(member since Sep 27, 2011)
That's a good point. I wonder how the female characters will develop throughout the novel. Thus far we have just seen Fantine and the Bishop's sister - both of whom seem to be very complacent figures. I will be curious to see if a stronger female presence will emerge.
Also, on that same topic...Hugo's characters seem to rest on either end of the spectrum as far as virtuous or condemnable figures.
MBP, that is what Wikipedia is for. :)
How does everyone feel about the character sketches of Jean Valjean and the Bishop? Obviously this novel is social discourse of France and Hugo is really trying to pound home the repercussions of the Revolution but I wonder if he is idealizing these two characters a bit TOO much to make point. I have no idea if any of this makes sense...it was just something that had occurred to me.
Hey guys, I'm finally able to jump into discussion! (Damn, Sandy!) In any case, I am absolutely loving the read so far. It does have that traditional - very detailed - Hugo way of writing. He is meticulous though I'm not sure it bothers me as much as Melville (I'm just remembering that lengthy chapter in Moby Dick about whales). I think in the case of Les Mis, context is going to be extremely important. If the reader isn't familiar with the Revolution, Napoleon and the events that surrounded it that have contributed to the atmosphere of France in the late 18th/early 19th century, much of the story is going to be lost.
I'm about halfway through the novel and I really enjoy it - I missed my subway stop once already and almost missed it two other times because I was so into it. I wonder, though if anyone else feels that this novel is somewhat misogynistic? I wonder this for a few reasons:
1. The color white is obviously associated with the notion of purity, chastity, etc. hence the point of wearing a white wedding gown. I do recall from my graduate student days that turn of the century medical discourse used to perpetuate the idea that women were hysterical - much like the way Anne is -because their uterus were bouncing around and as a way for them to regain their sanity, something had to be placed there to keep the uterus in place - a baby. So, I'm just wondering if Collins is piggy backing on this idea.
2. The self-deprecation Marian executes when she first meets Walter. She lacks confidence to the point of it being offensive.
This thought doesn't really rest with the topic of misogyny, but how does everyone feel about the relationship between Marian and Laura? I understand that Victorian women often had very close relationships, but the way Collins depicts them, they are quite erotic at times.
I have to wonder, given the way women are depicted in the novel, if Milady is a victim of a misogynistic culture.
Yeah. I think the notion of chivalry in the novel is interesting. The moral compass dictating the ethical and moral actions of the Musketeers, at times, seems to be spinning in a number of different directions. It reminds me of Quixote. I feel like the impetus driving the actions of Quixote and the Musketeers is quite a paradox as they act both selflessly and selfishly simultaneously. I think when all is said and done they are primarily motivated by a prestige gained only by acting for the welfare of others. Perhaps Quixote a bit more, but there are a number of moments in the Musketeers where it feels that way.
Yeah, Dumas writes a lot of historical fiction. I have no idea where he took creative liberties.
It's interesting to read novels like this and Quixote and others of a similar type of character and get swept up in the chivalry. It's quite the contrast from the way writers construct their heroes now. I wonder when the romantic idea of chivalry started to fade.
Does anyone else find the women in the novel terribly self-destructive?
I'm not too far into this yet, but I am enjoying it, despite the LENGTHY foot notes. I am a little taken with how involved the narrator is with his story and how he's already managed to establish himself as a trustworthy narrator. While narrating part of the story he has already disclosed how he is "unaware" of certain actions of certain characters. Why create this rifts? Certainly he has the authority to fill them in? Why not just do it? I'm not complaining, just curious.
I wonder, though, and my memory could be a bit off, but it also seemed as if beauty also meant weakness. I feel like most of the female characters were regarded as beautiful, and look at what happened to ALL of them.
Lone wrote: "Im only at the beginning where Viktor goes to University but I find your comments interesting and would like to add some.
First of all, I really like the way Mary Shelley writes. I feel taken bac..."
You make a good point about treating someone like a doll, and I do have a response to this, but I don't want to ruin the end of the book for you. :)
Also, I know a number of people had commented on the lack of a strong central hero in the novel. I think this is a really poignant remark to make because you certainly couldn't claim a strong protagonist, but I often wonder if you couldn't claim the creature as the protagonist?
The creature did in fact try to redeem Frankenstein's lack of compassion by offering humanity a second chance in his attempts to aid that family. It was man's repeated rejection of him that ultimately resulted in his fall.
Also, was anyone else repeatedly frustrated by the complete lack of heroism in Frankenstein? Instead of making any effort to make amends for one gross error after another, he lets his creation rob him of every significant person in his life and THEN goes on the offense? His craven demeanor was embarrassing more than anything, which, I suspect, garnered more sympathy for the monster.
