Category Archives: Books

Napoleon the Pig

On the blog today, I have Napoleon. Did you know that in France it is illegal to name a pig Napoleon? And yet it’s Napoleon the Pig that I have here – the cunning, plotting, power-hungry protagonist from George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Napoleon the Pig

Napoleon the Pig

The book is one of the finest satires ever written. It is amazing how much power a great author can pack into a tiny book. This one comprises just 127 pages. The Indian edition is priced around Rs 70/- (a little over a dollar) and comes with an enlightening introduction explaining the characters. Buy it, I say, if you don’t have a copy, for this is another one of those read and re-read books.

The tale is about a bunch of farm animals who, inspired by Old Major – a pig, rebel against, and oust their owner. They then take over the running of the farm dreaming of a society where all animals work together to the best of each of their capacity and share the fruits of their toil equally.

The pigs are the most intelligent of the animals. The rebellion is led by two of them – Snowball and Napoleon. They teach themselves to read and formulate seven commandments:

1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.
Most other animals are too stupid to learn to read but do pick up the basic commandment.
They adopt the motto ‘Four legs good, two legs bad’.

Even as the animals are revelling in their victory Napoleon puts his plan in motion. He begins with appropriating the milk from the cows exclusively for the pigs. His trusted deputy Squealer convinces the other animals that this is for their own good – pigs need the milk since they are the brains behind the operation and have the hardest task of planning. Napoleon hides away some new-born pups. He trains them secretly and they grow up into vicious dogs who follow no one’s orders but his. He then gets rid of Snowball who might have challenged his power.

By the end of the book the pigs are living in the human’s house, wearing their clothes, sleeping in their beds, getting the other animals to work for them and even brandishing whips as they walk on two feet. Slowly, secretly the commandments have been modified to just a single on:

The final commandment

The final commandment

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal that others.

And the anthem changes to Four legs good two legs better. Their transformation back into ‘tyrannical’ humans is complete.

By his own confession Orwell modelled Napoleon on Stalin. Most other characters, though a bit of a generalisation, do find parallels. Old Major could be Karl Marx (the one who comes up with the theory of Equality) Snowball was Trotsky (Stalin’s bete noire), Squealer (the Russian media, specially the paper Pravda that justified each of Stalin’s moves) and so on.

Orwell’s Napoleon is a classic example of how power corrupts. He works at multiple levels to get his way and crown himself the leader.

– He is a meticulous cunning planner.
– He makes rules and changes them each time they stop serving his purpose.
– He doesn’t offer explanations to the animals directly, letting Squealer do the convincing.
– He uses force to intimidate those who Squealer cannot convince.
– He is ruthless and doesn’t shy from massacring to drown out dissent.
– He loves power and will do anything to hold onto it.

Unlike some of his other books (I found 1984, very depressing) this one is an easy and very interesting read. And with its satirical background it becomes brilliant.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday the fun challenge that pushes me to write at least one post each week. Sending out thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up the challenge.

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Six lessons modern-day parents can learn from Marmee

Picking up Little Women for a re-read meant a nostalgia trip. This book by Louisa Alcott, written over a hundred years ago has been a part of my growing up years. Way back in school we devoured the entire series. All my friends found at least one sister she completely identified with. Each girl is a protagonist in her own right, at least in the first book.

As I browsed through the book again, looking for a passage to share at my book club, the character that really struck me for its quiet strength was Marmee. I wondered how I hadn’t really noticed her earlier. I took her for granted, I suppose – just like we take mums for granted in real life.

Susan Sarandon as Marmee

Susan Sarandon as Marmee

I didn’t even know her real name. It is Margaret March, same as Meg’s. Other than that Alcott gives us very little background on her. I did read, though that she modelled her on her own mother Abigail Alcott – a writer and a social activist.

Here are some lessons modern-day parents can pick from this super-mum

  1. Break the mould: Marmee didn’t believe in pushing her kids to fit into predefined societal roles. Whether it was Meg and her fancy friends or Amy’s school pals, Marmee encouraged the girls to hold their own. When school becomes a chore for the painfully shy Beth she allows her to be home-schooled.
  2. No comparisons: She gave her daughters the freedom to be themselves. With four such different children comparisons would be inevitable. Not for Marmee. She appreciates each of her daughter for her individual qualities.
  3. Live your lesson: Marmee teaches by doing. The classic example is when she confesses to Jo about having a bad temper. “I’ve been trying to cure it for forty years, and have only succeeded in controlling it. I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo, but I have learned not to show it; and I still hope to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do so.”
  4. Back to the basics: Marmee’s life is guided by basic principles of piety, simplicity, honesty, hard-work and thrift. We often forget to reinforce them to the children  though her values stand the test of time.
  5. Money isn’t happiness: Though they are poor Marmee doesn’t push her daughters to marry for money and yet she isn’t biased against the wealthy Laurie. Here’s a woman to whom money truly  didn’t make a difference.
  6. Beyond vanities: She encouraged her daughters to look beyond external vanities. She brings a beautiful balance in her upbringing. Though she doesn’t forbid her daughters from dressing up or going to parties she does stress that they should be more than just that.

