On Prose and Female Characters

I have planned to spend this afternoon working on Maths equations, but screw it — I want to talk literature.

In preparation for the A2 English Literature that I shall be taking next school year if I get the grades (*fingers crossed*), all potential students have been advised to choose whatever books they want to study (at least two, but preferred three) from the Canon and otherwise finish reading them over the summer holidays. And, being the person that I am, I absolutely had no idea what to choose — I desperately wanted to work with one of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, but a little part of me wanted to be “taken seriously” as a literature student and so I ended up with:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (chosen by my English teacher)
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I’ve finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale quite a while ago, and I found it enjoyable once I managed to get into the story. I had spent the first half of the book annotating like mad, I barely enjoyed the novel for its narrative until near the end. I’m reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles and as I’m well into Phase Five, I can safely say that I’ve found some similarities between the two books.

One, there’s the format — both books are split into separate sections. Two, there’s utterly depressing aura radiating from the text itself. Three, there’s the clear helplessness within the female characters.

And it infuriates the living daylights out of me.

Yes, I know I ought to search for something positive and focus on that instead… but I simply can’t bring myself to — at least, not unless I forget about Gilead’s treatment towards women, its double standards and complete backwardness when it comes to rebuilding the population. Moira was one of my favorite characters throughout, yet once I found out that she betrayed her beliefs by working at Jezebel’s, I was ready to take out a tub of ice cream and just wallow.

In Tess of the D’Urbervilles, how on earth can I ignore Tess and her complete reliance on Angel Clare? He is a hypocrite who refused to forgive Tess for her past indiscretions, despite having the same situation as her! Admittedly,  I still have the rest of the novel to read through but, if I’m honest, I’m finding it very difficult to see the two lovers in good lights at the moment. They somehow remind me of Catherine and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, but at least those two had the decency to admit to their selfishness and just be plain mean to other people.

Tess absolutely adores Angel; she bloody well idolizes him and I can’t help but think that Hey, this can’t be healthy. Has she never seen Twilight?? (That’s a joke, if you can’t tell.) While I can’t blame her for having to go through what he did, I do blame her for putting Angel on such a high pedestal. Do you know that bit where he was sleep-walking and he carried her into a coffin? Tess admitted to not being afraid at all! If anything else, she liked being to close to Angel.

IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE WIRES IN YOUR BRAIN? HE’S PLACED YOU IN A COFFIN! If that’s not going to convince you, Tess, understand that he’s doing it in his sleep! His subconscious wanted you dead! Once you had revealed your past, the Tess he once knew was dead to him — and you still enjoyed his sleep-kisses. I’m sticking by my opinion of Angel being a hypocrite, by the way.

I sincerely hope this novel can redeem itself to me… there’s still the odd two hundred pages to comb through. In the end, Wuthering Heights “redeemed itself” when the second generation found happiness despite the faults of the first generation. I suppose what I’m looking for in Tess is some form of a happy ending… and that’s really a wrong mindset to be in, now that I think about it. Not all stories have happy endings.

But still. Is it too much to ask for Tess to grow a pair and stop being the victim in everything? (Or am I essentially asking a penguin to fly?) I have no idea.

Moving on, I’d like to end this post on a lighter note. After all, what spurred me to type this post up was the sight of this beautiful, beautiful quote:

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name.

John Watson on Irene Adler

It’s a very striking first sentence. I must admit that two whole novels (A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four) and two short stories (A Scandal in Bohemia, The Red-Headed League) into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, I seem to find his prose enjoyable. Before, I struggled with his choice of words and seemingly random succession of scenes; now, I whiz through it like a pro. I could take this as a sign that perhaps my quarrel with Tess will be resolved in time, but then again…

…I have no problems with Sherlock’s and John’s characters, nor do I dislike Hardy’s prose style. It’s Tess herself that I have a problem with. Oh dear.

Over and out.


The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson

Eva Ibbotson has been on of my favorite authors as a young teen; I remember borrowing (and loving) The Secret Countess and A Company of Swans from a friend, and from then on Ibbotson has been right up there with J. K. Rowling — and believe me, for a Potterhead like me, that’s a high honour.

