Respect Was Invented to Cover Up the Empty Spaces Where Love Should Be – “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy

7/20/18 – 9/29/18

“Both morally and physically she had changed for the worse. She had broadened out all over, and in her face at the time when she was speaking of the actress there was an evil expression of hatred that distorted it. He looked at her as a man looks at a faded flower he has gathered, with difficulty recognizing in it the beauty for which he picked and ruined it.” (Tolstoy 784)

Summary

Anna Karenina opens with one of the most famous lines in literature: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (1) The unhappy family in question is that of Oblonsky and his wife Dolly. Dolly discovers that Oblonsky had been having an affair with their children’s governess, and is threatens to leave Oblonsky. In a last ditch effort to save their marriage, Oblonsky invites his sister Anna Karenina to Moscow to talk to Dolly and convince her not to leave him. Anna takes a train from St. Petersburg, her home with her husband Karenin, to Moscow in the company of an older woman who proves to be the mother of a young and charming cavalry officer named Vronsky. The two cross paths briefly as Anna is exiting the train car.

“With the insight of a man of the world, from one glance at this lady’s appearance Vronsky classified her as belonging to the best society. He begged pardon, and was getting into the carriage, but felt he must glance at her once more; not that she was very beautiful, not on account of the elegance and modest grace which were apparent in her whole figure, but because in the expression of her charming face, as she passed close by him, there was something peculiarly caressing and soft. As he looked round, she too turned her head. Her shining gray eyes, that looked dark from the thick lashes, rested with friendly attention on his face, as though she were recognizing him, and then promptly turned away to the passing crowd, as though seeking someone. In that brief look Vronsky had time to notice the suppressed eagerness which played over her face, and flitted between the brilliant eyes and the faint smile that curved her red lips. It was as though her nature were so brimming over with  something that against her will it showed itself now in the flash of her eyes, and now in her smile. Deliberately she shrouded the light in her eyes, but it shone against her will in the faintly perceptible smile.” (134)

In the midst of all of these characters’ departure from the train station commotion arises in which it is revealed that a drunk guard got run over by the train car. Anna is disturbed by the news, and Vronsky makes a point of giving 200 roubles to the guard’s new widow. In the Oblonsky home Anna proves herself to be charming and clever, masterfully organizing the pair’s reconciliation by assuring Dolly of Oblonsky’s remorse and enduring love for her.

Kitty Shcherbatsky is the younger sister of Dolly and is coming out to society. Kitty is young, beautiful, and the object of two men’s favors in Moscow: Vronsky and Levin. Levin is a socially awkward but wealthy landowner who is an old friend of Oblonsky. On the eve of Kitty’s coming out ball, Levin makes Kitty an offer of marriage. However, Kitty turns Levin down in hopes of getting an offer from Vronsky instead. Levin leaves Moscow devastated, depressedly telling himself that he was stupid to assume such a divine creature like Kitty would ever love him.

Kitty is mentored for her ball by Anna, developing a fondness for her. Kitty is ecstatic for her party, taking up the mantle of the center of attention and the belle of ball with a evident delight. Halfway through the ball, Anna agrees to dance with Vronsky, charmed by him and his manners. Anna and Vronsky dance in a way that it afterwards becomes apparent that Vronsky’s favors have shifted to Anna. This devastates the Shcherbatskys who assumed, incorrectly, that Vronsky had intended to propose to Kitty. Kitty leaves the ball heartbroken and soon afterwards falls into a depression.

 Anna gets on the train to head back to St. Petersburg and dismisses her attraction to Vronsky as a mere crush. During the train ride Anna discovers that Vronsky has followed her from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Vronsky follows Anna around St. Petersburg socially, relentlessly flirting with her during parties and social events. The somewhat progressive social circle of St. Petersburg indulges their budding romance. Anna has an internal battle within herself over actually engaging in an affair based on her marriage to Karenin and the existence of her 8 year old son Serezha who she is incredibly devoted to. Anna takes Vronsky aside at a party, saying,

“‘I want you to go to Moscow and ask for Kitty’s forgiveness,’ she said. ‘You don’t wish that?’ he said. He saw she was saying what she forced herself to say, not what she wanted to say. ‘If you love me, as you say,’ she whispered, ‘do so that I may be at peace.’ His face grew radiant. ‘Don’t you know that you’re all my life to me? But I know no peace, and I can’t give to you; all myself—and love…yes. I can’t think of you and myself apart. You and I are one to me. And I see no chance before us of peace for me or for you. I see a chance of despair, of wretchedness…or I see a chance of bliss, what bliss!… Can it be there’s no chance of it?’ he murmured with his lips; but she heard.  She strained every effort of her mind to say what ought to be said. But instead of that she let her eyes rest on him, full of love, and made no answer.” (304)

Karenin walks in on this passionate exchange between Anna and Vronsky, and though he doesn’t become offended by Anna’s conduct because he prides himself on trusting her, he begins to understand that the upper class is beginning to find Anna’s conduct indecorous. Karenin awkwardly confronts Anna after much internal conflict to ask her to monitor her behavior more consciously, but Anna dismisses his concern over her propriety as silly. Externally, the relationship between Anna and Karenin seems the same, but after this point the two become completely emotionally alienated from each other.

Anna and Vronsky continue to see each other and finally consummate their affair, which rakes Anna with guilt over her sin and causes her to have nightmares over now having two husbands. St. Petersburg turns more visibly against their affair, and Vronsky’s mother gets angry when she realizes that Vronsky is jeopardizing aspects of his military career to be near Anna. The affair becomes a massive source of gossip as Karenin is a very prominent statesman.

In the countryside, Levin feels humiliated about having been refused by Kitty. Oblonsky goes to visit Levin and reveals to Levin that Kitty didn’t marry Vronsky and that she has now fallen ill. Levin becomes very disturbed by the knowledge of Kitty’s situation.

Vronsky is competing in a horse race. Before the race he goes to visit Anna who reveals to him that she is pregnant. Anna is horrified by this fact, but Vronsky instead interprets the information as an assertion that he and Anna need to stop living a lie and that Anna needs to leave Karenin and her son. Anna refuses to acknowledge her situation and feels miserable over the idea of potentially having to leave Serezha.

Vronsky enters the horse race as the favorite riding a horse named Frou Frou. Vronsky is winning the race until the last jump in which he falls off his horse and Frou Frou breaks her spine.

“Everyone was loudly expressing disapprobation, everyone was repeating a phrase someone had uttered— ‘The lions and gladiators will be the next thing,’ and everyone was feeling horrified; so that when Vronsky fell to the ground, and Anna moaned aloud, there was nothing very out of the way in it. But afterwards a change came over Anna’s face which really was beyond decorum. She utterly lost her head. She began fluttering like a caged bird, at one moment would have got up and moved away, at the next turned to Betsy. ‘Let us go, let us go!’ she said. But Betsy did not hear her. She was bending down, talking to a general who had come up to her. Alexey Alexandrovitch went up to Anna and courteously offered her his arm. ‘Let us go, if you like,’ he said in French, but Anna was listening to the general and did not notice her husband.” (461)

Karenin confronts Anna again after the horse race telling her that he no longer cared about her internal misconduct, but that her external misconduct was unacceptable. In her frenzy of excitement from not knowing what really happened to Vronsky, Anna bluntly tells Karenin the truth about her relationship with Vronsky and her love for him. This revelation stupefies Karenin, and he asks Anna to give him time to think of how they should conduct themselves to maintain outer appearances.

Kitty has gone to a German spa to recover from her depression. There she meets Varenka, a community service oriented young woman who inspires Kitty. Kitty tries to emulate her, but her plans backfires. She eventually decides that she has gotten over Vronsky and can return to Moscow. Levin receives a visit from his intellectual brother Koznyshev who argues with him over issues of education and the peasantry. Dolly visits the countryside and Levin, making it clear that Levin should propose to Kitty again. Kitty comes to visit Dolly, but Levin intentionally completely avoids them, throwing himself into the manual labor of farm life instead.

Karenin refuses to grant Anna a divorce and insists upon Anna maintaining their union and never seeing Vronsky again. Karenin finalizes his decision in a letter to Anna and asks her to return to St. Petersburg from her residence in Moscow. Anna receives Karenin’s note and becomes frenzied about arranging a meeting with Vronsky. Neither can communicate properly with the other when they do meet. Anna goes to St. Petersburg where Karenin makes clear the conditions of their marriage, which causes Anna to flee to the countryside and continue her affair with Vronsky there. Karenin unintentionally finds Vronsky in the front hallway of their country house, shocked because he had assumed that Anna had heeded his request. Afterwards he ransacks Anna’s desk for love letters and consults a lawyer about getting a divorce.

Karenin heads to the provinces of Russia on business, but stops in Moscow first where he is beseeched to have dinner with the Oblonskys. Karenin is cold towards them, and Dolly eventually confronts Karenin to ask him not to ruin Anna socially. This causes Karenin to become somewhat hysteric, illustrating the realities of his condition and becoming even more resolute to follow through with his plans of divorce. At the same time, Levin and Kitty rekindle their romance. Soon afterwards, the two marry.

Karenin receives a letter from Anna saying that she is dying. Anna, in the distress of her childbirth, asks for forgiveness from Karenin. Karenin, hating to see others in pain, suddenly grants his forgiveness and consents to any plan that Anna desires for their future. Anna is repulsed by his generosity and finds herself incapable of accepting the divorce. She and Vronsky flee to Italy where they begin a frivolous existence.

