Surprise! Surprise! ‘Bleak House’ isn’t bleak thus far

As the title suggests, I thought ‘Bleak House’ would be all about tears, sadness and disappointments. I was preparing myself to feel that way after I bought the novel. I had read bunch of sad stories so reading another one  wouldn’t be a great matter for me, said I.

I’m still 1/8 of the total pages of the book. I can’t help writing down here what I got so far from the book although my reading is very far from over.

While the book does contain a mournful story about Esther Summerson, one of the main characters in the book, about her childhood, what I instead remember most so far is the presence of two minor female characters who are very comical.

I can’t help smiling when reading parts regarding the two characters. The first one is Mrs. Jellyby, say, an activist about Africa. She aims at educating and improving the lives of the natives of Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of Niger. She spends a lot of time taking care of other people while her children, mostly are little, don’t get attention as they deserve. I laugh when coming to the part that one of Mrs. Jellyby’s sons falling down. The part when Mrs. Jellyby’s daughter ‘leaves off biting her pen and makes a return to Esther, Ada and Richard’s recognition’ thus making her looks ‘half bashful, half sulky’ is amusing, too. I can tell these parts signify Dickens’ critics to aristocrats ladies who put so much efforts helping people they may not know all but neglect their own children.

Best laugh, so far, comes when Dickens mentions Mrs. Pardiggle, one of Mr. Jarndyce’s correspondent. Mr. Jarndyce is Esther’s guardian, the owner of Bleak House. If I were not in the train by the time I come to the part regarding this lady, I would laugh out loud. So I chuckle while imagining the faces of Mrs. Pardiggle’s sons when she introduces them to Esther and Ada. The mother introduces Egbert (12), the eldest son, as the boy who sends some parts of his pocket-money to Tockapoopo Indians. She presents the remaining four boys with similar statements, except the youngest one, who swears won’t ever use tobacco and eat cakes.

What entertains me so much is when Esther says how the boys look so ferociously discontent and unhappy. When her mother mentions Tockapoopo Indians, Egbert gives Esther a savage frown. The youngest kid looks even more miserable. It turns out that the children are violent. They pinch Esther when she doesn’t give Egbert a shilling as his pocket-money is ‘taken’ from him. Felix (7), the fourth kid, stamps upon Esther kid and the youngest one terrifies her by turning his face into purple after passing through a pastry-cook shop, absorbed in grief and rage.

I can’t believe Dickens can be this funny after those sorrowful events in ‘The Old Curiosity Shop.’ Truly entertaining. Now, I can’t wait for more surprises and hopefully more foolish parts to come.

 

 

 

Stepping Out From Reading Comfort Zone

Over the past few months, I have unconsciously stepped out from my reading comfort zone.  I just realize about this today. Books by John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy are my comfort zones. I love almost everything they write. Especially for Hardy. His writing style matches my fondness. Hardy’s books steal my heart away only by reading their few pages.

It has all started with Anne Bronte and now Charles Dickens. I disliked first-person narrative yet I love Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’ and ‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’ despite they are written in first-person method. They impress me in different ways. They touch my heart deeper than I expect. They move my emotion.

I used to avoid reading any Dickens’ novels because I know his writing style doesn’t suit my preference. I have to seek Dickens’ titles that I believe will meet my liking and after some attempts I find ‘Our Mutual Friend’ then ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Although Dicken’s decision not to further discuss emotional problems regarding Nell Trent’s grandfather stealing behaviors disappoint me, I am profoundly disturbed by the poor girl’s sufferings.

I can’t deny that Dickens is a very great, wonderful storyteller. I am completely amazed by the way he crafts so many characters along with their problems that speak much on what happen at the time. All those fictitious characters, various plots into one just book. Dickens is very brilliant.

