Basic guidance before reading the works of these literary giants (2)

The second part of this long post highlights my short analysis about the novels by the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens.
Anne Bronte
If you want to read novels by the Bronte sisters, you can begin with those by Anne Bronte. Luckily, I do start with her books. Reading her books make me feel like I get into her personal lives. Plus, she uses first-person narrations in ‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’ and ‘Agnes Grey’. As such, her tales can move you so deeply.
Anne voices feminism, too, like Charlotte Bronte, her elder sister. The difficult life of being a governess becomes her source topic. The harsh life of being a single mother who flees from her own husband because of domestic violence I think at that time is revolutionary, particularly the latter one. Anne tries to break all religious rules through Helen Huntingdon.

Alcoholic husband, infidelity issues mark Anne’s writing achievements. Don’t worry, my friends. Anne’s stories end in happy tones!
Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre is a very powerful heroine. She is blunt, stubborn, strong and idealistic woman you can ever imagine. Her faith and how she holds her religious values indeed cause her to face difficult situations. I still imagine the moments she starves that she wants to sell her handkerchief but is denied by a potential buyer. Then she eats porridge that is already thrown by former eater to keep her alive.
Reading the book moves me so much. Not only because of Jane’s firmness holding her values, but also the way Charlotte puts her heroine in difficult tests ever since she is a little girl. I am also amazed how the book doesn’t bore me as it is very thick one. Charlotte’s storytelling brings so much joy despite the tribulations Jane has to bear.
Emily Bronte
First of all, I dislike Catherine Earnshaw given her indecisive attitude. Her unwillingness to take risks to fight for her love. Also to be honest, I can’t say what Heathcliff does is correct. Their love story stirs mixed feeling for me. I call it as a deep, wild and destructive romance you can ever imagine knowing.
I have never read this romance-based fantasy as that frustrating, depressing, furious yet very strong at the same time. And Emily’s writing style is beyond my thought. Beware of physical and emotional tortures in the book for if you really feel them so profoundly, you will be haunted by the sensations they leave in your heart.
Charles Dickens
I think Charles Dickens is the most serious and social novelists in the Victorian era. While others take limited range of topics, such as women lives or people’ attitude at that time, Dickens write many books on child labor, the Industry Revolution, crime, legal affairs and many more.
I find it interesting that reading books by Dickens give me another shade of the Britons’ lives in London, a big city that is rarely touched by previous writers since their settings are mostly in rural areas or villages.
So, Dickens adds knowledge to what really happens in the big city when the machine starts taking over the lives of the people and how it leaves many problems. There haven’t been any writers who are very sophisticated in portraying individuals’ conflicts as he is. As such, reading his works challenge me a lot in understanding little things between characters and how their relations develop into something bigger in the end of the story.
Those are my opinions that hopefully can guide you a little bit before diving into that thick pages, hehe.. I hope this helps you, my fellow readers!

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Three universal values that make ‘Middlemarch’ enduring work

