Sunday, October 31, 2021

Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde

🌸 Lady Windermere is a woman with puritan upbringing. Despite living in the corrupted society (where it is common for married men or women to have lovers) her view of marriage is still pure and innocent.

🌸 Lord Darlington loves Lady Windermere, but she chided him for giving her much attention, while showing him her beautiful new fan, a gift from her husband, Lord Darlington. I believe the fan is a symbol. In this case, it symbolizes love and fidelity in marriage. It's a token of a happy marriage.

🌸 Then a Lady Berwick told her that Lord Windermere is having a mistress, a Mrs. Erlyne - apparently infamous as a lose woman. When confronted by Lady Windermere, he denied of betraying her, but couldn't say anything else. He even insisted to invite Mrs Erlyne to their party to help her back into the society.

🌸 Believing his husband is lost, Lady Windermere sought help from Lord Darlington, who took the advantage to propose elopement. She rejected it at first, but eventually relented, she wrote a letter to her husband and went to Darlington's apartement, but he's not at home.

🌸 Mrs. Erlyne, reading Lady Windermere's letter to her husband, followed her to Darlington's and persuaded her to return to her devoted husband. But Lord Darlington entered his apartement, together with Lord Windermere and other gents, which forced Lady Windermere to hide herself behind the curtain. However, she left her fan lying on the table, and the men interpreted that she, too, has been corrupted. Here the fan represents her (nearly) infidelity.

🌸 Mrs. Erlyne was quick to the rescue by claiming that it was she who has absent-mindedly brought Lady Windermere's fan there - putting the blame on herself, and thus sacrificing her own chance of restoration to the society. And finally, here, the fan represents two things.

🌸 First, the injustice that the hypocritical society imposed upon women. And most importantly it symbolizes how thinly the bar between good and bad. This play's complete title is Lady Windermere's Fan: A Play about A Good Woman. The question is, who is the good woman implied on the title? Lady Windermere? But she was on the brink of ruin, had not Mrs. Erlyne been in for the rescue! It's Mrs. Erlyne, then? But she's a self-centered woman, without morality, so to speak. Can one good deed compensate her many bad ones? I think it's just what this play is about, besides a critic against the corrupted society, where infidelity became a fashion; it is that good and bad are never absolute. In a bad environment, there could be one good element - pure and untainted. As it was in a bad person, there might be one kindness in him/her, ready to shine to protect the pyrenees of the good one.

🌸 It's been awhile since my last reading of Wilde's play - An Ideal Husband - if I remember correctly. I've been expecting this one to be as hilarious as either An Ideal Husband or The Importance of Being Earnest, but I was wrong. J is more subdued, full of secrets and mystery, but as poignant as always.

Rating: 4 / 5

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

πŸ‘’ Lady Audley's Secret is the most famous novel of Mary Elizabeth Braddon. It was labelled a sensation novel, because of the "accidental" bigamy committed by its "heroine". Braddon herself lived with her publisher John Maxwell and had children with him when he's still married, while his wife lived in an asylum. She could only marry Maxwell after his wife died.

πŸ‘’ Lady Audley was Lucy Graham, a governess, before Sir Michael Audley was enchanted by her innocent beauty, and married her to become the lady of Audley Court.

πŸ‘’ George Talboys is coming home to England after three years of gold prospecting in Australia, only to find that his pretty wife, Helen Talboys, has died.

πŸ‘’ Robert Audley is Sir Michael's nephew, and friend to George Talboys. He brought his mourning friend to Audley Court, but Lady Audley avoided him. Nevertheless, he viewed a painting of Lady Audley when she's not at home, and seemed to be struck by it. Then, one day George Talboys disappeared on the next visit to Audley Court - leaving his friend, the listless Robert Audley, to solve the mystery.

πŸ‘’ By the time Lady Audley tried to avoid meeting George Talboys, I thought I knew what her secret is. And when he's missing, I suspected that my lady's secret is way much deeper than what I've thought.