After that, I force myself to read ‘Bleak House’. A little bit of force, I mean. I know the novel won’t entertain me as much as I want but I strongly believe it will present me with memorable trip once I finish reading it. I look forward to see what kind of impression that I will obtain after completing reading the book. I gradually learn to cope with things that I dislike because I know I mustn’t get stuck with Steinbeck and Hardy if I want to get more knowledge.

I have to start setting more adventures with authors or writing styles whose books I previously decline to read. The foremost reason is simple; I have to learn about myself on how further I can make peace with things I dislike and that includes books.

‘Bleak House’, my second literary trip with Charles Dickens

Although I had considered buying Thomas Hardy’s novels I ended up putting ‘Bleak House’ in my bag last Friday. I had really wanted to buy Hardy’s lesser-known novels but when I read the first page of ‘Bleak House’ I somehow loved it. I thought I had to broaden my reading horizon, meaning that I shouldn’t read only romance novels.

Therefore, I bought ‘Bleak House’ instead of Hardy’s ‘Two on A Tower’ or ‘Desperate Remedies’. After all, I had completely enjoyed the love story between Helen Graham and Gilbert Markham in ‘Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ that I thought that day I had to embrace heavier topics. And so my choice was ‘Bleak House’.

I didn’t Google what the novel was all about prior to the purchase. I just once heard the title. And it has turned out the novel is indeed super rich. I even can feel the weight of its content upon my brain at the moment. The thing is Dickens puts so many information within a book. You can find a lot of characters carrying different stories in a novel. And each of it signifies serious problems, deep concerns upon social or legal affairs.

And so is ‘Bleak House’. As I compose this post, I am still far away from the ending of the book but my brain has complained of receiving too many stories. Thankfully, I told myself to be really patient when it comes to read Dickens’ books before buying ‘Bleak House’ so whenever my heart wanted to stop my brain whispered it then said, “hi, be patient”.

Apart from the severe themes in ‘Bleak House’, I am grateful that, at least for now, the book isn’t as heartbreaking as ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Hence, I don’t have to deal with a sort of emotional fight while reading the book unlike my experiences with Nell Trent, which is completely sorrowful.

So well, that’s the introduction of my second reading journey with Dickens. I’ll update in this blog what I find, feel and think about ‘Bleak House’. Till then, let’s read again!

 

‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’, my second experience with Anne Bronte

tenant
picture source: en.wikipedia.org

Reading the first few pages of ‘Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ after long struggle for completing ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ makes me feel like finding an open road after months inside a humid, vast forest. So refreshing!

It took me by surprise finding the novel at the Kinokuniya bookstore last Saturday for prior visits proved nothing interesting in its classic literature bookshelves. So, I didn’t expect it so much. I thought my options would be books by Charles Dickens, again and again. Good thing about life is that it surprises you when you least expect it to happen. And so it did.

I read the title and although I glanced at other titles, I knew my eyes stuck at the book and I brought it to the cashier. I didn’t know much about ‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’, by the way, but somehow the information that I read that the book is the best by Anne Bronte intrigues me. Besides, my first experiences with Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’ is quite impressive so why don’t I read her another book?

Without further consideration, I bought the book. Along with the English edition of ‘Supernova’, I got two books for payment. I couldn’t be happier than that day. By the time I write this post, I am at the page 28 out of 590, LOL. A very long way to go. Yes, I know that. But given its straight-forwarded writing method, first person narrative, and definitely a much easier language than Dickens’, I believe I’ll finish the book sooner than the time I took for ‘The Old Curiosity Shop.’

Hopefully!

 

 

Nell’s grandfather; a shocking picture of one’s loss against ill-wills

If you have read “The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens you may resume reading this but if you haven’t, I suggest you shouldn’t because this post contains the most shocking, the most terrible sample of one’s struggle against ill-wills.

What I will talk about can be read in the 9th paragraph of this link: https://enywulandari.com/2016/01/14/the-old-curiosity-shop-by-charles-dickens-part-3/ .