I am so glad that I don’t throw ‘Middlemarch’ away during eight years I immerse myself in other titles. I suddenly want to read the masterpiece after I stumble upon an article about minimalism. The article cites the book so I take it again after two failed attempts and I enjoy reading it very much.
It takes almost two months to complete reading it. The period which I think is kind of short given the almost 700 pages it runs. Throughout the reading process, as I write in previous posts, I can’t help being bedazzled by George Eliot’s story technique, her brilliant ways of giving a life to each of its character, describing the places and emotions, and finally guiding readers to gain so many lessons for the sake of their own interests. The book is full of many life lessons. What makes it sticks into the hearts of so many people is that it doesn’t preach, it doesn’t instruct to do or don’t do specific things.
In fact, Eliot portrays memorable characters that you may find yourself part of their overall traits. If you are a social person, you can be like Dorothea or Caleb Garth. If you find yourself love learning you can look at Edward Casaubon. If you are very easy going person, then may be Will Ladislaw suits you best.
Each and every character in the book carries problems. Eliot mentions their ways of handling the problems according to their given traits and perspectives in such beautiful ways. Hence, readers can embrace many knowledge and even put their feet in the characters’ shoes. With the strong characters in the book herewith I share with you my friends, three values about life that make the book remains so profound. And for me, I can learn a lot and apply them in my personal life:
1. You don’t have to save the world to consider yourself a worthy human being.
It’s completely fine if you have certain mission in your life, be it being a humanitarian worker, beneficial technology inventor, international public speaker/motivator etc. Modern world seems require us to attain specific things or goals in life then show them to the world. For instance, certificates to prove something or meeting important people in your chosen fields. Then you will expect ‘likes’, ‘loves’ and bunch of comments to affirm that you are a ‘successful’ human being. It’s good if you can be one of the people but what if you aren’t?
If you find yourself questioning this sort of thing then Dorothea and Tertius are very good examples you can look at. Both are very kind, idealistic people, who want to contribute a lot of things to the society. Dorothea’s preliminary goal is providing homes for poor people at cheap cost while Tertius’s wish is taking care sick people while enhancing his medical skills in a hospital. As such, he works with Mr. Bulstrode whom he actually dislikes.
But life doesn’t go according to their plans. Their responses are what make the two living happy or unhappy one.
2. It takes years to build a good reputation and only seconds to destroy it

The case of Mr. Buldstrode serves special thing to review. Though he is considered by some, including by his relative, as a cold, wicked person, I am still surprised learning about his past via Raffles. That is why public scorns at him when they know when he gets his wealth and what he does with Raffles in his last days even though he doesn’t kill him.

But rumors and gossips are very deadly. They don’t care anymore about the money the banker puts for the public cause because they immediately consider his deed serves like ‘a money laundry’ for the bad things he does in the past.

What makes me hating the public is their perception about Tertius. They believe the money he gets from Mr. Buldstrode acts as a kind of compensation for helping him killing Raffles without actually having convincing evidence.

At this point, Tertius’s reputation is at stake. Will his care for the unfortunate sick people be helping him out of the mess? Who will actually believe he is innocent?

3. Love can be redefined

The love life of Dorothea is interesting to be talked about. It isn’t about her marrying twice but it’s how she acknowledges her feeling for each of the man whom she marries with.

When Dorothea falls in love with Edward, she is a highly idealistic woman. As much as she admires Edward, a smart, sharp man with good reputation, I think her decision to be united with Edward in a matrimony is partly to her dream of making herself useful.

At this point, she wants to be a useful wife. Their marriage is often marked with reading together, working at the library, trying to submit herself to the study of her husband.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. Because I think marriage aims at making each couple becoming more excellent in their respective fields. But the problem is Dorothea and Edward’s good intention is not enough to save their marriage. Or to be precise, their motive to be as one isn’t that strong. Marrying each other for the sake of helping one another isn’t adequate.

As such, Dorothea says she doesn’t fully submit herself to Edward because her definition of love hasn’t been solid. Sometimes it doesn’t any explanations why you love someone, you just feel it, you just know something unexplainable is brewing inside your heart. It’s you yourself who can feel it.

Such is the feeling Dorothea has with Will, and the former feels the same way, too. She can now whole-heartedly love Will and the other way around. Through pain and death she previously suffers, Dorothea can renew her definition of love, which is indescribable after all.

 