Anyway, I could go on about finding a copy of The Morning Gift in the school library completely by accident, seeing the familiar cover and immediately going to the front desk to check the book out so that I could re-acquaint myself with the novel, but what I really want this post to be about (apart from procrastinating for an English Lit. essay that I have to write) is the love story between Quin and Ruth.

Quin is a college professor and he first met Ruth as a child in Vienna. Years later when the threat of Hitler forced Ruth’s family to emigrate out of the country, Ruth is left behind with only Quin to help her. Complications arise and in the end Quin decides to marry Ruth in order to safely get her out of the country and into England, his homeland. By marrying her, Ruth is therefore becomes an English citizen.

It all seems to be straightforward, doesn’t it? Ruth spends time with Quin,s he falls in love with him and he falls in love with her… but there’s this annoying little tick in the form of Heini, Ruth’s childhood sweetheart. He’s a piano virtuoso and can be very irritating (you know how artists can be… such divas!).

Now, I fully understand that some characters have a role to play. Only a couple weeks ago my English Lit. class has covered Vladimir Propp’s theory on stock characters, and I can totally see Heini as The False Hero. Or The Villain, but that sounds more like Verna Plackett with her quest to gain Quin’s attention and be his wife. Moving back to Heini and his relationship with Ruth, I just can’t wrap my head around how on earth a sweet, intelligent and somewhat otherworldly girl like Ruth could ever see Heini — selfish, self-centered, pig-headed — as someone she truly loves.

I know love is blind and everything, but come on! The guy refuses to pay rent, even though money was scarce. He spends waaay too long in the bathroom, and he bosses Ruth around like an assistant! That isn’t the way a man treats his amour!

*takes a deep breath*

But I understand — really, I do. Heini’s role in the story was to set Ruth on her way to Quin. After arriving in England, Ruth and Quin didn’t act like a newly married couple. They barely acted like they were friends, to be honest. Quin returned to his teaching job, which coincidentally had Ruth as a student. This part was kind of exciting with the prospect of forbidden love and everything, though Ruth and Quin being married made it all legal.

As time passed, Quin began to see Ruth as the woman she was, not the silly little girl he met in Vienna; he has fallen in love with her. Of course, Ruth was still as silly as ever, but throughout the story you could see her transition from girl to woman. Anyway, when Heini wanted to really “make her a woman”, awkward situations arose and Ruth ran to Quin’s open arms — figuratively speaking, that is. Ruth now understood why she wasn’t able to be with Heini: it was because she didn’t love him. How could she? He wasn’t right for her… that git.

The story progressed on from there, though what really interested me was the gradual progression from “family friends” to “lovers” that Ruth and Quin’s relationship evolved into. I won’t say that it was all very romantic, for the knowledge that WWII was looming over their horizons and the effect it had on the characters provided a sense of heaviness. I suppose it’s simply the romantic school girl in me, but there were some parts of the book that I absolutely swooned over. In chapter 25, for example, Quin said to Ruth, “What I’m going to do now, is kiss you.”

The context, of course, was that Ruth wanted a divorce in order to be with Heini. She was hysterical about it, and I knew that deep in her subconsciousness she never really loved Heini. That’s why she’s making excuses for her behavior — specifically, as my more modern peers would so eloquently phrase it, “not putting out.” But the way Quin took charge, it was so… Anyway, Ruth, suffice to say, admitted her love for him. How could she not? There’s a whole hero complex going on: falling in love with her savior and all that rot, yeah?

So there you have it, a story of a middle-aged bachelor and a young woman falling in love after they get married. A bit twisted, but there you go. Love is blind after all, isn’t it?

The Morning Gift is a wonderful read, and it was enchanting to be able to re-read it again. It’s really surprising what a few years can make, because I remember reading the book for the first time two, three years ago… I remember being swept by the love story then, and not to say that I wasn’t swept by the love story now but with the few nuggets of information I’ve gained from experience and my English Lit. classes (hey, I’m actually learning!!), I realize I have approached the book from a completely different viewpoint.

Twilight In A Few Words

To all those Twi-hard out there, have you ever wished there was a condensed version of the stories? Having this love/hate relationship with the series, that thought did cross my mind a couple of times. I want to re-read the books so that I can justify to people why I like/dislike them, but I can’t seem to get off my backside and re-read all four books. (Don’t ask how I know, but apparently there are 2,358 pages altogether… -_-‘)

Anyway, as I trolled around internet I stumbled upon this link, and lo and behold! there is a Dr. Seuss version of Twilight. And by ‘Twilight’ I mean the first book, not the entire series. Such a shame, if I’m honest. I would love to “read” until Breaking Dawn.