Kitty and Levin learn how to function as a couple after being married for a couple months. The two go to visit Levin’s dying brother, Nicholas, and afterwards learn that Kitty is pregnant. Karenin befriends Countess Lydia in St. Petersburg who becomes committed to looking out for him and his best interests, attracted to him due to his virtuousness. Karenin and Countess Lydia tell Serezha that his mother his dead, but he doesn’t believe them.

Anna and Vronsky return to St. Petersburg to only find that Anna has become a complete outcast from society. She is only visited by a couple members of her old social set and they only stay a few minutes to demonstrate their loyalty to her. Anna sends a note to Countess Lydia asking to see Serezha, but Countess Lydia refuses. Anna sneaks in and sees Serezha on his birthday anyways, and the two have a tearful reunion. Anna accidently meets Karenin as she tries to sneak back out of the house, filling her with repulsion and shame at the sight of him.

Anna and Vronsky are invited to the opera by Princess Betsy. Despite Vronsky’s wishes, Anna decides to attend in all her regality, ignoring the fact that to do so would be an affront to society.

“Vronsky could not understand exactly what had passed between the Kartasovs and Anna, but he saw that something humiliating for Anna had happened. He knew this both from what he had seen, and most of all from the face of Anna, who, he could see, was taxing every nerve to carry through the part she had taken up. And in maintaining this attitude of external composure she was completely successful. Anyone who did not know her and her circle, who had not heard all the utterances of the women expressive of commiseration, indignation, and amazement, that she should show herself in society, and show herself so conspicuously with her lace and her beauty, would have admired the serenity and loveliness of this woman without a suspicion that she was undergoing the sensations of a man in the stocks.” (1188)

To be continued…


First, I want to apologize for having such a gap between my last couple posts. Senior year of high school is hectic, as is to be expected, and I’ve been trying to read a large volume of books so that I will have a string of posts ready for later in the year when I don’t have as much time for recreational reading.

Second, I’m trying a new format for this book review. Because Anna Karenina is so long, I thought that one blog post with the entire plot summary would be a bit overwhelming, so I figured I’d split up the summary and thoughts & review into two posts. I really love this book and want to give it its just due on the blog without making it seen unapproachable.

Third, I’ve been reading some books outside of my list that I’ve also really loved and would be interested in doing reviews for. Send me your thoughts on writing reviews for modern literature as well as historical narratives (ie. historical biographies, historical scholarship) in the comments or by emailing me (all information can be found on my contact page).

Thank you so much for reading this post! I have a diverse list of upcoming posts so be sure to sign up for email notifications each time I post. Have a nice week and happy reading!

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How to Meet Your Reading Goals This Year: 10 Proven Tips from a Bibliophile

Image result for elle woods studying gif

Happy Autumn Everyone!

And welcome back to OffToTheBookstore. In consideration of the new school year being well under way, as well as approaching college applications, I thought I would share my personal tips on how I juggle all the different aspects of my life with my reading goals. I always hear that people simply don’t have time to read in the midst of their busy schedules, and I have just found that to be untrue from my experience. To me, reading has to be something one makes time for, not waits to have time for. So, with that said, these are my tips for how to check off all the books on your to-read list this year.

1. Pick a Book that Fits Your Mood

One thing that has really changed how I approach reading is to pick a book that fits me, instead of forcing myself to read a book I’m not excited about. Being excited to jump into the book I’m reading makes a world of difference in my reading experience. The second reading feels like a chore, you’re going to be reluctant to take your precious down time and spend it within the pages of a novel. Reading a book should feel a little like falling in love, it should be exciting and enthralling. Personally, this means that I cater my book lists based off the season, my mental health, and my immediate personal experiences. For example, I really wouldn’t recommend reading A Christmas Carol in July or The Bell Jar when I’m really happy. Find books that vibe with where you are on your personal journey when you open them.

2. Bring a Book Everywhere

It doesn’t matter if it’s school, or a party, or a wedding, make bringing the book you’re reading everywhere habit. Just having a book in your hand will make you constantly aware of needing to read. You’ll see the cover and be reminded of how excited you are the finish the book and see how it ends. Additionally, by always having a book with you, you’ll find that you can fill the unexpected down moments of your life reading, and while that may not feel like a significant difference initially, those little moments add up, and before you know it you’ll have finished that novel.

3. Go to Bookstores

There is something about strolling down the fiction aisles and seeing all the books I eventually want to read that just motivates me to sit down and spend a couple hours with my books. I like to think of all the books I want to read as something exciting: the possibility of being exposed to thousands of beautiful and colorful new worlds that I haven’t explored yet. By going to bookstores and getting glimpses of the worlds I want to journey to in the future, it motivates me further to finish the book I’m reading currently.

4. Organize Your Bookshelf

This is another psychological thing that just gets me excited to read. I love organizing my bookshelves because it gives me the opportunity to look back through all the books I’ve already read and feel a sense of accomplishment. Organizing my bookshelf is sort of the opposite side of going to the bookstore, but I’ve found that it’s equally efficient in motivating me to read. When I feel overwhelmed with all the books I have to read, it’s nice to look back at what I’ve already accomplished and just take a second to pat myself on the back for that. Take pride in the little accomplishments.

5. Read in the Morning

I have never been a proponent of reading at night, because when I read at night I’m usually too tired to really exert energy reading and I’m much more inclined to just put my book away and fall asleep. What I’ve found has actually made a difference for me is waking up slightly earlier and reading then. Once I’m full awake (thanks to a cup of coffee) I find that I’m very productive in terms of how much reading I get done, and I don’t have to stress about going to bed or the next day. The only time when reading at night works for me is when I’m finishing a novel and can’t put it down. Reading in the morning won’t mess with your sleep cycle, and I’ve found that it’s much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t be Afraid to Come Back to Books

Maybe this is just me personally, but I find it very difficult to keep reading a book that I’m no longer 100% interested in. This tip sort of goes back to #1, but I think that if you get halfway through a book and realize you want to try a different novel for a bit, you should absolutely go for. What I find is when I give myself this option, I’ll oftentimes end up coming back to the novel and finishing it sooner than I probably would have if I had kept trying to plow through it. I can’t emphasize it enough but reading should not feel like a chore. Do what you need to do to make reading enjoyable.

7. Reread Your Favorites

If you’re trying to get into reading for the first time, I think that a great jumping off point is a book you loved in childhood. Whether its Harry Potter or The Little Princess, books we read as children tend to be transformative and retain some of their magic well into adulthood. I always recommend getting back into reading with books you already love as they will have the added nuance of nostalgia when you read them, making you more inclined to pick up another book afterwards.

8. Talk to People About What You’re Reading

I’ve found that by gushing about my current book to someone else, I’m reminded of why I want to keep reading that book to completion. Through retelling what I’ve read I often find new aspects of the book to get excited about, and there’s little more fulfilling than inspiring someone else to pick up a book you already love. Communicate your literary love with others because it’ll only heighten your own endearment. Also, they’ll keep you on track with your reading by asking you if you’ve finished your book already, because often times they’ll become as curious about the ending as you are.

9. Limit Distractions

Just put your phone away. Turn it off completely. There’s nothing that takes me out of a story more than the ping of my iPhone. And while I’ve started to cultivate a reputation as someone who never replies to their messages, I’ve found that practicing this has made a huge difference in how much I read every day. Furthermore, don’t have your laptop, or netflix, or friends near you while trying to read. There’s something to really be said for reading somewhere that’s quiet.

10. Engage Online With Other Bibliophiles

Looking at reading memes, reading aesthetics, and clips of my favorite bibliophiles in movies and television always motivates me to nustle up with a good book. People take inspiration from everywhere, and while reading is a notoriously individual activity, there’s something really exciting in sharing the love of reading with others and knowing that you’re not alone. In movies and TV my favorite reading inspirations are Rory Gilmore and Hermione Granger, and whenever I watch clips of them gushing about their love of reading, I can’t help but want to emulate them. While reading on your own is fun, it’s x10 more fun to engage with a reading community, and if you’re like me and don’t have a book club, I think an awesome substitute is the internet community of readers.

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Thanks for reading this post, as always I’m so grateful for you and your support. I hope everyone is off to a fantastic back to school, and I’d love to hear more feedback in this transition of my content. Look for a review of all the books I read this September in my next post on Sunday September 30th.

Also I have a new Recommendations page. Check it out!

Until then, happy reading!

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“Life Starts All Over Again When it Gets Crisp in the Fall” – Senior Year Back to School Haul Class of 2019

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At OffToTheBookstore, back to school season is kind of a big deal. From binders, to graphing calculators, to highlighters, the end of August brings with it a magical season of stationary and shopping that is simply unparalleled. As an organization and fashion aficionado, I thought that I’d take the time to give insight to my personal Back to School supplies and clothing haul for my final year of high school. Every product I share has been personally used, especially my school supplies which I have been consistently perfecting for the last 11 years. So without further ado, let’s get into it!