When we can never get it enough: a study case of Dr. Tertius Lydgate

Dr.  Tertius Lydgate is a tragic hero I wish every one of us can learn so much from. Among all characters in ‘Middlemarch’ this is the one I am very interested to talk about though my personal resemblance is with Edward Casaubon and I highly put Dorothea Ladislaw as a strong model for women.
I share a few things in common with Dr. Tertius Lydgate. Thank God, I am not like him anymore. I used to have the similar mindset as he does but thankfully I become much more relaxed as life experiences force me to.
For those who haven’t read the novel I am sorry that I am going to drop a lot of spoilers here as I don’t know yet how to create good posts without touching some parts of the book.
On top of the doctor’s mind is a mission not only to become an exceptional one but also be beneficial for those around him. As such, he sets on a journey to Middlemarch then supports Mr. Bulstrode in exchange of a new hospital in the place. There is nothing wrong with the doctor. He is a very kind person though some people, including his own wife, Rosamund, kind of hates him because Tertius is someone who doesn’t like asking for helps even when things get tough. He holds his pride so high that asking for money when he is deep in debt taints his honor. He eventually asks for money from Mr. Bulstrode after his wife can’t resist anymore with the tension and he doesn’t want to make her much more miserable than she already is.
The thing is Tertius is the type of person who doesn’t like putting any masks in his face, the same that he applies in regard to others. If he doesn’t like someone then he says or at least he takes a distance away from him or her. This honesty, according to his wife, is one factor that troubles him when he is actually in a dire need.
In my opinion, Tertius is much an idealist than Edward Casaubon. While Edward’s perfectionism is mixed up with his jealousy to Will Ladislaw and stubbornness to admit his real feeling, Tertius has no problems about that.
Yet Tertius’ perfectionism puts him in a very constant point where he barely sees other things that actually see him excel. His idealism of wanting making himself as a touch bearer in Middlemarch through the hospital he oversees becomes like a way of life that he doesn’t see any other means by which he will call himself “a successful person”.
When Rosy complains that Tertius should be paid for what he does in setting up the hospital, the learned man should have considered her opinion. But his idealism already places him in unbalanced position where his idealism is above realism or what reality throws at him, which is the amount of debt he has to pay.
He should not put a blind eye to the fact that he can’t always spend his life prioritizing helping sick people who can’t pay him. He shouldn’t forget that he needs money to make ends meet.
Tertius eventually realizes this and follows his wife’s advice. They depart for London after the debt is fully paid with the help of Dorothea. He finally puts the happiness of Rosy on top of all then works for money. In the new city, Tertius is a commercially successful doctor. His practice is excellent.
But at the end of his life, Tertius still regards him as a failure because he doesn’t fulfill what he is meant to do which is curing poor people in the Middlemarch’s hospital. Isn’t his life a very tragic one? Despite his good deeds to others, his ability to make his family happy, Tertius dies unsatisfied.

This is the deep hole George Eliot leaves my heart with. And I wish my friends and a lot of people will read then know this character because his life relates much to what we, as modern people face, some will realize, but some will not.
Thankfully, again and again, I know what goes wrong in his life and I believe many of us are familiar with the story.
It is ingratitude.
Tertius is ungrateful that he helps so many people in Middlemarch, particularly the ones who are unable to pay him. Tertius is unthankful that Rosy is finally happy they can live a good, financially-sufficient life in London.
Tertius’s mind gets so absorbed in his own thought that he only has one sort of success that is embedded in his mind even before he marries Rosy. But life changes. Problems occur which may change people’ life purposes. Tertius can deal with his marital problems but unfortunately he can’t do so with his self-aim. The ways he handles his matters go in line with his circumstances but his idealism isn’t. He slowly changes his behavior and this helps him so much going out of the problems but his dream is not. What he fails to realize is that the only constant thing in life is change, including changes in one’s life goals. If he could accept the fact that he is still unable to fulfill his mission no matter how hard he tries then his life will be joyful.
What makes his fate so miserable is that Tertius is unthankful for himself.
And I think that is the worst kind of unfavorable behavior to oneself.

This mind wrestling after bidding farewell to ”Middlemarch”

I complete reading “Middlemarch” a few days ago, much faster than my expectation. Overall I take about two months reading the masterpiece’s 688 pages. It isn’t the thickest novel I have read so far. ‘’Wives and Daughters” runs more than 800 pages. But ‘’Middlemarch” is way more difficult to read. It takes a lot of efforts than the other title which is written by Elizabeth Gaskell. A lot more characters, more serious issues, much more detailed descriptions about the people and the places in ‘’Middlemarch” are some of the things that make Eliot’s way above ‘Wives and Daughter’. Anyway, I am not going to compare the books in the post, well ever, because each of them gives different nourishment to me, or readers in general.

