Reading Challenge 2013

If you enjoyed the Reading with RJ posts that Rachel and I wrote while reading Jane Eyre, you should check out readingchallenge.wordpress.com. In it, some colleagues and I will be blogging about what we read throughout the year. This morning, I published a post on Jane Austen’s Persuasion. If you will be blogging about what you read this year, let me know, and I will put you on the Reading Challenge blogroll.

I Sold My Childhood for $100

Last week, I sold my childhood. By that, I mean that I boxed up most of my childhood books and took them to Hastings to sell. My reasons for doing this were twofold:  one, I needed the space on my shelves. I currently have four bookshelves that are still full, and I am hoping to move into a one-room apartment soon. There are only so many books that can be fit into a one-room apartment. Reason two is that one-room apartments cost money, and every little bit counts. One hundred dollars is a great help.

Besides, these were old books, books that I would probably never read again. Even if I did re-read them, would I appreciate them as much now as I had back then? If I sold them to Hastings, they could go on and have a new home, a home where maybe—hopefully—the owner would appreciate them as much as I had.

The transaction was very businesslike. I’m not sure what I expected—after all, it was a business transaction. But these were my books, the books that had kept me company when I was a kid. I didn’t have a lot of flesh-and-blood friends as a youngster; I had books. I kept some of my favorites, books that I hoped to share with my friends’ kids when they have them, but there were some good books in those boxes:  Artemis Fowl, The Dragonriders of Pern (I didn’t always read age-appropriate materials), and other books that I had read over and over, including most of my manga.

I brought in the four heavy boxes and a few large hardbacks that wouldn’t fit and browsed Hastings for a couple of hours while two young cashiers went through my treasures and picked which ones they would take. They didn’t take all of them. In fact, they didn’t take Artemis Fowl or Dragonriders, but they took most of my childhood loves.

 I’m still a bit melancholy about it, but I know that now these books have a chance to be another kid’s friend.

Jane Eyre: The Movie

After RJ and I finished Jane Eyre, I decided to watch the movie that recently came onto DVD. As with most movies-based-on-novels, it wasn’t as good as Brontë’s classic. However, I believe that there are legitimate reasons for this. It is, in my opinion, impossible to condense a thirty-eight-chapter novel into two hours of cinematic experience without losing something. If they were to stay true to the book, the film would take far more than one hundred and twenty minutes.

What suffered the most was the dynamic between Jane and Edward. Scenes of the main couple interacted are the obvious things to cut, since there are so many of them. However, if I hadn’t read the novel, I’m not sure I would have been as fond of the two of them as a couple as I am. Granted, the makers of the film probably assume that most viewers will be familiar with the novel, since a) it is something that every high school student (except, apparently, me) is required to read; and b) why would you be interested in the movie if you were uninterested in the novel? So it makes sense to take for granted the relationship between the two main characters. The interaction that was portrayed was very strong. I am not a crier at movies, but when Jane pulled away from Edward after she learned of Bertha, my eyes were a bit watery. It was a very powerful scene.

They cut out the revelation that Jane and the Rivers were cousins, which was, I suppose, due to modern sensibilities about cousin marriage, since St. John proposes to Jane. That wasn’t really an issue at that time. While I do understand the reasoning, I thought it an important plot point that Jane finally finds family.

Adele wasn’t exactly as I pictured her (I pictured her as a younger, Frencher Georgiana Darcy of the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice), but she was still adorable. Bertha was as eerie as promised (though I’m not certain the vampire rumors were necessary).

At the end of the film, I was satisfied. The writers managed a much more successful conclusion than Brontë had (read RJ’s last post for more on that subject), and the story ended happily, not perfectly (perfect endings leave a bad taste in my mouth). I would suggest this film, even for lovers of the novel.

Jane Eyre Part III: Conclusion

Jane Eyre Part III: Conclusion

For those of you who are new, my good friend RJ and I have been reading Jane Eyre together. You can find RJ’s blog here, and my previous posts can be found in the “Reading with RJ” category of this blog. This is my concluding post on the novel, because we have finished it this week.

When I finished Jane Eyre, I was not sure what I should write about. My previous post concerned the novel as a whole, so I didn’t want to do that again. I could write about the last chapter, which struck me as more of an epilogue than a chapter, and, in any case, I did not care for it. It was an ending that did not fit the rest of the novel. I could mention the excitement I felt at the uncertainty of Jane’s fate. Unlike with most romances, I did not know whether Jane and Edward would be together in the end. I like that. I like having doubt about a happy ending. I could write about the film, which I watched this evening, but I would rather this post focus on the novel (though perhaps a later post will be about the movie). After all this deliberation, I decided to write on St. John (whose name, I learned, is pronounced “Sinjun.”).

St. John both fascinates and repulses me. When he first appeared, I liked him very much. He is kind to Jane when she needs kindness, and is very generous toward her, despite the fact that she is a stranger. He is introverted and a bit harsh, but gives every indication of being a good man–which I still believe that he is. St. John, however, is not a nice man, though a good one he is. His expectations of others are too high, and while he is generous with his wealth, he is stingy with his forgiveness.

There are many things about St. John’s part in Jane’s tale that I was expecting: as soon as St. John asked Jane to learn Hindostanee, the language of the people to whom he planned to bring the gospel of Christ, I knew that he would propose to her. Since Jane had earlier proclaimed to herself that he would make an awful husband, I knew that she would reject him. I did not, however, anticipate the nature of St. John’s proposal.

That proposal goes down in (literary) history as the worst proposal of all time, beating out even Fitzwilliam Darcy’s to Elizabeth Bennet (which, if you have forgotten, was along the lines of, “I have struggled to smother my feelings for you because you are not worthy of them, but I cannot stop loving you; will you marry me?”). It takes an idiot to come up with a worse proposal than that, but St. John E. Rivers managed quite well. It was to the effect of: “I don’t love you, but you would make a great missionary’s wife, so will you marry me, so that I can take you to India? Now, remember, I don’t have feelings for you, but God wants us to get married.” What self-respecting woman would acquiesce to that? None. Only a desperate woman, one so desiring to please others that she would reject herself, would agree to such a marriage. There are many good reasons for marriage, not all of them eros, but allowing yourself to be bullied and following a cousin to India do not count as good reasons, at least not to me. So I am glad that Jane turned him down, and not only for her own sake. St. John is the type of man who is happier when he has responsibilities towards no one.

I think that I can learn many things from St. John, despite the fact that I lost my respect for him after that monstrous proposal. I will settle for describing only one. I, like St. John, tend to hold my personal standards and expectations high, and I am disappointed when others do not try to hold themselves to the same standards (though I like to think that I am not quite so difficult as he is). Watching St. John has shown me what an unattractive trait that is.

St. John is not a nice man. He is not even a reasonable one. Despite these things, however, St. John is
a good man. He worked hard to do what he thought was right, even when it meant sacrificing his happiness. I respect that.

[On an unrelated note, this is my first attempt to write in HTML. I just thought that I would share that.]