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Notetaking

papermate sharpwriters // g2 pilot extra fine black pens // sharpie highlighters // papermate flair tip pens // colorful post-it notes// black sharpies // five star college ruled notebooks // 1-1.5 inch binders // ted baker pink bow pencil case // edgar allen poe-ka dot pencil pouch

Binders & Agenda

miquelrius qraph paper // lilly pulitzer large agenda // pocket dividers // kate spade binder clips // orange washi tape // pink poppy washi tape // hot pink washi tape // to kill a mockingbird stickers 

Tops & Sweaters

polo ralph lauren pink striped top (similar) // ann taylor black lace camisole (similar) // ann taylor red sweater // ann taylor black button up // talbots white jacket (similar) // free people pink leather jacket // lucky brand olive green jacket (similar) // ann taylor green jacket (poshmark)

Bottoms

lucky brand black jeans // lucky brand green jeans // american eagle dark wash jeans // topshop ripped jeans // american eagle black jeans

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I hope you enjoyed this very different sort of post. The items that I couldn’t find online, I tried to find similar versions of, but if I couldn’t I tried to explain the item to the best of my abilities.

I really like clothes, fashion, and organization, so if you are interested in more posts focused on these sorts of topics, I’d be really excited to make posts about them in the future alongside book content.

I’m wishing everyone a very happy back to school. I’m personally very anxious for the year ahead of me, but I’m excited to chronicle it on this blog.

New Anna Karenina inspired makeover on the blog for fall!

I’ve just put up a Recommendations page for shorter synopsis of some of my favorite books under more approachable categories. I realize that some of the summaries can be intimidating if you haven’t read/aren’t reading the book already, so I thought the recommendations page would be helpful to those wondering which classic book might suit them. I’ll keep it updated as I read more books and can categorize them.

I’m really excited to expand this blog to different content in accordance with the diversity of my interests, and I hope that you’re just as excited as I am!

Until next time, happy reading!

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If I Cannot Inspire Love, I Will Inspire Fear! – “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley

5/19/18 – 7/5/18

“Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. Pursuing these reflections, I thought that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption.” (Shelley Ch. 4) 

Summary

(Spoiler alert: Victor never actually says the line “It’s alive!”)

Frankenstein opens with a series of letters addressed by an Arctic explorer named Robert Walton to his sister Margaret as he details the dreary conditions of his northward expedition and his introduction to a man named Victor Frankenstein who stumbled upon Walton’s ship as he was riding a dog sled across the ice in a precarious state of health. Aboard Walton’s ship, Frankenstein begins a narration of his history which led to his current circumstance in the Arctic.

Frankenstein’s narration starts with a description of his father who, due to a life in public service, had a delayed start to married life and a family. Frankenstein’s father meets Caroline Beaufort on the deathbed of her father, who had been a friend of his, and who finds herself penniless with her father’s death. This leads Frankenstein to marrying her shortly after her father’s passing.  Victor is their eldest child who is pampered by his two parents throughout his childhood. On a trip to Italy, Caroline visits the cottage of a poor family, and in their house she spots a beautiful young girl with golden hair named Elizabeth. The family explain that Elizabeth had been orphaned as a baby, and Caroline decides to take Elizabeth in as her own. Victor narrates his introduction to Elizabeth writing,

“My mother had said playfully, ‘I have a pretty present for my Victor— tomorrow he shall have it.’ And when, on the morrow, she presented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I, with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally and looked upon Elizabeth as mine—mine to protect, love, and cherish. All praises bestowed on her I received as made to a possession of my own. We called each other familiarly by the name of cousin. No word, no expression could body forth the kind of relation in which she stood to me—my more than sister, since till death she was to be mine only.” (Ch. 1)

Victor continues to describe his blissful childhood in the company of Elizabeth and his best friend Henry Clevral in Geneva and the following birth of his younger siblings. As a child, Victor finds the writings of Cornelius Agrippa, an ancient scientist who aimed to penetrate the secrets of nature, and Victor becomes obsessed with natural philosophy and the potential powers of science. Later, Victor witnesses the blasting of a tree to a stump by a bolt of lightning during a thunderstorm, and converses with a researcher in natural philosophy on the explanation of the theory of electricity and galvanism.

Victor is sent to the University of Ingolstadt to study natural philosophy and chemistry, initially being mocked for his fascination with ancient natural philosophers, but soon learning to apply his new scientific studies with his earlier fascinations of the theoretical capabilities of science, thanks to guidance from a teacher called M. Waldman. In two years Victor becomes bored of his studies, and embarks on a new endeavor to create a living body out of pieces of corpses. Shelley writes,

“Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed? It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery; yet with how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries. I revolved these circumstances in my mind and determined thenceforth to apply myself more particularly to those branches of natural philosophy which relate to physiology.” (Ch. 4)

Frankenstein becomes obsessed with the notion of finding the secret of life, examining corpses in church graveyards, vaults, and charnel-houses. Through examination of the dead in the pursuit of the root of death, Victor finally becomes enlightened with his discovery of the secret of life.

“From the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me—a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised that among so many men of genius who had directed their inquiries towards the same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret.” (Ch. 4)

After discovering the secret to reanimation, Frankenstein becomes obsessed with the prospect of turning his knowledge into a reality through the creation of a nine-foot tall monster whom he can act as a sort of father to. Months pass in which Frankenstein feverishly pursues his goal, neglecting to really contact his family or anyone else in its duration. On a “dreary night” in November, Frankenstein finally finds himself able to carry out his experiment to “infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at [his] feet.”

“It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs…His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.” (Ch. 5)

Horrified by the being he has created, Frankenstein flees his study to his bedroom, where he falls into a fitful sleep in which he dreams of Elizabeth becoming a monster as well. Frankenstein jolts awake to see his monster in his bedchamber. Frankenstein runs into the streets of Germany in a frenzy and without direction, until he stumbles into Henry who taken him into his apartment. Henry then proceeds to nurse Frankenstein back to health from his delirium.

Frankenstein plans his return to his family to Geneva once his health is restored, but receives a letter from his father who informs Frankenstein that his youngest brother has been murdered. On his journey home, Frankenstein spots his monster in the woods of Geneva and becomes convinced that the monster is responsible for his brother’s death. Justine, an innocent working girl in the Frankensteins’ house, is tried and executed for the death of Frankenstein’s brother despite her claims of innocence. Frankenstein mourns both deaths and acknowledges his responsibility.

Victor heads to a vacation in the mountains where he encounters his monster. In the seclusion of a hut in the mountains, the monster embarks on an explanation of his history since his abandonment by his creator. The monster had fled aimlessly from Frankenstein after his appearance in Frankenstein’s bedchambers, and through his unguided journeys found himself repeatedly shunned and ostracized by the humans he came in contact with. Finally the monster finds refuge in the home of the Delaceys, unbeknownst to them, and begins to sympathize and care for the family as he sees them struggle economically. The monster begins to help them get wood and completes other tasks for them, as he tries to pick up language through eavesdropping on their conversations.

The family welcomes an Arabian woman named Safie whose father is revealed to be responsible for the Delaceys’ ruin. Felix, the eldest son, begins to teach Safie English, and consequently the monster learns the language too. The monster continues his education further, reading Milton, Plutarch, and Goethe. The monster also finds the notes of Frankenstein on his creation and becomes depressed in his perception of himself as a sort of devil despite his benevolent inclinations.

The monster hatches a plan to introduce himself to the family which he has grown to love, determining that introducing himself to their blind father will be his best strategic introduction. The monster carefully executes his plan, but it backfires when the rest of the family return early from their outing and drive him out of their home. When the monster next returns to the house, the family have vacated its premises.

Anguished after being shunned from mankind again, the monster heads to the woods and stumbles across a little girl who is drowning in the river. After saving the girl’s life, a hunter shoots at the monster and solidifies the monster’s feelings of hatred towards mankind. When the monster runs into William, Frankenstein’s brother, the monster does not hesitate to strangle the boy to death and pin his murder on Justine.

The monster explains to Frankenstein that he does not wish to be malevolent, but is lonely and wishes for Victor to create for him a monstrous mate. Surprised by the monster’s eloquence and moved by his sufferings, Victor agrees.

Victor and Henry head to England to meet with scientists who can help Victor with his second experiment. Victor begrudgingly gathers his materials and heads into isolation in an island in the Orkneys to begin his task. In the midst of creating the second monster however, Frankenstein becomes horrified by the potential ramifications of his actions, speculating on the morality of his actions and how he will be perceived in history if the two monsters reproduce or if the female monster is more evil and vicious than her companion. In a fit of passion, Frankenstein tears apart the female monster he has been creating in front of the monster, enraging the monster before him. The monster cries,

“I had feelings of affection, and they were requited by detestation and scorn. Man! You may hate, but beware! Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness forever. Are you to be happy while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness? You can blast my other passions, but revenge remains—revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food! I may die, but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery. Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful. I will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom. Man, you shall repent of the injuries you inflict.” (Ch. 20)

Furthermore, the monster promises to be with Victor on his wedding night.

Victor heads out to sea and finds himself on an unknown island where it is revealed to him that Henry has been killed by the monster. Victor is tried for the murder and imprisoned, falling into a fevered delirium. Victor’s father helps him get out of prison once he has recovered, and the two return to Geneva. Victor decides to marry Elizabeth soon after returning, believing that the monster’s ultimate plan is to kill him on his wedding night and that if he expedites his wedding he will minimize the casualties of his family and friends.

Victor stands stationed downstairs with a gun on his wedding night, leaving Elizabeth alone upstairs in their bed chambers. Suddenly he hears Elizabeth scream, and realizes that the monster had actually been planning to murder her. Victor returns home, and his father dies of grief shortly thereafter. Victor then decides to dedicate the rest of his life to hunting down his monster and destroying him.

