Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Beloved by Toni Morrison

This is a bitter, powerful, yet beautiful novel about slavery in the South of America around the end of Civil War, or in the Reconstruction era. Beloved portrayed a devotional love of a mother towards her children which—when the worst, unthinkable terrifying situation was approaching—lead her to kill her daughter. Wait, do you mean she really killed her own daughter? How can you call that love? What kind of love is that—killing your own child? I know, before getting into the whole story, you will call it insanity, but wait until you finish it, you will understand why I could not condemn Sethe for committing such a cruel thing to her beloved daughter—whom she later did name Beloved.

Sethe had been through a lot of hard times during her slavery. Throughout the novel Morrison took us to see how white people had ill treated their slaves. Not only they tortured their slaves and took away their freedom, Beloved distinctly pictured how they dehumanized the slaves; so much that the slaves were even scared to love; that their definition of freedom was as simple as to be able to love and to have desires.

“To get to a place where you could love anything you chose—not to need permission for desire—well, now, that was freedom.”

The situation of Baby Suggs, when she was freed by her son, is more than sufficient to reflect what the slaves lost their entire lives. Baby Suggs and few of other characters in this book was fortunate to at last had freedom. But what about them who had lived their entire lives as slaves? And once they were free at last, how would they leave the dark past behind and take steps to the future?

And what Sethe must have endured here was so great—and I won’t write it down here explicitly, it was something you need to feel yourself—that she was determined to not let her children through the same path, ever. Morrison takes us to judge Sethe’s choice through other central characters—but mostly through Beloved, the victim.

Beloved is not an easy reading. Morrison takes us back and forth almost without any particular notice; through each character’s memory and point of view, the whole story is slowly and painfully revealed. It’s a bit strange and confusing at first, but you will get more familiar after few chapters.

I have read somewhere on the internet that Morrison based the story on a true account of a slave mother killing her children rather than having them be returned to slavery under the Fugitive Slave Act, so that they wouldn’t suffer being killed in another way. I don’t know whether it’s accurate or not, but one thing is sure: there is no greater thing in the universe, than love. Sethe killed her daughter not because she didn’t love her, but because she had never felt any kind of love most of her own life; and now—when she was finally able to love after so much sufferings—she would never give anybody a chance to take her children and let them suffer as she had.

Ah….I have tried so hard to picture my feeling through this review, but I guess I can never tell you how powerful this book had affected me and made me re-shape my definition of love. I will only close this review with an emotional dialog that will reflect the desperation and powerlessness of the slaves….

Tell me something, Stamp,” Paul D’s eyes were rheumy.
Tell me this one thing. How much is a nigger supposed to take? Tell me. How much?
All he can, said Stamp Paid. “All he can.”
Why? Why? Why? Why? WHY?”


Five stars for Beloved. And special thanks to Nishita, whose review made me want to read this book, and to Joon Ann and Listra who were reading this book with me...


Toni Morrison is an American novelist, editor, and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed characters. Among her best known novels are The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon and Beloved (won Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988).

Born as Chloe Adelia Wofford in February 18, 1931 from a work class family, Morrison grew up as a fervent reader; Austen and Tolstoy were among her reading list. She married a Harold Morrison in 1958, but divorced in 1964. She wrote a short story about a girl who longed to have blue eyes, and the story later on developed into her first novel: The Bluest Eye (1970), which she wrote while raising two children and teaching at Howard University.

Beloved (1987) was her fourth novel and brought her to success. Not only Pulitzer, it also won American Book Award. In May 2006 The New York Times Book Review named Beloved the best American novel published in the previous twenty-five years. In 1993 Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her citation reads: Toni Morrison, "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality." She is currently the last American to have been awarded the honor. In addition to her novels, Morrison has also co-written books for children with her younger son, Slade Morrison. Toni Morrison is currently a member of the editorial board of The Nation magazine.

[all from Wikipedia]

The Scarlet Letter – Summary Chapter XVII – XX

Chapter XVII – The Pastor and His Parishioner

Dimmesdale and Hester met each other in the forest; Hester told him that Chillingworth was his husband who wanted to take avenge, and encouraged him to leave the past and sought for new life elsewhere. Dimmesdale did not have the courage to make it alone, and asked Hester for help, which Hester agreed.

Chapter XVIII – A Flood of Sunshine

Right after their plan of leaving together was settled, Hester put off her scarlet letter which made her beauty shone again at once; and both she and Dimmesdale felt free and delighted, just as the sun suddenly brightly shone. Dimmesdale was afraid Pearl would not love him, but Hester insisted that she would.

All at once, as with a sudden smile of heaven, forth burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood into the obscure forest, gladdening each green leaf, transmitting the yellow fallen ones to gold, and gleaming adown the gray trunks of the solemn trees.” (p. 173)


Chapter XIX – The Child at the Brookside

When Pearl returned to the scene from playing with animals and flowers on the other side of the brook, she refused to come to her mother, whom she was not familiar without her scarlet letter; and only after Hester put it back—and her shine of beauty vanished—Pearl came to her. However Pearl refused Dimmesdale’s affectionate kiss on her brow, and washed it at the brook.

