Saturday 26 March 2011

Public Information and Private Secrets in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility

Many secrets are kept in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and many are indiscreetly divulged. Firstly, there are several engagements that take place, and some are secret. Most important is that of Edward and Lucy Steele, which has been kept secret for many years. The involved parties do not seem particularly ashamed of the fact, even though Edward regrets his decision rather quickly. This can be contrasted to the secret engagement between Miss Fairfax and Mr. Churchill in Emma, where Miss Fairfax is tormented with the shame of having entered into an engagement that has to be concealed. Lucy Steele’s lack of shame is one of many indications of her bad character, and of the folly of youth which drove Edward into making such a choice. 

An additional engagement that actually didn’t take place, but which was presumed to have, is that of Marianne and Willoughby. Marianne’s relations were convinced that an engagement had taken place but that there was a need to keep it secret. This need is explained to be in regards to Willoughby’s cousin Mrs. Smith, to whom he had to look for money. It is thus presumed to be the same reason as for Edward’s and Ms. Steele’s concealment, who try to hide their engagement from Edward’s mother. When Elinor tries to persuade her mother to speak to Marianne about the matter, Mrs. Dashwood firmly refuses: “I would not ask such a question for the world. ... I should never deserve her confidence again, after forcing from her a confession of what is meant at present to be unacknowledged to any one” (Austen, 1994, p. 82). Merely speaking of such a subject is thus considered a breach of good manners.

Willoughby’s engagement to Miss Grey, on the contrary, is exclaimed all over London and very much talked off immediately after it occurs. There is no secret there, even though most people seem to realise that there is no affection in the case. Where true love (in some cases) has to be hidden, a marriage for money was to be celebrated. Edward’s mother had no problem speaking of an upcoming engagement between her eldest son and a woman he had barely met, yet his engagement to Lucy Steele was kept under wraps. It seems as though money matters more than feeling when it comes to making issues public.

Friday 18 March 2011

Those Darn Idioms! #2

"without understanding the meaning of what one has learnt"
E.g. "He's not the brightest. He just repeats what his buddy says, parrot-fashion."

A month of Sundays
"an extremely long time"
E.g. "I won't be done studying in a month of Sundays."

Do a moonlight
"to move away suddenly"
E.g. "He did a moonlight again. We'll never find him!"

"not special or unusual"
E.g. "It was a run-of-the-mill performance. I guess I'm satisfied with it."

There are no flies on (someone)
"there is no lack of intelligence and cunning in (someone)"
E.g. "You can't hide anything from him. There are no flies on Arnold."

Source of the definitions:
The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms

Saturday 12 March 2011

Revisiting Old Friends and Reliving Old Memories

Recently, I've taken up reading again which, I admit, has been quite slow for the last year or so. I simply haven't felt like reading any of the (far too many) unread books I own. In order to make my brain want to read again (yes, I blame my brain) I have been re-reading books I haven't read for many years. I started with some Agatha Christie novels and have now moved on to the Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin.

If you haven't heard of these novels, you're in for a treat! I can't remember what made me read the first novel (A Wizard of Earthsea) all those years ago, but I was immediately enthralled with the world Le Guin creates and with the character of Sparrowhawk. I admit that I am always drawn to characters who have gifts that set them apart from the others, yet who still act wisely. As a boy, Sparrowhawk is impatient and proud, which leads him to make foolish mistakes, but he learns from them and becomes one of my all-time favourite characters. There is something special about his serenity and confidence in his own power - yet he keeps seeming unaware of how truly great it is. Few are as unassuming as him.

I finished the second book (The Tombs of Atuan) this morning. It is slightly less interesting than the first for we see very little of Sparrowhawk and are privy to the slow life of a young priestess, chosen as the reborn First Priestess - The One Who Has Been Eaten. Her name is Tenar. I won't go into details, but it is an excellent book. It does continue the story of Sparrowhawk, but he is a much more minor character. It could in fact be seen as a standalone novel, and really doesn't require much knowledge of the first book.

The Earthsea series is comprised of four books, is often classified as children's fiction (though I do think that some of the concepts in the novels are too abstract for young adults to grasp), and is not a very long series. In fact, in comparison to some fantasy series it's very short indeed. I have limited time to read, and can only manage half an hour or so before falling asleep, yet I read The Tombs of Atuan in three or four days. Still, the story is compact and there is amazing depth in the novel, for its length.

As for the third and fourth novels in the series, I know I haven't read the fourth before. I cannot for the life of me remember reading the third, but I have it written down on my list of read books so I guess I must have read it at some point. If I remember it once I start reading remains to be seen. Either way, I'm looking forward to it very much, and can't wait to once again dive into Le Guin's fabulous world!

NaNoEdMo or the Art of Epic Fail

Just an update on my NaNoEdMo attempt, which isn't going well. In fact, it's not going at all. I haven't spent a single second editing my novel, for I have so much schoolwork that I have barely a minute to spare for non-school related stuff. Perhaps I will do my own NaNoEdMo in April instead, when one of my classes will be over. But I think it will have to wait until I've graduated at the end of term (finally!) and (probably) become unemployed. Anyone in need of a (soon) college graduate with a Bachelor in information systems? Well, it was worth a shot. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I have failed NaNoEdMo. I rarely fail anything, and would rather work until the very end before giving up, but when you're being kept up at night worrying about school, you don't want to add another stress factor to your life. So, goodbye NaNoEdMo! I barely got to know you, but I hope we meet again soon!

Friday 4 March 2011

Gothic in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey

Last semester I took a class on Jane Austen. Not that I needed it, I had already read the Le Faye compilation of Austen's letters, two biographies and James Austen-Leigh's memoirs. I simply took the class for fun, which is was. As a part of the class we had to write quite a few shorter papers on the novels, and I though I would post some of them here now that the class is done. So, here's the first paper:

Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is ripe with allusions to the Gothic style. Written as a kind of parody, all the classic Gothic elements are in one way or another imputed and undermined. It begins with the very first sentence: “No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine” (Austen, 1980). Immediately one wonders what qualities a heroine is supposed to possess, and why Catherine – who is in fact a heroine, since it is her own story – isn’t considered to have these. It implies that there is a certain mould that all heroines are made of; that if one reads a Gothic novel one will always meet with the same kinds of characters and incidents. The entire introduction of Catherine in the first chapter goes to show that she will in no way fit this mould, yet still be the heroine.