πŸ‘’ For me, Lady Audley's Secret is a cozy and comfort reading. But I can imagine how sensational it was when first published in 1862. Though bigamy isn't extraordinary within the society of mid 19th century, I think it's considered rather daring when a woman openly wrote and published the subject in a novel.

πŸ‘’ The story is believed to be inspired by a real event: Constance Kent case in June 1860, which became a sensation for years.

πŸ‘’ Robert Audley, with his lazy, easy going manner, is easily my favorite character. I loved how he always treats Lady Audley tenderly and with respect, and how he considered what's best to do for her - when Sir Michael just left, ignoring everything with 'I don't want to know what you did for her' manner. I know he's terribly hurt, but how irresponsible and selfish it is!

πŸ‘’ In the end, there's the question of Lady Audley's madness. Is she really mad? I personally don't think so. It is clear that she is self-centered and morally flawed, but I see her more as a trapped and scared animal in desperate attempt to free itself from the cage, and find a safe home. It's not madness; it's survival - desperate and persistent survival.

πŸ‘’ And like any other women of that century, they were persistently belittled by men. In my opinion, George Talboys brings himself his fate when he left his wife just like that. For three years. Maybe his purpose is for improving the family financial - there's nothing wrong with that, of course - but how the wife is supposed to survive for years with neither explanation nor assurance? Men like Robert Audley or Sir Michael never blamed what George Talboys did to his wife, but of course Lady Audley's conduct is out of pardon, condemned without question.

πŸ‘’ This novel is quite interesting, if not intriguing. The kind of reading I'd happily pick for comfort.

Rating: 4,5 / 5 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Watership Down by Richard Adams

🐰 I've found a new favorite this year! It's no less than an adventure novel featuring a group of rabbits, leaving their endangered warren (a network of rabbit burrows, where a group of rabbits live together), exposed to dangers, challenges, and excitement, to seek a new home.

🐰 From the first I have liked a rabbit named Hazel. I thought he'll make a great leader because he trusts Fiver, his younger brother, who prophesied that a catastrophe is about to destroy their warren (Sandleford). Hazel knows that each person.. err.. rabbit, I mean, has his unique strength, and that to succeed in a mission, he has to trust on his instinct and the others' strength. In the critical moment, he trusts Fiver, and they ran away from Sandleford without delay, followed by nine others.

🐰 After running into several dangerous adventures, they came eventually to a perfect down which they picked as their future warren: Watership Down.

🐰 The novel is special because, while Adams wrote convincingly about rabbit's life - indeed, I seemed to see them alive, hopping in front of me all the time - it is, at the same time, a perfect portrayal of human nature. Each rabbit represents different character we often find in our own society.

🐰 I believe any leader-to-be of whatever community needs to read this novel. There are numerous lessons they can learn for their own good. Not only for leaders, the followers can also learn every type of leaderships we commonly find in leaders, to guide us in choosing the right one.

🐰 Other than brave, intelligent, loyal, and visioner, Hazel's respect to other creatures is remarkable. He is one proof that a leader doesn't have to be perfect - nobody is perfect anyway - but he must be insightful, kindhearted, and compassionate.

🐰 Watership Down is a whole novel - adventurous, heartwarming, and inspiring; well written and relatable.

Rating: 5 / 5

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

πŸ”… The story is set in a fictional heath called Egdon. It's mostly about misperceptions and misplace.

πŸ”… Eustacia Vye was forced to live in the heath when her father moved there, though she hates it and prefers a more exciting life in a town.

πŸ”… When Clym Yeobright, a native of Egdon Heath, came home from Paris, where he'd been in the diamond trade, Euatacia sees a glimmer of hope. Marrying him would be her ticket of deliverance from the despicable place.

πŸ”… But in reality, Clym has returned for good, to open a school in Egdon. A fact that Eustacia should have realized, if she wasn't too obsessed by her dream of living in Paris.