Side note:
Hester felt estranged from Pearl when she put off the scarlet letter. Was it because Pearl born from the sin (thus symbolized by the scarlet letter), and when she denied it, she lost her bond with Pearl? Dimmesdale felt it too: “I have a strange fancy, that this brook is the boundary between two worlds, and that thou canst never meet thy Pearl again…” (p. 178)


Chapter XX – The Minister in a Maze

Out from the forest, Mr. Dimmesdale saw things around him differently; he had wicked thoughts in him now that were eager to burst out, and wondered where it came from or why it happened. He dismissed Chillingworth’s medical service, and casually hinted that he might left the city, then ended the night by re-writing his sermon for the next day’s Election—in his newly awaken passion.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Letter To Arthur Dimmesdale – The Scarlet Letter

If I was one of Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale’s parishioner in The Scarlet Letter, this is what I would write him….

Dear Rev. Dimmesdale,

I am your humblest parishioner, writing from my humblest heart, as I happened to know the deepest secret you have kept in your heart for the last seven years. I know that what you have done was a sin, no one would disagree that, but I also remember from your sermons, many times you have emphasized that our God is a Merciful God. Thus, when people fall in sin, and they really regret it and ask for repentance, you told us yourself, that God would forgive them. So, why don’t you just do that, instead of torturing your own soul with the realization that people see you as a holy person while you are far from it?

Dear Mr. Dimmesdale, no mankind is free from sin, Jesus was the only Man who have never committed sin. You might not know, but your colleagues are definitely sinners too, including your senior Rev. Wilson. Even St. Peter and St. Paul had also fell in sin in the past, and what Paul had done was as great as—if not greater than—adultery; he murdered a large numbers of Jesus’ followers! But look at what happened to him afterwards, God forgave him, and gave him a bigger task to gain much more souls to be baptist.

If I, your humblest parishioner, may share my humblest opinion of what you should do next—and this I collected from your sermons too, mind you—I think you must stop blaming yourself, it won’t bring you anywhere. You have committed a sin. Ask repentance from God. Leave the past behind. Remember what God had put you in your position for. Finish your job. Move from the parish if you want, but for God’s sake, build your new life and be useful for Him!

But, once again, I’m just a humble parishioner. I did not have the right to make decision for you, dear Mr. Dimmesdale. What I do know is that you should leave the parish, leave Hester Prynne and little Pearl, and especially that wicked Mr. Chillingworth. Ask God for a new spirit to build your new life. I can only pray for the best of you and to God’s plan for you.

--Your humble parishioner—

Gone With The Wind Read Along: UPDATE & REMINDER

Hi guys…how are you all doing with Gone With The Wind so far? Just want to remind you that we are approaching the end of our read along. As I have mentioned before, we would post our reviews simultaneously on Margaret Mitchell’s birthday on November 8th, 2012. The review page will be opened on that day at 7:30 am (GMT+7). You can add your review post URL in the linky. And….we will have another giveaway hosted by Bzee! Please check out Bzee’s giveaway, because your review posts will automatically be entered to that giveaway.

In the meantime I’d like to remind you too, that my giveaway for update posts is still on. Please add your posts in Update Posts page by latest November 8th, 2012 at 7:00 am (GMT+7), because after that the linky will be closed. You could still send your update post after that via comment, but will not be eligible to the giveaway.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Scarlet Letter – Summary Chapter XIII – XVI

Chapter XIII – Another View of Hester

Seven years after Pearl was born, now people saw Hester as a kind and charitable woman who always helped the needs; that the letter ‘A’ on her bosom had a new meaning of ‘Able’. Hester herself has changed from a woman with passion and feeling to one full of thoughts; and seeing Dimmesdale on his last vigil, Hester resolved to rescue him by confronting Roger Chillingworth.

Side note:
A dark question often rose into Hester’s mind with reference to womanhood: “Was existence worth accepting, even to the happiest among them?” –a hint of feminism? (p. 140)

Chapter XIV – Hester and the Physician

Talking to Chillingworth, Hester realized how he had transformed from wise and intellectual man to a fiend; and he refused to let Dimmesdale free. Chillingworth realized his own soul corruption but accepted it as fate, even when Hester threatened that she would reveal the secret.

Chapter XV – Hester and Pearl

Pearl—who was let playing on the seashore—wore seaweeds on her bosom to resemble her mother’s scarlet letter. Pearl kept asking her mother about the meaning of the scarlet letter, and why the minister kept placing his hand over his heart; but Hester did not want to explain the truth, so she lied to Pearl about the scarlet letter.

Side notes:

  • At first Hester wanted to tell the truth about the scarlet letter meaning to Pearl to be able to share her burden, however at last she kept it to herself, why?
  • By lying about the scarlet letter…. “a guardian spirit, who now forsook her, as recognizing that, in spite of his strict watch over her heart, some new evil had crept into it, or some old one had never been expelled.” (p. 154)

Chapter XVI – A Forest Walk

Hester and Pearl had a walk in the forest to intercept Dimmesdale, to warn him about the danger of Chillingsworth’s company for his soul. Pearl asked her mother about the Black Man, whether he had anything to do with the scarlet letter on her bosom and with the minister’s habit to place his hand on his heart.

