Monday, August 15, 2011

Heather's Perspective on Of Human Bondage

I am blogging this through a haze of a variety of medications, so forgive me, imaginary followers, if I am a bit confusing at times this evening. I am currently taking children's strength decongestant, Tylenol, Penicillin, half a sleeping pill every night, and as many cough drops as I can handle without choking on the Menthol. Aside from having the privilege of sitting next to a pile of tissues and cough drop wrappers, I am also not in the best mood. My school counselor is testing my patience by enrolling me (the student ranked 9th out of 453 students, who is stressed out enough as it is) in an online course and an extra class that I did not sign up for. On top of that, I'm not going to have one of the teachers I was really counting on having. And I've missed two days of swim practice, which is two days too many, and because of my dad's ability to plan secret vacations, I must miss two more this week.
Again, not in the best mood, but I will try to let go of any grudges against my counselor, father, and cold so as not to upset you poor, imaginary readers with the tales of my recent woes.
It took me nearly a week of reading in every spare second of my time to finish Of Human Bondage. I am not accustomed to this length and was quite frustrated when it took longer than the usual three days of buckling down to finish a book. I was further surprised when I discussed the book with my peers and found that I am the only one who enjoyed it.
The book takes place from 1885 onward. Think Jane Eyre. This story had basically the same plot. Kid's parents die, kid lives with aunt and uncle, kid gets sent to boarding school, kid hates boarding school until s/he makes some friends. I guess that is where the similarities end. Philip, the main character, leaves the school early to become a clerk. He discovers that he hates the job and decides to become an artist. He discovers that he's not a very good painter, and decides to become a doctor. He loses all of his money in the stock market and lives in poverty for a few years, until his uncle dies and leaves Philip enough money to finish his doctoring schoolishness and become an actual doctor. The book ends after Philip becomes engaged to a girl he does not love.
There are some things that happen in between that have nothing to do with his career. While at a painting school in France, Philip befriends Fanny Price, a girl who everyone else hates. She begins to love him, and kills herself when she no longer has money for food. Apparently, this was a common tradition back then. Her death really affected Philip, and he spent the rest of the book reminiscing the day when he saw her body hanging from the ceiling, wondering why she hadn't asked him for food or money.
Later, he falls in love with a waitress named Mildred. She's a perfect brat and treats him horribly, then marries another guy who has more money than Philip. She finds out that the other guy is actually already married and can only keep her as a mistress (Sister Carrie much?). Then she gets pregnant so the guy leaves her, and she comes crawling back to Philip, who houses her and continues to love her. Then she meets his best friend, decides that she loves him, and runs away when she finds that his best friend doesn't return her affection. Philip finds her months later and discovers that she is a prostitute. He no longer loves her, but again houses her and takes care of her child, until she tries to have sex with him. He refuses, and she thanks him for all his money and dedication by tearing up anything of value that he owns. They meet again later; Philip finds out that Mildred's baby has died and she is deathly ill.
Upon reading my description, I can't help but think that this book was pointless. A fun read, but pointless. Philip finds the "meaning of life" at some point in the book after a long struggle of looking for it. When I think of his conclusion, the phrase "dry philosophy" comes to mind, and nothing else. The meaning of life, according to Philip, was something like... Life is pointless, we are insignificant, and we'll only be happy if we choose to be that way, because we only matter in our own minds. Essentially, existentialism. 
Usually, when I read a good book, I can sort of slip myself into the character's shoes. Experience their experiences. Think their thoughts. Etc. I could not do so with this book. I was constantly aware of the fact that the book has an author. I did not like that feeling; I usually like being one with the character and forgetting that the author exists (this is coming from someone who hopes to be a future published author... How sad). The author also felt the need to constantly remind me that Philip is shy. Philip, however, did not act very shy, in my opinion. I suppose Maugham believes that if you say something over and over, it will make what you say true. I think that's an actual philosophy...
I like the girl that Philip becomes engaged to (with the gallant, romantic proposal: "Say, Sally, I wonder if you'll marry me"), though. She is clear-minded and NOT really irritating, unlike Mildred.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Heather's Perspective on Brave New World