Linking up to ABC Wednesday with thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up this wonderful meme.

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Leisel Meminger – The Book Thief

Leisel Meminger has had to wait too long to be written about as I’m lagging way behind with my post. You know her don’t you? From Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief? She’s the nine-year old German girl given up to foster parents since her own were Communists – a dangerous thing to be during WWII. She’s the one with brown eyes in times when blue was the safer colour. But she was safe – at least she was German.

Leisel Meminger

Leisel Meminger

What’s more, she knew how to keep a secret – an essential trait for a thief. This was a skill she would need later, to save a friend’s life. But first, I have to tell you about her stealing adventures. She stole her first book ‘The Gravedigger’s Handbook’ from the site where her 6-year-old brother was buried. They were meant to be together at their foster parents’ house but death claimed him first and then stayed on with Leisel to tell her story.

Through her life she manages to steal just six books but that was enough in times when owning one might have been a crime (apart from Mein Kampf) and when bonfires were fed by books. That’s where she rescues her second one from. She hides away the still-smouldering book in her jacket and almost sets herself on fire.

book thief

Helped on by her new dad, Leisel learns to recognise the power of words and falls in love with them. One day a new friend comes to live with them and shows her how words could be a double edged sword. Wasn’t it words that the Fuhrer had used to create a world so horrific it didn’t deem half its people fit to live? This new friend is a Jew. She needs to keep her mouth shut about him. His life depends on it. And she does. Didn’t I say she could keep a secret? Her foster dad wasn’t as good at it, though. The day he extended a bit of bread to a starving Jew he knew he’d made a mistake. He knew the Fuhrer’s men would come looking and find the friend hidden away in their basement. They had to let him go, to Leisel’s heartbreak.

Through it all she manages to learn to read, play football, steal some apples and make a name for herself as a don’t-mess-with me girl with strong fists.

Leisel is an unusual girl for her fierce loyalty, her sense of right and wrong, her knack for making unusual friends and above all for her love for books. This is the love that prompts her to scribble words on the walls of her basement, that helps her calm down frightened people in bomb shelters, that gives her the means to provide consolation to old women who had lost young sons to the war. In the end it also proves to be the love that saves her life, even though she wasn’t sure she wanted to be saved.

Linking up to ABC Wednesday with thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up this wonderful meme.

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Katniss Everdeen – the Girl on Fire

We often enjoy books we can identify with – books that make us go ‘Ah I know a person like that’ or ‘Oh this could happen to me’.

But then there are also another kind of books – books where the author crafts a whole different world. And she transports you right there till you feel completely part of that world and are living with the characters. Classic examples would be George Orwell’s 1984 or the more recent Harry Potter series.

Today’s protagonist comes from one such world – Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The book published relatively recently (in 2008) is a first of a Trilogy, and as is often the case with trilogies, is the most gripping.

The Hunger Games: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion

Katniss in warrior mode with her bow and arrows.

Collins creates a dystopian nation, Panem with 12 districts governed by the city called Capitol. Long ago the districts had rebelled against the Capitol and were defeated. To remind them of the Capitol’s supremacy, each year a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 is chosen from each district. Called Tributes, they have to compete in the Hunger Games. Each one has to try to kill the others or get killed trying till there is a single survivor. The event is televised and watched like a reality show.

The story is told in first person by Katniss, from District 12. When her sister’s name is picked for the Games, she volunteers to go in her stead.

Katniss stands out as the perfect protagonist. She’s strong and brave and proud. She is a fighter against all odds. At 11 years she takes on the job of the breadwinner for her family of three, when her father dies and her mum goes into depression.

Katniss the heartless provider

All of Katniss’ actions are guided by a strong sense of responsibility towards her family. On the surface she seems practical and emotionless to the point of being callous. She hunts for her family without emotion or compassion. She tries to drown their cat who she looks on as just ‘another mouth to feed’. She doesn’t want to have children because she thinks of them simply as more mouths to feed.
When she’s leaving for the games she shows little emotion. All she talks about are practical things that will equip her mum and sister for their day-to-day survival in her absence.