It has been two days since I close the last page of “Middlemarch”. Call me sentimental but I feel like I have lost my best friend in the past two months, especially when I commute. The fact is I read almost all of its content in a train and public transport vehicle. I carry it when I go to the office. I intentionally use it to shield me away from my smartphone. The book is so thick that I find it hard to put it into my brown bag. So I bring it on hand.

Something breaks my heart when the book is coming to an end. A small crack that still lasts until now. The novel leaves mixed feelings. I am contented that Eliot provides clear and fair fate to each of the book’s major and semi major characters, particularly about Dorothea and Will Ladislaw. I feel so, so sorry with the life of Dr. Tertius Lydgate (will talk about this topic later on in a separate post). Even when I write this I don’t know exactly how to properly express my feeling about the book.

The novel is so remarkable, a wholeness that gets me thinking “how she does this?”

I can’t imagine her writing process hence she can put her imagination into this sort of complete tale. She creates vivid places as the settings of the book. Each and every character is described in detailed ways that they look as if they were real. Eliot also mentions political and social backgrounds that happen in larger scale, not only in Middlemarch. Small gossips, scenes in gambling house are alive, too. Eliot pays a lot of attention to even what look like trivial things.

Every time I get bored when it comes to minor figures which I am hardly able to memorize, the plot quickly shifts to major people whom I follow closely. So the boredom immediately goes away.

Eliot puts quite a lot of wise sentences, which miraculously don’t bother me, as a reader who doesn’t like books that sound preachy. And the most praised aspect of the book is character development. Eliot invites readers to get knowing very humane characters that for myself, will stick at my heart for very long time.

Whenever I look for a female character who is generous, overwhelmed with her wealth, I quickly come to the name of Dorothea. Her interest of helping others is so great that she makes it as one of the factors that makes her accepting the marriage proposal from Edward Ladislaw. She wants to make her life useful to her husband. The reason that later on proves inadequate to make her marriage life a happy one.

When I think about a figure who is too social that he becomes poor, I put Caleb Garth as the perfect example.

Rosamund Vincy, later Rosamund Lydgate, is the typical model for a beautiful woman who cares much about image, social pride, levelling.. as in ‘he is on par with my level’ sort of thing.

I can’t believe there is a man namely Fred Vincy who, despite his gorgeous looking that becomes his mother’s pride, is such a useless man. The kind of person who doesn’t know what to do in life.  An undecisive person, a dumb one. It is so sweet that he has Mary Garth by his side. She is not pretty but her intelligence and vision of life rescues him. Fred and Mary are such a perfect blend where Fred’s physical beauty meets with Mary’s intelligence and cleverness. Thank God, their strong love unites the two. Thank God.

And personally, the character that suits me most is Edward Casaubon. I write about much about him in previous two posts, much earlier than Dorothea and Tertius. I haven’t written about the two leading characters in details (will later work on them).

I can’t think how Eliot makes this book, her creative process. How many books she read so that she can come up with fragments from a lot of poems, proses not only in English Language but also in French Language. How many hours per day she dedicates her time making this story. Does each and every character that she puts into the book goes through thorough research?

Those are some questions that emerge when I read the book then after I conclude it. Too many questions, curiosities that I wish I could get her answers as the book is done reading. The last one is I would like to know how she can make this balanced overall story that makes it so round that finishing reading the novel leaves me a void I don’t know how to fill it up. The book is so exceptional that I find it hard to part with no matter how relieved I am that it ends fairly.

 

Farewell, Edward Casaubon. Never think you will end that much miserable

I wish Edward Casaubon can make it longer than he is in Middlemarch. There is a kind of disappointment that he passes away much sooner than I expect. If you have read my previous post you know why I hope the clergyman lives longer in the masterpiece. Yes, he reflects so much about my personality. It is not because that he says so much about my trait that I wish him surviving through his deadly illness. But it is more because I look forward how he deals with his pride, jealousy, and seriousness in his marriage with Dorothea, his wife.

