Eugene Onegin Read-Along Chapters 7 & 8

Marian @ Tanglewood’s Read-Along

Chapters 7 & 8

Chapter 7


Spring comes, yet Onegin has fled the country and Lensky’s grave, while at first visited by the two young girls, soon remains alone and forgotten.  In fact, soon after his demise, Olga marries, showing her attachment was rather a tenuous one.  With Olga’s marriage, Tatyana is now alone and spends her time walking throughout the countryside.  One day she comes upon Onegin’s estate, gains entrance and begins to pour through the books he has left behind and the notes he has made inside them.  Perhaps reality began to materialize with Lensky’s death, but now she really begins to search for the true Onegin and perhaps does not like what she finds:

“And modern man himself portrayed
With something of his true complexion —
With his immoral soul disclosed
His arid vanity exposed,
His endless bent for deep reflection,
His cold, embittered mind that seems
To waste itself in empty schemes.”

“And so, in slow but growing fashion
My Tanya starts to understand
More clearly now — thank God — her passion
And him for whom, by fate’s command …”

Tatyana’s mother, Dame Larin is concerned that she has turned down marriage proposals and decides to take her to Moscow and the marriage mart.  Tatyana laments their going, saying good-bye to all her woodland haunts.  We are treated to a grand show of Moscow, but Tatyana does not like her new surroundings or the people in them.  Will she be able to adjust to this new reality?

Chapter 8

Onegin turns up in town and it appears he has been travelling, perhaps trying to forget the tragic circumstances that caused his flight from the country.  Tatyana has married a general, who is much older than her, and Onegin spies them at a party.  Astounded by Tatyana’s poise and regal demeanour, he begs an introduction by the general who is a friend of his.  While Tatyana is polite, she treats him with no particular regard, which drives Onegin mad with love for her.  Eventually, after dogging her like a puppy, he writes her a letter, exposing his feelings.  He expected to touch Tatyana’s heart, as he had in her youth, but surprise! she was furious at what he had done.  When he finally confronts her at her house, she chastizes him and tells him, though she loves him, she is married and will remain faithful to her husband for life.

Onegin proposes to Tatyana
late 19th century illustration
by Pavel Sokolov (source Wikipedia)

Thoughts:

In chapter 7, Tatyana finally begins to grow up.  The duel appears to precipitate the change, but reading Onegin’s books in a slow thoughtful manner, in direct contrast to her initial quick infatuation, demonstrates a maturing of soul.  Having to leave the comfort of her childhood home, also forces her to go down the path towards womanhood.

Chapter 8 certainly gives us a sense of how Tatyana’s view of Onegin has altered.  While she still retains the emotion of girlish love, she sees his character clearly.

The second reading of this poem (with a different translation) has certainly made specific situations and the sentiments of the characters come more alive for me.  I’ll write a review soon to summarize my discoveries!

Paradise Lost Read-Along Book V and VI

Paradise Lost Read-Along

Book V

Eve awakes, disturbed by the dream she had experienced and relates it in detail to Adam, who tries to comfort her by minimizing its importance.  The reader is left with this beautiful and poignant image:

“So cheered he his fair spouse, and she was cheered
But silently a gentle tear let fall
From either eye, and wiped them with her hair;
Two other precious drops that ready stood,
Each in their crystal sluice, he, ere they fell,
Kissed as the gracious signs of sweet remorse
And pious awe, that feared to have offended.”

God sends the angel Raphael to the bower of Adam and Eve to warn them of the treacherous foe near them and to remind them of their freedom as human beings to choose right from wrong.  Raphael arrives in great splendour:

“A Seraph winged.  Six wings he wore, to shade
His lineaments divine:  the pair that clad
Each shoulder broad came mantling o’er his breast
With regal ornament; the middle pair
Girt like a starry zone his waist, and round
Skirted his loins and thighs with downy gold
And colours dipped in Heaven; the third his feet
Shadowed from either heel with feathered mail,
Sky-tinctured grain.  Like Maia’s son he stood,
And shook his plumes, that heavenly fragrance filled 
The circuit wide ……”

Eve begins to prepare choice delicacies for their visitor and the reader gets more evidence of the hierarchical structure of the poem:

“Nearer his (Raphael’s) presence, Adam, though not awed,
Yet with submiss approach and reverence meek,
As to a superior nature, bowing low ..”