… and yet love is what guides her

She volunteers for her sister – a pure act of love. It is love that makes her stay with her mother and sister rather than running away. It is love that prompts her to not bring children into a world of starvation and it is love that makes her try to drown the cat rather than see her starving to death.
“if we have to choose between dying of hunger and a bullet in the head, the bullet would be much quicker”, she says.

When faced with kindness she reacts with anger and suspicion yet she strikes up a friendship with some of the tributes. She tries to block them as she is aware that she might have to kill them. Yet she bonds with them.

I like that her better feelings always win in the end. The final act of rebellion against the powers of the Capitol, is the perfect ending to the book. If I have piqued your interest enough – go read it, if you haven’t already, and tell me what you thought of Katniss Everdeen.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday with thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up this wonderful meme.

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J is for Justine O Neill

Sometimes a character isn’t a protagonist, doesn’t even make an appearance till half the book is through yet comes like a breath of fresh air and charms her way right into your heart. Justine O Neill from the Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough is just that.

thornbirds

The book is a captivating saga spanning three generations of the Cleary-O Neill family. It  reminds me a little of Gone with the Wind. Both have similar sprawling farm settings, strong women characters and both tell tales of ill-fated unfulfilled love.

Set in an Australian homestead, Drogheda, Thornbirds is the story of Meggie (Justine’s mother). Meggie is in love with  priest Ralph de Bricassart. He is attracted to her too but chooses to ignore it and moves to Rome to take up a higher responsibility in the Catholic Church. Meggie goes on to marry a farm stud Luke O Neill only because he looks a little like Ralph. Luke turns out to be a flint-hearted workaholic and a miser who has married her only for her money. In a desperate bid to get him to settle down Meggie tricks him and conceives a child. She gives birth to Justine – a cranky feisty red-headed girl.

Within a few minutes of her birth, with the astuteness of a mother, Meggie remarks :
“I don’t think Justine will ever be mine, or Luke’s, or anyone’s. I think she’s always going to belong to herself.”

Luke never learns to love Justine or Meggie. What I found sadder still was that despite all the planning and scheming that Meggie did to get Justine, she  too becomes curiously detached from her. One would expect Justine to turn out a rather sad lost little girl. Not so at all. Justine has no patience for self-pity. She turns out spunky and smart and independent.

When she takes a decision she’s unstoppable. She decides she wants to be an actress and when Meggie delicately points out that perhaps she isn’t good-looking enough to be one – she says:
“Not a film star; an actress! I don’t want to wiggle my hips and stick out my breasts and pout my wet lips! I want to act.”

She’s definitely not looking for anyone’s approval.

Yet she’s neither self centered nor emotionless. She loves her younger brother Dane with a passion that borders on vehemence. She also reserves a special soft spot for her grandmother Fee and loves Meggie too in her own way.

Fee points out that her reluctance to share her emotions stems from a wariness of being laughed at. That made her very real for me. Aren’t a lot of us like that?

Dane is the one person she loves most and they share a close warm relationship. Yet how different they are! He becomes a priest and she an actress. He is celibate while she doesn’t hesitate to experiment. He is her conscience and she never feels the need to hide anything from him.

Finally, when she thinks Meggie needs her she is ready to give up her life in the city, her work which she’s passionate about and the man she loves to come and stay with her mother. A loveable monster Meggie calls her – that’s what she is.

Do pick up this book if you haven’t read it. In fact try others by Colleen McCullough too. At least one more of her books will show up here.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday with thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up this wonderful meme.

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Iago: As bad as it gets

This week’s letter, I, took me a bit by surprise in that it proved to be such a toughie. One is prepared to sweat it out with the Qs and the Xs but I?? Yet no character impressive enough came to mind. Then who should come to my rescue but a distinguished old friend – the Bard himself. This week I pick Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello.

Iago is one of the most powerful evil characters of all time. He dominates the play more than Othello himself and gets more stage-space too. Some would even argue he is the protagonist of the play. If that were true, a more vicious, crafty, cruel protagonist you will not find.

The Story

If you haven’t read this Shakespearean Tragedy here’s how it goes. Othello and Desdemona elope. Iago is miffed because Othello has promoted another nobleman Cassius to a position that Iago wanted. Along with Roderigo a man who had fancied Desdemona, Iago meets her father to incite him against Othello. However, Othello convinces the Duke that Desdemona had married him out of her own will and since Desdemona confirms this the Duke lets Othello go.