Victor chases down the monster obsessively, while the monster taunts him with his evasiveness. Finally, the two head so northwards that they hit the Arctic Circle, and Victor is forced to hire a dogsled to continue chasing his monster which can endure extreme temperatures with minimal nourishment. Frankenstein finally catches up to his monster, only to be separated again by a break in the ice.

The narration at the beginning of the story catches up to this point in the novel, as Walton had at this point found Frankenstein and taken him into his boat. Walton expresses his positive impression of Frankenstein to his sister and mourns the illness of his newfound friend. Walton’s crew express desires to return home from the arctic, but Frankenstein attempts to rouse their commitment to their exploration, saying,

“Are you, then, so easily turned from your design? Did you not call this a glorious expedition? And wherefore was it glorious? Not because the way was smooth and placid as a southern sea, but because it full of dangers and terror…You were hereafter to be hailed as the benefactors of your species, your names adored as belonging to brave men who encountered death for honour and the benefit of mankind…ye need not have come thus far and dragged your captain to the shame of a defeat merely to prove yourselves cowards. Oh! Be men, or be more than men. Be steady to your purposes and firm as a rock. This ice is not made of such stuff as your hearts may be; it is mutable and cannot withstand you if you say that it shall not. Do not return to your families with the stigma of disgrace marked on your brows. Return as heroes who have fought and conquered and who know not what it is to turn their backs on the foe.” 

Victor asks Walton to carry on his mission of killing the monster, and then soon after dies. Walton returns several days later to the room in which Frankenstein’s corpse lies, and finds the monster sobbing over his creator’s body. The monster exclaims,

“In his murder my crimes are consummated; the miserable series of my being is wound to its close! Oh, Frankenstein! Generous and self- devoted being! What does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me? I, who irretrievably destroyed thee by destroying all thou lovedst. Alas! He is cold, he cannot answer me…Do you think that I was then dead to agony and remorse? He…suffered not in the consummation of the deed. Oh! Not the ten-thousandth portion of the anguish that was mine during the lingering detail of its execution. A frightful selfishness hurried me on, while my heart was poisoned with remorse. Think you that the groans of Clerval were music to my ears? My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy, and when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred, it did not endure the violence of the change without torture such as you cannot even imagine.”

The novel concludes with the monster’s exclamations of his plans to kill himself in isolation on the ice. Walton and his crew vote to head southward back to England.

Characters

Victor Frankenstein: A scientist who discovers the secret to life and creates a reanimated corpse.

Frankenstein’s Monster: Frankenstein’s creation which although naturally benevolent, turns to violence and rage after being repeatedly shunned by mankind.

Robert Walton: An Arctic explorer who transcribes Frankenstein’s tale and is then asked to fulfill Frankenstein’s revenge and kill his creation.

Elizabeth: Frankenstein’s cousin who waits at home for Victor to marry her while looking after the younger Frankenstein children. She is killed by the monster on her wedding night.

Henry Clerval: Victor’s childhood companion who embodies Victor’s vivacity and intellectual curiosity prior to creating the monster. Henry is strangled by the monster.

William Frankenstein: Victor’s youngest brother who is the monster’s first victim.

Justine: A beautiful and kind young woman who get unjustly blamed and executed for William’s death.

Overall Thoughts & Review

I was very excited to read Frankenstein to see Mary Shelley’s inception of the entire science fiction genre at the age of eighteen. I’m just going to let that fact sink into those that were previously unaware of it.

There are many things that I took away from Frankenstein, but one of my chief ones was what Mary Shelley herself outlines in her conversation with Kurt Vonnegut: that Frankenstein is much more monstrous than his creation.

Frankenstein reads as a tragedy in many ways, the primary in the story of a creator whose entire family is murdered off by a monster, but also in the story of an innocent creature who despite its ever attempt to be benevolent, is turned away from all of society and spurned repeatedly.

Mary Shelley subtitled her novel as Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus. Prometheus is the Greek story of a man who stole fire from the Gods to give to mankind, and is subsequently punished for his actions by having his liver pecked out day after day until he is finally rescued by Heracles. Due to this subtitle, I was initially inclined to read Frankenstein as a cautionary tale against mortals who attempt to venture into realms which should not be ethically explored, such as the pursuit of blurring the line between life and death, and essentially playing “God.” And while I think this reading is accurate, I think Shelley’s message extends beyond that.

What really struck me about Frankenstein was that Frankenstein wouldn’t have been punished in the way that he was if he hadn’t shunned his creation. The fact that a voluntary act made by Frankenstein himself directly causes his subsequent sufferings brought a lot of nuance to my interpretation of the novel.

To me, Frankenstein is a cautionary tale against those who blur ethical lines purely motivated by ambition, and without any compassion or regard for the consequences of their actions. Frankenstein wasn’t punished purely for extending the boundaries of science, but for only doing so to serve his selfish pursuit of glory and then for subsequently treating his creation with cruelty. Frankenstein cannot treat his creation with kindness because his desire to create only came from a desire to be adored and exalted like a God, not to care or nurture a new creature. Furthermore, even when Frankenstein claims to destroy the mate he has begun to create for his monster on “ethical” grounds, the reality is that he only does so because he is afraid of future generations cursing his name. The way that I read it, Frankenstein is not punished just for acting as a God, but for acting as a cruel and selfish God.

It is hard to read Frankenstein and not feel sympathy for the murderous monster, as I have seldom seen truly evil creatures in literature read Paradise Lost, attempt to befriend the poor and blind, and woefully proclaim themselves as a “devil.” I feel that the fact that the monster isn’t really monstrous is somewhat obvious, what I think is more interesting is reading the parallels between Frankenstein and his monster and seeing how their actions result in their mutual demise.

One of my chief annoyances while reading Frankenstein was its portrayal of women, which baffled me as it was written by a female author. Women in Frankenstein were consistently shown as ridiculously innocent, pure, and docile, which annoyed me excessively as a 21st century reader and with knowledge that the author’s mother was one of history’s leading feminists. However, I did think it was interesting to see how women were the primary victims of essentially Frankenstein’s unchecked creative ambition. I also especially liked John Green’s assertion in his Crash Course Literature video that the novel was partially “an exploration of what happens when men fear, distrust, or devalue women so much that they attempt to reproduce without them.”

Overall, Frankenstein is a really interesting and intriguing book which is not to hard to follow linguistically, but offers up a lot of questions about the ethical bounds of mortals, what constitutes being a monster, and whether monsters are naturally created, or forced to become monstrous based off of their circumstances. I actually really enjoyed this read, although Victor Frankenstein is definitely an unlikeable protagonist, and recommend it if only for the grade A tumblr posts about it, some of which I included in this post. My only complaint in the novel would be its lack of complex female characters.

Rating: 4/5

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Showing Friendship for A Man When He is Alive, Not After He is Dead – “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

5/4/18 – 5/19/18

“‘If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,’ said Gatsby. ‘You always have a green light that burns at the end of your dock.’ Daisy put her arm through his abruptly but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to him, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted things had diminished by one.” (Fitzgerald Ch. 5)

Summary

The Great Gatsby is the 1925 novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald which is often praised alongside The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as the great American novels. The novel follows Nick Caraway through his first person narration of his experience neighboring a man named Jay Gatsby. Nick opens the novel explaining his inclination to listen to others and be tolerant. In conjunction to his first person description of himself, Nick writes a description of an almost mythological figure called ‘Gatsby’.

“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the ‘creative temperament’— it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No—Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short- winded elations of men.” (Ch. 1)

This passage instantly romanticizes Gatsby to a figure larger than life before he is in a single scene of the novel. Nick paints Gatsby as a contrast to moral corruptness of the “foul dust” around him.  Gatsby is told to the reader to be a personification of “hope” and “romantic readiness” whose dreams become squandered due to the corruption around him.

Nick moves to New York from Minnesota in 1922 to learn about the booming bond business. Nick is a graduate of Yale with connections to the old money families who reside in the “East Egg” of New York, but Nick establishes himself in a very modest residence next to an elaborate mansion in “West Egg.” Nick drives out to East Egg to visit his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her husband, Tom Buchanan, who he had known in college. Nick’s blunt description of Tom is that “[Tom had reached] such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anticlimax.”

Daisy and Tom introduce Nick to a young professional golfer named Jordan Baker at their mansion. The four’s dinner is interrupted by a telephone call asking for Tom. When both Tom and Daisy leave the room, Jordan informs Nick of Tom’s infidelity towards Daisy and that the call is probably from his mistress. Later that night, Daisy and Nick go on a private walk together, where Daisy loudly exclaims that she hopes her daughter “will be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” (Ch. 1)

Nick returns home that evening to his modest abode in West Egg to notice a man standing outside on a neighboring dock. Nick considers calling out to the man who he presumes to be Gatsby, his notorious neighbor that Jordan had described to him over dinner, but he decides against it. Fitzgerald writes,

“I didn’t call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone—he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.” (Ch. 1)

Image result for the great gatsby gif green light

Not long after, Tom decides to invite Nick on an expedition into New York City. On their trip into New York City, Tom introduces Nick unabashedly to his mistress; a woman named Myrtle Wilson whose husband runs a modest garage in the “valley of ashes” and is completely oblivious to his wife’s infidelity. The three journey into the city to a small but gaudy apartment, Tom humoring Myrtle by buying her a puppy when she asks for it as they pass a questionable vendor on the street. An intense party breaks out in the small apartment after Myrtle invites her friends to join them. The entire group begins drinking heavily, and in her drunkedness Myrtle begins to argue with Tom over Daisy after the subject of their unhappy marriages is broached by one of Myrtle’s guests.