Potent images of the delightful beauty of the garden abound.  Raphael takes a moment to caution Adam with regard to his obedience.  Again free will is emphasized:

“…….. That thou art happy, owe to God;
That thou continuest such, owe to thyself.”

God has given man happiness, but it is in man’s power to keep it or lose it based upon his choices.

Raphael then begins to relate the story of the war of the angels in Heaven, telling of Satan’s jealousy of the Son’s elevation.  Satan counsels his followers to “cast off the yoke”, stating that “if not equal all, yet free, equally free.”  But Abdiel, a Seraphim, abhors Satan’s “counterfeited truth” and delivers a heated speech condemning his evil words.  When mocked by the rebel angels, “with retorted scorn his back he turned on those proud towers, to swift destruction doomed.”

Raphael conversing with Adam and Eve
by John Martin (1826)

Book VI

Civil war rages in Heaven.  Satan and Abdiel have a battle of words, Satan stating that it is liberty that he is fighting for, and mocking those who are lazy and choose only to serve, whereupon Abdiel retorts:

“……………. This is servitude
To serve the unwise, or him who hath rebelled
Against his worthier, as thine now serve thee,
Thyself not free, but to thyself enthralled;
Yet lewdly dar’st our ministering upbraid.
Reign thou in Hell, thy kingdom …….  ” (178-183)

The battle scenes reminded me so clearly of the battle scenes in The Iliad.  Satan has “all his right side” sheered by the sword of Michael and “first knows pain.”  His removal from the field is modelled on the rescue of Hector during one of the battles in The Iliad.  Then:

“Gnashing for anguish, and despite, and shame
To find himself not matchless, and his pride
Humbled by such rebuke, so far beneath
His confidence to equal God in power.”

Michael & Satan
by Guido Reni (c. 1636)
source Wikipedia

Like all Spirits, he is soon healed and withdraws to make a huge machine (a cannon?) to enable them to gain “honour, dominion, glory and renown.”  Honestly, the next part I had a difficult time figuring out what was going on.  It sounded like Heaven’s angels were easy targets, so they retreated into the mountains, lifted up the very same mountains and hills, and flung them onto the rebel angels & their war weapon, burying them beneath the mountains’ flinty bases, and making their escape labourious and painful.  On the third day, God sends the Son into battle but Satan will not give over:

“Insensate, hope conceiving from despair.
In Heavenly Spirits could such perverseness dwell?
But to convince the proud what signs avail,
Or wonders move the obdurate to relent?
They, hardened more by what might most reclaim,
Grieving to see his glory, at the sight
Took envy, and, aspiring to his height,
Stood re-embattled fierce, by force or fraud
Weening to prosper, and at length prevail
Against God and Messiah, or to fall
In universal ruin last ………”

Satan prefers destruction; he will not comprise one iota!  Yet the Son of God routs the evil forces with little effort:

“Yet half his strength, he put not forth, but checked
His thunder in mid-volley, for he meant
Not to destroy but root them out of Heaven.”

Ejected from Heaven in disgrace, Satan and his angels fall nine days before being buried in the pit of Hell.  At the end of Raphael’s story, he once again cautions Adam against disobedience.

“Of those too high aspiring who rebelled
With Satan; he who envies now thy state,
Who now is plotting how he may seduce
Thee also from obedience, that, with him
Bereaved of happiness, thou may’st partake
His punishment, eternal misery,
……………….
But listen not to his temptations; warn
Thy weaker, let it profit thee to have heard,
By terrible example, the reward
Of disobedience; firm they might have stood,
Yet fell; remember, and fear to transgress.”

Michael casts out the rebel angels
by Gustave Doré
source Wikipedia

Thoughts:

I really like Abdiel.  He was the only one to stand up to Satan and all his rebel angels, possibly endangering himself, yet confront them he did!  He also is the first to engage Satan during the battle and, speaking words of truth, certainly puts him in his place.

Milton gives us a beautiful image of Raphael, with his six wings almost singing a breeze, wafting a heavenly fragrance that must have been like pure spring.