Shortly after, Othello is sent to Cyprus to lead a war against the Turks. Desdemona follows him along with Iago (who Othello considers a trusted deputy) and his wife Emilia. In Cyprus Iago begins to poison Othello’s mind against Cassius, saying he is having and affair with Desdemona.

He ‘arranges’ a brawl that results in Cassius being demoted by Othello. Cassius asks Desdemona to plead his case. When she does Othello’s suspicions grow stronger. Then using Desdemona’s handkerchief (which Iago asks his wife to get) he manages to convince Othello of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness. He also stages a conversation with Cassius that further strengthens Othello’s suspicion. Finally in a fit of jealousy Othello smothers Desdemona with a pillow. Emilia figures out that Iago is the one orchestrating all the events and raises an alarm at which he stabs her. On learning the truth Othello kills himself.

Isn’t that very very dramatic? But then you cannot expect any less from the master dramatist. Did you notice how Iago drives the plot? Here are the top five reasons he’s the ‘baddest’ of the bad.

Iago is unapologetically evil

Till the end of the play it never does become clear what his exact grudge against Othello is. He has no sorry background, no skeletons in his closet that would justify his cruelty or his hatred. He just is Evil. If you’ve read the play you couldn’t have missed the ‘asides’. He loves to brag as he plots and plans. He makes his moves and then stands by and watches the characters fall into his trap, which they do each time, seamlessly. Oh he enjoys being baaad.

He is skilled in the art of deception

Othello never once doubts his intentions and considers him his trusted deputy even while Iago is planning his downfall. He warns Othello of Jealousy while inciting him to be just that –

“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on”

Not just Othello, Roderigo and Cassius too are taken in by his smooth talk.

Iago is a master manipulator

Oh yes he’s a crafty one. Each move the characters make, each decision they take is orchestrated by him. Sample this: He arranges a brawl with Cassio, makes sure Othello sees him and fires him. Iago gives Cassio the idea of taking  Desdemona’s help in getting his job back. He then plants suspicion in Othello’s mind regarding the two, warning him to look out for signs like Desdemona urging him to reinstate Cassio. She does just that and the result is exactly what Iago has planned. Oooofff! Impressive or what!

He systematically feeds his hatred for Othello

His dislike for Othello starts with Cassius being promoted to a position he desires. He then goes on to find reasons to dislike Othello. He hears a rumour that Othello has seduced his wife. He doesn’t fully believe it yet chooses to do so.

othello-revenge-3-728

He is driven by all possible evil reasons

Most people have one single driving force that propels them towards evil. Not so Iago. He is driven by power, position, money, jealousy. Everything that’s evil prompts him on.

Who is your favourite villain? Who is the bad man you love to hate most?

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday where we’re doing posts on the letter ‘I’. Hop across for some Interesting posts.

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The Time Traveler

He appears out of the blue, empty-handed and stark naked, traversing geographical and time barriers. Henry DeTamble, from The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, is well…. a time traveller.

It took me a while to wrap my head around the whole concept what with Henrys of all ages appearing and disappearing and older Henry’s chatting and advising younger ones. Once I’d done that, this turned out to be the sweetest, most poignant love story I’d ever read.

Henry begins to time travel when he is merely 5 (mercifully one of his older versions is around to help him through his first experience). He never knows where his travels will take him  or what he will do once he’s there. Each time he starts over – stealing clothes, foraging for food (time travel makes him ravenous) and hiding out while he waits to go back, which he does as suddenly as he comes.

Over time he works out that his episodes happens mostly in moments of stress and that he visits places related to his life. He also meets people from his life, their older and younger versions as well as his own.

Henry with a younger version of his future wife Clare

Henry with a younger version of his future wife Clare

He never reveals future events to others and rarely meddles in them (other than minor ones like winning lottery tickets), preferring to go along with God’s plan even though he doesn’t believe in Him.

“I don’t usually tell myself stuff ahead of time unless it’s huge, life-threatening, you know? I’m trying to live like a normal person. I don’t even like having myself around, so I try not to drop in on myself unless there’s no choice.”

An attempt, perhaps, at retaining his own version of ‘normalcy’.

Henry’s character brings home the ephemeral nature of life, the inevitability of death and the draw of love that proves even more powerful than death. He is never completely there since he can be gone any time, yet he’s never completely gone since he can come back any time.

