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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Basic guidance before reading the works of these literary giants (1)

When it comes to wanting reading books by Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens, surely we must bear in our minds that their works are so lengthy. About 300 pages, depending on the book edition that we have in our hands, are relatively short. Well, yeah. So, first and foremost, we must be very patient, especially those who are first-timers in enjoying their works.
Once we can slowly bury ourselves in the stories, I expect all of you can deeply delve into great literary adventures through their created characters in particular. For each and every author that I mention has the sort of memorable figures that are immersed in readers’ minds.
So here are my thoughts about each of them. I attempt to compose this post according to my experiences reading some of their works. This post may not be fair because of the different number of books that I read from each of the writers but I do hope my share is still worth reading.
Thomas Hardy
You will be wholly entertained by the way he appreciates beauty in daily life. Not only you will absorbed by his way of describing scenery, landscape, but also by his skill of crafting characters.
Hardy’s characters are very strong. His works are associated by characters you won’t forget not only because of their traits but also because of their fates. For instance, Bathseba Everdene who best portrays an independent woman whom, despite her wealthy and high social status, can still be willing to submit herself as a devoted wife.
Or who doesn’t remember Tess Durbeyfield, one of the most beloved literary heroines of all time? Reading her tale makes me learning the beauty of patience, endurance and faith. Her scenes when she walks very long, this happens a few times in the book, still stick in my mind. For me, they depict her struggles in life, the thing we can always look at it as a good example.
All in all, Hardy has special attention to woman issues, their positions in the society, their impacts to the lives of the men they love and their overall personal characteristics we can learn so much.
And by the way, if you dislike stories that end in gloomy, dark and bleak endings then I don’t think his works suit you best. Some of his stories are very depressing, but most of his end in, I call them as ‘realistic way of life that makes you viewing the plots as what human beings normally face in their life stories’.
George Eliot
Mary Ann Evans or popularly known as George Eliot will wow you with her complicated, brilliant way of putting her ideas into a book that hardly bores you. In her ‘Middlemarch’ you will be bedazzled with how she puts and weaves that many characters in the book so as they can relate to one another in such smooth ways.
Eliot’s works touch various subjects. While Hardy puts more focus on women, society and universal moral values, Eliot addresses issues, too, about corrupted religion, sibling relationship, family ties and even politic.
Her writing is very exquisite and deep. Unlike Hardy who prefers ending the fate of the characters in ‘realistic’ ways, Eliot still believes in happy ending, that those do good things completely deserve of enjoying joyful lives.
Jane Austen
Reading Jane Austen’s books is refreshing, silly yet are full of self-mockery. You will laugh at the characters’ behaviors in the novels but at the same time you will like look at yourself at the mirror.
Austen’s works are identified with match-making, dances and parties. You will seem associate them with trivial issues but actually those are the keys of her best works. Because from that social occasions, one can learn into another’s traits, overhears rumors and such. I call Austen’s works are amazing because she takes small things through which she actually voices her criticisms about people at the time the novels are produced.

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.

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Congratulations, George Saunders!

lincoln

US author George Saunders has snatched this year’s Man Booker Prize for his book, “Lincoln in the Bardo” last night by the UK time. He defeats five remarkable writers along with their books; ‘Elmet’ by Fiona Mozley, ‘4 3 2 1” by Paul Auster, ‘Autumn’ by Ali Smith, ‘History of Wolves’ by Emily Fridlund and ‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid.

Citing from guardian.com the book is based around a real event: the night in 1862 when Abraham Lincoln buried his 11-year-old son Willie in a Washington cemetery. Imagining the boy trapped in the Bardo – a Tibetan Buddhist term for a kind of limbo – Saunders’ novel follows the fellow dead, also trapped in the graveyard and unwilling to accept death, who observe the boy as he desperately waits for his father to return.

I honestly just knew about the name of George Saunders after I read an article about this year’s award a few weeks ago. Pardon my very limited literary knowledge and reading scope, my fellas. For my brain and taste can’t move on from the Victorian reading materials, hehe.

A panel of the award’s judges say ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ is unique and extraordinary that makes it deserving the title. From the synopsis of the book and how Saunders tells it, I can’t agree more. And I think, just my silly prediction because I haven’t read the book, ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ is quite depressing.

The storyline is about kids passing away at early age. And that they or their families find it so difficult to cope with all of that. Reading about this idea has made me mournful. Two things that quickly cross my mind: the innocence of children and grief that is inevitable in our lives.

Thanks to my habit of reading books mostly about the life as the way it is (read: happiness is as important as sadness), I am not shocked by this sort of choice. What makes Saunders’ idea is remarkable is his focus on bringing up children death which for me, is even sadder. Also, the angle from which he presents the story is I think distinctive and quite new for me.

If one thing that makes me taking a few steps back from putting ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ into my upcoming to-be-read list is Saunders’ storytelling technique which mostly consists of dialogues. I dislike this type of conveyance. I prefer to reading stories with a lot of descriptions, metaphors, the sort of reading-beyond-the-lines because I have been accustomed of reading fictions by the Victorian writers.

But since I am up for literary challenges, I will give it a try. After I complete reading ‘Middlemarch’ which is 300 something pages away from completion, LOL.

Anyway, congratulations, Saunders! Creative, exceptional ideas really deserve top prize, like yours!

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