Satan, as a character, is extremely interesting, yet not particularly complex.  Time after time he ignores the evidence in front of him and is certain of victory, or that his own wishes are impossible to deny.  Milton refers often to his “pride” but it is something much more nefarious and eternally damaged. Truth is simply inconceivable to him, he cannot even get close to it.  It is fascinating to watch in a rather unsettling way.

Eugene Onegin Read-Along – Chapters 5 an 6

Marian @ Tanglewood’s Read-Along

Chapters 5 & 6

Chapter 5

Ah, broken-hearted Tatyana!  Suffering from unrequited passion for Onegin, Tatyana takes up yet another romantic diversion of superstition. Cats, moons, cards, stars, monks and fleeting hares, all set her heart palpitating with a foreboding of calamity.   She dreams a dream in which a huge bear helps her cross a raging river and takes her to a hut in the woods, placing her inside before disappearing.  Numerous fantastical creatures are revelling and among them, Onegin, the master of the party.  He calls Tatyana ‘his’, Olga arrives with Lensky, yet soon a heated discussion begins between Onegin and Lensky.  Onegin produces a knife and Lensky falls.  Awakening, Tatyana wonders about the symbolism of her vision but it is her name day and time for the party!  Lenksy and Onegin arrive late.  Initially Tatyana’s girlish discomfort and pain irritate Onegin, but later he takes pity on her.  Yet boredom is his boon companion and he looks for something to alleviate his ennui.  Olga!  He flirts with her, Olga is receptive but Lensky is horrified and enraged.

Chapter 6

With bitter indignation, Lensky challenges Onegin to a duel.  Onegin accepts.  Yet when Lensky speaks with Olga there is evidence that she is reasonably oblivious to the importance he places on her actions with regard to Onegin and slight doubt fills his mind.  However, the challenge has been issued and the duel must go ahead.  They pace, aim and fire and Lensky is shot dead.  Sense returns to Onegin and he feels horror at what he had done.  Pushkin very skillfully puts the reader in the place of Onegin, allowing us to search his emotions upon this terrible act.  He then muses on Lensky’s fate and on some repercussions it will cause, closing with sorrow and regret over the unnecessary death of the young poet.

Onegin by Dmitry Kardovsky
1909
source Wikipedia

How do you interpret Tatyana’s dream?  Any ideas as to why it is usually omitted from major adaptations?

Tatyana’s dream is the foreshadowing of the duel.  My guess as to why it is usually omitted is that it is not really necessary to the story and, I think, visually may take away from it.  On paper though, it is effective and interesting.

Chapter 6 finds us in the middle of sudden disputes and high drama.  What might be the characters’ motivations for such extreme actions?  Is it substance, or superficiality?  Is anybody right or wrong — and if so, who?

The tragedy of the last chapter is that really no one wants the duel.  Tatyana, if she had known about it, would have been horrified and tried to stop it; the same with Olga.  After Lensky realized that Olga was innocent (or at least appeared innocent) in the seduction, his anger and resentment faded and there was a regret about his decision.  Onegin also mentally repented of his callous actions of the night before, yet even so, his pride demanded that he continue on the calamitous course that was set by Lensky’s youthful zeal.  The lack of maturity in both males characters lead to serious consequences.

Reactions or predictions?

I was a little puzzled during the duel scene.  My translation says:

“With quiet, firm and measured tread,
Not aiming yet, the foes took boldly
The first four steps that lay ahead —
Four fateful steps.  The space decreasing,
Onegin then, while still not ceasing
His slow advance, was first to raise
His pistols with a level gaze.
Five pace more, while Lensky waited
To close one eye, and only then,
To take his aim …… And that was when
Onegin fired ……”

They started off pacing boldly and equally, yet Onegin was the first to raise his pistol. And then there were five paces after that.  Why did Onegin have his pistol ready at four paces and Lensky had to still raise his after nine?  Was it a sign of Lensky’s ineptness with duelling?  In any case, I found it confusing and a little awkward.  I wonder if it’s just my translation.  Can anyone enlighten me?  Are there any duelling enthusiasts out there? 😉

Any quotes stand out?

He could have shown some spark of feeling
Instead of bristling like a beast;
He should have spoken words of healing,
Disarmed youth’s heart …… or tried at least.
‘Too late,’ he thought, ‘the moment’s wasted …..

It’s like a Greek chorus singing the upcoming tragedy.

