The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

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2018/19 Group Reads - Archives > The Golden Days Dec 9-15 Chapter 23-end

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message 1: by Robin P, Moderator (last edited Dec 11, 2018 07:08PM) (new)

Robin P | 2201 comments Mod
As you may have expected, nothing is resolved in this section. And I'm not sure it will be later in the volumes, as it was "completed'" later. Now that we have reached the end of this volume, do you plan to continue reading the series?

There is so much of life in this book, all thrown together. Spirituality and sex, public ceremonies and private jokes, tragedy, comedy, farce, romance, diverse social classes. What surprised you the most about this book?

We finally get an age for Bao-yu - 13. He seems younger in his fear of his father and his occasional tantrums, yet he is well-versed in those things that interest him, such as poetry. We had several examples of his sexual exploits but he also enjoys just hanging around girls, with their hair, makeup, jewelry, etc. I didn't know what to make of his episode of illness, which seems to be spiritual as much as physical. He is in a sense possessed. Does he seem like a real character to you?


message 2: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Life expectancies were short. 13 years was a considerable chunk of one’s probable time on earth! There was no adolescence - there was no time for it - adolescence is a modern creation. Straight from puberty to adulthood in earlier times. So Bao-yu at 13 is not quite so young as he would be today.


message 3: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2201 comments Mod
That's what I would have thought, 13 was a young adult rather than a child. In other parts of the world girls at least were being married off by that age. That's why it seemed so strange that Bao-yu got to live like a child, with a lot of freedom, always visiting the girls, etc. His only responsibility was to study. Shouldn't he be learning something about how to run things in the family, and also wouldn't his family be arranging a strategic marriage for him?


message 4: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Well, since younger women invariably marry older men in these situations, he has a few years left before he is eligible. They didn’t marry 13-year-olds to each other. Also, his family DOES baby him, so he is also a very particular case.


message 5: by Erin (new)

Erin (erinm31) | 29 comments Patrick wrote: "Life expectancies were short. 13 years was a considerable chunk of one’s probable time on earth! There was no adolescence - there was no time for it - adolescence is a modern creation. Straight fro..."

I believe that much shorter life expectancies were largely the result of early childhood mortality — not that disease and childbirth weren’t also much greater risks. Having made it to young adulthood, I would think it likely that Bao-yu has a relatively long life ahead of him.


message 6: by Erin (new)

Erin (erinm31) | 29 comments Robin wrote: "As you may have expected, nothing is resolved in this section. And I'm not sure it will be later in the volumes, as it was "completed'" later. Now that we have reached the end of this volume, do yo..."

Yes, I definitely plan to read the entire Story of the Stone! I have only taken a break after the first book to try to finish some of my reading challenges for the year and I plan to read The Crab-Flower Club in January.

I enjoyed reading of the many aspects of life in this book! One thing that surprised me is the light tone of the book; the serious and tragic elements were often depicted more briefly or with more distance I think. Another thing that surprised and occasionally confused me were the many characters and incidents introduced that so far have not come up again or even have further ramifications — or at least not yet. On the other hand, the episode of illness was way more than I was expecting to result from the “curse” — at least I presume that is what is to have precipitated it? The bizarre illness really seemed to come out of nowhere to me.


message 7: by Robin P, Moderator (last edited Dec 18, 2018 09:33AM) (new)

Robin P | 2201 comments Mod
Pretty much everything seems to come out of nowhere. The book is episodic rather than building on itself, although there is the foreshadowing of the prophecies. Many English and European novels at the time were similar, picking up and dropping characters and incidents.

I just watched the special called "I Hate Jane Austen", where the host agrees to be swayed from the negative opinion he established at school. A couple of scholars explained that Austen was a pioneer in putting together plot points in a structure, as well as her interior 3rd person monologues. Before that, authors mainly told you everything and strung episodes together.

One thing that is different here is the acceptance of the supernatural in everyday life. In the West around this time, the Enlightenment was dividing the mystical from the everyday. The unquestioning inclusion of curses, blessings, and other meddling from the spirits is more like myth or fairy tale in Western tradition.


message 8: by Erin (new)

Erin (erinm31) | 29 comments Robin wrote: "Pretty much everything seems to come out of nowhere. The book is episodic rather than building on itself, although there is the foreshadowing of the prophecies. Many English and European novels at ..."

Those are good points! Foreshadowing, destiny and the otherworldly monk and Taoist seem the main elements tying the story together (besides its centering on Bao-yu and the Jia family).

As to your last point, we’re not supernatural and religious elements not still very much a part of the Western tradition at this point? I had thought that gothic novels especially incorporated these elements (although I have not yet read any 18th century Western literature) and for sure it is there in Jane Eyre and A Christmas Carol, although these were of course written much after the Enlightenment.


message 9: by Rafael (last edited Dec 18, 2018 03:46PM) (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments This video covers well this subject. Our society is less mystical than the past ones? This channel is pretty interesting for those who are curious about religious studies, he (the youtuber) is not religious himself, neither I.


message 10: by Patrick (new)

Patrick That is a good point about episodic plots. One example of a well-constructed plot before Jane Austen is Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, and we know that Fielding influenced Austen.


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