Nell’s grandfather addiction to gambling is the source of all their misery. Apart from Daniel Quilp’s wickedness, Nell’s grandfather is the one who should take the blame for their impoverishment. I am really, really shocked when I find out how he holds his belief that gambling is the best shortcut to wealth even after he and Nell runs from the shop-cum-house.

My feelings are mixed up when I read the part.

On one side, as I said earlier, I am astonished with the fact that his addiction remain strong, so strong that Dickens describes the old man’s eyes sparkle when he hears the sounds of some people playing cards as one of the gambling method. It feels like the old man’s life spirits come back.

On the other one, I as a reader, am happy because coming to the part wakes me up from the previous reading journey that almost bores me, honestly. Prior to the part, most plots are about their trips and sorrowful stories all along the path that they take. So, this part, particularly on the point when he steals Nell’s money, refreshes the reading process.

I give credits to Dickens who is able to raise my anger to this old man. I can’t believe what he does to his own granddaughter who rescues his life that far. It doesn’t make sense for me to know there is an old man who is so beaten up that he takes away essential things that Nell saves just to keep their stomachaches filled. The scene when he forces Nell to give her purse when he is about to join a group of gamblers at the inn is really frustrating, makes me so furious. It’s like, how could he?

Later on, I try to take a bigger picture on all this. As usual, as a reader of classics which sometimes portray unthinkable characters, I have to view things by using a lot of parameters; psychology, economic, social, etc, which helps me understanding what he does. The fact that they are both poor though Nell actually has a job as the assistant of the wax-working owner doesn’t make him any less happy. He has problems much more than just making ends meet or paying off his debts. His addiction, self-battle against wrong deeds is the root of all his restlessness, whether or not he realizes it. The peak of it all by taking Nell’s money away, not admitting on what he does is more than enough to sum it up with one word: what?

Sadly, Dickens doesn’t say much about this old man annoying trait and his gambling addiction. This topic is out of the plot after Nell successfully persuades her grandfather to leave the wax-working caravan so as he won’t meet with the gambling group, again. It would be more interesting if Dickens adds explanations on the old man’s bad habit. Because for me, it doesn’t really all about the way of making him rich instantly but it tells more about the old man’s personal problems.

If there were any one ask for my opinion what lacks in the novel, I would say about that thing; that Dickens hasn’t really finished or solved the psychological matters that cause the old man so addicted to gambling. Such important matter ends loosely with the finale that sees him dies in the graveyard of Nell’s. After all the torments that he brings about since the beginning of the book, it remains heartbreaking seeing him feeling so gloomy after her death. The fact that he realizes Nell is all that he has in the world and how he no longer argues her decisions as the book comes to its end is I think the most proper reprisal he could have done to pay off his wrongdoings.

Dickens’ way to make readers forgive what the old man has done? May be.

 

 

 

 

 

“The Old” topples “Tess” as the saddest novel, by far

novel and dry flowers
thank you http://www.jezebel.com for the picture

Charles Dickens completely tears down my heart in “The Old Curiosity Shop”. The death of Nell Trent not long after she eventually tastes the sweetness of life, free from tiring journeys is very heartbreaking. Some say the last scenes prior to her death is too melancholy, fairy-driven tale and the like but apart from that, her fate is so sorrowful.

The last words she speak to her neighbors, her last wishes of being adorned with favorite flowers on her deathbed, the last smile, the very last hug she gives to her grandfather is very unbearable. Although I am prepared with the sad ending of the novel, still… the finale really makes me woeful. To make it much more depressing is her grandfather who spends a few days mourning her death. He, who is the source of all the misery, completely feels her unconditional love right before the book ends. Nell dies not long after that.

Feeling so grieved with her death, the grandfather spends a few days in her graveyard till finally he dies there. His sadness kills him very quickly.

You can all tell how miserable the ending of the book is. When I decided to buy the book I never thought this would be much more melancholy than I had expected. Long, long before I come to the last pages of the book, imagining this company, walking with no exact destinations, feeling hungry, cold, begging for people kindness along the route, an old man and a teenage girl … this scene has made me feel so sad.