Good evening, imaginary viewers! I'm SO sorry that I haven't blogged in almost 7 months. I'm sure you cried and cried in my absence, wondering where I could have gone and why I abandoned you. I love you so much and I'll try not to let it happen again.
Since it's been so long, I suppose I'll give you a little update. Savanna is definitely not blogging again, as she is not taking AP English next year and we are no longer friends because of it (lololol, Heather made a funny). We may, however, be receiving a new blogger. I am encouraging my friend Lauren to try her hand at writing. She is the Grammar Queen of the high school, my best friend, quite beautiful, and possibly majoring in Journalism. If she does join us, I must insist that you welcome her with a plethora of applause and flowers and such.
By the way, I would really like to start another blog, but I have no idea what to blog about. So if any of you imaginary viewers have an idea, feel free to let me know.
Anyway, Brave New World is one of the seven books on my summer reading list. I've only actually read 2 books... Yes, I am aware that I am in trouble. I do not care.
I am not normally a fan of science fiction. This book, however, was pretty good. It was written well, and the author did a fantastic job of describing how he views the future.  The plot could have used better transitions, though. I have the opposite problem when writing... I always want to skip the exposition and go straight to developing the plot. We need to find a happy medium here, people.
The book started out with the explanation of the process of manufacturing babies. I admit that I was confused to begin with; I had absolutely no idea what was going on. When I finally realized that the characters were discussing the manufacturization (Chrome says that's not a word... =[ oh well) of children, I suppressed the urge to yell, "that's sick!" And I don't mean "sick" in that good way, the way that means "cool." I mean "sick" like puking up your guts and bark-coughing kind of sick. It was also a little disgustingly fascinating. 
So they put the manufactured fetuses through vats of alcohol, and left them there for certain amounts of time, depending on their predetermined caste. They were Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, or Epsilons. I appreciated the fact that they used the Greek alphabet as the basis of their caste system, because I didn't have to do any memorizing. I don't much like books that require me to think. I like to just zone out and go into reading mode. Anyway, the Epsilons were the lowest caste, obviously, which made me a little sad because I think the word "Epsilon" sounds really cool. Go on, imaginary readers. Say "Epsilon" out loud. Cool, right?
So the Epsilons are left in the alcohol the longest, which damages their brains. Then, when the Epsilons are old enough, they perform the lowliest, simplest jobs that the community requires. When the kids (of all castes) are babies, they're conditioned to believe, love, or hate certain things. For example, they didn't want people reading, so they put a book in front of a baby and then shocked the baby as soon as the baby touched the book. Doing this several times a week for a few years would make just about anyone cringe at the sight of a book. When they're old enough to comprehend speech, the children are subjected to sleep-teaching (there is a word for that in the book, but I don't remember it). They put a little "whispering box" under the pillow of each child. The box tells the kids all sorts of things, and the children grow up believing the statements that the box communicates. For example, Beta kids were told something like this:
"I am quite glad that I am a Beta. Those Deltas and Epsilons are dirty and only useful for primitive jobs. I am important, but I do not have to work quite as hard as the Alphas. I really am quite glad that I am a Beta."
Again, these things disgusted as well as fascinated me, but the author spent too long dwelling on the exposition of the future and not enough time on the characters or plots. The characters were very well indirectly described, but not much was done to directly describe them. 
The story starts out with Lenina as the main character, then switches to Bernard, then to "the Savage." (In this book, it is socially unacceptable to be with only one person, or to be with one person for too long. People are expected to sleep with as many people as they can.) Lenina is a woman (a Beta, I think?) who is caught up in the expectations of society, but unconsciously wants more than pleasure 24/7. Bernard is an Alpha, but is small in size and therefore sneered upon by his fellow Alphas. He does not like golfing. (GASP! How inappropriate and socially unacceptable!) The reader gets the idea that he is in love with Lenina, but later he gains popularity and forgets about love and any of his own original ideas. The Savage, John, comes from the reservation where there are... Indians, I suppose. 
When they talked about the reservation, I expected it to be a place where normal people lived. A place where you and I might live. They said that there were rumors of Christianity and marriage and having babies and families (*shudder*). The reservation was really a place where they worshiped God but also other gods, where they whipped one another as sacrifices to gods, and where they had absolutely no personal hygiene. Ugh.
John despised living in the rez because the other kids hated him. His mother was from "civilization," but had gotten lost and ended up in the reservation. She couldn't go back to society because she'd gotten pregnant. (the horror!) Bernard went to visit the rez, heard about John, and decided to take him back to society for testing. This was the source of Bernard's popularity... He brought an animal back from the zoo! How enthralling! 
Long story short, John's mother died and he got sick and tired of society. So he ran away to this lighthouse where he whipped himself whenever he caught himself thinking of Lenina. (who he was in love with, by the way... And she loved him in return, but had the wrong idea of love. She thought love just meant that she wanted to sleep with him... reminds me of some people I know...) He grew his own food and hunted what he couldn't grow. He was hounded by the then-modern day paparazzi, which drove him insane. Then Lenina came to visit him, and John went into a panicked frenzy and began screeching, "you whore!" and such, and whipping himself over and over. The public thought this was hilarious, because they are conditioned to think that pain and death are insignificant or even, in some cases, humorous. 
The people all finally left John's hideout, and someone came to look for him in the morning. He had hanged himself by the lighthouse's light.
The end.