“Some time toward midnight Tom Buchanan and Mrs. Wilson stood face to face discussing in impassioned voices whether Mrs. Wilson had any right to mention Daisy’s name. ‘Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!’ shouted Mrs. Wilson. ‘I’ll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai——’ Making a short deft movement Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand.” (Ch. 2)

Later, Nick receives an invitation from Gatsby to attend one of his lavish parties, his invitation, Nick realizes after some inquiry at the aforementioned party, is the only invitation Gatsby actually sent out, and Nick learns that every other attendee simply showed up with their own large group of people. Nick begins to inquire after Gatsby, asking those around him where the host is so that he can speak directly to him. Nick bumps into Jordan at the party, and through the questioning of guests realizes that no one has actually seen or talked to the host of the parties that they regularly attend.

Nick sits down at a table after drinking enough to begin feeling a bit tipsy, and strikes up a conversation with an unknown man around his age.

“At a lull in the entertainment the man looked at me and smiled. ‘Your face is familiar,’ he said, politely. ‘Weren’t you in the Third Division during the war?’ ‘Why, yes. I was in the Ninth Machine-Gun Battalion.’ ‘I was in the Seventh Infantry until June nineteen-eighteen. I knew I’d seen you somewhere before.’ We talked for a moment about some wet, grey little villages in France. Evidently he lived in this vicinity for he told me that he had just bought a hydroplane and was going to try it out in the morning. ‘Want to go with me, old sport? Just near the shore along the Sound.’ ‘What time?’ ‘Any time that suits you best.’ It was on the tip of my tongue to ask his name when Jordan looked around and smiled… I turned again to my new acquaintance. ‘This is an unusual party for me. I haven’t even seen the host. I live over there——’ I waved my hand at the invisible hedge in the distance, ‘and this man Gatsby sent over his chauffeur with an invitation.’ For a moment he looked at me as if he failed to understand. ‘I’m Gatsby,’ he said suddenly. ‘What!’ I exclaimed. ‘Oh, I beg your pardon.’ ‘I thought you knew, old sport. I’m afraid I’m not a very good host.’

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He smiled understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced—or seemed to face—the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on YOU with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. Precisely at that point it vanished—and I was looking at an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd. Some time before he introduced himself I’d got a strong impression that he was picking his words with care.” (Ch. 3)

Gatsby asks Jordan to talk to him in private, and Jordan obliges. Afterwards, when Jordan and Gatsby emerge from their closed off library together, Jordan voices her amazement to Nick saying, “‘It was—simply amazing…‘But I swore I wouldn’t tell it and here I am tantalizing you.’” (Ch.3)

Nick and Gatsby begin spending more time together, and Gatsby even takes Nick into town to meet his colleague Meyer Wolfshiem, and his introduction makes it clear to the reader that Gatsby has criminal connections, as Wolfshiem is described to have fixed the World Series as well as having cuff buttons made out of human teeth. Later, when Nick is having tea with Jordan, Jordan explains that Gatsby is in love with Daisy and that the two met years ago when Gatsby was a military officer and couldn’t offer means to financially support Daisy. It is revealed that Gatsby’s extravagant parties have been an attempt to get Daisy’s attention, and that Gatsby now hopes for Nick to arrange a meeting between the two of them.

Nick consents, and Gatsby goes to pains to make sure that Nick’s house is perfectly prepared for Daisy, getting Nick’s grass trimmed and filling Nick’s house with flowers. When Gatsby arrives initially it is pouring rain, and Gatsby is terrified. Gatsby flees the house when Daisy finally does arrive, Nick telling her to ask her driver to leave, and Gatsby makes a secondary awkward entrance after Daisy and Nick have reentered the house.

“[Daisy] turned her head as there was a light, dignified knocking at the front door. I went out and opened it. Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes.” (Ch. 5)

In shock, Daisy awkwardly exclaims, “I certainly am awfully glad to see you again.” (Ch. 5) The two continue a fumbling encounter as they struggle to relieve the awkwardness of their reunion. Nick attempts to leave the two alone, which Gatsby initially contests, but after a brief walk around his house Nick notices it has stopped raining and reenters his house to find Daisy and Gatsby lovingly reunited. Gatsby excitedly takes Daisy over to his mansion, delighting in demonstrating his now exceptional amount of wealth and material possessions to Daisy. Gatsby asks a worker in his house, Mr. Klipspringer, to play piano for the two of them, which Mr. Klipspringer initially contests to on the account of being out of practice, but Gatsby insists and Klipspringer relents and Gatsby begins dancing with Daisy almost in a trance. Nick observes,

“As I went over to say goodbye I saw that the expression of bewilderment had come back into Gatsby’s face, as though a faint doubt had occurred to him as to the quality of his present happiness. Almost five years! There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams—not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.” (Ch. 5)

Image result for the great gatsby gif tom and daisy

Nick describes Gatsby’s true origins in an intervention to the “present day” in which he is detailing the narrative. He explains that Gatsby was born as James Gatz to poor farm people. Gatz had tremendous ambition and imagination which he could not realize until he met Dan Cody, a man who sailed his yacht past Gatz on Lake Superior and who Gatz approached, introducing himself as Gatsby. Cody became Gatsby’s mentor and afterwards Gatsby made a fabricated history for himself and built his fortune by the time of Cody’s death.

Gatsby invites Daisy and Tom to one of his parties, and Tom speculates upon the dishonest ways that Gatsby could have made his fortune. While Tom is distracted with other women, Daisy and Gatsby sneak away and Nick acts as their guard. Besides her time alone with Gatsby and some initial amazement at the celebrities present at the party, Daisy soon finds herself “appalled by West Egg…appalled by its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short cut from nothing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand.” (Ch. 6)

After the guests and Daisy and Tom have left, Gatsby laments to Nick that Daisy didn’t enjoy the party. Gatsby struggles to explain his depression over Daisy’s supposed inability to understand and how it didn’t used to be like that in Louisville where they met and Nick realizes that,

“He wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: ‘I never loved you.’ After she had obliterated three years with that sentence they could decide upon the more practical measures to be taken. One of them was that, after she was free, they were to go back to Louisville and be married from her house—just as if it were five years ago.” (Ch. 6)

When Nick slowly explains to Gatsby that he can’t repeat the past, Gatsby replies by crying incredulously, “‘Can’t repeat the past?…Why of course you can!’”

Gatsby and Daisy continue their affair into the summer until one exceptionally hot day in which Gatsby, Nick, and Jordan head to the Buchanans for lunch. Daisy suggests that their party heads to the city to cool down, but in doing so glances at Gatsby. Fitzgerald writes,

“‘Ah,’ she cried, ‘you look so cool.’ Their eyes met, and they stared together at each other, alone in space. With an effort she glanced down at the table. ‘You always look so cool,’ she repeated. She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw. He was astounded. His mouth opened a little and he looked at Gatsby and then back at Daisy as if he had just recognized her as some one he knew a long time ago.” (Ch. 7)

The five head into the city; Tom, Nick, and Jordan take Gatsby’s car while Daisy and Gatsby take Tom’s coupe. Tom stops at Wilson’s garage for gas and it is revealed to him that Wilson has learned of Myrtle’s infidelity, although he does not know with whom, and that he plans to take Myrtle out of New York to the West.

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Tom, Nick, Jordan, Daisy, and Gatsby get a room in the Plaza hotel where they get ice and continue drinking. In the hotel room Tom begins badgering Gatsby on smaller things like his continual use of the expression”old sport” and his past until it escalates to Tom attacking Gatsby outright about his relationship with Daisy and Daisy’s infidelity. Gatsby fires back at Tom, telling him that Daisy never loved him and urging Daisy to confirm to Tom that she never loved him. Daisy struggles, futilely attempting to stop the confrontation between Tom and Gatsby, but Gatsby continues to insist.

“‘Please don’t.’ Her voice was cold, but the rancour was gone from it. She looked at Gatsby. ‘There, Jay,’ she said— but her hand as she tried to light a cigarette was trembling. Suddenly she threw the cigarette and the burning match on the carpet. ‘Oh, you want too much!’ she cried to Gatsby. ‘I love you now—isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past.’ She began to sob helplessly. ‘I did love him once—but I loved you too.’ Gatsby’s eyes opened and closed. ‘You loved me TOO?’ he repeated.” (Ch. 7)

Gatsby claims that Daisy will leave Tom, but Tom dismisses the notion entirely. Daisy and Gatsby head home in Gatsby’s car, but on their way home it is later revealed that Daisy was the one that hit Myrtle Wilson when she ran into the middle of the road towards the car that she thought was Tom’s, and that Daisy didn’t bother to stop. Nick reunites with Gatsby outside the Buchanans house where Gatsby is watching to make sure Daisy is okay, and where Gatsby reveals that Daisy was the one who had been driving his car but that he intends to take the blame.

The next day, Tom tells Wilson that Gatsby was the owner of the car that killed Myrtle, and Wilson presumes that the driver of the car had been the man whom Myrtle had also been having an affair with. Wilson finds Gatsby at the pool of his mansion and shoots him dead. Wilson then commits suicide with the same gun.

Image result for the great gatsby gif gatsby's pool

Nick struggles to arrange Gatsby’s funeral as he can’t find friends of Gatsby’s to attend the funeral as Daisy ignores his calls, Wolfshiem refuses to attend, and none of Gatsby’s party guests are interested in honoring the man himself. Henry C. Gatz sends a telegram to indicate that he will be coming from Minnesota to bury his son and is amazed by the amount of wealth that Gatsby was able to accumulate. Gatsby only has Nick, Henry Gatz, a few servants, and Owl-eyes, an omniscient character, at his funeral.

