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.