It’s Nell’s pure love to her grandfather, her sacrifice, their super deep bonds which make the novel is so touching. It’s their attempts to survive and the deaths that make the book is sadder than “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy.  For me, the death of the grandfather out of sadness is what the book way more sorrowful than the death of Tess. And overall, that what makes “The Old Curiosity Shop” is the saddest of all novels that I have read so far.

 

 

 

The many challenges in reading “The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens

reading difficult fictions
thank you http://www.thenation.com for the picture

Do you know how long does it take for me to finish reading “The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens? Minus a one-month off due to overloading office works, I take about three months to complete reading the 559-pages novel. A very long reading process, isn’t it?

Apart from the lengthy time, reading the book surprises myself on one fact: I read about 150 pages in just two days. For me, this last fact is an eye-opener in a way that I am still an avid reader after all the struggles of reading the novel. I am still the same bookworm who can spend most of the weekends sitting while reading books. What has caused me struggling reading the novel is that I find it so hard to get rid of those online articles. They suck up my energy. I get easily distracted by the relatively new reading activity.

Last weekend, I go all out, forcing myself to finish the book no matter what happens. So, last Saturday and Sunday I have lack of sleep because after watching football games, I don’t go to bed shortly. I keep reading and don’t put it down until the last page. So I do all that. You don’t know how relieved I am after that. Each time I finish reading thick books, especially very good ones, like ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’, I feel so proud of myself.

When one of my friends ask for my opinion about the book, I reply “the book is difficult.” I tell her that reading Dickens’s book is hard because the surface story tells so much on what the book’s real messages. It says way a lot of than an old grandfather who is en route with his beloved granddaughter to get rid of a debt collector. So that’s why I feel like carrying small rocks upon my head while reading the book. There are many layers need to be taken out to see the real face of the novel.

One thing that I don’t tell my friend: the distractions from those online articles that make the reading process become harder than it shouldn’t be. So when I eventually finish it off, I feel like an amateur runner crossing the finish line of the marathon race.

What is best left from reading the book is that I have so much to say here. I have written four posts about its plot only. I haven’t touched about the themes, thoughts, reactions, and sort of that. So, I can say that reading a book as hard as ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ is rewarded with numerous ideas about it and all that is related to it in this blog in days to come. At the end of the day, it’s all so worth it!

 

 

 

“The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens (Part 4-The End)

Mr. Brass Simpson and Miss Sally Simpson are two siblings who handle the legal case of Mr. Quilp and Nell’s grandfather. These siblings are unique, they are very close, and especially for Sally, she has been fond of law ever since she was a little kid. And although her brother is the chief of their legal house, Brass was like the second-person of his company while his sister was like the head. Mr. Brass completely depends his action on her advice.

Mr. Quilp advises they employ Richard Swiveller or nick-named as Dick as the clerk of the company. By the way, the siblings also own an apartment who one day receives a fortune by the coming of a single gentleman. The siblings also employ a young girl as their servant.

This single gentleman, truth be told, is on the search for the whereabouts of Nell and her grandfather. He looks for Kit then sets a journey with Kit’s mother to find the girl and her grandfather. They come to a wedding that sees the unison of the waxing-work woman and her new husband. Unfortunately, Nell and her grandfather has fled.

Nell unexpectedly overhears the dialogue between her grandfather and some guys he plays gamble with in the inn. She is shocked to have known that her grandfather gets addicted to the game and he will ask for money from Nell. She attempts to rescue her grandfather so one night she lies to him, saying that she feels they should be going and leave the waxing-work caravan based on a bad dream she just has had.

The grandfather nods to her advice anyway despite his confusions about the dream. So they embark on a journey again. They meet a group of men who take them crossing a river into a new land. They barely have nothing to eat, Nell feels sick and gets so cold. Thankfully, they meet a guy who takes them in a house of labor which sees a number of men working. Nell and her grandfather, after taking a one-night rest there, resume their journey and they are so very lucky to have met the schoolmaster whom they previously meet, again.

