Thursday, May 30, 2013

Villette - Charlotte Brontë

I’ve been having a hard time reviewing this book. I liked it and there were parts of it I loved, but I just can’t focus enough to write a lengthy, analytic review. Therefore, I will keep it short and sweet:

I definitely felt the autobiographical tone in great part of the book: lonely and guarded Lucy Snowe reminded me a lot of what I know about Charlotte. I empathized with her but sometimes I just couldn't understand her.  She seemed like two different people: the one she showed to others and the one she showed us, the readers. And what was also interesting is that everyone had a different opinion about her. If the people surrounding her had sat and talked about Lucy’s character, they would have never agreed. This is very interesting because she didn't necessarily change her demeanor towards people depending on whom she was with, so it is kind of difficult to pin point what exactly caused this.

She had some really sharp comments about Catholicism. Being raised a Catholic, I really understood (and agreed with) what she meant:

“There, as elsewhere, the Church strove to bring up her children robust in body, feeble in soul, fat, ruddy, hale, joyous, ignorant, unthinking, unquestioning.” Ouch!

I could see the effect that Catholicism had on Charlotte during her time in Belgium. Generally, when I come across with people that don’t agree with or have fallen away from Catholicism, they take a more atheist point of view. But Lucy (and therefore Charlotte) is a devout Christian, so it was very satisfying to read her impressions, her insights. I identified with her thoughts and opinions because my point of view regarding this subject is very similar in some aspects. I also admired Lucy’s ability to be so tolerant, even when she was the target of ignorant misconceptions because she was Protestant. She was very respectful of other people’s beliefs.

The story dragged a little bit at times, but it felt like drinking a nice cup of tea during a cold afternoon. It is definitely not as dramatic as Jane Eyre, but it has its special charm. I don’t  know exactly how to describe it.

I wish I could write a more detailed review but my mind just keeps wandering away. I've also been having trouble reading. I guess this happens once in a while when things get stressful or our minds get tired and need to shut down for a little bit... I really need some chocolate cake or something.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Quick Update: Reading plans, blogging plans and nurse duty

I meant to dedicate more time to my blog this month but things didn't turn out exactly the way I expected, so here's a quick update of what's been going on, what I have been reading and my blogging plans for the next few weeks.

I finished reading Villette the past week. I took my time with it and I really loved it. I do think it is superior to Jane Eyre in its character development: Lucy Snowe has a far more complex internal world and development than Jane Eyre, but I still like Jane Eyre a little more. I'm not exactly sure why. She's a little bit more likable, I guess. I will go into further details in the post I'll dedicate to Villette next week.

I'm currently reading The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I loved The Woman in White so I definitely wanted to read more from this author. I'm also working a little on My Shakespeare Project, I have been slowly reading The Tempest

I'm really busy right now, not only with work, but I'm also on nurse duty. My mom had an accident last Monday and had her entire right leg put in a plaster. It is not broken, thank God, but her knee was compromised and hurts like hell, so she's currently immobilized. We are going to the doctor again tomorrow  and let's hope she recovers soon. She's a very active person so she absolutely hates being in bed all day long. 

I plan to at least write my review of Villette in the coming week and if I have a little more time, I'll write a couple more reviews I have pending and work more on My Shakespeare Project.

Til next week!

Monday, May 6, 2013

May Meme Question for The Classics Club

This is the first time I'm answering the monthly meme question for The Classics Club, even though I have been part of it since January.

This month's question is: 

"Tell us about the classic book(s) you’re reading this month. You can post about what you’re looking forward to reading in May, or post thoughts-in-progress on your current read(s)."

The classic book I'm reading right now is Villette by Charlotte Brontë. I have been wanting to read this book for a long time and I don't know why I didn't read it sooner, although I ask myself the same question with all the books I love.

I have always enjoyed books where the inner life and thoughts of the characters are the most important part of the book, or even when the book is more focused on the development of the character than of the plot. This is that type of book: it is slow-paced but the inner world of the main character, Lucy Snowe, and its development is incredibly rich and very touching. 

Today I learned there is a readalong of Villette hosted by Too Fond. I would have loved to participate but I will probably finish reading it this week and the event starts next week. 

