I found this book compelling. The way the author's personality and ideas came through was extremely interesting. I could relate to Lucy Snowe - or ChaI found this book compelling. The way the author's personality and ideas came through was extremely interesting. I could relate to Lucy Snowe - or Charlotte Bronte - and I felt for her. Still, I have to admit that I read through some of the psychological symbolism quite quickly. Also, some of her notions were quite dark. The book often had a desperate undertone; happiness would never come her way, it would give a promise but just slip away.
But Ms Bronte is excused, for this must be her real experience. It must have been frustrating to live so confined a life. Reading Bronte, I really feel my luck as a modern (western) woman. I'm relatively free to live in the way that I want, choosing the profession I like. And my singleness does not diminish me in the eyes of the society. Also, after reading biographical material, it seems evident that the suffering of mind that Lucy Snowe experienced, was something that was very familiar to Ms Bronte herself. Even the desperate expectation of a letter from an admired man was autobiographical.
I was quite relieved when the mystery of the nun was revealed. I would have been greatly disappointed if Ms Bronte had given so much way to gothic horror as to allow a ghost story. To me it would have been a contradiction with her - I believe - genuine christianity. I still thought she took the weather too seriously at times, assuming it might foretell things. But perhaps this was Lucy Snowe's thinking, not Bronte's.
I have now read all three of Charlotte Bronte's major works. Jane Eyre was readable to me already as a teenager. It's a lively book in a sophisticated way, an outburst of youthful dreams written by an extraordinary talent. And we do notice the "feminism". But Jane Eyre is more unrealistic than her two following books.
Shirley is a peaceful story with a steady pace, and I find it happiest of all three. But it does not have the some personal touch as the other two.
Villette came closest to my heart. Lucy Snowe's (really Bronte's, I believe) search for love and her place in life was something I could very much relate to. Even if it was a bit more melancholy than I'd prefer. Villette is passionate like Jane Eyre and realistic like Shirley. I don't wonder at it's being said to be the most complete of her works....more
Dickens is apparently not a feminist favourite. I have to wonder at that. Let's talk about David Copperfield. In this work Dickens is overwhelmingly pDickens is apparently not a feminist favourite. I have to wonder at that. Let's talk about David Copperfield. In this work Dickens is overwhelmingly positive towards women. However, to notice it we have to be able to read the book in its original cultural context. Also we have to be able to see the fine nuances in the story. Here I point out several practically feminist messages Dickens has woven into David Copperfield.
Background: The Victorian head of the family
Mid-1800's was a highly patriarchal time. All females would be under guardianship of the closest male relative, as women were considered to be less intelligent and unable to take care of themselves. Paterfamilias was expected to lead his family and this could happen in a hard, even cruel, manner. The difference in education between spouces would be notable. Some painting, singing and of course housekeeping – the latter was actually not as simple as it sounds – was often considered to be enough. Women were not for public life, so they didn't need to understand the world outside. They had to be submissive and seek guidance from their husbands.
All this was masqueraded under the ideal of chivalry; women were weaker and needed to be protected by men. Of course not all husbands would have been cruel or even bossy, but it was made possible by the system which did not give room to question male authority in the household. In David Copperfield Dickens is clearly critizising the ideal of male authority and does this via several characters.
Mr. Murdstone and Clara: The cruel husband and the submissive wife
The cruelty of David's stepfather Mr. Murdstone, as he tries to ”improve” his wife Clara, causes her death. David himself suffers in his violent hands before he is cast away to a bad school and then to child labour. Dickens does not judge Clara for being too gentle, rather he places all responsibility upon Mr. Murdstone.
Betsey Trotwood: The strong woman
In Betsey Trotwood we have the opposite of Clara. Miss Betsey is a strong woman, who left her abusive husband earlier in life. Now she has her own household and is independently taking care of other people, like young David and mentally ill Mr. Dick. Miss Betsey is a good role model for women, through her Dickens is encouraging abused women to escape from their situation.