Nick runs into Tom later and becomes completely disillusioned and disgusted by people like Daisy and Tom stating,

“I couldn’t forgive [Tom] or like him but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” (Ch. 9)

Nick decides to head back to the Midwest, closing the narrative of the novel by writing,

“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the re- public rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning—— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (Ch. 9)

Characters

Jay Gatsby: A true self made entrepreneur who has harbored a five year fantastical infatuation with Daisy Buchanan after a courtship in Louisville when he was poor. Reinvents himself from humble origins to achieve “greatness” and in order to win Daisy as his own.

Daisy Buchanan: A southern belle from a wealthy background who marries Tom Buchanan and resides in East Egg. Represents old wealth and money. Her voice is “made of money.”

Tom Buchanan: Went to Yale with Nick, comes from old money, multiple adulterous affairs throughout his marriage to Daisy, racist and mysongistic.

Nick Carraway: The narrator who describes himself as “one of the few honest people I have ever known.” Daisy’s cousin and Tom’s classmate at Yale who lives in a modest house neighboring Gatsby’s extravagant mansion.

Jordan Baker: A professional golfer who is unmarried and straddles her time between East and West Egg society, has a relationship with Nick.

Overall Thoughts & Review

There’s a reason that this novel is considered great, and it extends far beyond its title. In my opinion, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and this novel really encompass the essence of the American experience through their explorations of American racism and classism. The Great Gatsby explores the notion of the “American Dream,” personified through Gatsby himself; a self made millionaire with deeply seeded romanticism and imagination.  The conflict between the Buchanans and Gatsby really gets at the heart of the American experience, with Gatsby’s death solidifying Fitzgerald’s message that Gatsby, and furthermore the notion of a realized American dream, cannot exist in a world polluted by “foul dust.” The existence of easy, inherited wealth like that of the Buchanans corrupts the American dream and ultimately destroys it, as it did in Gatsby’s case. The Buchanans are horribly unlikeable because the Buchanans have always existed and will always exist in American society, and their prevalence bars the realization of propagated American economic idealism. Daisy herself is probably so distinctly unlikeable because she shows how the solidification of the American upper class is a more powerful force than sacrificial love and personal fulfillment. The Buchanans personify wealth, demonstrating the exorbitant power of wealth in our society, a power which allows them to break things, even killing without consequence, a reality which many of us would rather ignore in our society and return to the comforts of believing in American equality and the American Dream.

Besides his commentary on the American dream, Fitzgerald also makes really thought provoking commentary on the nature of God in a corrupt and morally bankrupt society, Eyes are perhaps the most interesting symbol in The Great Gatsby, signifying an omniscient God in the character Owl-Eyes and the large bespectacled eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleberg. Fitzgerald tackles one of the most fundamental questions of religion: how can a benevolent God allow for evil to exist and even prosper? Fitzgerald answers this question by presenting God as a pair of disembodied eyes who look over the valley of ashes and many pivotal scenes in the novel, and an omnisciently intelligent character who rejects any sort of responsibility for incidents he observes. Fitzgerald argues that God can see, but cannot act. Through Owl-Eyes’s statement at Gatsby’s funeral that Gatsby was a “poor son-of-a-bitch,” Fitzgerald presents God as one who recognizes the inequity and injustice of our society, a society in which Gatsby pays the price for the sins of Daisy and Tom, but God cannot interfere nor act in any of the scenes he observes.

There are so many themes that I loved diving deep into while reading this novel, but I’m going to refrain myself due to the fear of this turning into an essay. Other themes that I would consider tracking while reading this novel would be femininity, female objectification and female gender roles, cynicism post World War 1, social mobility (who has access to it and to what extent), the fleeting nature of economic prosperity, and the larger notion of futility.

This is the sort of novel where every scene feels carefully planned out in a larger map of motifs and symbols, and while it’s plot carries the novel on its own, I found it exhilarating to really read this novel critically and analytically for the larger messages it presents. This novel is a literary masterpiece, both thematically and technically in the beautiful language it is written in. Everyone, especially every American, should read The Great Gatsby as it will make every reader rethink the American experience, as well as reassessing the tangibility of equality and the nature of justice in society. I love this novel whole-heartedly and would recommend it to anyone who feels that they can appreciate the language and all that is thematically presented by Fitzgerald over the course of the novel.

Rating: 4.8/5

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Holy cow this review took me a long time to write, but I finally finished it (phew!)

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Happy Canada Day and Fourth of July to all that are celebrating! Hopefully this summer will allow you greater opportunity to read for pleasure.

I’ll have a next post up soon, but in the meantime, happy reading!

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The Only Thing More Abused Than My Conscience is My Liver – “The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen

4/16/18 – 5/4/18

“I am merely noting that the creation of native prostitutes to service foreign privates is an inevitable outcome of a war of occupation, one of those nasty little side effects of defending freedom that all the wives, sisters, girlfriends, mothers, pastors, and politicians in Smallville, USA, pretend to ignore behind waxed and buffed walls of teeth as they welcome their soldiers home, ready to treat any unmentionable afflictions with the penicillin of American goodness.” (Nguyen Ch. 3)

Summary

The Sympathizer is the 2015 debut novel of Viet Thanh Nguyen and the recipient of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The novel is the confession of a half-Vietnamese half-French communist spy who goes unnamed throughout the narrative. The novel begins with the narrator describing his ability to see things from multiple perspectives to a man named the Commandant.

“I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. Sometimes I flatter myself that this is a talent, and although it is admittedly one of a minor nature, it is perhaps also the sole talent I possess. At other times, when I reflect on how I cannot help but observe the world in such a fashion, I wonder if what I have should even be called talent. After all, a talent is something you use, not something that uses you. The talent you cannot not use, the talent that possesses you—that is a hazard, I must confess.” (Ch. 1)

From this opening passage, Nguyen foreshadows the dark side of the narrator’s incredible ability to sympathize with others, ominously noting the involuntary nature of the narrator’s compulsion to see things from multiple perspectives.

At the opening of the novel, the narrator is the aide-de camp to a high ranking General in Saigon who is working to fight the Vietnamese Communists. The narrator is trusted almost implicitly by the General and is trusted to make many executive decisions on behalf of the General regarding their flight from Saigon. The narrator, the General, and the narrator’s life long friend Bon narrowly escape, however Bon’s wife and child are killed during their escape effort much to Bon’s devastation. Man, Bon and the narrator’s other “blood brother,” remains in Saigon during the fall of Saigon because he is a communist like the narrator. Bon, adamantly anti-communist, is oblivious to the fact that the narrator and Man are both communists.

The narrator, Bon, and the General find refuge in Los Angeles, and the narrator becomes an assistant at the Department of Oriental Studies thanks to a connection from his time at an American University. The narrator meets Ms. Mori, a second generation Japanese American, who begins a sexual relationship with the narrator.

“It’s Sofia, [Ms. Mori] said. And let’s get one thing straight, playboy. If we get involved, and that’s a big if, there are no strings attached. You do not fall in love with me and I do not fall in love with you. She exhaled twin plumes of smoke. Just so you know, I do not believe in marriage but I do believe in free love.” (Ch. 5)

While in Los Angeles the narrator secretly communicates with Man using a letter writing system which utilizes Richard Hedd’s “Asian Communism  and the Oriental Mode of Destruction,” invisible ink, and false letter heading to the narrator’s “aunt.” The narrator works to keep Man and the Communists informed of the General’s plans to return to Vietnam with a counterrevolution.

The General befriends an American congressman who is vying for the Vietnamese vote in California, and starts a liquor store to raise funds for his impending revolution. The General confines in the narrator that he believes that there is a communist spy in their midst, and asks the narrator who he thinks would be a sleeper agent. To avoid suspicion, the narrator suggests the crapulent major, a Chinese ex-special branch officer. The General then assigns the narrator with planning the murder, deciding that Bon should be the one to actually shoot the major. The narrator goes on to internally describe his aversion to murder in parallel with his early experiences with masturbation.

“Some will undoubtedly find this episode obscene. Not I! Massacre is obscene. Torture is obscene. Three million dead is obscene. Masturbation, even with an admittedly nonconsensual squid? Not so much. I, for one, am a person who believes that the world would be a better place if the word “murder” made us mumble as much as the word “masturbation.” Still, while I was more lover than fighter, my political choices and police service eventually did force me to cultivate a side of myself I had used only once in my childhood, the violent side.” (Ch. 5)

Bon, depressed and somewhat suicidal, and the narrator carry out the murder of the crapulent major, much to the narrator’s guilt. The narrator finds himself clouded with guilt in the aftermath of the murder and begins relying more heavily on alcohol to numb his sympathy for the dead major.

The narrator is presented with an opportunity to go to the Philippines as an advisor to a movie crew which is creating a movie about the Vietnam War called “The Hamlet.” The narrator attempts to advise the movie crew on how to create accurate depictions of Vietnamese people, but he soon realizes that the Auteur is apathetic in making any sort of accurate depiction of the Vietnamese people. The Auteur is offended by the narrator’s suggestions and the narrator finds himself as the target of an “accidental” explosion on the movie set. The narrator returns to Los Angeles, depressed after failing to make a positive contribution to Vietnamese representation in Hollywood.