My thoughts:
Pearl: “And, Mother, he has his hand over his heart! Is it because, when the minister wrote his name in the book (Black Man’s book), the Black Man set his mark in that place? But why does he not wear it outside his bosom, as thou dost, Mother?” Well, that’s a good observation, child! You should be proud of your mother, who had the courage to admit her wrong doing, and not hiding under a hypocrite mask. (p. 159)

Side note:
What about the scene of Pearl catching the sunshine (and eventually could catch it)? Did it point to Pearl’s innocent vs Hester’s sin? (“Mother, the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hide itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom.”) p. 156

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Scarlet Letter – Summary Chapter IX – XII

Chapter IX – The Leech

Roger Chillingworth befriended with young minister Dimmesdale who got paler and weaker day after day; and finally lived together with him in an apartment to investigate the illness, but his real purpose was to dig his deepest secret—according to Chillingworth’s suspicion. Meanwhile, people saw Chillingworth had transformed from a kind hearted physician to an evil leech to Dimmesdale; they wondered whether the clergyman was being haunted by Satan’s emissary in disguise of Chillingworth.


Chapter X – The Leech and His Patient

Roger Chillingworth concluded that Dimmesdale’s ill was not bodily but spiritually, and offered to examine his soul, which made Dimmesdale angry; however their friendship had remained unbroken. Few days later when Dimmesdale was asleep, Chillingworth put aside the clergyman’s vest, then went away in an evil ecstasy as if the Satan has won a soul.

My thoughts:
What was that that he might have found in the clergyman’s bosom that he always kept closed?

Chapter XI – The Interior of A Heart

Chillingworth's mind playing games resulted on the clergyman’s soul suffering from his guilt; he wanted to confess to his people but scared to do it, while the people thought the topic of sin in his sermons were heavenly. Dimmesdale began to feel scared at Chillingworth but did not know why, and was having delusion about Pearl pointing her finger to his heart; then one night he had an idea of how to end his anguish, and left home at once.

My thoughts:
We tend to judge a person from his outside appearance, for example, we always assuming that clergymen are more holy than us, just because of their robes. Dimmesdale and Hester Pryne shared the same sin, but people condemned Hester because she wore the scarlet letter on her bossom, while Dimmesdale hid behind his ‘holy’ robe. Priests are God’s representative on earth, their task is to lead us to God, but it doesn’t mean they are better than us; they are—just like us—not immune to sin.

Chapter XII – The Minister’s Vigil

Dimmesdale went straight to the scaffold where Hester had stood in shame years before, to die on it; Hester and Pearl who had passed by, joined him, when suddenly the light of meteor shone and illuminated them on the eyes of Chillingforth, who finally took Dimmesdale home. Meanwhile, a great red letter ‘A’ appeared in the sky—a projection of the meteor—that Dimmesdale took as a signal of his guilt, while people took it as ‘Angel’ which pointed to a dead Governor at the same night.

My thoughts:
People used to believe things as how they want to believe. A glare of red line that resembles a letter ‘A’ could be seen as different things, depends on each point of view.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mr. Utterson in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: Character Thursday (34)

This time I will not pick the main character from this Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic story. Dr. Jekyll’s (or Mr. Hyde’s) personalities had been explained quite clearly in the story itself, left almost nothing to analyze. Instead, I will pick Mr. Utterson—the lawyer, one of Dr. Jekyll’s trusted friends. Mr. Utterson’s personalities were more intriguing, for me, than Dr. Jekyll’s; the first passage of the story was about him.

Mr. Utterson was pictured as a “cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse, backward in sentiment, and dreary; yet he is somehow loveable”. See a bit of contradiction here? Other than that, Mr. Utterson was austere with him self, strict to a humble and simple life style; yet he had an approved tolerance for others in their misdeeds. These, I guess, were human’s typical dual side in their personality, the kind and the evil, the good and the bad. As we realize our bad side, we try hard to suppress it by pushing on healthy habits. That was a good practice, but sometimes…under certain circumstances (good taste wine in the case of Mr. Utterson), we loosen our strict discipline and let us wonder a bit on our wild side.

Mr. Utterson & Mr. Hyde

It’s interesting what Mr. Utterson has said about himself, “I incline to Cain’s heresy… I let my brother go to the devil in his own way.” As if Stevenson put the opening situation for the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde here. It indeed one of human’s weaknesses (from the beginning with Adam & Eve), to see our limits in the battle between good and bad. We know that if we nurture our bad side, the bad side will take over our life control. The question is, to which point we could let our selves until we cross that line of our bad side?  We like to play on this, just like what Mr. Utterson did, although he perhaps didn’t play on himself but on others (by ‘letting his brother go to the devil in his own way).

An interesting character of Mr. Utterson, and fortunately, he never got too far from the limit, until the end of the story.

That is my Character Thursday of this week, an analysis of book character of my choice, who is yours?... Just put your post URL in the linky below. Do you like to join us in discussing characters from books you read? See the details of Character Thursday first.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Scarlet Letter – Summary Chapter V - VIII

Chapter V – Her Needle

"Hester at her needle" (courtesy of
Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection)
Out of the prison, Hester lived in a small cottage, and for living she did a fine embroidery needle work—which decorated the Puritan’s fashion, including the Governor's—while on the other hand she did charity by making coarse clothes for the poor. On the contrary of her fine work, Hester felt lonely as the society—even the poor and neighborhood children—secluded her because of her scarlet letter.

