20 June 2013

Reading journal/notes for Shirley by Charlotte Brontë, part 2. Includes teasers.

Chapter VII and still no sign of Shirley.  The chapter begins with a charming description of what it is like to be eighteen:
...at eighteen the true narrative of life is yet to be commenced. Before that time we sit listening to a tale, a marvellous fiction, delightful sometimes and sad sometimes, almost always unreal. Before that time our world is heroic, its inhabitants half-divine or semi-demon; its scenes are dream-scenes; darker woods and stranger hills, brighter skies, more dangerous waters, sweeter flowers, more tempting fruits, wider plains, drearier deserts, sunnier fields than are found in nature, over- spread our enchanted globe. What a moon we gaze on before that time! How the trembling of our hearts at her aspect bears witness to its unutterable beauty! As to our sun, it is a burning heaven - the world of gods.
It goes on for two more paragraphs, but I'll let this suffice. You can look it up if you wish to read the whole thing.
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This novel has an omniscient or partially omniscient narrator and she comes across as arch and it is ever so slightly annoying. My mother says she always feels like an arch narrator is speaking down to the reader, like a person who has a special (falsely sweet) talking-to-children voice and addresses kids with an expression like she is looking at them over the rims of a pair of eyeglasses (even when she isn't wearing any), and I tend to agree with her. The archness does seem to be fading as the narrator gets into the real storytelling and stops describing the characters.
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There is some unrequited love going on, but whether it will continue to be unrequited remains to be seen. I have determined that one of the characters involved must be a lead character but can't yet decide if he is a hero (in the literary meaning of the word) or not.
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Again the importance of names.
Mr. Moore's name sounds like "more", which is clearly what he wants, and Mr. Helstone's name suggests Hell and brimstone and he seems to be just as harsh a character as the name would suggest, and a misogynist on top of it:
At heart he could not abide sense in women. He liked to see them as silly, as light-headed, as vain, as open to ridicule as possible, because they were then in reality what he held them to be, and wished them to be - inferior, toys to play with, to amuse a vacant hour, and to be thrown away.
The narrator does not like him.

The following pithy description concerns him and what would happen to the new wife if he married a second time:
...her parents, I say, would have delivered Hannah over to his loving kindness and his tender mercies without one scruple; and the second Mrs. Helstone, inverting the natural order of insect existence, would have fluttered through the honeymoon a bright, admired butterfly, and crawled the rest of her days a sordid, trampled worm.

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The name of Mr. Langweilig is a cute little joke. Having learned German, I got it right away and it and the context in which it is mentioned made me laugh, but I wonder how many readers do catch it without an explanatory note and, for that matter, how many readers of the 1849 edition got it back then?



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