite his joblessness.
And the climax when he shots Harry Carson to death is unbearable. I pity him even more because the burden of all the labor issues carry him so far away from he used to be. When he admits he does not even know why he acts as cruel as that, I completely understand.
I can not blame John, though. He suffers a lot. He loses Mary’s brother because he can’t afford paying hospital fees. He witnesses the death of his fellow because of poverty. He has no pride when he does not work. He sometimes says he does not need meal, even when he is about to depart for Glasgow he refuses to eat. All he wishes to have is a job as the source of his dignity. John’s agony reaches his peak with the murder story. Probably, the only thing that he should have not opted is getting too much involved with his comrade in arms in fighting for their rights. He should have focus on his daughter. He makes a choice, somehow. The one that really costs his life. Again, he has faith in his option and that what makes the novel leaves a crack in my heart.
While for Mary.. what can I say about this character? Almost flawless. The only thing that causes my disrespect is when she has a giddy flirting with Harry Carson that makes the latter to put a high hope on their future marriage. It is this trivial act that causes the two male figures to have come in a misunderstanding with the final consequence of putting Jem’s life at the risk of being executed. But, Gaskell brilliantly makes Mary to pay her foolishness. She sacrifices her life to rescue Jem. When she almost dies to do this, I regain my respect for this protagonist. The way Jem loves her and vice versa is very touchy because their actions speak it all. This is what I really like with the romance story in the Victorian era. I once read this kind of love-based action when I read ‘Far from the Madding Crowd.’
Mary is the best daughter one can hope for. Her obedience is beyond everything. Her beauty is far deeper than her skin. And the one thing that makes me feel relieved with the fate of Mary is the presence and the love from Job Leigh and his granddaughter, Margaret. It would be so wicked should Gaskell leave Mary to face the hardness without their help throughout the book. She might not have a full love from her father but she has a best friend and best neighbor of all who stand by her side whenever she needs them all, especially when Jem is at the prison.
All in all, the book is perfect. It has a simple good story that really reflects people at the time the novel is written. The romance is influenced with social status and society perspective when the potency of the marriage between Mary as the daughter of the poor and Harry Carson as the son of the employee emerges. The complicated trait of John Barton, the innocence of Jem and the compassion from Job Leigh and Margaret confronts me with mixed feeling. And the reading journey is paid off with its pleasant closure. The very last, as it becomes the first point that I say here, is the language. To close this post, I’d like to share some of my favorites:
The passionate grief of youth has subsided into sleep
She could catch a wink of sleep
A lovely girl of sixteen, fresh and glowing, and bright as a rosebud
The mists and the storms passed clearing away from his path, though it still was full of stinging thorns
… used to dazzle her eyes by extraordinary graces and twirls
Where the distant horizon is soft and undulating in the moonlight, and the nearer trees sway gently to and fro in the night – wind with something of almost human motion, and the rustling air makes music among their branches, as if speaking soothingly to the weary ones, who lie awake in heaviness of heart. The sights and sounds of such a night lull pain and grief to rest. (This one is my most favorite.)

“Mary Barton” by Elizabeth Gaskell

mary barton

picture credit goes for flyhigh-by-learnonline.blogspot.com

The quiet life of the Bartons family changed into a grief, perplexity when their relative, Esther, mysteriously vanished without a trace. Her dissipation triggered a discussion between two best friends, two laborers, John Barton and George Wilson, as the novel begins. Not long after this incident, Mrs. Barton dies, leaving John with no one to blame, except Esther. So, John, who had lost his son, Tom, now survived with his sole daughter, Mary Barton.

Being an orphan made Mary turned into a hardworking girl. She ended up working at Miss Simmonds’s dressmaking house. Her nice, beautiful countenance helped the employee gaining many customers, some of whom, according to Mary’s friend Sally Leadbitter, came to the house due to Mary physical apperance.

John Barton got more involved with Trade Unions as workers condition in the city was getting more unbearable. Dying people due to hunger, wandering kids in search for bread were so commonplace. As her father was busy with his workers association in search for better lives from employees, Mary befriended with Margaret and her grandfather Job Leigh. Mary also got closer with Alice Wilson, the aunt of the former’s pal, Jem Wilson. Alice was suffering from deaf while Margaret turned into a blind girl, though, fortunately her angelic voice saved her and Job from poverty thanks to her singing career.

So many sombre events took place afterwards. John and his fellow mates from the union set a journey to London in a hope they would be given a parliamentary session at the House. They, of course, wanted to talk to legislators on their hard times, unfair wage treatment and such till they would see brighter lives after that.