My thoughts
It’s absurd that people who regarded Hester Prynne as a sinful woman, wore her embroidery works with all pride. “Vanity, it may be, chose to mortify itself by putting on, for ceremonials of pomp and state, the garments that had been wrought by her sinful hands.” (p.70)

Side note
Hester had a sense that there are hidden sins in other hearts, that ‘the outward guise of purity was but a lie, and that, if truth were everywhere to be shown, a scarlet letter would blaze forth on many a bosom besides Hester Prynne’s’. (p.73)

Chapter VI – Pearl

Born from sinful passions, Pearl turned out to be a beautiful and radiant little child—especially with elegant dresses Hester made for her (it’s been years after Hester’s release from prison). However, there is a shadowy evil reflection from her face and manner that often terrifying Hester, and made the Puritans believed Pearl to be a demon offspring.

My thoughts:
Although she was only a little child, Pearl could seem to understand that she and her mother were to be secluded from society. She never complained about her loneliness, for never being allowed to play with children her age. She could create her own amusement, but unfortunately those amusements were Pearl’s way to express her anger from being treated unfair. Is this what Puritan believed the best result of punishing a sinner? Creating a new ‘demon’?

Side notes
The two sides of Pearl’s soul; at times she was an angelic sweet creature, but at another time she was like a demon; and the transformation was so quick!

Chapter VII – The Governor’s Hall

Hester went together with Pearl to Governor Bellingham’s mansion as people were speaking of separating Pearl from her mother because she was believed to be demon origin. While waiting at the mansion hall, Hester saw Pearl’s devilish expression reflected from the Governor’s shining armor, as well as her exaggerated scarlet letter.

My thoughts:
Pearl became sensitive and protective (for her and her mother) towards any insults from the outside; she fought children who tried to insult them; so now it’s not Hester protecting Pearl, but Pearl protecting her mother (and herself). (p. 86)

Side notes:

  • The rich and luxuriant of Governor’s mansion, and his pride of his ancestor’s history were described in detail, what was it reflecting? (p. 88)
  • Pearl was so excited when she saw rosebushes in Governor’s garden outside the window. Was it related somehow with the rosebushes in the prison door? (p. 90)

Chapter VIII – The Elf-Child and the Minister

The Governor, who came into the hall with Rev. Wilson, young minister Arthur Dimmesdale, and Robert Chillingworth, wanted to take away Pearl from Hester; but being pleaded by Hester, Rev Dimmisdale defended her by saying that uniting the child and the mother would keep the mother’s soul from Satan’s grab; the defense succeeded, and Pearl showed her appreciation by tenderly pressed Rev. Dimmisdale’s hand to her cheek. Before leaving the mansion, Hester was invited to join a witches gathering by Governor’s sister, which she rejected (but would have accepted had she failed to keep Pearl).

My thoughts:
Robert Chillingworth’s comment towards Dimmisdale’s defense: “You speak, my friend, with a strange earnestness” and Pearl’s instinctive affection towards the young minister…. Were they signals of who might have been Pearl’s real father?...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Scarlet Letter – Summary Chapter I - IV

[A woman’s sufferings from cruel treatment and humiliation of Puritan society]

Chapter I – The Prison Door

An old prison in Boston presented a contrast between its dreary door and—strangely—the freshness of wild rosebush near the threshold.

My thoughts:
The contrast is representing good moral that will be fighting against the Puritan.

Side note:
Ann Hutchinson is a Puritan woman, courageous exponent of civil liberty and religious toleration.

Black flower of civilized society.

Chapter II – The Market Place

Hester Prynne—holding her baby—was brought out of the prison with a scarlet letter ‘A’ embroidered on her breast, to be paraded to the market place where she was exhibited to public shame for her sin: adultery; but she confronted the condemning eyes of spectators with dignity and elegance. Meanwhile, a series of memories about her past crossed her mind; from her childhood, about a man with slightly deformed feature and a bright future she might have had.

Side note:
The women hated Hester more than the men, jealousy? (p. 44-46)

Chapter III – The Recognition

From the crowd Hester recognized a man with slightly deformed figure, and became alarmed; the strange man recognized her too before he learned the complete version of Hester’s story: wife of an intelligent English man who sent her away two years ago, then committed an adultery until giving birth to a baby. The clergymen (Rev. Wilson and young Rev. Dimmesdale) persuaded Hester to confess who her lover was, but she refused to speak up.

My thoughts:
 The young clergyman, in spite of his task to make Hester talk, seemed to admire her brave for holding the truth: “She will not speak…wondrous strength and generosity of a woman’s heart! She will not speak!

Side note:
It was whispered: ‘The scarlet letter threw a lurid gleam along the dark passageway of the prison’.

Chapter IV – The Interview

Hester and the baby need physician, and the man who recognized her in the market place came for the call; made draught for both mother and baby. Roger Chillingworth—the name he called himself—did not want to avenge, he admitted his folly by marrying a much younger girl who did not love him, then made Hester swore to keep his identity as her husband, and promised her that he would somehow find the mysterious lover she kept the secret.