Twilight, by Dr. Seuss

Jake likes a girl. Her name is Bella.
Bella likes a different fella.

See this vamp? This is Ed.
Ed is pale. Ed is dead.

Ed saved Bella from a van.
Ed must be a special man.

Ed won’t kill boys. He won’t kill girls.
Ed gets fed on deer and squirrels.

This is James. He’s a tracker.
He’s a sort of vamp attacker.

James hunts Bella for a thrill.
Will Ed kill him? Yes, he will.

But James gave her a little bite.
Will she be a vamp? She might!

Edward fixes Bella’s cut.
She won’t be a vampire.

She becomes one. Read some more.
She’s a vampire in book 4.

Disclaimer: Clearly, I do not own this Dr. Seuss version of Twilight… “unicycle” does. No copyright infringement intended.

This Is Why Reading Rocks

Ayyy, ang cute naman nito!! *kinikilig*

So I was in YouTube checking out the new videos on Ellen’s Channel (because you’ve got to admit, they. are. funny), when this little commercial caught my eye on the recommended section*. Watch it — it’s too cute!! Ahh, the romance…

*YouTube has changed recently. Frankly, I find it confusing. But whatever, I’ll deal with it ^_^

A Reading Assignment: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyToday was the first official day of school. It’s “official” because we actually did lessons today, which was both a relieving and worrying… *bites nails* But I want to focus of my AS Literature class where we, the class, were assigned to read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

I don’t really know what to think of this, since I’ve never been assigned a novel to read for school before. A short story, maybe — an excerpt from a novel, even… but never an entire novel. I like reading books well enough, but I only do if I chose which books to read.

No one, not even a teacher, has chosen a book for me before. It’s a strange feeling. I suppose I could trust her — she is the teacher, after all. I’m just worried, I think, that I might not like the book and therefore put off reading it, and that would lead to a series of events in which I fail the class.

*continues to bite nails*

To be fair, though, I’ve sneaked a peek into the first chapter while everyone was busy taking notes (I’m a fast scribbler), and I must admit I like Roy’s writing style. I don’t want to pass judgement yet this early in the book, but it’s nice so far. Anyway, I think someone mentioned that there was a movie… ;D

#10 – A picture of the person you do the most ****** up things with

Again, this would be a tough entry to post, seeing as I’m the goody-two-shoes kind of girl and thus, do not get into any ****** up situations. I try not to, anyway. I much prefer to sit in a quiet, secluded corner (preferably out of sight) with a good book, some something to eat and drink, and a bunch of comfy pillows.

Yes, I’m a boring person. Get over it.

However, if I did have to choose, in my limited group of friends, a person who has been with me through the craziest things, I’d have to choose…

my classmate, Amber

…because she has the craziest reactions to the simplest of random happenings. (If that even makes sense.) There was that time I thought I lost my cell phone and we, plus her sister, ran around the mall like maniacs trying to locate it. Turns out it was in my bag all along. *sheepish smile*

#7 – A picture of your most treasured item

Most treasured item? I think you mean my most treasured items. I can’t live my life without my MP4, which has all my music in it, my cell phone, which has sentimental value, and most of all my laptop, which has all my thoughts, opinions, stories… and it gives me access to internet! I know it’s quite shallow, but all these things keep me sane.

pink LG laptop, pink Sony MP4, pink Motorola Razr

  • Without my music, how am I supposed to cope whenever someone makes me really, really mad? I depend on Busted to calm me down. Plus, other songs offer inspiration for stories.
  • Without my cell phone… well, how am I supposed to text my friends and family? That phone has been with me for five years and I bought it with my own money. Yes, twelve year old me saved up all of her pocket money to get that thing (that kinda explains the lack of touchscreen… XD)
  • And finally, without my laptop, how will I do my school work? How am I supposed to write and read stories? How am I supposed to talk with my mom? I rely on Facebook to stay connected with various family members who are abroad.
So yeah, those pink things up there are my most treasured items. Can’t blame a girl for not parting with them.