Dora Spenlow: The uneducated girl
David's first wife Dora gives Dickens a change to criticize traditional women's education in middle and upper classes. Dora has only learned some music, French and painting. She's spoilt and knows nothing about real life and what is required of her as an adult. This makes the marriage unbalanced. Both notice this and some sort of regret is in the air.
Here Dickens also comments on educating wifes. David first tries to change Dora, but it doesn't work. Although David is not harsh like Mr. Murdstone, the only result is that both are unhappy. So David gives up on it. He has to love his wife the way she is. The message is that men should be extremely tender towards their wives and shouldn't force them in any way.
Agnes Wickfield: The equal wife
Poor Agnes does not seem to be much appriciated by the reading public. She's often seen as the typical Victorian ideal woman, a self-sacrificing household angel. That's not how I interpret her. She is indeed the ideal woman, but not because of tender qualities. She's the equal wife that David really needs. Agnes is a strong character that keeps the house going while Mr. Wickfield fails to be a good father. She has good understanding and she's able to talk about a wide range of matters and even give advice. Many readers are annoyed by the way David idolizes her. We need to see why he worships her. Not because she would be a pretty wife saying 'yes darling' to everything, but because he thinks he needs guidance from her. There's nothing that indicates that David would want to become a Victorian guardian husband to Agnes. In the contrary, what he wants with her is the equal marriage, someone to share his work and concerns with.
It must also be pointed out that Agnes has received a good education at home and as an adult she starts a school for girls.
Doctor Strong and Annie Strong: The unexpectedly suited couple
The relationship between the elderly learned doctor and his young wife might seem confusing at first. Is there a chance to see a positive message here, one that fits the rest of the book? First we must note that big age difference in marriage were not an oddity at the time. When I read the book, I first thought Dickens was going to warn about such marriages through these characters, but it did not turn out that way. The Strongs end up being happy together, although Annie uses such language about his husband – mentioning the word 'father' - that is not natural to the modern reader. After all Dickens does picture this marriage as an equal one. Both have a serious character and they thus fit together. Young Jack Maldon would have been too superficial for her, also he is morally suspect.
The doctor is very kind and has great respect for his wife, even when he has a reason to suspect that she regrets not marrying Jack. We must notice that he doesn't take authority over Annie, rather it is Annie who gives him a place as her guide. Marrying a former pupil remains just a little weird to us, but of course also in modern days good marriages can occur despite age disparity.
Little Emily and Martha: The fallen women
The old world was hard upon the fallen woman. She would most often become a social outcast with no hope for a normal life and marriage. Dickens is obviously critizising this. Emily makes a foolish choice as she runs away with Steerforth, but Dickens does practically everything in his power to make us understand her and sympathize with her. Martha's history is not told, but she serves as an example of a prostitute who's able to have natural good feelings and do the right thing. Her shame in her situation is pictured in a heartbreaking way. Dickens gives both of these women a fresh start, although they have to be taken to distant Australia for that.
If all this is not enough to make David Copperfield at least a semi-feminist book, I don't know what could be required. To get his point through, Dickens had to give it subtly, so that his middle class public would not put the book down in disgust. That's why we as modern readers might miss the message. Still it's definitely there....more
Utrio-laatua, mutta tällä kertaa mielestäni hieman epätasaisempana kuin yleensä. Loppupuolisko oli erittäin herkullista kerrontaa, mutta alkuosaa hallUtrio-laatua, mutta tällä kertaa mielestäni hieman epätasaisempana kuin yleensä. Loppupuolisko oli erittäin herkullista kerrontaa, mutta alkuosaa hallitsi liikaa tunnontarkka paperinvalmistuksen kuvaus. Lienenköhän ainoa, joka on tätä mieltä?
Erityismaininta kiinnostavista päähenkilöistä ja rikkaan miehen talouden sisäisten ristiriitojen oivallisesta kuvauksesta....more