Side note:
Roger Chillingworth last words: ‘not thy soul’…did it mean that he would take avenge to Hester’s lover?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Part 4 of Gone With The Wind

It’s been perhaps two weeks since I have finished the fourth part of Gone With The Wind, however I have felt too annoyed to write my thoughts then. So, now, while my mind has been calming a bit after taking two other beautiful books, I will jot down my brief thoughts about events taking place throughout Part 4.

Reconstruction era followed the Civil War. Under the new government and new laws, the Southerner suffered just more. For Tara, it came as a much higher taxes. Jonas Wilkerson, the ex overseer at Tara came one day to collect the taxes, and threatened Scarlett to buy Tara if she could not get the money to pay it. Enraged, Scarlett made a vow that she would never—never have to release Tara and got hungry again. After thinking hard—and as usual put aside any consciences—Scarlett decided that her only chance to save Tara was marrying Rhett Butler—the only man who possessed money—or at least became his mistress. So went Miss Tara once again to Atlanta, only to find that Rhett was in prison after being accused of killing a black man.

One of the “best” moments in this part, for me, was the scene of Scarlett used her charm to seduce Rhett. Almost got trapped in Scarlett’s trick, Rhett finally found her true purpose, and ungallantly refused her proposition. Ha! This could be a good lesson for Scarlett. But…did she learn from it? Of course not! :) Unsuccessful with Rhett, Scarlett—who possesses a good sense towards money—found the smell of cash in Frank Kennedy’s new store. Despite the fact that Frank fell in love with Suellen—Scarlett’s sister—and have been engaged to her, Scarlett unashamedly seduced Frank although she has never attracted to him at all (the same case as she first married Charlie). Scarlett lied to Frank that Suellen has engaged to other man because she could not wait for Frank any longer, and finally, in his heartbreak, Frank agreed to marry Scarlett. And finally, Scarlett could get cash to save Tara.

From a plantation owner, Scarlett has transformed into a business woman. She manipulate Frank to build the iron business, something Frank had been dream on for quite a long time, but she took it over from Frank, and run the business by herself. And she ran it in a harsh and ruthless way, ignoring ethics and conscience. Atlanta at that time was not a safe place for white people, especially for women who travelled alone. This was the time when the Northerners freed black slaves and planted the idea that they have the right to do whatever they liked to white peoples, including raping white women. These situations persuaded white men to join in the Ku Klux Klan, to take avenge and to protect their women.

Between these times Gerald died, and Scarlett returned to Tara in her pregnant condition. Everyone imposed the guilt on Suellen, who they believed triggered Gerald’s heart attack. Everyone but Will Benteen, who finally decided to marry Suellen! Not that he loved her, he loved Tara more than anything else, and marrying Suellen gave him the right to live and manage Tara—which he has been proven to be very skilful during Scarlett’s absence. If I must choose one favorite man protagonist from this book, Will would be my pick. Not only he’s smart and kind hearted, Will was the only one who would make Scarlett ashamed of what she had done to Suellen. Will did not scolded her or mocked her in Rhett’s style, he did not pointed at her in his accusation, he just reminded her that ‘she knew how she had cruelly hurt Suellen and manipulated Frank’s true love.

While at Tara, Scarlett persuaded Ashley to come with her to Atlanta, to manage one of her lumber business. It was Scarlett’s way to keep being closed to Ashley. Here, once again, Mitchell emphasized Ashley’s incapability to adapt to the changing world. Ashley was the old times’ product, and it would be difficult for him to find his place in this new world, one thing that Ashley knew very well. Frankly—despite of his incapability, I admire Ashley for his frankness to recognize his own weakness. I think Ashley was Ashley, it’s not his fault that he had grown up in the old times. What he needed was to accept his weakness and what life has offered him. He should be thankful (and I believe he did) to Melly, because without her, he won’t be able to survive. Ashley was meant to be with Melly, they made a perfect couple in this story. Sometimes (or often) love is not the most essential element in a marriage, understanding and accepting each other are. Ashley and Scarlett loved each other, but just imagine what would happen when they marry each other. A catastrophe!...   

So, Scarlett returned to Atlanta together with the Wilkes—after Melly convinced Ashley to move on. Unconcerned of all the danger—as Scarlett only focused her little mind to make money and money—she kept travelling alone to run the business, in spite of Frank’s and the others’ pledge for Scarlett to reduce her frequent outings. Then one day when Scarlett travelled alone, some black slaves attacked her and almost raped her, if one of Tara’s ex slave did not come to help her. Another good thing for her, something to open her eyes to the real world. You were not the only person worthy to live in this world, o Miss O’Hara! Grow up!!

Scarlett’s incident triggered a reaction from the guys in Ku Klux Klan to do some “action”. This was a blow for Scarlett, and made another huge change in her entire life. Rhett’s and Melly’s co-action in the rescue were superb. And to end the turbulence of Scarlett’s life, Rhett Butler came to propose her to marry him.

