So the Classic Club’s September Meme is contributed by Brona from Brona’s Books –
Rereading a favorite classic at different stages of your life gives you different insights with each reading. Is there one classic you’ve read several times that also tells a story about you?
Please be forewarned, this is going to be a loooooonnnngggg post!
Like a lot of people I began my formative years reading a lot of classics and like many I always thought of myself, especially in my teens as (Yup! You guessed it!) Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice by the greatest of all, Jane Austin – I wanted to believe I was clear-headed, was quick and witty and above all could give it back with all due decorum and politeness! Of course, there was always the sneaky feeling that if I became a Lizzy Bennett, I will find a Fitzwilliam Darcy – I already had a bit crazy and extremely hyper mother and a very laconic and sarcastic, albeit thoroughly sensible father. But life has different plans in place and as I grew older and read all of Jane Austin’s work more closely, I began to realize that I am actually a Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility, again by Jane Austin – I was an intellectual and cultural snob, who would turn her nose at anything low brow. I was extremely passionate about everything, still am, the only difference is at that point and this is the University years, I was passionate to the point of fanaticism. I also believed that there is only and only one true love and no secondary attachment could be that passionate. I had even found a semi – Willoughby! (Yikes!!! Super Yikes! Let’s not even get into that!) But now in my more respectable and mature 30 years of age, I know despite every plans and intentions, I have settled down to being a Jane Bennett (from Pride and Prejudice, the elder sister to the much aspired, Ms Elizabeth Bennett) – how colorless can one get????? But facts are facts – though I do not have the legendary beauty of the eldest Ms Bennett, there can be no denying that I am a fool and do not see faults in anyone unless I am run over by avarice and selfishness of the other. I am so busy, ensuring everybody else is happy, that no matter how unhappy I am, I keep up the demeanor, without realizing that those that are close to me can never be truly happy unless I am happy! The only thing lacking is Mr Bingley ( Mr Soulmate is nothing like Bingley – he is nothing like any of Jane Austin’s heroes!) and a sanguine temper – I am short fused and this is a carry-over from my Marianne Dashwood days!
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is another book, whose re-reading has made me identify more and more with her. As a teenager, when I read the book, I was not particularly impressed by the namby pamby Jane Eyre and her stiff upper lip stance. I wanted fire and courage in my heroines and Jane was a calm stream of water. But re-reading the book during an interesting phase of my life (The Willoughby phase!), I realized how much of strength it takes for an ordinary governess to stand up to a Mr Rochester – to demand to be treated as an equal and what’s more to seek respectability and honesty in a relationship, even when your heart is breaking and you are completely in love with the person. Jane Eyre clearly was one of few books to take such a strong equality stance between men and women, with the subtle underlining of a simple message that took me years to learn, vis-à-vis, matters of the heart, that something simply cannot be compromised on – no matter how high the cost!
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand was another novel which I read during my teens and could not really relate too. It took me good 9 years in a corporate environment to understand what it is to be not only very good, but absolutely excel at your job and how the larger crowd with mediocre talents will try to pull you down. Though I am blessed to be working for a great company that actually has very limited if any Corporate politics, but there can be no getting away from the truth – the mediocre crowd would always find flaws with you if you are really good. They would rather you confirm to their average standards, that stand up alone and raise the bar! Individuality is good and having a mind of your own is even better – it’s difficult to stand alone holding the reins of success, but I rather hold the reins than become a blind horse treading the known path!
East of Eden by John Steinbeck is yet another book that made me realize a lot of home truths very early. In my Marianne Daswood phase, I could not fathom anyone making big mistakes in life and living on – the concept of forgiving and moving on was alien to me and therefore for a very long time I could not relate to Caleb’s actions in igniting Aron’s mind against their father Adam Trask. It was only much later as I became closer to my sister who was 14 years my senior and always the golden child of the family; therefore for a long time in my eyes taking the place of Aron (though she is undoubtedly more kind to the parents!) that I learnt about making mistakes, accepting them and moving on to make a better life. The day I accepted that I transitioned from a Marianne to a Jane!
Finally and I know I have already written a blog on this but no book at any point of time made me what I am and whose re-reading over the years has just made me appreciate a little more about such non tangential things like courage, honor and integrity – about standing up for one‘s beliefs no matter what and about strength that comes in all forms – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. My basic principle of life came from this book and has only become stronger over the years – unless I can look myself in the eye, nothing is worth it!
9 thoughts on “Once upon a time and everytime…..”
Thank you for considering my question so comprehensively.
Curiously, I have similar responses to you with the books above (except I went from wishing I was LIzzie (& Jo March combined), to realising I was actually more like Anne Elliot until I embraced my inner Elinor Dashwood!)
Thank you for the amazing questions. In most of our cases life imitates art …don’t you think? Having said that, I am sure we are among the countless millions who aspired to by Lizzy and ended up being Anne or Elinor or Marianne! 🙂 Its amazing how Jane Austin created a breath of women charecters that could almost encompass most of womanhood. I am very very fond of Anne Elliot and my flat mate cum best friend is a living example of Elinor Dashwood, so great life choices there! 😉
I love this post. It’s great that you thought you were all these characters. I especially liked the way on your reread of Jane Eyre that standing up to Mr Rochester was such a ‘big deal’.
Definitely agree with that although I’m sure it went over my head the first time round.
Hi Lynn! Thank you for stopping by and the kind words! I would like to think of myself as multifaceted personality and hence the wide range of books, but the plain truth is for a long time I was simply confused! I had the same experience with Jane Eyre when I read her the first time, but give it a shot again and you might discover some hidden nuances! 😉
Oh my! I spoke about Pride and Prejudice as well!….shifted from the second sister to the first. 😀 But a little differently, I think. 😉
I think only P&P, of all my re-reads, has offered me up such a drastic change in opinion.
I always loved and admired Jane Eyre. She is one gutsy little lady! And though I’ve read Atlas Shrugged only once way back in my teens (I intend reading it again some day) I am glad I was always able to appreciated where the author was coming from ….otherwise I might have hated this book. As it stands I never have agreed with her philosophy, but I sympathise, and from what I remember of the book, it is amazing stuff.
As for Harper Lee’s book, I read it only last month. I can see why it would affect anybody. I love Atticus! 😀
I really enjoyed reading your post. ^_^
Hi Risa …thank you for stopping by! I also just read your article and though we both can debate about the finer points, I completely agree with you that Jane Bennett actually steals the show. Of course, Atticus is my all-time favorite idol – believable, strong and principled! If one wants a role model, one cannot find a better one that this gentleman!