Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I Love, But Other People Don’t

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

In this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, it’s all about the haters. Which literary characters do you love, but other readers don’t–or vice versa?

I think that this is a great topic, because I’ve always gravitated toward characters with an edge, whether they’re bad boys in romance novels or super villains in comic books. Nobody likes a goody-two-shoes, after all!

My top ten list features men, women, and the occasional dragon or anti-christ who have betrayed–even murdered–those closest to them. However, all in my mind have redeemable qualities and justifications for their actions. Call them awful, selfish, ruthless, or evil, but you certainly can’t call them one-dimensional!

Carey Mulligan as Daisy (Image via Wikipedia)

So-Called “Selfish” Women

1. Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. Edna Pontellier from The Awakening by Kate Chopin
3. Medea from Medea by Euripides

Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff (Image via Wikipedia)

Debatable “Leading” Men

4. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
5. Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
6. Meursault from The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Malfoys with Bellatrix (Image via Harry Potter Wiki)

Villains Better Than Heroes

7. The Malfoys from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
8. Smaug from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
9. Lady Macbeth from Macbeth by William Shakespeare
10. Satan from Paradise Lost by John Milton

Top Ten Books With Characters Who Commit Infidelity

Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is pretty much a free-for-all, since the topic is “Top ten books which features characters who…” and it’s up to us bloggers to finish the sentence.

Why did I pick the oh-so-controversial subject of adultery? Because my first thought turned to English class during my junior year of high school, the theme of which I had dubbed, “Women who cheat on their husbands.” Not all the required reading fit into this category, but a whole lot of it did.

Call me a harlot if you want, but there’s something so captivating about women trapped in loveless marriages and seeking passion outside of them. Many of these novels were written during historical periods in which it was taboo for women of a certain age to be unwed, and I don’t blame these characters for rebelling against the prison that society coerced them in. No one gave the husbands any grief for cheating, so I say down with the double standard!

Thus, here are my top ten books with characters (both men and women!) who commit infidelity:

TTT Cheaters 1

TTT Cheaters 2

Women Who Have Wandered

1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Men with Mistresses

6. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
7. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
8. Medea by Euripides

Classic Cheaters I Need to Read

9. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
10. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Book Review: Madame Bovary

Cover via GreatAudioBooks.Net

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I’m finally finished!!! Although I have to admit, I usually don’t take this long to finish a book, because if I really like it, I will make time for it, school and work be damned. That means, of course, that I didn’t love this book–but it was very good nonetheless.

Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert’s first novel published in 1857, is about Emma Bovary, a French woman stuck in a miserable marriage to an incompetent, middle-class doctor. Bored out of her mind with a husband she doesn’t love and a daughter she never wanted, she decides to commit adultery and spend outside of her means to desperately fill her life with lust and wealth.

Much like Chopin’s The Awakening, this novel polarizes readers depending on their thoughts on adultery. Since I understand how powerless women were during the 19th century, I don’t blame Emma for having wandering eyes. She was brought up believing that marriage would complete her and her father pushed her to marry young. Her husband is also a cowardly twit who sucks at his profession–he lost a man’s leg trying to cure his limp. If I was faced with the choice between him and Emma’s passionate lovers Rodolphe and Leon, I’d make her same decision.

However, Emma is not entirely blameless. I also suffer from her grass-is-always-greener personality, but she has impossible expectations of love and happiness. In modern terms, she’s a Stage Five Clinger. Her naivete made it easy for her lovers to take advantage of her, and her neediness pushed them away.

She was also convinced that if she isn’t floating on clouds in post-orgasmic bliss, she’s in a hell-hole of misery–when in fact, life mostly varies in the grey area in-between. Many scholars have labeled Emma as bipolar, given her extreme mood-swings, but if you read enough 19th century literature, her personality is common among female protagonists (ex. Catherine in Wuthering Heights).

Madame Bovary was not nearly as good as other novels about adultery, like The Awakening or The Age of Innocence, perhaps because Emma in part deserved her demise, and her lovers were not worthy of her attention. I was not rooting for anybody while I was reading, so I felt little sadness at the end.

I also found it interesting that even though the novel is titled Madame Bovary, it begins and ends with her husband. It’s tragic that in a book about her, she is still defined by the men in her life. The reading experience was cathartic for me: I pity Emma for her lack of freedom, and I fear her circumstances happening to me. Because if anyone argues that women don’t suffer from male oppression anymore, they’re greatly mistaken. Feminism has come a long way, but smart, beautiful, successful women are still pressured to believe that if they don’t marry and have kids, they’re worthless.

That being said, I appreciated the novel’s beautiful prose (even in a diluted English translation). Flaubert is obviously a master of his craft, and his legendary commitment in perfecting his writing definitely shows in his first novel. I wish I would’ve read this in college, because scholarly discussion is half the fun. I would still recommend this book, but only to those who appreciate literary masterpieces, even if they take forever to finish!

Favorite Quote: “Each smile hid a yawn of boredom, each joy a curse, each pleasure its own disgust; and the sweetest kisses only left on one’s lips a hopeless longing for a higher ecstasy.”

Masterpiece Monday: The Awakening

Kate Chopin in 1894

Kate Chopin (Image via Wikipedia)

Rating: 5 out of 5

BEWARE: SPOILER ALERT!

One of the books that I bought last week was Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, a novel published in 1899. Set in Louisiana at the end of the 19th century, the story follows Edna Pontellier, who lives a miserable life with her husband and two children. She has a couple affairs, and although they allow her to ‘awaken’ emotionally and sexually, they only end in heartbreak. Devastated by the thought of an oppressed existence as an unhappy wife and mother, she drowns herself in the Gulf of Mexico.

I read this novel in high school, and what amazed me is how polarizing this story is with women. Most of the other girls despised Edna for committing suicide, leaving her children without a mother. I, however, have more feminist tendencies and empathized with Edna, since I understood that death was the only true way she could experience freedom.

It’s hard enough for a woman today if she does anything considered socially unacceptable, whether it’s having an affair or deciding not to have children. So I can’t imagine how a woman could live with essentially no rights more than a century ago. Of course, Chopin herself suffered from writing such an unconventional novel; seen as immoral and smut-filled, it was heavily censored. Chopin never wrote another novel due to difficulties finding a publisher, spending the remainder of her life unaccepted and shunned by the literary world.

I highly recommend this novel, especially to the female population. Also, check out Chopin’s short stories, including “The Story of an Hour.” And if you’ve already read The Awakening, feel free to add your own reviews!

So I went on a book bender this week…

Not pictured: Madame Bovary. I'm reading it, duh!

Hello, my name is Book Club Babe, and I’m a book addict. In a last ditch attempt to covet as many books as possible, I bought ten books this week–a personal record, I think. But I always fall back on the same justifications: There was an insane sale, and I need them!

So here’s the breakdown:

Amazon.com (TOTAL = $31.35):

  1. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  2. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  4. 1984 by George Orwell
Borders (TOTAL = $15.07):
  1. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  2. Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
  3. A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham
Fresno Country Library Book Sale (TOTAL = $1!!!):
  1. The Awakening and Selected Short Fiction by Kate Chopin
  2. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  3. Art of Love by Ovid (with original Latin!)
GRAND TOTAL: 10 books for $47.42!!!
          I’m currently reading Madame Bovary, but I’ve already read the books I got at the library book sale–they’re just for my personal collection. I’d also like to note that all but one are literary classics, so it’s, you know, intellectual splurging. I know it will probably take me all year and then some to finish my new books, but what can I say? There was an insane sale, and I need them!
          PS: Happy 13th Birthday to my black Labrador Bubba! I love you more than books!!!