Part four is the longest and the most interesting of Gone With The Wind. Here Scarlett’s life has changed completely and abruptly. I could feel a little pity for her, things must have been tough for her, but still, I could not feel sorry for her. She was much more annoying here, knowing that she should have been more mature and learned a lot of lessons now, but she seems never learned at all. =__=

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

[Conclusion in English is at the bottom of this post]

Ketika sedang berjalan-jalan di malam yang suram di London, seorang pengacara bernama Mr. Utterson bersama temannya menemukan sebuah bangunan tak terurus yang hanya memiliki sebuah pintu. Pintu itu menerbitkan kembali memori tentang sesosok pria kejam bernama Edward Hyde, yang bahkan keberadaannya saja membuat kita merasakan suasana yang amat jahat. Dan memori itu, bersama fakta bahwa Hyde menulis cek atas nama seorang terpandang yang bukan dirinya, membawa kita kepada sebuah surat wasiat yang terkunci rapat di ruang kerja Mr. Utterson. Surat wasiat aneh milik sahabatnya, seorang pria terhormat dan ilmuwan terpandang bernama Dr. Henry Jekyll.

Setelah kejadian itu, berturut-turut Edward Hyde melakukan tindakan kejam berdarah dingin, sementara di pihak lain keanehan demi keanehan terjadi pada Dr. Jekyll. Sang dokter—yang telah menulis surat wasiat bahwa Mr. Hyde, teman yang dipercayanya dan memiliki kunci untuk masuk ke rumahnya, akan mewarisi semua hartanya bila meninggal—sakit dan tak mau tampil di depan umum selama beberapa lama. Hingga akhirnya Mr. Utterson menerima surat wasiat dari Dokter Lanyon, yang bertiga bersama Dr. Jekyll bersahabat erat selama bertahun-tahun. Di suratnya, Dokter Lanyon melampirkan surat lain dari Dr. Jekyll yang hanya boleh dibuka jika pada suatu hari kelak sang dokter menghilang.

Misteri makin mengental, dan puncaknya adalah ketika kepala rumah tangga Dr. Jekyll mengajak Mr. Utterson ke rumah Dr. Jekyll, karena ada kejadian-kejadian yang sangat aneh dan menggetarkan syaraf seluruh isi rumah sang dokter. Apakah yang akan ditemukan Mr. Utterson di sana? Benarkah sahabatnya itu sedang dalam kesulitan? Dan apakah sebenarnya isi surat Dr. Jekyll yang hanya boleh dibuka ketika dirinya sudah menghilang?

Buku ini, meski hanya 128 halaman, menyajikan kisah yang sederhana namun disajikan dengan gaya gothic Victoria-nya yang cantik oleh Robert Louis Stevenson. Kupikir, hampir semua pembaca telah mengetahui paling tidak gambaran umum tentang kaitan Dr. Jekyll dan Mr. Hyde. Stevenson telah mampu menghadirkan nuansa gothic yang suram sejak awal kisah. Meski kita sudah mengetahui misteri yang ada, toh Stevenson mampu membawa ketegangan di pertengahan hingga akhir kisah ini.

Secara keseluruhan karya Stevenson ini mampu menghiburku yang memang menyukai gaya Victoria, namun tetap aku kurang mengerti mengapa Stevenson harus membuka kisah ini dengan berpanjang lebar menjelaskan tentang Mr. Utterson dan sepupu jauhnya, yang amat berbeda dalam kepribadian dan nampak tidak nyaman dalam kebersamaan mereka, namun toh tetap mempertahankan kebiasaan berjalan-jalan bersama di hari Minggu. Kalau toh itu hanya untuk membawa kita untuk berkenalan dengan fenomena Mr. Hyde, mengapa harus se-detail itu? Toh setelah itu si sepupu jauh tak pernah berperan dalam kisah ini, kecuali dalam menjelaskan kisahnya menyaksikan kejahatan Mr. Hyde.

Aku menduga, mungkin Stevenson sengaja menonjolkan adanya dua sisi yang berbeda dari sebuah entitas. Sebut saja kepribadian Mr. Utterson sendiri. Di awal kisah diungkapkan bahwa di satu sisi ia adalah orang yang dingin, kaku , pemalu, membosankan. Namun di sisi lain ia orang yang menyenangkan dalam pergaulan terutama ketika ia telah meneguk sejumlah anggur dalam acara-acara santai. Mr. Utterson ‘keras’ terhadap diri sendiri, tak menyentuh minuman keras dan tak mau terlibat dalam gemerlap duniawi. Namun di sisi lain ia cukup toleransi terhadap sisi liar orang lain, bahkan kadang ia tidak mengecam keliaran orang lain dan malah mendorong mereka melakukannya. Sebuah paradoks, bukan?

Tampaknya Stevenson dari awal sudah mengingatkan kita bahwa dalam diri manusia selalu ada dua sisi yang berbeda ini, sisi terang dan gelap, sisi baik dan jahat. Dr. Jekyll sebenarnya tak jauh berbeda dari kita semua (terwakili oleh Mr. Utterson). Hanya saja ia lebih berani untuk bermain sebagai ‘Tuhan’, mencoba memisahkan kedua sisi itu dan melihat sisi mana yang lebih dominan. Dari percobaannya itu, kita dapat belajar bahwa, sisi manapun yang kita ‘beri makan’ akan mendominasi diri kita. Tinggal kita sendirilah yang harus memilih, sisi mana yang kita biarkan mendominasi hidup kita, karena pilihan itulah yang akan menentukan masa depan dan tujuan hidup kita.

