The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness. In misery we seem aware of our own exist...moreMy favorite quotes from the book:
The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness. In misery we seem aware of our own existence, even though it may be in the form of a monstrous egotism - this pain of mine is individual, this nerve that winces belongs to me and to no other. But happiness annihilates us; we lose our identity. p.37
I went back home and again tried to settle to my book. Always I find when I begin to write there is one character who obstinately will not come alive. There is nothing psychologically false about him, but he sticks, he has to be pushed around, words have to be found for him, all the technical skill I have acquired through the laborious years has to be employed in making him appear alive to my readers. Sometimes I get a sour satisfaction when a reviewer praises him as the best-drawn character in the story; if he has not been drawn he has certainly been dragged. He lies heavily on my mind whenever I start to work, like an ill-digested meal on the stomach, robbing me of the pleasure of creation in any scene where he is present. He never does the unexpected thing, he never surprises me, he never takes charger. Every other character helps, he only hinders. p.161
I sat on my bed and said to God, You've taken her but You haven't got me yet. I know Your cunning. It's You who take us up to a high place and offer use the whole universe. You're a devil, God, tempting us to leap. But I don't want Your peace and I don't want Your love. I wanted something very simple and very easy: I wanted Sarah for a lifetime, and You took her away. With Your great schemes You ruin our happiness as a harvester ruins a mouse's next. I hate You, God, I hate You as though You exited. p.166(less)
"Always remember, Son, the best boss is the one who bosses the least. Whether it's cattle, or horses, or men; the le...moreMy favorite quotes from the book:
"Always remember, Son, the best boss is the one who bosses the least. Whether it's cattle, or horses, or men; the least government is the best government (80)."
"Son, there are times a man has to do things he doesn't like to, in order to protect his family (120)."
"There are only two kinds of men in this world: Honest men and dishonest men. ...Any man who says the world owes him a living is dishonest. The same God that made you and me made this earth. And He planned it so that it would yield every single thing that the people on it need. But He was careful to plan it so that it would only yield up its wealth in exchange for the labor of man. Any man who tries to share in that wealth without contributing the work of his brain or his hands is dishonest (177)."
"A man's character is like his house. If he tears boards off his house and burns them to keep himself warm and comfortable, his house soon becomes a ruin. If he tells lies to be able to do the things he shouldn't do but wants to, his character will soon become a ruin. A man with a ruined character is a shame on the face of the earth."(less)
**spoiler alert** MY FAVORITE QUOTES: ***Alexandra seemed actually cheered. There is often a good deal of the child left in people who have had to gro...more**spoiler alert** MY FAVORITE QUOTES: ***Alexandra seemed actually cheered. There is often a good deal of the child left in people who have had to grow up too soon. p.17
*** In his daughter, John Bergson recognized the strength of will, and the simple direct way of thinking things out, that had characterized his father in his better days. He would much rather, of course, have seen this likeness in one of his sons, but it was not a question of choice. As he lay there day after day he had to accept the situation as it was, and to be thankful that there was one among his children to whom he could entrust the future of his family and the possibilities of his hard-won land. p.24
*** "DOTTER," he called feebly, "DOTTER!" He heard her quick step and saw her tall figure appear in the doorway, with the light of the lamp behind her. He felt her youth and strength, how easily she moved and stooped and lifted. But he would not have had it again if he could, not he! He knew the end too well to wish to begin again. He knew where it all went to, what it all became. p.25
*** Carl shook his head mournfully. "Freedom so often means that one isn't needed anywhere. Here you are an individual, you have a background of your own, you would be missed. But off there in the cities there are thousands of rolling stones like me. We are all alike; we have no ties, we know nobody, we own nothing. When one of us dies, they scarcely know where to bury him. Our landlady and the delicatessen man are our mourners, and we leave nothing behind us but a frock-coat and a fiddle, or an easel, or a typewriter, or whatever tool we got our living by. All we have ever managed to do is to pay our rent, the exorbitant rent that one has to pay for a few square feet of space near the heart of things. We have no house, no place, no people of our own. We live in the streets, in the parks, in the theatres. We sit in restaurants and concert halls and look about at the hundreds of our own kind and shudder." p122-123.