In the meantime, dark clouds were hanging in the roofs of the Wilsons family. Jem’s twin little brothers dead. No long after that, George dead, too. There remained Jem and his mother Jane. Mary, who had long been suspicious with Jem’s unusual behaviors to her, found herself got torn between friendship and romance with Jem. He, who had been her long mate, acted so weird when Mary paid a visit to his home to state her mournings in regards with the death of the twins. Jem couldn’t help being a bit joyful when Mary came then talked to him but his strange attitude with the touch and kind of thing somehow pushed her away. The closeness between the two caused her to initially abandon any thoughts of making their relationship into a love affair.

So, Mary rarely talked to him, affirming that they remained friends. Jem, on the other hand, kept approaching her till he was sent away when he declared his true love and marriage intention to Mary. By the time Jem left her house that was when Mary realized she loved him as much as he did. But Jem had gone, her regret couldn’t change the way that had just happened.

How feeling turned her life upside down. Just when she discovered Jem was she ever wanted, she had to pay what she unintentionally did to Mr. Harry Carson, the son of John Carson who owns a mill in the city. It was Sally, Mary’s coworker, who served as Harry’s messenger.

John was so submerged with the failure the union mission in London. They failed to voice their ideas to the parliamentary. He was carrying a great burden over his shoulders when he got home and this lasted for so long that Mary hardly recognized the father, who had been so kind and tender to her. John easily got angry. He even hit Mary. He spoke coarsely. The fact that he was out of job completely dragged him away. After apologizing to Mary for his rude behavior, John’s mind seemed to have wandered away from his daughter.

While Jem gradually took distance from her after the rejection moment, Mary found herself in a shocking complicated love triangle story when Sally took her to meet Harry Carson. Although Mary felt sorry for admitting what she did to him was a mere giddy flirting, Harry did not give her up. He even wanted to marry her. But she pushed him away since she did not love him. The secret meeting was over, leaving Mary with overwhelming thoughts. After she met and told her feelings to Margaret, she felt so relieved and went ahead with her best friend advice not to boldly admit her true feelings to Jem but approached his mother instead.

The relationship between employees and workers in the city grew worse. The working class people protested against relatively small wages they received despite the hardworking they did. As such, John decided to go to Glasgow to pursue the equality between both parties. He left his only kid even hunger seemed no big deal for him. Mary burst into tears as she watched her father leaving her with unspecific return dates.

Out of Mary’s knowledge, the long lost Esther searched Jem and she found him to tell everything she wished him to protect Mary in the name of friendship. She told him what she knew about the encounter between Mary and Harry Carson. She thought Mary loved Harry Carson. She wanted Jem to ensure that Harry Carson would not play with the girl’s heart and would marry her one day. Despite his jealousy, Jem agreed to her advice. Later, he asked for Esther’s on her super long dissipation. She explained she got married with a soldier but then was left with a kid. She abandoned the kid for having no money to support her own life. She turned into a prostitute, heavy drunkard. The goal of meeting Jem that night was to rescue Mary from potentially making the same mistake she had done.

Not long after the concourse, Jem stopped Harry Carson. He directly stated what he expected to utter, bearing in his mind that Mary fell into the guy. On the contrary, Harry thought Mary set her heart for Jem only. What was initially a smooth conversation slowly turned into a fighting that prompted policemen to have separated them both. Jem was released while Harry returned home safely.

Will Wilson, Jem’s cousin, came home after his long sailing abroad. How happy old Alice to have finally met her stepson! Will, Mary, Job Leigh and Margaret easily formed closeness even Will fell in love with the blind Margaret.

Harry was the only son of Mr John Carson, the one the latter adored and made him proud of. So when the policemen came to his house bringing Harry’s corpse, Mr John Carson was really shattered. The corpse lied unburied for several days. While Mr John Carson and his several daughters were left broken yet remained tough, his mother acted like a kid. She thought that her most beloved son was not dead but was absorbed in his deep slumber. Mr John Carson offered a huge sum of money for the policemen to catch the murderer.