Empat bintang untuk Robert Louis Stevenson!

Judul: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
Penulis: Robert Louis Stevenson
Penerbit: PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama
Penerjemah: Julanda Tantani
Terbit: Mei 2011
Tebal: 128 hlm


As you might have been familiar with the overall story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I won’t bother to write about the story at all. I’m just curious about how Stevenson opened this story. He wrote quite thoroughly about Mr. Utterson and his relative—with whom he used to spend Sundays by walking around the city. Both of them seemed did not enjoy one another’s company, but they kept enjoying their excursions anyway. I kept asking myself, what Stevenson wanted to show us; that people tend to create certain habits—that they think as good habits—to control our wilder sides?

Stevenson also wrote about two different sides of Mr. Utterson’s personalities. He was a cold, shy, and boring lawyer who kept himself from classy drinks and amusements. Here I assume Mr. Utterson was a man who tried hard to live a straight and humble life. But on certain circumstances—in casual parties under the overflowing of his favorite wine, for instance—he would permit himself to let his gaiety spring among his friends. On these occasions he could tolerate wild sides of people, envied them for having fun so freely, and sometimes persuade them to nurture their wildness.

I think Stevenson wanted to emphasize the two sides of kind and evil, good and bad in human’s souls; that we are all (like Mr. Utterson) have it in our soul—not only in Dr. Jekyll’s case. We all have a slight of ‘Mr. Hyde’ in our souls; what made us different are our choices. Dr. Jekyll—in his arrogance—chose to nurture the evil in his soul, because he experienced the freedom in the wildness of Mr. Hyde’s world. At one point Dr. Jekyll could stop his experiment and perhaps he could live the rest of his life in peace, but—just like Adam and Eve—he could not resist the temptation to be ‘God’. He chose to continue the terrible experiment until he could not control it anymore.

In the end, we must always realize that we have both kind and evil in us. And it’s up to us to choose which side we will let dominate ourselves, by nurturing it. Once we chose the wrong one, that could be the end of our lives, just like Dr. Jekyll.

What a wonderful story about good and evil, the everlasting search in human’s lives. But apart from that, I also loved the Victorian gothic atmosphere throughout the story with which Stevenson had enveloped it. It was dark but beautiful.

Four stars for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Robinson Crusoe in Robinson Crusoe: Character Thursday (33)

Robinson Crusoe was probably one of book characters with unique personalities to be analyzed here. It’s easy too, because from his journal, we can follow his life from the very beginning. Being born in a middle-class tradesman family, Crusoe has taught about trading business, a career that Crusoe’s father believed to be the best and safest career to have in the world. However—and this is the first sign of Crusoe’s stubbornness—Crusoe did not have any slightest interest towards business (any kind of it). I imagine Crusoe as a man who adored freedom; it’s not safety that he sought, but the charm of uncertainty, the wider possibilities that was not limited by rules and orders. And where could he find it if not in the sea? I think Crusoe has been born with adventurer soul in his heart; and nothing could prevent him to pursue his dream.

Throughout this book Crusoe often marked his stupidity because he did not follow his father’s advice, and runaway from home to become a sailor. However, I think it was not stupidity, and I never blamed him throughout this story, because what he has endured was merely a maturing process. If he had chosen to be a businessman, like his father’s suggestion, he would probably never have had such development in his entire life. And what is the most important development a man could reach if not finding the core of his life—which is God?

Crusoe's stubbornness was clearly pictured through his repentance. Being survived from several accidents in such ways that you could not have said that they were just incidents—still did not make him think of God at all. So, if Crusoe must fell in many dangerous conditions, it was not caused by stupidity, but his stubbornness. Even when he finally came to a supernatural understanding that God was behind those all occasions, it didn’t stay for too long before he forgot about it again. Then all the process was repeated again, he must fall into a tragedy, saved from it, realized that God was in it, then forgot about it as soon as everything was calm and settled again.

From his twenty eight years of living on ‘his’ uninhibited island, I see a strong will and determination in Crusoe. He never fell to desperation when he must make great efforts to produce simple things that he needed. Not even when he failed at his first trials (like when he made the canoe), he would somehow find the spirit to do it again and again until he got what he wanted. Here I think Crusoe was fortunate that he has his stubbornness in him!

Don't you think Brosnan is too handsome for Crusoe? :)

Making decisions, though, was not one of his best qualities. I can see from several occasions that he often felt uncertain to do something. The clearest prove of this was when he must decide to attack against the villain who did cannibalism on the island’s beach. But maybe we can spare him on that one, because it was actually the battle between his conscience and his survival instinct (it’s a good thing if one still consult his conscience before committing his deeds, right?). Anyway, I can still see his uncertainty in making decisions in several other occasions.

That is my Character Thursday of this week, an analysis of book character of my choice, who is yours?... Just put your post URL in the linky below. Do you like to join us in discussing characters from books you read? See the details of Character Thursday first.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Well Educated Mind: Self Project

What? Another project? Like a five year The Classics Club project doesn’t enough!”, I can hear you were saying…. :). However… *self defending* this one would just add the fun of munching those classics books I have listed in the CCP anyway! :) The Well Educated Mind is a guide to read and understanding classics pieces in the right method, a book written by Susan Wise Bauer.