“I was no more than the garment worker who made sure the stitching was correct in an outfit designed, produced, and consumed by the wealthy white people of the world. They owned the means of production, and therefore the means of representation, and the best that we could ever hope for was to get a word in edgewise before our anonymous deaths.” (Ch. 11) 

The narrator learns that during his absence the General has organized a group to go to Thailand in the pursuit of infiltrating Vietnam, a military group including Bon. The narrator decides to go on the mission as well in an effort to protect Bon, despite being told explicitly not to go on the mission by Man. Sonny, a newspaper writer who began dating Ms. Mori during the narrator’s absence, has started writing about the General’s mission, and the General orders the narrator to murder Sonny. The narrator sloppily and guiltily carries out the murder, but his execution of the murder proves himself militarily competent to the General.

After only a day and a half in Thailand, the entire military group is killed by Communist forces, with the exception of the narrator and Bon who are taken to a reeducation camp. The narrator is placed in solitary confinement where the reader learns he has been writing several versions of his confession; the first 300 pages of the novel.

The narrator is told that his confession is not satisfactory, and that the Commissar will oversee the final stage of the narrator’s reeducation.

Much to the narrator’s shock, Man is revealed as the Commissar, however Man has been horribly disfigured during the Fall of Saigon. The narrator is then forced to undergo cruel sleep deprivation torture until he is driven to insanity, torture which Man says is necessary for his “protection”. The narrator is repeatedly asked “what is more precious than independence and freedom?” throughout the torture, but he can’t find a satisfactory answer for the Commissar and Commandant. The book begins switching into third person and into the format of a screenplay to demonstrate the deterioration of the narrator’s psyche.

“And yet if he could but sleep, he would understand better! He writhed, he wriggled, he wrestled with himself in his failed bid for sleep, and this may have gone on for hours, or minutes, or seconds, when, all of a sudden, his hood was removed, followed by his gag, allowing him to gasp and suck in air. ” (Ch. 21)

In the midst of his torture the narrator describes a horrific incident with a communist agent who was tortured and raped by American soldiers while the narrator watched passively. The narrator begins to descend above his torture, finding enlightenment above his physical surroundings and above the ghosts of Sonny and the crapulent major who have been watching his extended interrogation. Through this experience the narrator finally finds the answer to the question “what is more precious than independence and freedom?”

“Somewhere a baby was screaming, its suffering shared with me, who needed no more. I saw myself squeeze my eyes shut, as if that could also squeeze my ears shut. It was impossible to think with the screaming in this examination room, and for the first time in a very long time I wanted something more than sleep. I wanted silence… Somebody began screaming once more. Somebody was screaming so loudly that I not only lost track of myself, I lost track of time…It was me, screaming the one word that had dangled before me since the question was first asked—nothing—the answer that I could neither see nor hear until now—nothing!—the answer I screamed again and again and again—nothing!—because I was, at last, enlightened.” (Ch. 22)

The narrator is driven completely insane after this encounter, laughing sardonically and completely disassociating his personalities. The narrator explains what he discovered in his enlightenment writing,

“But what was this meaning? What had I intuited at last? Namely this: while nothing is more precious than independence and freedom, nothing is also more precious than independence and freedom! These two slogans are almost the same, but not quite. The first inspiring slogan was Ho Chi Minh’s empty suit, which he no longer wore. How could he? He was dead. The second slogan was the tricky one, the joke. It was Uncle Ho’s empty suit turned inside out, a sartorial sensation that only a man of two minds, or a man with no face, dared to wear…I understood, at last, how our revolution had gone from being the vanguard of political change to the rearguard hoarding power. In this transformation, we were not unusual. Hadn’t the French and the Americans done exactly the same? Once revolutionaries themselves, they had become imperialists, colonizing and occupying our defiant little land, taking away our freedom in the name of saving us. Our revolution took considerably longer than theirs, and was considerably bloodier, but we made up for lost time.” (Ch. 23)

Man manages to secure the escape of the narrator and Bon from the camp, and the two head back to Vietnam shortly before joining the boat people and heading out to sea. The narrator closes the book identifying as a revolutionary and defining himself above labels such as “communist.” Nguyen writes,

“Despite it all—yes, despite everything, in the face of nothing—we still consider ourselves revolutionary. We remain that most hopeful of creatures, a revolutionary in search of a revolution, although we will not dispute being called a dreamer doped by an illusion. Soon enough we will see the scarlet sunrise on that horizon where the East is always red, but for now our view through our window is of a dark alley, the pavement barren, the curtains closed. Surely we cannot be the only ones awake, even if we are the only ones with a single lamp lit. No, we cannot be alone! Thousands more must be staring into darkness like us, gripped by scandalous thoughts, extravagant hopes, and forbidden plots. We lie in wait for the right moment and the just cause, which, at this moment, is simply wanting to live. And even as we write this final sentence, the sentence that will not be revised, we confess to being certain of one and only one thing—we swear to keep, on penalty of death, this one promise: We will live!” (Ch. 23)

 Characters

Narrator: A half-Vietnamese half-French communist spy whose heightened ability to sympathize leads him to question his identity and eventually leads to his descent into madness.

Man: One of the narrator’s “blood brothers” who introduces the narrator to communism, becomes horribly disfigured after the Fall of Saigon.

Bon: The narrator’s other “blood brother” who doesn’t know that the narrator of Man are communists, becomes severely depressed after the death of his wife and child.

General: A South Vietnamese General who works to fight North Vietnamese Communists even after fleeing to Los Angeles.

Crapulent Major: A likable, fat man who is falsely accused by the narrator of being a communist spy and is then killed by Bon. Haunts the narrator after his murder.

Sonny: A former classmate of the narrator and editor of the local newspaper who is murdered by the narrator. Haunts the narrator after his murder.

Overall Thoughts & Review

This is a very dense book with a lot of layers to it. This is not the sort of book that one can skim, and it is definitely intense. However, I would not let these facts deter you from reading this book as I actually found these attributes as some of the novel’s most appealing characteristics.

This novel makes you think. This novel questions the nature of sympathy, the nature of allegiance, deals with issues of being an immigrant and feeling a lack of belonging, deals with issues of morality and dual identity, questions the meaning of life’s purpose, and characterizes art as propaganda and talks about the gravitas of poor minority representation.

I personally really enjoyed all these components of the book because the novel made me feel really intellectually engages while I was reading it, and I personally related to the narrator’s struggle to bridge Eastern and Western cultures and struggling with identity as an immigrant.

This book can be very very graphic in portrayals of violence as well as in portrayals of rape. One scene in particular almost made me vomit, and I had to take a shower after reading it.

The plot as well as the ideas that Nguyen presents are very heavy, and one definitely feels like they go on a journey with the narrator throughout the narrative. The language is not particularly difficult to understand, but the ideas that Nguyen puts forward are definitely loaded and as a reader require a fair amount of internal contemplation.

Overall, I really did like this novel although it could be a bit wordy at parts. While the novel did not really have a traditional story arc, I didn’t feel that it was slow moving and Nguyen did a good job of engaging me as a reader through the various situations he put the narrator in.

I would recommend this book to those who like asking philosophical questions as well as thinking heavily about political issues and the hypocrisy and corruption in societies. This book can be very critical of America, but I definitely found that to be one of the novel’s strengths as it really beautifully illustrated a non-Western perspective of American society and American international actions. I would not recommend this book to those that are offended easily, or those that are turned off by graphic content.

Rating: 4.3/5

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Long time, no post 😦 Thankfully, in my absence I was able to finish several books and have a line up of reviews ready for the upcoming weeks.

I’ve been hit by a serious case of Anglophilia after the #RoyalWedding2018. Meghan Markle looked absolutely stunning, and I loved watching the ceremony from start to finish. I would like to offer my sincerest congratulations to the happy couple.

As this school year winds down to a close, I’m excited to have some more time to read and write up reviews. If anyone has any suggestions as to which book I should read next, please comment them down below.

Like for like, comment for comment.

I hope you guys liked this review of The Sympathizer. I know it was a bit unconventional as the novel debuted recently, but I really felt that the novel was so dense and celebrated that I was sure that it would be looked back upon in history as a classic and incredibly influential novel.

I hope everyone likes the new summer makeover. I may have gotten a tad bit excited for upcoming school vacation, and I thought the blog should reflect that 🙂

I hope you have an amazing week and tune in next week for my next review. Happy reading!

xoxo.

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Being Mistress of Oneself – “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen

3/1/18-4/16/18

“[Mrs. Dashwood] feared that under this persuasion she had been unjust, inattentive, nay, almost unkind, to her Elinor;—that Marianne’s affliction, because more acknowledged, more immediately before her, had too much engrossed her tenderness, and led her away to forget that in Elinor she might have a daughter suffering almost as much, certainly with less self-provocation, and greater fortitude.” (Austen Ch. 47)

Summary

Sense and Sensibility is a novel by Jane Austen published in 1811. It was the first novel that Jane Austen published, followed two years later by perhaps her most famous novel: Pride and Prejudice. The novel focuses on the relationships of Miss Elinor and Marianne Dashwood.

At the beginning of the novel, the reader is informed of the approaching death of Mr. Dashwood, the owner of Norland Park and father to a son, John Dashwood, and three daughters from his second marriage, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret Dashwood. Despite his wishes, Mr. Dashwood is forced to leave his property to his son by law, and consequently entreats John to provide for his daughters and wife as he is unable to legally. John promises his father, but is persuaded by his selfish and manipulative wife, Fanny to withdraw from providing any sort of monetary support to his sisters.