*** Alexandra paused. After a moment's thought she said, "But you would never ask me to go away for good, would you?"
"Of course not, my dearest. I think I know how you feel about this country as well as you do yourself." Carl took her hand in both his own and pressed it tenderly.
"Yes, I still feel that way, though Emil is gone. When I was on the train this morning, and we got near Hanover, I felt something like I did when I drove back with Emil from the river that time, in the dry year. I was glad to come back to it. I've lived here a long time. There is great peace here, Carl, and freedom. . . . I thought when I came out of that prison, where poor Frank is, that I should never feel free again. But I do, here." Alexandra took a deep breath and looked off into the red west.
"You belong to the land," Carl murmured, "as you have always said. Now more than ever."
"Yes, now more than ever. You remember what you once said about the graveyard, and the old story writing itself over? Only it is we who write it, with the best we have."
They paused on the last ridge of the pasture, overlooking the house and the windmill and the stables that marked the site of John Bergson's homestead. On every side the brown waves of the earth rolled away to meet the sky.
"Lou and Oscar can't see those things," said Alexandra suddenly. "Suppose I do will my land to their children, what difference will that make? The land belongs to the future, Carl; that's the way it seems to me. How many of the names on the county clerk's plat will be there in fifty years? I might as well try to will the sunset over there to my brother's children. We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it--for a little while."
Carl looked at her wonderingly. She was still gazing into the west, and in her face there was that exalted serenity that sometimes came to her at moments of deep feeling. The level rays of the sinking sun shone in her clear eyes.
"Why are you thinking of such things now, Alexandra?"
"I had a dream before I went to Lincoln-- But I will tell you about that afterward, after we are married. It will never come true, now, in the way I thought it might." She took Carl's arm and they walked toward the gate. "How many times we have walked this path together, Carl. How many times we will walk it again! Does it seem to you like coming back to your own place? Do you feel at peace with the world here? I think we shall be very happy. I haven't any fears. I think when friends marry, they are safe. We don't suffer like--those young ones." Alexandra ended with a sigh.
They had reached the gate. Before Carl opened it, he drew Alexandra to him and kissed her softly, on her lips and on her eyes.
She leaned heavily on his shoulder. "I am tired," she murmured. "I have been very lonely, Carl."
They went into the house together, leaving the Divide behind them, under the evening star. Fortunate country, that is one day to receive hearts like Alexandra's into its bosom, to give them out again in the yellow wheat, in the rustling corn, in the shining eyes of youth! p.306-308. (less)
In the evening, before prayers, there was some religious reading in the study. On week-nights it was some abstract of sacred history of the Lectures o...moreIn the evening, before prayers, there was some religious reading in the study. On week-nights it was some abstract of sacred history of the Lectures of the Abbe Frayssinous, and on Sundays passages from the "Genie due Christianisme," as a recreation. How she listened at first to the sonorous lamentations of its romantic melancholies re-echoing through the world and eternity! If her childhood had been spent in the shop-parlour of some business quarter, she might perhaps have opened her heart to those lyrical invasions of Nature, which usually come to us only through translation in books. But she knew the country too well: she knew the lowing of cattle, the milking, the ploughs. Accustomed to calm aspects of life, she turned, on the contrary, to those of excitement. She loved the sea only for the sake of its storms, and the green fields only when broken up by ruins. She wanted to get some personal profit out of things, and she rejected as useless all that did not contribute to the immediate desires of her heart, being of a temperament more sentimental than artistic, looking for emotions, not landscapes. (p.38).