Yet, George Eliot ends this character too soon, at least according to my opinion. He dies in the morning while sitting in a bench under a tree. Peacefully on the surface but full of turmoil on the inside. The night before his passing, Dorothea can’t decide whether or not she is going to keep her words of obeying her husband’s will. She is confused thus delays telling her decision to her husband. Before she says her words, Edward passes away.

From Dorothea’s point of view, she must be glad that she doesn’t say anything about it. Had she known the will, she would regret it so much because the will declares she would not inherit all the properties left by her husband if she marries Will Ladislaw.

Eliot ends the fate of Edward in such depressing, wicked way. His envy and hatred to Will Ladislaw swallows him so much that he doesn’t want to see his wife happy. Eliot brings such unthinkable finale to the character, much worse than my expectation. He dies while holding a deep grudge. An inexplicable one. I think that is the worst ever fate an individual can withhold.

Picture source 

Who will win this year’s Man Booker Prize? *Drum rolls*

Next Tuesday Indonesia time, a panel of judges of Man Booker Prize is going to announce the winner of this year’s leading literary award. While I don’t pay much attention to the award in the last few years, this year I am like ‘reminded’ on its importance after I accidentally come across an article about it.

The mentioning of Fiona Mozley whose debut novel ‘Elmet’ makes it to the short list of the award thrills me. I remember after I read the article I straightly seek articles about her. What makes me curious about this candidate is firstly because she is as young as I am. Secondly, it is because she works part-time in a bookstore. Lastly, because she is now on her education to pursue her Master degree. She is like Hannah Kent, an Australian writer whose ‘Burial Rites’ is so popular. Call it subjective but I think it doesn’t really matter if you have special interests on people or writers who are in the similar group age as you are.

Plus, ‘Elmet’ tells about the relation between people and land or home. I quickly associate this theme with the similar one happening in Jakarta. My memory brings me back years ago when I work as a journalist that requires me covering some conflicts about houses in Jakarta and regulations.

For your information, owning a house in Jakarta is very expensive, probably this also happens in all capital cities in the world. What complicates this topic is that in Jakarta, there are still some vacant spaces that are left abandoned. No reasons are provided. Some of them are owned by Indonesia’s firms, some are by private. The thing is people come to these lands, mostly from outside the capital. They set up houses, many are permanent, some are makeshift ones. They live there for so long, some even decades. They pay rent, they pay electricity bills and so forth. Years go by and they live peacefully. But they are illegal. So after some years, there come officers from the capital administrations who want the land back. In most cases, violence is inevitable.

That’s how Fiona’s story sticks deep in my brain because it is so relatable with people in Jakarta.

Anyway, her competitors are ‘4 3 2 1’ by Paul Auster, ‘History of Wolves’ by Emily Fridlund, ‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid, ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ by George Saunders and ‘Autumn’ by Ali Smith.

I don’t search about the themes of the other five books so I am sorry that this post is completely unbalanced, LOL. The thing is I am excited about the award is because I believe whichever wins the prize, the quality of the fiction is definitely out of question.

This is because I read some books that are named as the prize champion and they are all awesome. I read ‘The God of Small Things’, ‘Life of Pi’, ‘The White Tiger’ which are the winners of the prize. Each novel brings out something which is so unique. Each of them polishes one or two things that make it distinctive.

‘The God of Small Things’, for instance, steals my heart with its wondrous way of telling the story, so poetic yet sad at the same time. I really adore Roy for this technique.

‘Life of Pi’ surprises me as how short sentences and straight plots can slowly lead readers grasp such a heavy topic as survival, belief, faith and religion. Yan Martel confronts readers with the very fundamental matters that have embedded human beings for centuries. I personally salute how the author crafts the difficult, subjective ones through simple way of telling.

‘The White Tiger’ is one of the smartest fictions I have read so far. Aravind Adiga punches me so many times. The book is witty, full of critics, comical. Beyond the story readers can understand how serious the themes Adiga wants to put forward. Poverty, corruption, social gap between the rich and the poor, politic and the like. Since Adiga is a former journalist I can see why he chooses writing about this kind of thing. Brilliant book I must say!