How happy Nell is. The schoolmaster says he is offered to work as a schoolmaster in a more far away place but with much better payment plus two houses, one of which later belongs to Nell and her grandfather. Nell can’t be merrier with all these news. She is overwhelmed for she is finally able to taste sweet parts of her life; having a house which actually an old, dusty one. She has good neighbors who are so fond of her. She has new friends, whom are the students of the schoolmaster. And she has garden to take care of. In short, she lives a very nice place in the new surrounding, many people like her and vice versa.

Anyway, after the failure of discovering Nell and the grandfather, Kit’s mother openly declares her hatred for Mr. Quilp. This fact makes him dislikes Kit and his mother then asks for the help of the Simpsons to ‘banish’ Kit. So it goes. Mr. Brass Simpson creates a plot that entraps Kit. He is found guilty as the thief of the Simpson’s money then is put into jail. Not long after he is transported to a remote place, Dick is later dismissed from the job under the request of Mr. Quilp. Dick gets fainted and for a few weeks is taken care by the servant.

The truth is eventually revealed thanks to the servant’s confessions. According to her witness which is seen through key holes in the office, Mr. Brass Simpson is the actor of all that. He is later detained for all that he does. He and her sister also inform that Mr. Quilp is the man behind the crime.

So, Mr. Quilp sets to run away from the police. He prepares to leave the wharf when he heard some knocks. It’s too late for them to catch the dwarf for he has been on the escape. Alas for him! The weather is not good, the storm engulf him, his body hits the rocks and is later swollen by the mud. His body is found on a swamp. There’s a speculation he commits a suicide.

After it has been known that Kit is innocent, he gets back to his family, receives a very warm welcome not only from his own family but also from his employers. He and Barbara, the servant in the Mr. Garland, is now a couple. Kit, the single gentleman, Mr. Garland sets a journey to look for Nell and the grandfather. Their whereabouts have been disclosed finally thanks to a letter from the Bachelor, one of Nell’s new neighbors, who no other than Mr. Garland’s brother.

So they go. During the journey, the single gentleman confesses that he is the old man’s brother who has been separated for so long. They find the old gentleman eventually but not as what they quite expected.

The old man is seen sitting alone, he seems ignorant when he sees Kit. Even when the single gentleman tells that he is the old man’s lost brother, the old man denies the fact for all that he has is Nell. But Nell, as the old man says, sleeps so peacefully. When the old man leaves the travelers, some sobs are heard for Nell has been dead for two days.

That beautiful, kind, innocent, tender, warm girl has finally rested in peace, leaving sorrows and unforgettable memories for those who love her so dearly. The old man seems to have lost his sanity, he can’t accept the truth, he goes to Nell’s grave so often that one day the old man dies there, too.

The fates of minor characters as follow:

Dick and the servant gets married after she gets a proper education. Dick is now a wealthy man for he gets a heritage from his rich relative.

Sally gets punishment for what she does for she loses her reputation in the society.

Kit and Barbara gets married, raise some children. Kit tells them the story of the good-hearted Nell.

The single gentleman treasures the very long journey of Nell and her grandfather. He meets the guy at the house of labor, for instance.

Though Nell and her grandfather have passed away, their good names remain alive in the hearts of those who love and respect them.

 

“The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens (Part 3)

Nell and the grandfather walk out from the house, wandering without any exact destinations. Despite living aimlessly with barely no income, they feel happy and free. Destiny then brings them to have landed in a churchyard where later on they meet a group of puppeteer led by Mr. Harris, known as Shorts, and Mr. Codlin.

Nell and her grandfather are then invited to lodge in the place where they also reside for one night and since she and the grandfather have no clues on their goals they follow the footsteps of Shorts and Codlin. But somehow Shorts and Codlin start fighting for Nell’s attentions, making the 13-year old feeling insecure. She is afraid that the two know the story behind their escape. And Codlin begins protecting the two guests, too. This makes Nell and the grandfather plans separating from them and they finally do that.