At the bottom of her heart, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like shipwrecked sailors, she turned despairing eyes upon the solitude of her life, seeking afar off some white sail in the mists of the horizon. She did not know what this chance would be, what wind would bring it her, towards what shore it would drive her, if it would be a shallop or a three-decker, laden with anguish or full of bliss to the portholes. But each morning , as she awoke, she hoped it would come that day; she listened to every sound, sprang up with a start, wondered that it did not come; then at sunset, always more saddened, she longed for the morrow. p.65-66
She hoped for a son; he would be strong and dark; she would call him George; and this idea of having a male child was like an expected revenge for all her impotence in the past. A man, at least, is free; he may travel over passions and over countries, overcome obstacles, taste of the most far-away pleasures. But a woman is always hampered. At once inert and flexible, she has against her the weakness of the flesh and legal dependence. Her will, like the veil of her bonnet, held by a string, flutters in every wind; there is always some desire that draws her, some conventionality that restrains. p.95
Then the lusts of the flesh, the longing for money, and the melancholy of passion all blended themselves into one suffering, and instead of turning her thoughts from it, she clave to it the more, urging herself to pain, and seeking everywhere occasion for it. She was irritated by an ill-served dish or by a half-open door; bewailed the velvets she had not, the happiness she had missed, her too exalted dreams, her narrow home. What exasperated her was that Charles did not seem to notice her anguish. His conviction that he was making her happy seemed to her an imbecile insult, and his sureness on this point ingratitude. For whose sake, then was she virtuous? Was it not for him, the obstacle to all felicity, the cause of all misery, and, as it were, the sharp clasp of that complex strap that bucked her in on all sides. On him alone, then, she concentrated all the various hatreds that resulted from her boredom, and every effort to diminish only augmented it; for this useless trouble was added to the other reasons for despair, and contributed still more to the separation between them. Her own gentleness to herself made her rebel against him. Domestic mediocrity drove her to lewd fancies, marriage tenderness to adulterous desires. She would have liked Charles to beat her, that she might have a better right to hate him, to revenge herself upon him. She was surprised sometimes at the atrocious conjectures that came into her thoughts, and she had to go on smiling, to hear repeated to her at all hours that she was happy, to pretend to be happy, to let it be believed. Yet she had loathing of this hypocrisy. She was seized with the temptation to flee somewhere with Leon to try a new life; but at once a vague chasm full of darkness opened within her soul. p.115-116
Monsieur Rodolphe Boulanger was thirty-four; he was of brutal temperament and intelligent perspicacity, having, moreover, had much to do with women, and knowing them well. This one had seemed pretty to him; so he was thinking about her and her husband. "I think he is very stupid. She is tired of him, no doubt. He has dirty nails, and hasn't shaved for three days. While he is trotting after his patients, she sits there botching socks. And she gets bored! She would like to live in town and dance polkas every evening. Poor little woman! She is gaping after love like a carp after water on a kitchen-table. With three words of gallantry she'd adore one, I'm sure of it. She'd be tender, charming. Yes; but how to get rid of her afterwards?" p.138
"Oh," she went on, "I love you! I love you so that I could not live without you, do you see? There are times when I long to see you again, when I am torn by all the anger of love. I ask myself, Where is he? Perhaps he is talking to other women. They smile upon him; he approaches. Oh no; no one else pleases you. There are some more beautiful, but I love you best. I know how to love best. I am your servant, your concubine! You are my king, my idol! You are good, you are beautiful, you are clever, you are strong!" He had so often heard these things said that they did not strike him as original. Emma was like all his mistresses; and the charm of novelty, gradually falling away like a garment, laid bare the eternal monotony of passion, that has always the same forms and the same language. He did not distinguish, this man of so much experience, the difference of sentiment beneath the sameness of expression. Because lips libertine and venal had murmured such words to him, he believed but little in the candour of hers; exaggerated speeches hiding mediocre affections must be discounted; as if the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow in the emptiest metaphors, since no one can ever give the exact measure of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sorrows; and since human speech is like a cracked tin kettle, on which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars. p.202