πŸ”… Clym, too, should have realized Eustacia's longing, if he hadn't been focusing on his dream as a school principle. Anyhow, they both married, believing that the other must have wanted the same thing as him/her self. Misperception #1.

πŸ”… Egdon people - mostly illiterate - don't really like Eustacia because she's...well, different; the women even think her a witch! And so Eustasia despises them. She clearly doesn't belong there. But is it true that one can't live where one doesn't belong? How if one is forced to do so by circumstances; when one doesn't have enough resources to alter one's situation? What then? Surely one must try to make compromises. Yes, but that's only possible when one is independent enough to make the best decision for one self. Many people aren't that fortunate. Eustacia Vye, for instance, like many women in her era, can't afford that luxury.

πŸ”… I can well relate with Eustacia. I, too, was born in the wrong land. Tropical developing country with this crazy humidity and polution isn't for me. I despise it with all my heart! But I grew up here. My parents live here. What can I do? I compromise. I'm much more fortunate than Eustacia that, living in this era, I can be as independent as I want to.

πŸ”… To make it even unbearable, Mrs. Yeobright - Clym's mother - dislikes her daughter in law. She didn't even attend their holy matrimony because her son married the girl she didn't approve of. What a selfish, hypocrite mother! To be honest, I think Mrs. Yeobright is the main antagonist here, and an arrogant person who thinks herself higher and holier than others, truly deserves her tragic ending, which, by the way, is caused by a major misunderstanding.

πŸ”… Clym is the perfect copy of his mother. The way he treated his wife with arrogant accusation is disgusting. And it is one of the greatest ironies in literature, that all of the tragedies took place just because of one complex misunderstanding.

πŸ”… As usual, Hardy wrote how human's fate is influenced by Nature and circumstances. It's quite a dark novel with tragic heroine.

Rating: 4 / 5

Saturday, October 2, 2021

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

♦️ It's one of the hardest reads for me. Is it because I've read it during one of the toughest phases of my life? Or is it just because Hugo's isn't my cup of tea? (I struggled too when reading Les Miserables - the abridged one!)

♦️ Synopsis:
It tells the story of the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda, condemned as a witch by the tormented archdeacon Claude Frollo, who lusts after her. Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer of Notre-Dame Cathedral, having fallen in love with the kindhearted Esmeralda, tries to save her by hiding her in the cathedral's tower.

♦️ Set in the 15th century, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (or originally: Notre Dame de Paris), talks a lot about Gothic architecture and passion. Hugo took pain to describe (or rather "preach") about the grand architecture of the church, and how architecture is an important thing in men's existence, which was about to be replaced by printing (Confession: I skipped most of these parts!)

♦️ The hunchback, who is supposed to be main character of the story, is Quasimodo, the bell ringer of Notre Dame, whose deformity from birth made him hated by the society. He was raised by Claude Frollo - an ambitious archdeacon - inside the Notre Dame church, and later on became its devout bell ringer.

♦️ Frollo, Quasimodo, and a gypsy girl named Esmeralda, are the three flawed characters whose lives were ruled by their passions. I can make excuse for Quasimodo, for he was cruelly marginalized by others, without opportunity to find sympathy and affection. When he became deaf, his world became narrower. Who can blame him for stubbornly loving a girl who was clearly ignorant of him and loved another?

♦️ Frollo is the antagonist here, that is clear. But what about Esmeralda? Is she a blameless victim? Not entirely. She sealed her fate when she flirted with Captain what's-his-name, and stubbornly loved him when she knew he's completely ignored her for another girl. Esmeralda is a clever girl, but she's controlled by her passion, so much so that when she finally met her estranged mother in the critical moment, her only focus was still the Captain. I wanted to strangle her so much when reading this passage - that's your mother who love you so dearly that she had sacrificed her life for you, you idiot!!

♦️ The only survivor of this tragedy is Pierre Gringoire, the poet. It's our reminder to not let our life be ruled with passion.

Rating: 3/5