It seemed easy for the officers to point their fingers. By referring to previous confrontation scene between Jem and Harry Carson, gaining confession from Jem’s mother on the gun used to shoot Harry Carson, the officer arrested Jem while he was on the job. He was transported to Liverpool to stand for a trial. Mary learned the news about Jem when she arrived at her working place, finding her fellow mates talked about her alleged role in the killing. Apart from being confused on how Jem knew her story with Harry Carson, Mary launched her alibi to set Jem free. While she was fully occupied with the bad news, Esther approached her house to hand out her finding after she had checked the murder spot. After so many years in the search, Esther’s presence in the night came as a quite shock for Mary. They behaved a bit awkward for Mary remained a bit dissapointed to her aunt although she remained polite and nice to Esther. On the other hand, Esther couldn’t let all the past go. The fact that she made the Bartons family to have suffered for her past dissipation, her recent condition as a sexual worker and heavy drunkard caused her to not easily develop smooth, intimate conversation with her beloved niece after years of living in separate lives.

Esther made it short as Mary, on the other, kept all her mind for Jem. She handed the paper which contained Mary’s address to the girl. She lied about her recent conditions then they parted. One meeting seemed inadequate to fix the broken relationship, though. Mary disbelieved on what she received. She immediately knew who the murderer was: her own father. The paper belonged to her father. It was the same with the paper where she copied a poem as given by Jem on Valentine’s day. She was then torn apart of between rescuing her lover or her father.

This bitter fact somehow prompted her to start her investigation. She wanted to save Jem. Although her initiatives was welcomed with rejection by Job while Margaret was crestfallen with Mary’s giddy flirting to Harry Carson, Mary went on her own way, somehow. She decided to seek Will, whom was seen to have been with Jem on the night the killing took place. Job, then, hired a lawyer.

It took hard attempts for Mary to seek Will for the ship he was sailing with departed from Liverpool when she arrived in the city. With the help of the son of the landlord where which Will stayed, Mary made it possible to catch the ship after she had paid some amount of money to local sailors. Even if after Mary was able to convey her intention via the sailors as the boat she was on was approaching the ship, Will’s certainty to appear before the court remained uncertain. Mary was then helped by one of the sailors who understood her hopelessness regarding the fate of Jem. She spent the night before the trial at his home.

Jem’s mother was the first to testify in the trial. She said the truth about the gun which somehow weighed down Jem’s position in the case. Then Mary. She told her feelings that she loved Jem so dearly and that her relationship with the late Harry Carson meant nothing for her but not for the rich guy. Yet, her testimony did help much to save Jem from the death penalty until Will made his harsh way to the court. As Mary expected, Will’s confession made the difference. Jem then walked free.

Not everything seemed clear for Jem even if after he was released and declared innocent. Mary fell terribly sick. Not only that, Jem was torn between her and her mother who seemed reluctant to let her only son divide his attention to the girl whom he really loved. Job suggested Jem to opt her mother given her old age. Jem followed his advice.

When he got home, Alice got much worse due to stroke. After she passed away Jem told her mother about his intention of marrying Mary. It didn’t take a lengthy time to persuade his mother for she gave her blessings afterwards.

When Jem and Mary reconciled, agreed on their marriage plan, John Barton showed up. He was so lost, looked disturbed all the time. He didn’t even care on the arrival of Mary.

Shortly after his homecoming, John Carson was invited to the house. John admitted his wrongdoing; that he was the one John Carson was looking for all the time. The burden of the labour issues wholly ruined John Barton’s mind that he didn’t understand what he had done to Harry Carson. Jem, meanwhile, knew that John Barton killed Harry Carson because John Barton borrowed the gun a few days before the crime occurred.

On his deathbed, John Carson forgave John Barton and the latter died peacefully. Jem and Mary tied the knot shortly before they and Jem’s mother departed to Canada. Esther was discovered before their leaving then she died in the eyes of those she was longing for meeting.

The couple was blessed with two kids. They lived happily in the land that was so far away from their hometown. Despite their distance, the new family remained close to the Job and Margaret. The letter informing that Margaret had her eyes operated brought most cheerful news to them as well as the joyous end to this very beautiful, touchy, sentimental and best of all, completed story of human beings by the great Elizabeth Gaskell.

A New and Improved Relationship with the Victorian Literature

During hectic daily activities as a reporter covering legal issues at the Corruption Eradication Commission, my former best office mate Erwida Maulia invites me to join her weekend gateway by visiting Kinokuniya bookstore on an uncertain weekend I forget the date is.

I have no intention of buying books at the time given my super busy daily life as a journalist. But I can’t help admitting myself that I arrive at an artificial paradise once I am inside the bookstore. Looking at the literature section brings my memory back to the years when I was a student of the English department at the Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. I remember almost all the titles, the novelists, but I soon realize that I have yet to read most of the titles. If so, I must have done that for the sake of getting good grades.

