Atlantic waves and Villette [Thursday, Aug. 02, 2007, 9:00 pm]
So I have done some fun things this summer, of course. It hasn't all been work - that would be kind of intolerable.
Two things lately - first off, we've had some relatives over this week, so it's been great to have the chance to hang out with them. One night we went out for seafood - I got lobsters and clams, which I haven't had in a while - we can pretty much only afford them when a relative is buying ;-) It was a great time though.
It's amazing how much that can sap the energy right out of you though. After that I went to lay in the sun for a while, and then I almost fell asleep on the way home. I had to go to work a few hours after that, so I planned to just read for a bit and then lay down since I was tired - so I decided it would be best to set my alarm just in case, and I ended up needing it. Then at work I was drowsy, probably because I'm not used to just jumping out of bed and going (in the morning I always have to eat breakfast & stuff first), but I survived.
Anyway, I just finished reading "Villette," another novel by Charlotte Bronte. I can't decide whether I liked it or not. Well, of course I did, but then the inevitable comparisons to "Jane Eyre" must come into play as well. I will say though, I do appreciate her dislike of the traditional "happily ever after" endings... this one was just a little too ambiguous for me though. "Jane Eyre" was at least somewhat happy, just not in the annoying fairy tale sense. I guess basically "Villette" was a tragedy, but then at the end she urges the reader to imagine that it had turned out perfectly. I found that to be a very interesting component, since that's basically all that a lot of stories and romances are - too perfect. Most things in life don't really happen that way, but the story is simply urging people to pretend that things really do end up "happily ever after," in perfect fantasy, the way they never really are.
I do love how the men in her stories (or the two I've read so far) aren't Prince Charmings in any sense. Well, I suppose they become something like it to her, but not due to any inherent flawlessness of their own, but rather to the way she begins to see them, or the way that their relationship grows throughout the story. I love how her stories involve things like actions, manner, knowledge, debate, and learning rather than simple romance and superficial conversations like most romances do.
The man in this novel bears a lot of resemblance to Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. Apparently Charlotte Bronte was attracted to men who were somewhat volatile, and yet had something of a soft spot in them, that she was able to bring out. What also interests me is that the men her female characters eventually develop relationships with are much older - usually a good 15 to 20 years older than the woman, which perhaps illustrates the intellectual maturity of the woman.
I guess the reason these stories mean a lot to me is that I see myself very much in characters like Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe. They are internally mature, observant, and great thinkers, but at the same time they're very much inside themselves - they feel like they're somehow cut off from most of the rest of the people around them, despite the friendships they do have. They also have to suffer from unrequited love before they can finally find the real thing.
Ah, unrequited love. It really is silly when you look back on it, and yet while it's experienced it seems so serious. I think both of these novels spring from the feelings that Charlotte Bronte herself suffered for a certain professor at a school she taught at. And so perhaps these two stories each cover how she felt things should have happened, had he returned her feelings.
That does seem like fantasy to me, and yet even her "fantasy" relationships seem more real, deep, and desirable to me than a lot of "real" relationships I see around me. Things in her stories start out with some kind of debate or minor clash, but as time goes on, a deep friendship gradually develops between the two characters. And the way things are presented, the woman usually develops feelings for the man, and yet is unsure of whether he returns them, until he shows her that he does... which I guess is the fantasy part.
I wonder if perhaps some people (including me) spend too much time trying to find the right person, and not enough time trying to BE the right person... Perhaps if both were carried on simultaneously, with the sincere desire for developing a deep friendship being first and foremost...
Vitality - Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009