Son Excellence, Eugène Rougon by Émile Zola

“For a moment the President remained standing amidst the slight commotion which his entrance had caused.”

I had met Eugène Rougon in Zola’s first book of the Rougon-Macquart series, The Fortune of the Rougons.  The oldest son of  Pierre and Felicité Rougon, he had been stationed in Paris, working for the cause of Louis-Napoléon Buonaparte as Emperor Napoleon III.  In Son Excellence, Eugène Rougon, we encounter Rougon as a man in disgrace, a man who has offended the Emperor and who has decided to resign before he is formally removed from office.  As he packs up his documents, a myriad of characters flow in and out of his office, almost in the formation of a dance, and each individual is as colourful as the next.  Yet as the respective characters speak their piece, the dance turns into a circling of sharks, as they all wonder how their position will be affected by Rougon’s fall and how much he can still impact their various personal causes.

The book chronicles the political scene in Paris during the government of the Second Empire under Emperor Napoleon III.  Through Rougon, we see the political machinery grinding through the career of a politician; his fall from favour, his subsequent rise through the help of his sycophantic supporters, their fickle desertion, and so forth.  Behind the glamorous facade of the Second Empire, manipulation, betrayal, coercion, conspiracy and fraud seep from between its seams, and only the clever and opportunistic will survive.

Chameleon-like Rougon is a man who knows how to bend with the force of political volatility.  Initially, after giving his resignation, he is slow, methodical and patient, rather like a toad waiting in the mud for an insect to come buzzing around his head.  Yet when he regains his title as minister, he comes alive; robust, loud, and outspoken, he soaks in the approbation of those around him while ruling with a heart of iron.  Yet Zola does a marvellous job of retaining his provincial nature; his sometimes wild, untamed speeches and stubborn and shortsighted actions reveal a man who has not been able to completely shake off the country dust of his origins.

Pont de la Tournelle, Paris
by Stanilas Lépine
(source Wikipedia)

Zola’s prose is so exquisitely compact, yet with it he constructs such a wide scope for the reader.  I felt I was really present during the baptismal procession for the Imperial Prince; I sensed the barely suppressed excitement in the air, the feel of the crowds and people pressing against me, the impatience, the festivity.  Zola doesn’t just allow us to view the Second Empire with words; he takes us right into its grandeur, its character and the various intricacies that gnaw at its foundations.  

This novel is not amongst Zola’s most popular books of the Rougon-Macquart series, but I really, really enjoyed it for its dynamic appeal and attention to detail.  Can Zola write a poor novel?  Somehow I don’t think so.

(translation by Ernest A. Vizetelly)

Other Rougon-Macquart Series Reviews (Zola’s recommended order):

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

“1801 – I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.”

Read-along posts:  Chapters 1-9 / Chapters 10-17 / Chapters 18-26 / Chapters 27-34

I didn’t expect to love this book.  I had been avoiding it for years with just a vague feeling that it wouldn’t live up to expectations.  Then Maggie came along with her January Read-Along and I knew it was the impetus I needed to read it.  Honestly, I am glad I did read it but it turned out pretty much as I expected.  It’s certainly not a terrible book, far from it …… it has high drama, passion, tension, shock and best of all, it is very well-written.  Yet on the other hand, it is romanticized and highly sentimental with dialogue such as:

“Oh!” he sobbed, “I cannot bear it!  Catherine, Catherine, I’m a traitor, too and I dare not tell you!  But leave me and I shall be killed!  Dear Catherine, my life is in your hands; and you have said you loved me — and if you did, it wouldn’t harm you.  You’ll not go, then?  kind, sweet, good Catherine!  And perhaps you will consent —- and he’ll let me die with you!”

 

Family Tree
(source Wikipedia)

The plot is highly suspect with coincidence after coincidence, happenings such as Nelly giving in to Catherine or Heathcliff’s whims, time after time, when there is really no reason to, and in spite of the fact she is often worried about losing her position if she does.  Yet I think its worst defect is the insufficient human depth in many of the characters, as they often acted as if they were automatons with emotional buttons that get pushed whenever the authoress needed that particular emotion to drive the plot along.  Catherine swings wildly from willfulness to thoughtfulness, from vicious teasing, to caring empathy, traits that do not meld together to form a believable character.  Many of the characters suffer the same fate.