After a few moments of title selections, I decide to give a try for Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. I know the title from my most favorite lecturer, Pak Dayat. I always admire Wilde’s drama but have yet to read this (if I’m not mistaken) only novel he has written. And you know what? This title is the first one that kicks off my pure, new and improved adventure not only with the Victorian literature but also with the literature in a large extent.

The book is the first English novel that sets out my journey as an outsider, a refreshed likeness from a literature great fan. The novel is the first that I completely enjoy, the one that later brings me to so many titles during the span of six years of the so-called reading trip. Needless to say about the book. It’s so marvelous. I can recall the gothic feeling each time I remember about the novel. I really wish Wilde writes more books than drama but he does the other way around.

In between tight working schedules, I always try to find time to read books. I can’t remember exactly which books that I read after ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. After the awesome first reading experience, I quickly remember the name John Steinbeck. I don’t have any ideas why I didn’t read any of his books when I was at the college. Again, thanks to Pak Dayat, what I firstly remember about Steinbeck is ‘Of Mice and Men.’ Pak Dayat once tells to the class how powerful the novel is and I am left being so curious. However, it’s not quite easy to find the book.

Again, me and Wida visits the store and this time around I come with one name in my head: John Steinbeck. I am quite surprised to have found some of his books in the store. Since I haven’t seen ‘Of Mice and Men’, I grab ‘East of Eden’ instead. Prior to the visit, I browse about the book and enough to say, the title itself makes me peculiar. The more I read its synopsis I get even more curious. The core of the story lies on two brothers with opposite characteristics. Steinbeck takes the essence of the book from Adam’s sons whose tragic story becomes the first ever murder in the world.

The novel is quite expensive but it is so much worth it. It takes less than a month to complete reading the book and I totally loooove it! It is so surprising to read the novel saga which is full of wisdom, family issues and human flaws as Steinbeck is greatly associated with social and labor issues. ‘East of Eden’ pulls me deeper into this reading journey. So far, I have read seven of Steinbeck’s novels and will definitely read his remaining books later on.

I finally read ‘Of Mice and Men’ and I can’t agree more with Pak Dayat’s statement on the power of the book. It remains my most beloved book until now. So thin yet so mind-blowing. It tears my heart apart.

In between the so-called Steinbeck’s literary experience, I taste Asian culture through Arundhati Roy, Aravind Adiga, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kiran Desai with the most favorite one is Amitav Ghosh. ‘Life of Pi’ teaches me a bit about philosophy. ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ tells me that a teenager’s naughty side can instead be the truest voice ever. The novel represents modern generation that is so lost, so divided between personal choice and future consideration.

After feeling enough with post-modern themes, Asian culture, I don’t know what goes through my mind that I return to the Victorian novels. ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ is the second Victorian novel that brings me back to the vintage era. It is less fantastic compared to ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ yet ‘Far from Madding Crowd’ is more than enough to eventually guide me to where my real, final reading taste is, Victorian literature, despite the fact that John Steinbeck remains my most beloved author. I really love his boldness in writing, straight to the point. So far, no authors can surpass the way he emotionally kills readers through ‘Of Mice and Men’. All in all, my general preference is Victorian novels.

After I have read Hardy’s six novels, I move on to George Eliot, now Elizabeth Gaskell. I don’t really care about moral values or social issues as seen in the Victorian novels actually. What makes me glued to the books written in this era is as simple as its language. Once I open the Victorian novels I feel like I see an abundant, very beautiful landscape in front of my very eyes. I can write down authors’ quotes or beautiful phrases. The Victorian novels are indeed such an art.

Given my experiences as a journalist, I would like to dig deeper into the Victorian books then put them down into pieces of interesting writings that won’t merely discuss on the content or characterizations of the books as the ones you may always find in school textbooks. That’s so boring. I know that. Rather, I’d love to play with some dynamic topics, like comparing Hardy and Eliot’s writing type. Also, I’d love to take out several significant characters from the Victorian authors as topic of discussions. I will be so happy to make the Victorian novels as everlasting topics, not too old to be talked about when you meet friends. The books can be in sync with modern era, though.

It’s been three years since I have started out my second reading trip with the Victorian literature. Firstly, I kick it off as a reader, no longer seeking good grades, but simply as pleasure activity. Now, I start thinking to learn making creative stories from all the Victorian novels that I have digested with the help of relatively short experiences as a journalist because reading alone can be worthless if I don’t share it with others. I have done this since 2011 but this time around I want to be more elastic without leaving the Victorian novels’ serious issues.

From obligatory to literary satisfaction now comes to the time when I try to get committed to blend the two. This mission is surprisingly giving me so much fun!