Top Ten Literary Characters I’d Like to Check in With

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

Have you ever wondered what certain literary characters are up to nowadays? How did their lives turn out after they conquered that villain or got married? Even when we get to “The End,” we know that it’s only the beginning for the stories we don’t get the privilege to read.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, discusses which literary characters we’d most like to check in with. It’s like when you run into someone from school you haven’t talked to in forever, and you both agree to grab coffee sometime, but you never do, because let’s face it, neither of you is really that interested. Instead, in this case, you genuinely care what these characters have been doing all this time!

To get right to it, here are the top ten literary characters I’d like to check in with:

Ladies Bouncing Back from Bad Situations

 

 

1. Daisy from The Great Gatsby
2. Jane from Jane Eyre
3. Medea from Euripides’ Medea
4. Violet from A Series of Unfortunate Events

Happily Ever After?

 

5. The All-American Girls
6. Mia from The Princess Diaries
7. Lyra and Will from His Dark Materials

Growing Up in Their Golden Ages

8. The Ringbearers from The Lord of the Rings

9. Artemis from Artemis Fowl

10. The students of Hogwarts from Harry Potter

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Top Ten Favorite Literary Heroines

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is about–as Beyoncé puts it–who run the world. That’s right: GIRLS! Here are my top ten favorite literary heroines: from the fierce young ladies of our beloved YA series to the villains you always secretly admired, there are so many women in books who kick ass and take names.

They’ve battled everything and then some, including:

  • Crappy husbands
  • Dementors
  • Armored polar bears
  • Judgmental societies
  • Crazy ex-wives in attics
  • And, of course, the patriarchy

So check out my list below, and let me know who your favorite literary heroines are in the comments!

Young-Adult Do-Gooders

1. Hermione Granger from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series

2. Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series

3. Violet Baudelaire from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Classic-Lit Women Up Against the Odds

4. Jane Eyre from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

5. Hester Prynne from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

6. Edna Pontellier from Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

7. Offred from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

8. Penelope from Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad

Anti-Heroines You Love to Hate

9. Lady Macbeth from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth

10. Medea from Euripides’ Medea

Big Book Phonies: Buying Novels Just to Look Smarter

Pictured: Just one of my bookshelves, with stacks of manga up to the ceiling!

I just read an article posted yesterday on the Daily Mail’s website called “The books we buy to look more intelligent: How the average shelf is filled with 80 novels we have never read.”

A British survey found:

  • 70% of books on people’s shelves have never been read
  • 40% admitted their collection is for display only
  • 57% only display literary classics, even if they haven’t read them
  • 47% prefer “trashy” novels they would never show
               The books Brits pretend to read the most are Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Eyre, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Wuthering Heights. On the flip side, the authors they consider “guilty pleasures” are Sophie Kinsella, Jodi Picoult, Jackie Collins, Helen Fielding, and Danielle Steele.
               Obviously, this article has flaws, since it doesn’t include how many people were surveyed or their demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, education level, etc.). I don’t even know how the survey was given, whether by phone, online, or randomly asking people on the street. Thus, the results should be taken with a grain of salt.
               I found this article both depressing and amusing. The handful of books on my shelves that I haven’t read are the ones that I haven’t read YET–my to-read list is just backed up right now. But I will get to them eventually, because I could never spend money on a book without even attempting to finish it.
               I bet if this survey was conducted in my town, the results would be even worse. Most people here probably don’t even OWN 80 books! I could count all of my mine, but it would take forever: I’ve filled my two bookshelves to the brim, shoved piles of books in my closet, and stacked hundreds of manga on top of my largest bookshelf so that they reach the ceiling (see photo above). Packing these books when I finally move out of my parents’ house is a recurring nightmare for me!
               But I always tell my students that if you haven’t read a book, don’t pretend to know it. I can tell a mile away. Read it or don’t, period. What if someone strikes up a conversation about To Kill a Mockingbird with you, and you rant about the evils of animal abuse? You’ll just look dumber when your friend realizes you can’t talk the talk.
               That being said, I can understand the pressures to read literary classics and avoid popular fiction. The Jane Austen bandwagon is so huge, sometimes I feel like less of a woman for not finishing Pride and Prejudice. But while I might tell people I read it, I always clarify that I read only the first 50 pages before I got so bored I stopped. I might try it again, but if I don’t, that’s okay. Everyone has different tastes, and I think that as long as people read, it doesn’t matter what the books are.
               I also love Sophie Kinsella, and we should stop treating popular novels as “trashy” or “guilty pleasures.” There’s nothing wrong with reading, or writing, chick-lit/romance novels, and if anyone looks down on you, then screw them. Nobody likes a pompous reader anyway.
               So the moral of my story: be proud of what you read, and don’t waste your money on trying to impress your house-guests. Try to read some classics, but don’t beat yourself up if they’re not your cup of tea. Reading should be a reward, not a punishment.
               What do you guys think of this survey? Are you a big book phony? Do you feel pressure to read certain books? Are there books we “should” or “shouldn’t” read? Post your thoughts!!!