Lucie advanced, half supported by her women, a wreath of orange blossoms in her hair, and paler than the white satin of her gown. Emma dreamed of her marriage day; she saw herself at home again amid the corn in the little path as they walked to the church. Oh, why had not she, like this woman, resisted, implored? She, on the contrary, had been joyous, without seeing the abyss into which she was throwing herself. Ah! if in the freshness of her beauty, before the soiling of marriage and the disillusions of adultery, she could have anchored her life upon some great, strong heart, then virtue, tenderness, voluptuousness, and duty blending, she would never have fallen from so high a happiness. But that happiness, no doubt, was a lie invented for the despair of all desire. She now knew the smallness of the passions that art exaggerated. So, striving to divert her thoughts, Emma determined now to see in this reproduction of her sorrows only a plastic fantasy, well enough to please the eye, and she even smiled internally with disdainful pity when at the back of the stage under the velvet hangings a man appeared in a black cloak. p.237-238
No matter! She was not happy--she never had been. Whence came this insufficiency in life--this instantaneous turning to decay of everything on which she leant? But if there were somewhere a being strong and beautiful, a valiant nature, full at once of exaltation and refinement, a poet's heart in an angel's form, a lyre with sounding chords ringing out elegiac epithalamia to heaven, why, perchance, should she not find him? Ah! how impossible! Besides, nothing was worth the trouble of seeking it; everything was a lie. Every smile hid a yawn of boredom, every joy a curse, all pleasure satiety, and the sweetest kisses left upon your lips only the unattainable desire for a greater delight. p.301-302
They knew one another too well for any of those surprises of possession that increase its joys a hundred-fold. She was as sick of him as he was weary of her. Emma found again in adultery all the platitudes of marriage. p.308(less)
Guess I was kind of expecting just a bit more out of this book, but I suppose one must read any "first of its genre" with a forgiving heart. I would r...moreGuess I was kind of expecting just a bit more out of this book, but I suppose one must read any "first of its genre" with a forgiving heart. I would recommend this to all fans of literary history, but especially those who prefer literary history over a good story. (less)
Although I initially judged this book rather harshly after the first hundred or so pages of juvenile debauchery, I think it really grew on me after I...moreAlthough I initially judged this book rather harshly after the first hundred or so pages of juvenile debauchery, I think it really grew on me after I began to consider its many religious undertones. The literal experiences of the characters take up so much of the actual text, but what makes the narrative so powerful is the intensity and depth of confusion the characters embody. Although their specific search for meaning and purpose takes place in the context of 40's and 50's Beat America, I think this book meant a lot more to me when I adapted the story to all the wanderers I know in our present cultural context. Oh, and of course it would be way cool to hitchhike across the U.S. on a flatbed truck. (less)
So you know when you hear that Citizen Kane is the best movie ever because of how revolutionary it was during its time period, and then you watch it a...moreSo you know when you hear that Citizen Kane is the best movie ever because of how revolutionary it was during its time period, and then you watch it and you realize that the key phrase is "during its time period"? Well, reading Pilgrim's Progress is likely to leave many with the same feeling. No doubt one of the greatest modern religious texts in terms of what it provided for early Puritans (an easy and concrete representation of their theology and daily living practices), it leaves a little to be desired for those modern readers who are not steeped in Puritanical literary history. Don't get me wrong, any book where you actually get to challenge your temptations to a sword fight is pretty cool, but the language and pace of the book removed the excitement from even those scenes. Not to mention there are a few failed analogies in this allegory, especially in part II. Apparently Christian women don't have to fight their own battles of faith, you just have to find your own Mr. Great-heart and tag along for the ride (and be prepared to marry off your kids at a moment's notice). Overall, I would recommend this classic work to those who are trained to appreciate this genre and style (not me obviously), but not so much to anyone else. (less)