Fanny and John Dashwood move to Norland Park, and Mrs. Dashwood and Fanny begin to increasingly vex one another over their competing roles as mistress of Norland Park. Edward Ferras, Fanny’s eldest brother, moves into Norland Park as well, and quickly makes acquaintances with the Dashwood sisters, specifically with Elinor and with Margaret. Elinor and Edward quickly become attached to each other, an attachment that does not escape the notice of either Mrs. Dashwood or Fanny.

With increasing displays of overt rudeness by Fanny, Mrs. Dashwood decides that she and her daughters will leave Norland Park to reside in a cottage owned by her cousin Sir John of Barton Park. At Barton Park the Dashwoods meet Sir John, his mother Mrs. Jennings, and their close friend Colonel Brandon. While dining with the Jennings, Marianne decides to play the piano forte, and during her performance Colonel Brandon enters the house and is immediately taken by Marianne. Marianne however dismisses Colonel Brandon as to old for her at 35.

Marianne decides to go for a walk with Margaret, persuading Margaret to accompany her despite forecasts of rain. During their walk, it begins to downpour and Marianne slips down a hill and twists her ankle. Luckily, a man on horseback finds Marianne and carries her back to Barton cottage. Before leaving Marianne back at Barton cottage he asks to call on her again tomorrow, introducing himself as Willoughby.

Marianne falls head over heels for Willoughby. The two discover that they have almost every interest in common as well as agreeing with each other on nearly every subject. Elinor scolds Marianne lightly for her expressive conduct with Willoughby, to which Marianne replies,

“is this fair? is this just? are my ideas so scanty? But I see what you mean. I have been too much at my ease, too happy, too frank. I have erred against every common-place notion of decorum; I have been open and sincere where I ought to have been reserved, spiritless, dull, and deceitful—had I talked only of the weather and the roads, and had I spoken only once in ten minutes, this reproach would have been spared.” (Ch. 10)

The two flaunt their affections openly and everyone around them begins speculating of their foreboding engagement. A group forms, led by Colonel Brandon, to picnic around Delaford but their party is abruptly broken when Colonel Brandon announces that he must leave immediately. His sudden departure is teased by Willoughby, and Mrs. Jennings speculates that it has something to do with the illegitimate child under his care.

 Next, Willoughby suddenly announces that he must depart as well, leaving Marianne heartbroken and the Dashwoods bewildered. Mrs. Jennings discovers some lost relations named the Steeles, and Lucy Steele promptly works to form a friendship with Elinor. Lucy reveals to Elinor in confidence that she has been secretly engaged to Edward Ferras for four years, ever since Edward lived with Mr. Pratt. Elinor attempts to conceal her shock and horror and promises to maintain Lucy’s confidence in her.

Elinor and Marianne decide to travel with Mrs. Jennings to London for several weeks, largely due to Marianne’s enthusiasm to possibly see Willoughby and despite Elinor’s reluctance to possibly encounter Edward. Elinor wonders of the possible engagement between Marianne and Willoughby, and informs Colonel Brandon that she has not heard of their engagement when he inquires on the subject.

Marianne finally sees Willoughby at a party of Lady Middleton’s, and she approaches him excitedly. However, Willoughby treats her coldly and distantly. Marianne asks Willoughby if he received any of her letters that she has written since being in London, and he answers vaguely. The next day, Willoughby sends Marianne a callous letter in which he states that he never felt anything for her and implies that Marianne’s presumptions of love were unfounded. He returns Marianne’s lock of hair as well as her letters.

Marianne sinks into a depression, crying and secluding herself. Colonel Brandon tells Elinor that Willoughby acted similarly with Eliza, the girl under Colonel Brandon’s charge. Willoughby impregnated Eliza and then left her alone. Elinor discloses the information to Marianne on Colonel Brandon’s behalf with the intention of assuaging Marianne’s internal anger at being tricked by Willoughby. New is spread that Willoughby has married a wealthy Miss Grey.

Fanny invites Lucy Steele to stay with them in London in a desperate attempt to stop John Dashwood from inviting his sisters to stay with them. During their visit, Lucy’s sister reveals Lucy’s engagement to Edward flippantly to Fanny.

“[Fanny] fell into violent hysterics immediately, with such screams as reached your brother’s ears, as he was sitting in his own dressing-room down stairs, thinking about writing a letter to his steward in the country. So up he flew directly, and a terrible scene took place, for Lucy was come to them by that time, little dreaming what was going on. Poor soul! I pity HER. And I must say, I think she was used very hardly; for your sister scolded like any fury, and soon drove her into a fainting fit. Nancy, she fell upon her knees, and cried bitterly; and your brother, he walked about the room, and said he did not know what to do. Mrs. Dashwood declared they should not stay a minute longer in the house, and your brother was forced to go down upon HIS knees too, to persuade her to let them stay till they had packed up their clothes.” (Ch. 37)

Mrs. Ferras disinherits Edward with this revelation, but Edward stands by his engagement to Lucy as a matter of conscience. The Ferras fortune is secured to Edward’s brother, Robert, instead.

Marianne and Elinor journey to Cleveland with the Palmers as an effort to get closer to Barton. Marianne goes for a walk in the rain and falls violently ill. The Palmers leave Cleveland in fear of infection, but Colonel Brandon, Mrs. Jennings, and Elinor remain. Once Marianne’s condition begins to border on being fatal, Elinor asks a distressed Colonel Brandon to send for their mother.

Marianne’s health finally improves, and a relieved Elinor is meets Willoughby instead of her mother and Colonel Brandon as she expected. Willoughby tries to explain his conduct, explaining that though he acted selfishly, he feels genuinely for Marianne. Elinor decides that she pities him rather than hating him, and later once Marianne feels better, she relays the story to her as well. Marianne decides that she and Willoughby could never have made each other happy.

The Dashwoods return to Barton, where news reaches them that Lucy Steele has married Mr. Ferras. The news saddens Elinor greatly, but does not surprise the Dashwoods. Elinor realizes grimly that she had been harboring vain hopes of the breaking off of the engagement.

Edwards arrives unexpectedly, startling Elinor exceedingly. Edward clarifies that Lucy marries Robert Ferras not himself, and that he is deeply in love with Elinor. Elinor breaks down into tears at this news, releasing her long suppressed feelings.

Elinor and Edward get married, and their marriage is followed soon by that of Colonel Brandon and Marianne. Austen writes,

“Colonel Brandon was now as happy, as all those who best loved him, believed he deserved to be;—in Marianne he was consoled for every past affliction;—her regard and her society restored his mind to animation, and his spirits to cheerfulness; and that Marianne found her own happiness in forming his, was equally the persuasion and delight of each observing friend. Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby.” (Ch. 50)

Characters

Elinor Dashwood: The sensible and rational eldest Dashwood daughter who is in love with Edward Ferras.

Marianne Dashwood: The expressive and reactive Dashwood daughter who falls in love with Willoughby and then Colonel Brandon.

Edward Ferras: The brother of Fanny Dashwood who desires to join the clergy and loves Elinor.

Colonel Brandon: The honorable and reliable retired officer who falls in love with Marianne and is a friend to Elinor.

John Willoughby: The selfish and deceitful suitor of Marianne who marries Sophia Grey for her wealth.

Overall Thoughts & Review

This marks the completion of my last Austen on the list! (Cue the confetti, fireworks, etc).

I actually really like this novel, even in comparison to the other Austen novels that I already love like Pride and Prejudice and Emma. I adored the dynamic between Marianne and Elinor and how Austen navigated showing them as extremes without making them seem like caricatures. The two sisters were extremely relatable and their dynamic was equally engaging consistently throughout the novel.

Another notable mention of exceptional writing in regards to character was that of Fanny Dashwood. Fanny was crafted as so perfectly despicable that every scene that she appeared in was equally hilarious and aggravating. I think that Austen’s masterful depiction of this character can be summed up with her discussion with John over the Dashwoods’ possible annuity at the beginning of the novel. I openly laughed out loud at that section.

This novel, more than Austen’s other works in my opinion, examined the social system of 1800s England. In Sense and Sensibility propriety and female social mobility was at the forefront of the novel. I particularly loved how Edward and Elinor discussed finances after their “happily ever after,” a conversation that I felt really brought home the message that marriage is a complicated business with many factors including love, but not limited to love. This interpretation of marriage having to being multi dimensionally positive in order to secure the happiness of both parties was further exemplified by the failure of the relationship of Marianne and Willoughby.

I really enjoyed the humanization of Willoughby in comparison to similar Austen characters like Wickham. I appreciated that Willoughby wasn’t malicious for the sake of being malicious and that he was somewhat sympathetic.

My favorite characters of the novel have to be both Elinor and Colonel Brandon. I couldn’t help but fall in love with Colonel Brandon’s sincerity, integrity, and unwavering support for the Dashwoods without any expectation of reciprocation. I also admired Elinor’s sense and command of herself in the face of emotional trials, but I personally melted when Elinor finally broke down during Edward’s proposal.

My only complaint was that there was no real proposal scene in this novel like there were in other Austen novels. I would caution one who isn’t interested in British traditional society or social dynamics of women in the 1800s from reading this novel. However, I think that everyone can find a character in this novel that they love or can laugh at.

Rating: 4.7/5

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Happy to finally get this up and to finally finish this novel.

Hope you enjoyed this post. I’ll have another one up soon, so please make sure to follow.

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Happy Reading!

xoxo.

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