At the beginning of the book I wondered how he ever survived. What if his time travel landed him in the middle of a busy road? Or in the middle of a war? Or what if he is hurt/killed by his own loved ones who don’t know him yet? After all a strange man without clothes isn’t exactly a comforting sight.

But he does.

And then I wondered how he ever died. He knew the future, right? So couldn’t he subvert death? As it turns out he couldn’t. What’s somewhat comforting is that before he dies, by travelling into the future, he is able to visit his wife, Clare and  daughter Alba, after he is dead. Yeah I know it’s a little confusing.

Henry has been accused of many things by critics – they call him the runaway husband. He is in a pretty ideal situation, it would seem, if stress situations make him disappear. However that’s kind of tough on his wife. Imagine never being able to argue with your husband lest he disappear.

Yet I loved Henry for his warmth and his resilience and most of all for his love for Clare. He’s a wonderful husband when he’s there. He knows her since she was 6 (he bumps into her during one of his time travels when he is much older at 28 years) and he looks out for her in his own way.

time travelers wife

He has as a wonderful philosophy of life quite like our Hindu philosophy – that even though our future is preordained, not knowing it keeps us going. He sorts the eternal debate of free-will versus destiny in that he believes it’s the feeling of ‘being in control’ of our lives is what keeps us living, even though we might not have any real control. I find myself in complete agreement with him.

If you haven’t read this book – it’s a must must read specially if you love a sweet romance, funny in bits with a dash of fantasy.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday where we’re doing posts on the letter ‘H’.

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Making a Case for the Grinch

All the maudlin love that’s been on this blog for the past two weeks would have made this week’s character wrinkle his much wrinkled and very green nose in disgust. He would probably have dunked a big bucket of gunk on Elizabeth and Darcy for good measure.

Ladies and gentlemen! Presenting ….. The Grinch from How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

The Grinch

The Grinch

If you have missed this gem of a story by the irrepressible Dr Seuss, here’s what happened :

The Grinch lives in a cave high above the land of Who-Ville. Friendless and alone he watches the people, hating them with intense dislike. Each year as they come together to celebrate Christmas hand in hand, singing the Christmas song, his dislike grows to bitter loathing. Finally he can take it no more and sets out to ‘steal Christmas’. He disguises himself like Santa Clause and goes house to house picking up Christmas trees, stockings, presents and even the feast. Smug in his victory he retires to his cave. And then he hears it – the singing. The people of Who-Ville are singing. Even without the gifts and the lights, the trees and the food they are singing. What’s worse, they sound just as happy, just as cheerful.

That’s when The Grinch has his epiphany.

The Grinch quote

Down he comes to the people of Who-Ville, with the gifts and goodies to celebrate the true spirit of Christmas.

Isn’t that the best feel-good story of all time? No one can tell it quite like Dr Seuss. No one can create a villain quite like him.

And yet can you blame The Grinch?
Even when he was mean and bad I had the tiniest soft spot for him. Imagine living on your own, in a cave, not a friend in the world and having to watch everyone else creating a hoo-haa about a festival you don’t even like. Enough to turn anyone grumpy. Despite his evil bluster and the bit about hating-the-noise he had to have felt envious. What’s more he puts up with it for fifty-three years before he sets out to steal Christmas. That’s something.

The film just makes it more believable with that sad back-story. What would you expect of a child who has been bullied and then ostracized? Who has been laughed at by all the other kids? Yeah, a Grinch he shall become.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday where we’re doing posts on the letter ‘G’. Do drop by and check out other Great posts.

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Along comes Darcy

You’re about 15 years old. You’ve just finished reading Pride and Prejudice and you’re in love. You love Mr Darcy. You read and re-read the book till you remember ‘that’ letter word for word. You carry his image in your mind, or…. heart, they’re pretty much one and the same at 15. You feel for Elizabeth. You are Elizabeth. Actually, you are every girl who ever read Pride and Prejudice.

Then you grow up. You mature. You realize Mr Darcy was a teenage crush. Or so you think till along comes Colin Firth. And you fall in love, yet again.. with Mr Darcy. This one remains my favourite Darcy ever.

This is one post I’ve been looking forward to. What? Just because I gave him a miss at the D you thought I forgot? Nah, never. I saved him up to follow Elizabeth. It’s got to be F for Fitzwilliam Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Mr Darcy

Mr Darcy – two people in one

For most people Mr Darcy is a rich snob. He is critical, proud and pompous. He is unapologetically insensitive and rude. He makes no effort to be friendly; rather, he revels in being unfriendly. The only excuse of his atrocious behavior might be his shyness and the fact that he is socially inept. However, it seems more likely that he considers it a perk of his position – this freedom to be rude to whoever he wants to, which is most people.