I think one of the more brilliant points of this novel is the way Shelley showcases the range of human emotion from sublime happiness to horrid brutality by juxtaposing it with the same degrees found in nature. There was so many scenes where Frankenstein commented on the sublime beauty offered by Mont Blanc and other European landscapes contrasted with "the tempest, so beautiful yet terrific" and other moments where nature is at its most horrific.
I think this speaks to one of the larger themes of the novel - man vs. nature - and that no matter how high of a pedestal on which we place ourselves, we will ALWAYS remain the inferior one in that contest.
Sadie wrote: "I was suprised to find that the character Igor doesn't actually exist! :) I'm waiting..waiting..waiting and then the creature is created and where was Igor? I also felt very sorry for the creatur..."
This is why I love going back to the original story. How many film adaptations have taken it upon themselves to document this story - poorly - and always demonize the monster, which is exactly what Shelley did NOT intend!
I originally read this novel as an undergrad and it seems as if I'm reading it for the first time. I really didn't remember a number of things from the first time I had picked up this novel. That being said, a few things have certainly stuck out: (btw: I'm only on chapter 6)
I think Shelley is making every attempt possible to highlight human disconnect. Someone already - very astutely - pointed out that one of the themes has to do with human ingenuity and wisdom. I think this is spot on, but I also love how Shelley has executed this. First, there seems to be a theme of man vs. father, which I suspect will branch into man vs. creator.
Victor tells us that when he had picked up the Agrippa text, his father dismissed it, to which Victor responds "if...my father had taken the pains to explain to me that the principles of Agrippa...I should have certainly thrown [it] aside...but the cursory glance my father had taken...assured me that he was familiar with its contents, and I continued to read with the greatest avidity" (chapter 2).
Plus, we are also told that Clerval's father saw "idleness and ruin in the aspirations of his son."
I think this is a rather interesting theme considering there is a theme of nurture as well. Walton, at the beginning of the text, opines at great length to his sister about the need for a male companion as well as Victor's father, who tends to his best friend and ultimately cares for and marries his daughter. Finally, Victor's mother who involves herself with charity work and eventually takes in Elizabeth.
Finally, I also wanted to point out the disconnect or the objectification of the human body. I was particularly startled by this at the end of chapter 1 when Victor's mother told him that she has "a pretty present for my Victory" and that "she was to be mine only".
Also in chapter 4, Victor remarks, "Darkness had no effect on my fancy; and a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life."
I'll be curious to see where all this disconnect leads.
"A Passage to India" By E.M. Forster
"Flush" By Virginia Woolf
Alex wrote: "Nice, Ryan! Badass first sentence.
Okay, tell us more about your rifts."
I have to amend that; the line was "Robinson Crusoe is a manipulative self-serving despot."
In any case...as far as the rifts are concerned I think a lot of people already, very acutely, have expressed their hesitancy towards Crusoe as a narrator. I think first and foremost, this novel is basically epistolary, so Defoe is forcing us to forfeit some trust since he distances himself from the reader by putting Crusoe right in the middle as narrator.
Also, at one point Crusoe tells us that his journal runs out (pg 123 for anyone using the Modern Library edition). "My Ink, as I observed, had been gone some time, all but a very little, which I eek'd out with Water a little and a little, till it was so pale it scarce left any Appearance of black upon the Paper..."
It has been a few years since I have read this, but are we then lead to believe that the rest of his narrative is left to memory? Yikes! I can't even remember what I ate for dinner last night.
But, the rifts I found to be most interesting were the language/translation gaps between Crusoe and Friday. In a number of cases Friday would make attempts to communicate with Crusoe and Crusoe would "translate". I think Crusoe took some liberties in these translations that def. made me scratch my head thinking "really?" but at the same time really spotlighted vast cultural rifts - after all, upon seeing Friday the first place Crusoe went to was cannibal.
You are correct in that the novel had stirred up quite a social reaction as it brought the term 'lesbian' to the foreground. Point for Hall.
However, I think the social consciousness that Hall evoked came at the expense of bad literature. To begin with, the self-martyrdom themes that permeate the novel are just painfully evident to the point of it being offensive.
More than that, there are a number of passages in the novel that are painfully derivative of Woolf.
Jamie wrote: "Beau Brummell:
Beau Brummell Wikipedia
Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Man of Style. (biography)
Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire:
Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire Wikipedia
Also, The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette by Chantal Thomas is a fantastic read.