Movie Review: Jane Eyre (2011)

Image via Matttrailer.com

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I reviewed Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre for Masterpiece Monday last week, and today I watched this year’s adaptation, directed by fellow UCSC alum Cary Joji Fukunaga.

The movie stars Mia Wasikowska (“Alice in Wonderland”) as Jane, Michael Fassbender (“300,” “X-Men: First Class”) as Mr. Rochester, and Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax (I’m not even going to list her other films, because if you don’t know Judi Dench, then get out from under your rock!).

I loved these actors in these roles, as well as appreciated appearances by Sally Hawkins from “Never Let Me Go” as Mrs. Reed and Tamzin Merchant from “The Tudors” show as Mary Rivers.

Mia played an excellent Jane, simultaneously strong-willed and vulnerable. She wasn’t made up to look gorgeous, which Jane sure wasn’t, so instead her personality shined. Michael also achieved as Rochester: handsome, but not excessively so, and nicely varied between loving and untrustworthy.

As a lover of Victorian literature and cinema, I enjoyed the rural settings and the costumes. Fukunaga’s transitions between past and present might confuse those unfamiliar with the story, but they work just fine for fans.

There’s just something about adapting the novel that doesn’t work. The character-driven, coming-to-age story is perfect in print, because you want to digest it slowly; however, on screen the pacing is often too slow–a complaint more on the part of impatient viewers like myself and less on the director’s faults.

You also can’t see the major themes as deeply, including social hierarchy, gender differences and equality, and the role of religion. It’s these themes which make the novel more than a love story and instead an insightful critique of social norms regarding patriarchy, marriage, education, and mental health.

Lastly, influential people in Jane’s life, like Helen and St. John Rivers, are just minor characters in the film. And Bertha Mason, a character so intriguing that novels have been written to expand on her perspective, is reduced to a Helena Bonham Carter-lookalike, a madwoman with little more than a name, let alone a history. Bronte herself did not focus too much on Bertha (hence the spin-offs), but I felt like I understood her more in the book.

I would recommend this movie to Jane Eyre fans, so they can form their own opinions, but if you haven’t read the book yet and are just looking for some romance, I’d pass on this film and watch something more conventionally ‘Hollywood.’

Masterpiece Monday: Jane Eyre

Portrait of Charlotte Brontë

Portrait of Charlotte Brontë (Image via Wikipedia)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Since last week, I blogged about Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, I thought I’d discuss Emily’s equally famous sister Charlotte’s masterpiece Jane Eyre, which was published in 1847 under her pen name Currer Bell. In addition, I plan on watching its most recent movie adaptation sometime this week.

This novel follows Bronte fashion by incorporating Gothic Romanticism, unconventional characters, and a feminist perspective. The story begins with Jane Eyre’s childhood. As an orphan, she grew up with a cruel aunt and attended a miserable boarding school. Eventually, she meets Edward Rochester and falls in love with him.

The rest of the novel narrates their romance and the various obstacles in their way, including financial issues and strange happenings inside Rochester’s home. I won’t give anything away, because the novel’s mystery makes it even more enjoyable.

What I love about Jane Eyre is that even though she’s not the prettiest woman, she stands up for herself and refuses to be defined or dependent on men. In comparison to Catherine in Wuthering Heights, Jane does not allow her social standing to determine how she lives her life and whom she marries.

However, I gave Wuthering Heights a higher rating, because I was more enamored with Heathcliff than Mr. Rochester. Rochester was very stern and harsh at times, and it was hard to trust him, given his certain decisions in the past which I will not divulge. I felt that Heathcliff, although also cruel to others, used his anger to mask his true passion and deep down, only had eyes for Cathy–even during her marriage to another man and after her death. He’s the ultimate bad boy with a good heart.

But you really can’t go wrong either way, since both Bronte sisters produced exquisite work. Lovers of Victorian romances will have probably already read Jane Eyre, but if you haven’t yet, hurry up and do it already! Then tell me what you thought!

Favorite Quote: “It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action–they will make it if they cannot find it.”