...Yeah, the end. I wasn't very disappointed by the end, though, because a) society was so screwed up that there couldn't possibly be any remedy to the mess that was made, and b) I prepared myself for at least one person's death, because, well, why else would my English teacher assign it to us?
I REALLY liked the way that the author presented John's death. He said something about how you could see his feet (which were not moving), and then you could see his feet swinging from one side to the other, and back again. I had to read it twice before I figured out that he'd killed himself. I thought it was quite horrible and very poetic.
Then I spent two hours brooding about how I will never, ever be as poetic or as good at developing characters and setting as Aldous Huxley is.
I find it a bit ironic that I was more upset that a published author is a better writer than I am than by the horrific death of one of the main characters.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Heather's Perspective on Their Eyes Were Watching God

Savanna? Savannnnnnaaaaaa??? Oh no, guys, I think we've lost her. For good. Now it's just me and you faithful imaginary followers. I love you guys so much! 
On to the business at hand.
In this book, the main character, Janie, gets married three times. That's right... tres. Technically, the last two don't count, because she never divorced her first hubby. I find all of her marriages to be ironic in an incredibly amusing way. She is forced to marry her first husband because her grandma caught her KISSING some "negro trash" over the fence... THE HORROR!!! Well, that slut deserved it! Kissing random guys under such romantic circumstances! So her grandmother shipped her off to Logan's abode, a middle-aged black man who forces her to do men's work. Again... THE HORROR!!!
It was around this point in the book that I finally realized... Heyyyy, Janie is black! The author does not do a good job of emphasizing this, which is ironic because the book is supposed to be about black women independence and all that. Which brings me to the reason that her second marriage was ironic. She ran off with Jody, who treated her like a queen... A queen who is not allowed to do anything for herself and must always follow the man's orders. So Janie spends her first marriage acting like a man with her man work, and her second marriage acting like a woman in her rightful place, only doing women's work.
Her third marriage is happier. After Jody dies, Janie does this thing where she takes some time to figure out who she really is and how she loves being single. The guys of the town are like "hey dude, that's not cool... She's hidin' that FIIIIIIIINE ass, selfish brat!"
But thennnn comes along Tea Cake. This marriage is ironic because she was like "yeah, single woman power!" (power to that, man =]), and then a guy named Tea Cake comes along and steals her heart. Also, he is twelve years younger. That's right... doce. Personally, the age would be enough of a turn-off for me to shove him out my door the moment he started flirting with me. If that isn't enough, his name is TEA CAKE (did I mention that?). Oh, and he's penniless. You know, some things are just better rich: men, chocolate, cake, coffee, and men. And chocolate. So he's twelve years younger, his name and his financial status are not full of chocolate or wealth (because tea cakes are not chocolate, sadly), and he is TWELVE YEARS YOUNGER. Think about it... When she was hitting puberty, he was probably just coming out of the womb.
Despite all this, they fall in love and move to... OKEECHOBEE!!!!! The tiny little town with no prospects that now sits on top of Lake Okeechobee once HAD prospects, dude! They lived in a shack and planted some beans and got stinkin' rich and made a bunch of friends, and life was great until they saw some Indians.
Now, Indians are (were?) smart when it comes to things like the weather. In my opinion, we need to get rid of weathermen and just stick a Native American in front of the green screen when it's time for the 10-day forecast. And maybe also a translator, because what if they don't speak English, or their accent is too thick for the only people who watch the weather (people of the old variety) to understand? I bet that's the only reason they don't hire Native Americans to do the weather forecast... They'd have to pay two people to do the job instead of one. Also, the translator would get in the way of the beautiful map of Florida with the colorful masses of randomness flowing over it.
ANYWAYYYYY, the Indians were migrating away from Okechobee (they spelled it with only three "e"s in the book... weird) and warned Tea Cake about a hurricane coming. 
Well, this nice domino effect happens:
The Indians tell them about a "big storm," but they don't migrate with their neighbors like a sensible person would do. Instead, they wait until the "big storm" hits to try and get away. So they're outside in the middle of a hurricane, and suddenly the lake comes towards them. Meaning the LAKE is attacking them ( They try to get to high ground, but Janie can't swim very well so she starts drowning a little. Tea Cake, who is on dry land and who is not drowning but is very tired, shouts at her to grab on to this random cow floating nearby. She grabs the cow, and there is a dog already on the cow. The dog gets super pissed and attacks her, but Tea Cake saves her and kills the dog and drags Janie ashore.
...The dog had bitten his face, and he refused to get a doctor because that's what men do, and apparently the dog had rabies, so a month later Tea Cake attempted to kill Janie. So, doing what all good wives would do, Janie shot her husband and put him out of his misery, then was put on trial for his murder. The jury decided she was innocent.
In short: hurricane comes, they start to drown, mad dog bites Tea Cake, Tea Cake gets rabies, Tea Cake attempts to kill Janie through his madness, and Janie shoots Tea Cake. 
I really admire this domino effect. I probably would have decided it was time for him to die, then been like "then the hurricane knocked off the roof and Tea Cake was swept away, never to be seen again" or "then the hurricane knocked a ridiculously large piece of metal into Tea Cake and his bones all crushed together and he died." The series of events the author created was really clever.
I loved the plot of this book, but the dialect drove me crazy. There were a lot of creditable philosophies... For example: "there are years that ask questions and years that answer." I happened to be reading this on January 1st, so that really got me thinking about 2010 and what it did for me... I was happy to find that it was a year of answers for me. I love it when books make me think about things in my life and give me epiphanies.
This is kind of a random spot to stop, but I can't think about anything else to discuss. Soooo adios =]