Besides Villette, I'm also making progress with My Shakespeare Project. I'm letting Hamlet rest for a little while and I'm starting with The Tempest this week. 

And that's about it! Have a great week!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

More thoughts on Hamlet

I have decided to let Hamlet rest for a little while and move on to another play, but before doing so, I wanted to write a post summarizing my current interpretation of the play, along with my questions, doubts and conflicting hypothesis.

One of the greatest characteristics about Hamlet and at the same time, the cause for its difficulty and depth, is its uncertainty and ambiguity. Almost all characters and events can be interpreted and understood in different ways. It is a great thing because it offers a wide range of creative possibilities. That’s the reason the performances and adaptations of this play are always so different from each other. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing new versions of this play: the words might be familiar but I still feel I’m experiencing something new, and I love that.

The problem comes when one tries to analyze the play. I have already accepted that I will never have a final answer to all my questions and that is a good thing but at the same time, kind of annoying. 

In a previous post I wrote a little about Hamlet’s delay in executing his revenge. I thought Hamlet was a very contradictory character because he is constantly delaying and making excuses for executing his plan but at the same time acts impulsively and has no problem in killing other people.

David, a fellow blogger, commented that maybe there is really no delay and that this was not a problem when the play was first performed because people knew it had to have five acts and therefore Hamlet could not kill Claudius early because then there would be no play. And that is true and I’ve read a lot of people agree with this idea. On the other hand, and what may be a problem for this theory, is that Hamlet actually refers to this delay and is tortured by it. At one point, the Ghost actually has to remind Hamlet of the task he has given him:

Ham.     Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
               That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by
               The important acting of your dread command?
               O, say!

Ghost.   Do not forget. This visitation
              Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.

(Act III, Scene IV)

I have realized I tend to believe that there is indeed a delay and a reason behind it. Why? Well, I think it is mainly because of Hamlet’s behavior throughout the play. I feel there is something strange about his demeanor, not only because he is hurting for the obvious reasons, but also because he doesn’t seem to be capable of fulfilling the Ghost’s request until extreme circumstances force him to do so. It is only at the end, when his mother is dead, that he kills Claudius and even then it is a sudden and impulsive action, not a planned one. 

I also asked myself if Hamlet is really crazy (and if that is partly the reason for the delaying of his revenge) or if he just pretends to be, in order to get what he wants, manipulate others or even distance himself from the ones that are trying to help him. I tend to believe the latter. Declaring him crazy is to oversimplify such a complex character. So, in my humble and inexperienced opinion, Hamlet is not crazy because that would be too easy and there wouldn’t be so much debate regarding the true nature of his character. I have read some people think he acts the way he does because he is just too sensitive for the corrupt, manipulative and deceiving world he lives in. Maybe he is delaying his actions because he has to come to terms with them. I don’t think I completely agree with this theory. Hamlet does show from the start certain disdain for the court and a sort of inadequacy in it, but he also shows his ability to be as deceiving and manipulative (and cruel) as the others. He kills Polonius without really knowing who he was attacking and he sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths without problem. And he is misogynistic. Yes, I know that word may be a little strong and we don’t know if he was always like that, but from what we can see in the play, he is definitely prejudiced and violent towards women. He is especially cruel to Ophelia, who is basically the victim of everyone in the play. Therefore, I don’t think he is too “pure” for what is required of him.

Then, why is it he has so much trouble? So far, what I feel most inclined to believe, is that he is having trouble with accepting the reality of his situation. He doesn’t lack the tenacity or courage, if you will, to avenge his father. I think he just can’t face the reality of what is going on. And to be completely honest, I don’t know what bothers him most: the fact that his father was murdered by his uncle or that his mother married him and loves him. I don’t know who he feels most betrayed by and maybe that is also his problem. 

Anyway, I know this subject has been discussed over and over again and I’m not providing something new, I’m just writing my impressions and doubts, but I feel that organizing such thoughts and sharing them is an important part of my experience with this particular play. 

This is not the end of Hamlet for me, I just need to leave it for a while so I can move on with my project and also to be able to come back to it with fresher eyes and maybe a new perspective, just like when I finish translating something and leave it alone for some time before proofreading it; that way it is easier to see things better and clearer.

As always, please feel free to comment, give me your opinion or debate with me. It is all part of the process I very much enjoy.