Meanwhile, Kit gets a job as the caretaker of the horse belonging to the Garlands family. Then, Daniel Quilp hires Brass Simpson to handle the debt and the property of the grandfather. Back to Nell, they resume their journey then drop by in a house that also serves as a school run by an old man. This man is the teacher and also the headmaster of the school which teaches some nearby kids.

Nell quickly impresses the teacher and they stay at the house. During the very short stay, Nell goes inside the class and sees the teaching process. This girl even accompanies the teacher to visit his dying student whom, according to his parents, can’t help feeling stressful with all teachings. Nell entertains the dying kid but his life is so short. He passes away, leaving Nell a very gloomy feeling.

The duet goes on their trip again after parting with the teacher. On the road, they encounter Mrs. Jarley, who knows Nell’s face when they are still with the puppeteer group. In short, Nell and the grandfather agree to work for the lady in her work-waxing shows, stay with her and travel with the caravan to perform work-waxing shows according to requests.

Although Nell and the grandfather do get rid of Shorts and Codlins, Daniel Quilp apparently still hunts them. One night, Nell is almost caught by the dwarf. Thankfully, he doesn’t see her and so Nell keeps her watchful eyes that somewhere Daniel Quilp may just find them.

Mrs. Jarley is so fond of Nell because she is such a fast learner. She learns the names and the stories behind each and every working-wax figure accurately. Also, she wins the hearts of so many visitors of the show because of her appearance and attitude. So charming that some women envy her.

One night, the two take a stroll but are then caught by a heavy rain. They then decide to take a shelter in front of a house and entertainment place. Not long after that, the caretaker of the place comes out. A loud noise is heard from the inside. The grandfather immediately suspects that a gambling is ongoing. He insists wanting some money from Nell which, although she refuses in giving it, the grandfather places it on the gambling table, eventually.

The grandfather loses all the games and all the money. But he never gives up. He argues that he does it all for the wealth of the both, something that saddens Nell even more. But the clock almost strikes at 12 midnight and the two decide to stay in the hotel. Nell changes the gold to pay the rent. She now bags a good sum of money which is so shocking that the large sum of it is stolen by her own grandfather!

She can’t believe that the figure who creeps into the room in the hotel is her very own grandfather who seems fine to have learned that the remaining money is gone. In the morning, they return to the Mrs. Jarley’s place and not long after that the grandfather gets back to doing the thing that steals their joys away: gambling.

 

My current battle: reading paper books vs online articles

How tremendous the impacts of smartphones are. I have been using a Chinese-made smartphone less than one year and I can’t believe how much it has changed my daily life. I used to have underestimated the influence of smartphones but now I can’t count how many hours have gone unnoticed while browsing articles in the smartphone. While I can still satisfy my curiosity in various fields by reading online articles, I feel guilty for neglecting some good novels at the bag. I currently reading “The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens, a very wonderful, funny, touchy book yet I prefer online articles.

The problem with an avid reader like me is that I am curious on many things. I can read almost all kind of topics. Positive psychology is currently my field of interest. While that brings a lot of benefits, I easily get distracted. It’s hard for me to focus on one article let alone on one novel for just one hour. My eyes can’t stand of reading one article or a few pages of a novel within certain amount of time. As a result, I am struggling reading “The Old Curiosity Shop” simply because I find online articles are so irresistible.

Before I have the smartphone, I made use of my daily commute as the best time to read novels. I mostly read “The Mill on The Floss“, for instance, inside a Transjakarta bus. But now, I prefer reading online articles or check social media accounts while I am on the ways of going to and from the office.  I don’t know how many books that I am going to read this year. Actually, I have some great to-be-read novels in my mind but unless I can return to my old reading habit they will be mere plans.