Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Debut by Anita Brookner Ch. 11-15

Things are about to get juicy. The thing that struck me most was a theme the this book seems to be sharing with Middlemarch. In Middlemarch, Dorothea falls in love with an older man, considered to be her intellectual superior. Dorothea is too intelligent for the women around her, so she is left to be an outcast and somewhat lonely. Ruth seems to have the same problem. She is an intellectual woman who has trouble when it comes to dealing with society. Now she has met an older, intellectually superior man with whom she is falling in love. The theme is of these highly intellectual women who give up their individuality for men. Now, Ruth had already given up part of her individuality when she got caught with the couple in France and began to change her appearance. Instead of focusing on the inside and her intellectual work, the study of Balzac, Ruth becomes consumed with looking good and feeling “in fashion”. She spends a good part of her money on looking better on the outside while digressing from herself on the inside. It will be interesting to see how the relationship between Ruth and this married professor turns out. Will it be like Dorothea, and Ruth will realize how unhappy she is? Or, will she find true love with a soon-to-be divorcee?
Then, there is Mrs. Cutler. As much as I would hesitate to relate Mrs. Cutler to Rosamond of Middlemarch, I cannot help but think there is a relation between the two. They are both looking for a way out of an unhappy situation. Where Rosamond was looking for a man who can show her the life she wants, Mrs. Cutler is looking for a man who can give her freedom away from the death pit she has been living in. Both women think they need a man to solve their problems although Mrs. Cutler is a woman of independent means who merely needs to find a position in a different household.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Debut by Anita Brookner Ch. 6-10

I am not sure what I want to say about these chapters except that they make me a little sad. Ruth and her mom seem destined to depression. I like that the father has had the epiphany that he no longer loves his wife. I am not sure that he ever loved her as much as he loved the idea of loving her. I feel as though he is about to make a change in his life, and I am interested to see if he can make it without his wife. Ruth needs a lesson in dating. With the neglect she receives from her mother, it is no wonder that she has no clue what to do with herself. I loved the chapter that talked about how boring waiting can be. I think that everyone can relate to that situation. I know that I have had an event that I could not wait for, and the hours that proceeded it were tortuous. But, that seems to be the story of Ruth’s life. She is trying to find things to do that fill up the time between her present state and when she thinks life is supposed to start. Much like her disappointing date, I think she will look back on her life and wonder what she has done with her life.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Debut by Anita Brookner Ch. 1-5

As I was reading the first five chapters, the story of the Secret Garden kept running through my head. The way that the parents almost ignore the fact that they have a daughter is very similar to Mary’s parents in the Secret Garden. They kept her tucked away when their friends came to dine. Her mother was a great beauty, and her father was absorbed in her mother. Ruth’s parents are the same. The difference is that Mary’s parents died when she was very young, so we do not get to see them evolve with age. Ruth’s parents, on the other hand, evolve or devolve in the first five chapters. Her mother goes from being a beautiful actress to a lazy, voluntary, invalid while her father begins to move away from his wife and starts thinking for himself. I liked how chapter five ended with the father giving Ruth some of the grandmother’s things. You see the father’s concern for Ruth over the course of these chapters. Hopefully, it is a concern that will develop into a more active role in his daughter’s life as the novel continues.

Now, Mrs. Cutler is a character all in herself. Forget the fact that she should never work as a cook because of her untidy habits, she has absorbed herself with the mother and is enabling her to keep up the pitiful charade of the “Woe-is-me” lifestyle.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sunset Gun by Dorothy Parker

The Maid-Servant at the Inn

I love this poem. I got to the second stanza and had to start over to make sure I was reading it correctly. I love the idea that she has written a poem from the point of view of a servant who witnessed the birth of Christ (at least, that is what I assume she witnessed). It is a novel approach to that story. To hear the birth of Christ without Him being the “Christ-child” is interesting. He is just a normal baby that was born in the barn. I love that she calls Him “his mother’s son”. Jesus is almost always referred to as “God’s son”. He is so deified that we forget He lived a regular life here on earth. He was a baby, child, and, yes, even a teenager (lovely how those years are left out of the Bible). I think Parker is portraying Jesus as God intended Him to be seen. God sent his son to live a perfect, sin-free life on earth, to live as a human. But, followers of Christianity are so caught up in Jesus being “God’s son” that we forget that he was also human. If we cannot see him as human, then why would we ever think that we could be like Him? If we cannot be like Him, then why should we strive to be good? Taking the humanity out of Jesus, in some ways, defies the whole example that He gave. I think it is refreshing and mind-stopping to represent Him as just a baby.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Big Blonde by Dorothy Parker

A little depressing, Big Blonde reads as a-day-in-the-life-of-an-alcoholic. Surprisingly, Mrs. Morse is not dead at the end of the story. You would think twenty sleeping pills would be enough to kill anyone. The character’s “fall from grace” is an interesting twist in the story. Instead of having a woman from the slums triumphantly making a better life for her, we have a woman who starts out on top of things; she is popular and works for her own living with generous assistance from admirers. Throughout the story, she begins to sink – one level at a time- into depression and alcohol dependence. Funnily enough, she looks to alcohol as her “up-lifter” when alcohol is a depressant. When Mrs. Morse becomes Mrs. Morse and trades her independence and self-reliance for relying on the kindness of men, she loses part of herself. While developing into the domestic housewife that is expected of her, she surrenders her self-confidence for the happiness of her husband and other men after him. She goes from a working class woman to a mistress, a kept woman. This story tells me that women of that time, and some even today, give up their chance for a viable future when they surrender to the standards of marriage. It reminds me of the movie Mona Lisa Smile. Julia Roberts plays a private-school teacher at an all-girls school in the 1960s (I think). She tries to get them to realize that they could have a life and career outside of marriage. She had one student who was accepted to Harvard Law School (if memory is correct), but the girl decided to get married and support her husband’s ambitions and dreams while putting all of her aspirations and talent in the trash. These girls were brought up to believe that they only needed education or a career until they married.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Song of the Shirt, 1941 by Dorothy Parker

Mrs. Martindale seems too good to be true. I love the way that she is described. The description of Mrs. Martindale coincides with the description of the lovely day. The alliteration used by Parker, such as “delicately done”, “so softly sheltered”, and “fragrant forties”, only add to the enjoyment of the story. The tone changes a bit when Parker begins to describe “Headquarters” and the work the Mrs. Martindale does to help the war effort. It changes from frivolity and liveliness to more of a classroom setting with the headmistress, Mrs. Corning, being the strict schoolmarm. Yet, almost immediately after Mrs. Martindale leave headquarters, the tone changes back to the carefree, light-hearted atmosphere that opened the story.

Mrs. Martindale is a dedicated patriot, which is to be commended, but she seems to be a little on the not-so-bright side of things. She is a wealthy woman who hasn’t had to do much for herself until the war broke out. She doesn’t know how to sew, which was the most common knowledge among women of this time. Although credit should be given towards her dedication, the end of the story really throws off the perfect picture one has of her. There is no doubt that she has a big and gracious heart. She is just not very clever. At the end, she has the opportunity to get help making the shirts. She doesn’t realize it. It completely goes over her head that the person who could “use Mrs. Christie” is herself.