Emily Brontë was one of the three Brontë sisters who wrote under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.  Wuthering Heights was her only novel, published a year before her death of tuberculosis at the age of thirty.  She would never learn of its success.

 

Emily Brontë
by Bramwell Brontë
source Wikipedia

While Wuthering Heights is certainly compelling and captures the reader’s attention, it does so by using devices such as twisted emotion, shocking circumstances and profoundly dramatized situations, techniques not worthy of a well-composed classic.  The writing is excellent yet the content reflects an immaturity in construction, perhaps the innocence of a sheltered young girl relating what is imagined about life without actually having the experience of living it.  Relatively juvenile plot devices were employed with perhaps a charming innocence.  Heated emotions do not necessarily mean an increase in love; and claims of sentiment which lack corresponding action are meaningless.  Is it an exciting read?  Absolutely!  Do you want to know what happens next?  Of course.  But to compare this novel to Jane Eyre is like comparing a diamond to crudely cut glass.  They are not in the same sphere.

 

The climb to Top Withens, thought
to have inspired the Earnshaw home
in Wuthering Heights
(source Wikipedia)

Now before I am too hard on poor Emily, I think her sister had brilliant insight into her sibling and the novel’s birth.

“I am bound to avow that she had scarcely more practical knowledge of the peasantry amongst whom she lived, than a nun has of the country people who sometimes pass her convent gates.  My sister’s disposition  was not naturally gregarious; circumstances favoured and fostered her tendency to seclusion; except to go to church or take a walk on the hills, she rarely crossed the threshold of home.  Though her feeling for the people round was benevolent, intercourse with them she never sought; nor, with very few exceptions, ever experienced.  And yet she knew them; knew their ways, their language, their family histories; she could hear of them with interest and talk of them with detail, minute, graphic, and accurate; but with them she barely exchanged a word.  Hence it ensued that what her mind had gathered of the real concerning them, was too exclusively confined to those tragic and terrible traits of which, in listening to the secret annals of every rude vicinage, the memory is sometimes compelled to receive the impress.  Her imagination, which was a spirit more sombre than sunny, more powerful than sportive, found in such traits material whence it wrought creations like Heathcliff, like Earnshaw, like Catherine.  Having formed these beings, she did not know what she had done.  If the auditor of her work, when read in manuscript, shuddered under the grinding influence of natures so relentless and implacable, of spirits so lost and fallen; if it was complained that the mere hearing of certain vivid and fearful scenes banished sheep by night, and disturbed mental peace by day, Ellis Bell (Emily Brontë) would wonder what was meant, and suspect the complainant of affectation.  Had she but lived, her mind would of itself have grown like a strong tree; loftier, straighter, wider-spreading, and its matured fruit would have attained a mellower ripeness and sunnier bloom; but on that mind time and experience along could work: to the influence of other intellects, it was not amenable.”

Charlotte Brontë says it so well.  Wuthering Heights is a well-written novel, but the components are but mere twigs and undeveloped buds, showing promise of growth, but not yet ready to burst into the splendour of full form.  And sadly, they never would.

 

 

Classics Club Spin #5

How embarrassing to admit that I have not even started to read my Spin, Bleak House, from Classics Club Spin #4.  HOWEVER, I am going to be starting it at the end of this month, so I’m not too concerned about it, which is why I am joining another Spin!

For this spin, the rules are as follows:
1.  Go to your blog.
2.  Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
3.  Post that list, numbered 1 – 20, on your blog by next Monday.
4.  Monday morning, we’ll announce a number from 1 – 20.  Go to the list of
      twenty books you posted and select the book that corresponds to the 
      number we announce.
5.  The challenge is to read that book in February or March.
I used the random list organizer here to choose the 20 books from my master list.  If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler, I’ve already started but I left it on the list because a situation like a Spin is the only way I’m going to be forced to finish it. 😛  So my list ended up looking like this:

  1. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch (1962) – Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  2. The Robe (1942) – Lloyd C. Douglas
  3. Persuasion (1818) – Jane Austen
  4. Gulliver’s Travels (1726) – Jonathan Swift
  5. Frankenstein (1818) – Mary Shelley
  6. The Rule of St. Benedict (529)? – Saint Benedict
  7. The Praise of Folly (1509) – Erasmus
  8. Aristotle, Ethics (330 B.C.) – Aristotle
  9. Wives and Daughters (1864/66) – Elizabeth Gaskell
  10. The Heart of Darkness (1899) – Joseph Conra
  11. The Warden (1855) – Anthony Trollope
  12. East of Eden (1952) – John Steinbeck
  13. The Taming of the Shrew (1590 – 1592) – William Shakespeare
  14. The Stranger (1942) – Albert Camus
  15. Richard III (1592) – William Shakespeare
  16. If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler (1979) – Italo Calvino
  17. She Stoops to Conquer (1773) – Oliver Goldsmith
  18. The Time Machine (1895) – H.G. Wells
  19. La Curée (1871 – 1872) – Emile Zola
  20. Seven Story Mountain (1948) – Thomas Merton
Then I broke them into the listed categories …….

5 Books I’m Hesitant to Read:

  1. Aristotle, Ethics (330 B.C.) – Aristotle (complete terror!)
  2. The Praise of Folly (1509) – Erasmus (is Erasmus going to be over my head?)
  3. She Stoops to Conquer (1773) – Oliver Goldsmith  (don’t know what to expect)
  4. East of Eden (1952) – John Steinbeck (will I like Steinbeck?)
  5. Seven Story Mountain (1948) – Thomas Merton  (I’m excited about this but it’s very looong!)


5 Books I Can’t Wait to Read:

  1. Persuasion (1818) – Jane Austen (the only Austen I haven’t read yet)
  2. Wives and Daughters (1864/66) – Elizabeth Gaskell (love Gaskell!)
  3. The Warden (1855) – Anthony Trollope (Barsetshire series, here I come!)
  4. La Curée (1871 – 1872) – Emile Zola (it’s Zola.  What more can I say?)
  5. The Robe (1942) – Lloyd C. Douglas (looks great!)

5 Books I Am Neutral About Reading:

  1. Gulliver’s Travels (1726) – Jonathan Swift
  2. The Heart of Darkness (1899) – Joseph Conrad
  3. The Taming of the Shrew (1590 – 1592) – William Shakespeare
  4. The Stranger (1942) – Albert Camus
  5. The Time Machine (1895) – H.G. Wells

5 Free Choice:

  1. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch (1962) – Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  2. Frankenstein (1818) – Mary Shelley
  3. Richard III (1592) – William Shakespeare
  4. If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler (1979) – Italo Calvino
  5. The Rule of St. Benedict (529)? – Saint Benedict
In spite of wanting to read Seven Storey Mountain, I hope I don’t get it because it will be a struggle to read such a long memoir with such a full schedule.  I am absolutely terrified of Aristotle.  I have a book by Mortimer J. Adler called Aristotle for Everybody, which I had hoped to read before tackling Aristotle, but if he is chosen there is little hope for me to fit it in beforehand.  Otherwise, I won’t mind getting any of the others listed.
Oh, I just realized that in spite of not reading my last Spin book yet, I did read two other novels from the original list, so that makes me feel much better!!
Good luck with your Spin, everyone!

Wuthering Heights Read-Along Week #4

Read-Along hosted by Maggie at An American in France

Chapters 27 – 34 (end)

Such a few chapters but chock full of drama, intensity and characters acting with wild impracticality.  It is now certain that Edgar Linton will die, the question is only when.  Catherine, accompanied by Ellen/Nelly, meets Linton Heathcliff.  When his father appears, Linton combines temper tantrums and manipulative coersion by appealing to his sickly state, to convince her to return with him to Wuthering Heights.  Upon their arrival, Heathcliff imprisons Catherine and Nelly, physically abusing Catherine when she crosses him.  Curiously, although Nelly is liberated after five days, through various coincidences her applications of assistance for Catherine do not work and Catherine must escape herself to reach her father’s bedside minutes before his death.  Yet the brief freedom means nothing, as Heathcliff eventually forces her to marry Linton, so his heir gets both Wuthering Heights and the Grange, avenging himself finally on both the Earnshaws and Lintons.  Linton is a smaller, yet weaker copy of his father and while he does not perpetrate violence upon Catherine because he is hampered by his health, he relates the cruel treatment he would subject her to if he was able.  Soon afer, Linton succumbs to his weak health.  Time passes and Catherine, who has throughout the whole novel despised, taunted and depricated Hareton, decides to be nice to him.  He returns her advances and they “fall in love”, much to the annoyance of Heathcliff who has other problems churning his mind.  It appears Cathy is haunting him; he feels her presence along with a feeling of elation and, for once is distracted from his machinations, neither eating nor sleeping until he dies and is buried, according to his wishes, near Cathy and Edgar Linton.  Hareton and Catherine marry and, at the end of the book, decide to live at Thrushcross Grange.