Then there’s the other Mr Darcy – The one who is generous and thoughtful, who loves his family, is a kind and considerate employer and knows exactly what to do in a crisis. What’s more, he also loves passionately and doesn’t hesitate to express how he feels, no matter how difficult it is. How many heroes would have the courage and honesty to conquer their ego and propose to the same woman twice?

Had the first Mr Darcy not come wrapped in the whole Pemberley package he would have been booed out of respectable society. Even with Pemberley, all he evokes in the one thinking woman of that time, Elizabeth, is disgust. The second one, the knight in shining armour kind, is the perfect, the make-one-go-weak-in-the-knees kind. But then so are scores of others.

Mr Darcy is special because…

…he is both those people. That is what makes him an endurable figure. A nice man is nice but a not-nice man who turns nice when he falls in love – ummm… that’s the stuff of dreams. What woman can resist a man who she can reform through her ‘love’? Darcy makes Lizzie look good.

What makes him irresistible is :
– that soft heart in an impervious exterior.
– that he isn’t easily available.
– that it takes a special girl to bring out the hero.
– that he places intellect over stunning looks (Jane Bennet) as well as money and position (Caroline Bingley)
Add to the mix his wealth and good looks and he is absolutely divine.

I do have a few doubts though:

One: Would Lizzie have spared him a second glance had he not been rich and handsome?
And two: Does he really change? Or did he simply admit Lizzie (and by extension, her family) into that inner circle where he was always nice while continuing to be his abominable self the world at large?

Ugh! I’ve gone and spoilt him for me with all this analyzing. Need to detox. Off on a P&P drool-fest to undo the damage. What? I meant drooling on the popcorn while watching P&P. What did you think?

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It’s a G next week and the it’ll be a man on the blog – not too nice a man maybe, but a very very powerful one. Take a guess, if you can.

Linking up to ABC Wednesday where we’re doing posts on the letter ‘F’. Do drop by and check out other Fabulous posts.

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The good and bad of Elizabeth Bennet

This A to Z journey was always intended as an eclectic one – to include characters from well-beloved to obscure. If you haven’t known the past few I’ve written about, here’s one you will know for sure and love too – Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

I have to admit I was sorely tempted to write about Edward Cullen today purely driven by Robert Pattinson’s looks (Yeah I can be superficial like that) but then my advisory committee (my sister and SIL) overruled me – darn the feminists!

Elizabeth Bennet it is.

Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen in the 2005 film based on the novel

Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen in the 2005 film based on the novel

Few authors feel as strongly about their characters as Austen felt about this one. In a letter to a friend she wrote : “I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least I do not know“.

My problem with Elizabeth Bennet

Well I just might have been one of those who she would have found difficult to tolerate. I wasn’t much of an Elizabeth fan. When I began reading the book I thought Jane was the protagonist. In contrast, Elizabeth seemed cynical, critical and insufferably proud which was ironical since her dislike for Darcy was based on the fact the he was proud!

In one of the passages she says, “The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense”. Nobody, it seemed, was good enough for her.

However my biggest complaint is that she played favourites with her sisters. Even assuming it does happen when one has more than one sibling, I found her uncharacteristically hard-hearted when it came to Lydia. Oh Lydia was a pain, I agree. Siblings can be annoying, silly and painful beyond measure (In no way do I mean that mine are, just clarifying 🙂 ) but one does not stop loving them. At least that’s how I see it.

When Elizabeth receives Jane’s letter her first thought is that she has lost Mr Darcy. That might be forgiven considering she was young and in love but her next is about ‘-the humiliation, the misery, she (Lydia) was bringing on them all’. What about worrying for Lydia’s well-being? Of her being ill-used or hurt by Wickham? Elizabeth doesn’t think about it.

Did I get it wrong? Maybe we can blame it on the times which were such that public shame meant more than anything else.

Yet I like her because..

..she is smart and witty, independent and brave. Not many girls of that time would have refused a marriage of convenience when their future was far from safe. Not many girls do that even now.

She has a mind of her own and is wonderfully unapologetic about it. She prides herself in her judgement yet is quick to accept her error. When she discovers Wickham’s true self through Darcy’s letter how hard is she on herself!

“Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind! But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself.”

That redeemed her in my eyes.

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With thanks to ABC Wednesday , that set me off on this fun journey and because of which I get to revisit some of my favourite friends.

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