So yeah, I can’t hardly wait for the announcement. I hope I can read the novel who’s going to be this year’s best fiction.

The unexpected thing that surprises yet makes me reading ‘Middlemarch’ faster than before

eliot

Dr. Tertius Lydgate says to Mrs. Dorothea Casaubon that her husband, Mr. Edward Casaubon, is severely ill. The sick man may not live longer if he takes his life too seriously, not wanting to take leisure time. If he continues doing so, the disease will get worse.

Prior to Mr. Casaubon’s almost faint, he finds himself so caught up in jealousy over his own niece, Will Ladislaw, who wishes to come at the couple’s residence in Lowick. The patient’s unwillingness to declare his envy turns him into having an argument with his wife who doesn’t sense any jealousy taking place in the heart of her middle-aged husband.

And so it goes. Self-dissatisfied upon his failed research coupled with unexpressed envy strike his health, or to be precise, makes his body weaker than it already is.

This is the scene where I find myself mostly captivated so far (for I don’t even reach the half of the overall book which takes almost 700 pages by the way). When I have decided reading the novel I think I will find Dorothea as the perfect representation of my character or my view on the purpose of the life, which is makes one’s life useful to others. This is actually one of the reasons why Dorothea marries the clergyman.

But in fact, it is Mr. Casaubon who best describes my personality. When I firstly meet this figure right as the novel begins, I think his traits will be like other scientists’, serious, quiet and smart. As the book progresses, I later discover his dark sides match my own.

When he and his wife are on a honeymoon trip in Rome, I start feeling his negativity matches my own. He finds it so hard to separate his professional life with personal, happy time that he definitely deserves to experience. So instead of having a joy, spending most of the time with his wife, Mr. Casaubon gets busy with his job. Dorothea is desperately feeling lonely.

This is the start of my putting special attention to this character, who is actually not the protagonist. I begin thinking how this man resembles my trait, particularly a few years back then. I am a serious, curious person who has spent years of learning and working so hard for me and for my family. Sometimes when I am on a holiday, I am still attached with jobs or at least I use the spare time for reading something thought-provoking once in a while. I know this is unfair for my brain but I can’t help it. I was born this way, man. All I can do is loosening it bit by bit and now alhamdulillahirobbil’alamiiiin (praise to God Almighty) I start successfully taking time to get relaxed and enjoy life through small things.

That’s the first point.

The second one which slaps me on my face is Mr. Casaubon’s relationship with Will Ladislaw. It’s not about the former’s jealousy over the latter but his inability to take criticisms as something objective. Before Will Ladislaw meets his wife, Mr. Casaubon already hates the painter. The reason is very simple. Will Ladislaw has different opinions with Mr. Casaubon about knowledge. He often criticizes Mr. Casaubon about his failed observations and things related to that.

Mr. Casaubon takes the opinions too far into his heart that he despises him so much that he doesn’t want Will Ladislaw to come into his house. His jealousy makes his stance even stricter.

The fact that Mr. Casaubon can’t stand of criticisms and think that he is the best of all is so me. I am so hard on myself and perfectionist. I think these go hand in hand with perfectionism. These make me stubborn, underestimating others’ opinions. I still feel people’ opinions that go against my views ‘attack’ me.  I get irritated. In the past, this feeling is so strong but now thankfully I learn to accept what people say about me or whatever they wish to say about what I do or what I say. I learn so much not to take things too seriously.

I am curious what happens in the life of Mr. Casaubon then. Can he cope with and control the devilish parts of him? Or will he get carried away with them and let them ruining his marriage life?

Well, those questions are just small pointers that make me wanting reading the masterpiece faster than before apart from bigger aspects that turn this book is so awesome, like the fate of the doctor’s life himself, who is also a perfectionist on his own.

This book is about ambitious people, perfectionists, and idealistic persons. No wonder I love reading it because the book is mostly about me. Thank you so much for writing this, George Eliot!

The picture is taken from here