Yorkshire Dales
photo courtesy of Greg Neate
source Flickr

It was a real struggle to finish this novel.  Thus far, it had been reasonably interesting, if not well-constructed, but for the last quarter of the read, the wild flights of improbable drama often made me want to close the book and go on to something else.  I could not find one redeeming feature in Heathcliff, his nature entirely vicious, base and twisted.  His love for Cathy was more an obsession, his desires at times blinding him to both her health and well-being, his actions done with complete disregard for future consequences.  Yet overall, I am glad that I read this novel.  Emily Brontë writes well and there are hints that if she had lived, her writing would have matured, honed by practice and life’s experiences.

Read-along posts:  Chapters 1-9 / Chapters 10-17 / Chapters 18-26 / Chapters 27-34 / FINAL REVIEW


Many thanks to Maggie who hosted this wonderful challenge!

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

First Edition Dustjacket
Source Wikipedia

One year later, Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy return to Narnia (via a train station —- I’m curiously reminded of Harry Potter) only to find their castle at Cair Paravel in ruin, the talking animals in hiding and a despotic foreign ruler, a Telmarine, has assumed control of the kingdom.  The sacrifice of Aslan and the children’s reign has been forgotten, reduced to a mere myth in the minds of the Narnians.

Assisted by Trumpkin, a drawf, the children learn that they have been recalled by the blowing of Susan’s horn by Prince Caspian, and that they must aid him in battle against his uncle, Miraz, the man who slew his father, the rightful king.  Aslan appears to Lucy and, while she ignores his first summons under pressure from her siblings, she soon learns from a gentle remonstrance from Aslan, that she must always try to do what is right and not follow the crowd.  She also realizes that she will never know what would have happened if she had obeyed the first time, that choices have consequences; lessons learned to increase her wisdom.  The children finally reach Caspian’s hideout and, with the help of the animals, dwarves, Aslan and Bacchus and his merry men, they manage to defeat the forces of the evil Miraz and place Prince Caspian on the throne of Narnia.

My, my, what is Bacchus doing in a children’s book with Christian undertones?!  Some critics were astonished and perplexed at Lewis’ insertion of the Greek god of wine and merrymaking into this novel.  His inclusion of pagan deities, into a hodge-podge of talking animals and quasi-medieval culture was perhaps mystifying, but Lewis grew up devouring Norse and Greek mythology and had no issues with the pagan gods.  His essay, Myth Became Fact, can give the reader further clues as to his love of myth and the symbols related to it. Probably with this essay in mind, one Lewis scholar, Louis Markos, argues that he sees the Bacchus scenes as Lewis’ way of bringing all pagan myths together, that “when viewed from the life, death and resurrection of Christ, the pagan myths are not only tamed but come true ……… Christ … is all the myths come true …..”  The myths can assist us in a deeper understanding of spiritual realities.

 

Bacchus by Caravaggio
source Wikipedia

While Prince Caspian was published after World War II, in 1951, the consciousness of the country was still unsettled, and many people, Lewis included, were concerned with the direction England would take after the war. With setting the reign of the Pevensie children so far into Narnia’s past, Lewis brings a curious parallel to his own post-war England.  In Narnia, the people have forgotten Kings Peter and Edmund, Queens Susan and Lucy, the lion, Aslan, and the medieval pomp and joyous times of their reign.  So, in post-war Europe, if the traditional medieval Christian past disappeared from peoples’ thoughts and actions, so too would its values and morality.  It was important that, like in the case of Lucy first seeing Aslan, the correct choices were made.

“War creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.  Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice.”  

All in all, another delightful story from Lewis, filled with adventure, suspense, and life themes that are not only pertinent in Narnia, but echo throughout all the ages and into our own.

C.S. Lewis Project 2014

 Other Narnia Books