If you can understand a daily newspaper, there's no reason you can't read and enjoy Shakespeare's Sonnets or Jane Eyre. But no one should attempt to read the "Great Books" without a guide and a plan. Susan Wise Bauer will show you how to allocate time to your reading on a regular basis; how to master a difficult argument; how to make personal and literary judgments about what you read; how to appreciate the resonant links among texts within a genre what does Anna Karenina owe to Madame Bovary and also between genres. Followed carefully, the advice in The Well-Educated Mind will restore and expand the pleasure of the written word.

Interesting, eh?

Actually, I am inspired by Ruth @ An Experiment with The Well-Educated Mind. I’m impressed on how she puts her review in neat and chronological posts, guided by some questions she took from The Well Educated Mind, which directly caught my interest. Then my craving for this book began, and last month I finally decided to buy it.

While waiting for the book to arrive, I have been creating a list of books I’d like to read for my WEM Self Project (there are 150 books from novel, poems, to plays). I have picked 31 books from it, these books are either has been included in my existing CCP list, or I just added because of WEM :) This time I won’t set any deadline to finish them, it’ll just flow with my mood and my interest; no targets, no pressures. I just want to read and savour them.

These are the 31 books I have picked (for now—it could grow wider)—this list will be posted in a dedicated page, you’ll find it on my main menu :

Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens (re-read)
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Return of the Native – Thomas Hardy
The Portrait of A Lady – Henry James
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald (re-read)
Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
The Trial – Franz Kafka
The Stranger – Albert Camus
1984 – George Orwell
Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison
Possession – A.S. Byatt
The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila – St. Teresa of Avila
Walden – Henry David Thoreau
City of God – St. Augustine
The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli
All The President’s Men - Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward
Richard III – William Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream - William Shakespeare
Hamlet - William Shakespeare
The Cherry Orchard – Anton Chekhov
Saint Joan – George Bernard Shaw
Dante’s Inferno – Dante Alighieri

Although WEM advised us to read the list in order, I opt to pick the titles randomly, based on the availability of the books in my TBR pile :) or ebook list, and whether it’ll match my reading schedule (along with any challenges, read-alongs and events).

It means that starting next month I would probably post more often on each book which I’d pick for the project. I hope you won’t get bored to read a glimpse of the title each time you’re looking at your blogroll or google reader! ;) And because I would dug into these books thoroughly, I could not guarantee that my posts would be spoiler-free, and I won’t put a *spoiler-alert* sign each time I jot down my thoughts; just want to let you know beforehand.

My copy has just arrived, and the first book I’ll pick for the project is…. The Scarlet Letter.
Wait for my posts on November! ;)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Beloved - A Classics Challenge October: Chapter Musing

October prompt for A Classics Challenge is….

Chapter Musing

Jot down some notes about the chapter you've just read or one that struck you the most. It can be as simple as a few words you learned, some quotes, a summary, or your thoughts and impressions.

This time I’ll pick a powerful novel by Toni Morrison: Beloved. This is a dark chronicle about slavery, and the particular passage I choose is from Chapter 15 (p. 140 – 141). Baby Suggs was a black old woman slave who has been freed by her son. This passage reflected how she felt on the day of her freedom, after having been a slave for sixty years!

The sadness was at her center, the desolated center where the self that was no self made its home. Sad as it was that she did not know where her children were buried or what they looked like if alive, fact was she knew more about them than she knew about herself, having never had the map to discover what she was alike."

 "Could she sing? (was it nice to hear when she did?) Was she pretty? Was she a good friend? Could she have been a loving mother? A faithful wife? Have I got a sister and does she favor me? If my mother knew me, would she like me?” ~ p.140

Hope by George Frederic Watts, 
an oil on canvas, 1885

She didn’t know what she looked like and was not curious. But suddenly she saw her hands and thought with a clarity as simple as it was dazzling, “These hands belong to me. These my hands.” Next she felt a knocking in her chest and discovered something else new: her own heartbeat. Had it been there all along? She felt like a fool and began to laugh out loud.” ~ p.141

I was kind of struck by this passage. It will never have occurred to me that when ones were born as slaves, they could never possess anything in their life. Everything belonged to their masters, and everything they could get, they got from the masters, even their names. The masters used to split families, and sold children to separate buyers to cut any relationship of the slaves. They never knew who they were in this world, they just did not have the root and probably have never existed, if nobody bought them freedom. They would never know many things about their qualities, and…well…there were so many things they would never experienced, although they had never done anything wrong.

It’s really a tragedy when innocent people were dehumanized by others; when they did not permitted to have even themselves as a human. Reading about how Baby Suggs was surprised to realize that her hands now belonged to her, that her heart was pounding to give herself a life was...well, that was a powerful image, really!

And I just realized something, which one is better for them: living their whole lives as slaves, or like Baby Suggs, could experience freedom at last? But after they have been enslaved for all their lives, could they manage to survive in the world alone (if they had been separated from the families)? That would be awful… :(