Fairly Gloating

I’m definitely not the first or the most interesting person to talk about the seduction scene in chapter III of Dracula. The section exhibits shifts in language and tone that are pretty on the nose, the solicitor’s normally dry language becomes noticeably more ornate. On the discussion of language, I noticed how peculiarly the narrator’s encounter with the three women is described, and how there is an emphatic nod towards the not just the general Victorian anxiety surrounding sex and sexuality, but the fear and arousal from fear of a sexually experienced, initiative woman. There is something awry about the women that Harker cannot thwart, an unfamiliarity that nonetheless excites him. To conjure the image of one of the women “fairly gloating” as they engage sexually with the narrator seems indicative of some kind of imbalance of power. “Deliberate voluptuousness” assigns a perpetrator, and implies a feeling of spatial intrusion or disruption. Said voluptuousness is “thrilling and repulsive” to Harker, who if it weren’t for the interruption of Count Dracula, was ready to completely submit.

 

Never have I ever…

…seen an adaptation so banal and Hollywood-standardized as Mike Newell’s of Great Expectations (2012). I kept looking for what Newell could be trying to reveal or highlight about the novel in a way we hadn’t seen before, and instead we’re met with:

  • Hot actors. Quite possibly the most noticeable “creative liberty” that Newell seemed to take with this adaptation–and that’s not saying much. I love Helena Bonham Carter, but did she look more like a creepy spinster or a cute goth girlfriend? I wasn’t convinced. And I think this may have had to do with his acting but I could not take sad hunk Pip seriously anytime he was in scene.
  • That infuriatingly manic way of speaking that many period dramas, usually consisting of loud flourishes and short bursts of mumbled words (maybe I’m just being ignorant and that’s a British thing, but Arnold’s Wuthering Heights (2011) does not do this, and in my opinion, has better acting). I’m convinced that this technique is a gimmick to create the illusion of historical accuracy.
  •  Single-second shots of events so unnecessary that they might as well not even be included because then, hey, he would be withholding something (and maybe trying to say something in doing so). I already mentioned briefly the lack of creative choice taken, but these second-long shots may be the most grating as it’s so on the nose the fidelity that is trying to be upheld with the text, which definitely convolutes the film standing alone.

Function v. Purity

Apologies in advance for this spit-ball-y post. Just had some thoughts I wanted to ruminate on.

Today in class we discussed the multiple versions of Great Expectations that are created throughout Mr. Pip, each version conjured using a combination of the previous version and the intention of its function to the present creator.

There was also raised the concern of the purity of a story, which is [implicitly] endowed to the original creator’s version of it. But is this really so? I’m curious as to how we define purity in storytelling (or if it can really exist for that matter). Is a pure story something that cannot have a intended function with its creation, a tale that just stands alone for the thing it is? Characters like Dolores would seem to object to this as she clearly states that stories must have a function, primarily to instruct. Whereas someone like Mr. Watts who invests so much of his and the students’ time in a story never defines at any point in the novel anything specific that must come out of it. Can we even objectively claim that Dickens himself didn’t write the story of Great Expectations with a function in mind? (This also makes me wonder if we only associate purity with constancy– a story that’s written on the page as opposed to spoken out loud. That would then imply that a migratory story, one that is, say, already more than one degree of removal away from the text, is impure. What does this say, then, about how we perceive the legitimacy of non-literacy storytelling traditions?

 

Great Expectations: A Great Use of the Pathetic Fallacy

“Joe made the fire and swept the hearth, and then we went to the door to listen for the chaise-cart. It was a dry cold night, and the wind blew keenly, and the frost was white and hard. A man would die tonight of lying out on the marshes, I thought. And then I looked at the stars, and considered how awful it would be for a man to turn his face up to them as he froze to death, and see no help or pity in all the glittering multitude.” (Dickens 43)

As Pip and Joe await the return of Mrs. Joe, Pip notices the condition of weather outside the house, the stinging dry cold. He theorizes death of any man that were to lie about the marshes on that night, the temperature without a doubt a disservice, a malicious opposer to any kind of being, the text taking the image further, incorporating the stars. The role of the stars is peculiar though, as Dickens refrains from directly pinning them against Pip’s imagined freezing man, but instead emphasizes their cold neutrality, “no help or pity in all the glittering multitude.” Despite their noninvolvement, the stars are made to seem equally, if not, more unnerving than if they were not visible to Pip’s theoretical man and if it was just the earthly temperature was the sole element to kill him off with all fallacy met. It makes me wonder if Dickens is trying to make some kind of distinction between the kinds of natural elements that writers use to background the sentiment of characters–Unlike the terrestrial natural world, how do the cosmos have a hand in characters of literature? Can we even consider it a hand or is that too of the Earth?

Sources:

Dickens, Charles, and Rosenberg, Edgar. Great Expectations. Norton Critical. ed., W.W. Norton & Company, 1990.

When pathetic fallacy is subtle, it’s tolerable

“It was the same room into which he had been ushered, as a guest, eighteen years before: the same moon shone through the window; and the same autumn landscape lay outside. We had not yet lighted a candle, but all the apartment was visible, even to the portraits on the wall–the splendid head of Mrs. Linton, and the graceful one of her husband.” (p. 216)–Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

This is definitely not the only example of pathetic fallacy that’s used in the novel (You know that it’s a Victorian novel when the trees and weather are pretty much stalking the characters to discern their sentiment and then service it accordingly with rainstorms or sunshine)–I found myself getting irritated whenever its use would occur, almost always prefacing whatever section it means to parallel the sentiment of, and by doing so, mitigates any chance for surprise–but this particular use of the pathetic fallacy, narrated by Lockwood on his return visit back to Wuthering Heights, feels unsettlingly less obvious than the novel’s other examples. Here, Bronte uses the environment and surrounding area to emphasize the stasis of the estate, and ultimately, the stasis of the sentiment associated with the estate. Even after eighteen years, after all the original residents of the properties have passed, there is still left the feeling that all is relatively unchanged on the land.

Sources:

Brontë Emily, and Alexandra Lewis. Wuthering Heights: the 1847 Text, Backgrounds and Contexts, Criticism. W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.

Nelly’s immunity from Wuthering Heights

“You shouldn’t lie till ten. There’s the very prime of the morning gone long before that time. A person who has not done one half his day’s work by ten o’clock runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.” (p.49) —Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

Nelly Dean says this didactically to Lockwood, who had pleaded with her to continue telling him the story behind Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights, he justifies the late hour that the storytelling has taken them by arguing that he doesn’t usually wake until ten in the morning.

While I certainly felt confronted as a reader by Nelly’s piece of wisdom on being productive (it’s actually encouraged me to wake up earlier and get a good amount of work done before ten) I couldn’t help but wonder about why, after all these years working between the two estates, both dysfunctional in their own right, that Nelly still keeps an attitude that would look to any outsider as functional, and ultimately “positive”, normal for lack of a better word. We see Lockwood enter the estates very enthusiastically, his mood being shifted before his lease even ends, so much so that he moves his person out while still paying the lease remotely. Nelly has been on the property her entire life, and while one might think that this familiarity having grown up there could explain her comfortability, I still don’t think it explains her optimism, especially after all the years of Wuthering Heights. The characters there are all, in one way or another, complete misfits of society, their isolation seeming to enhance, if not speak directly to that. Where does Nelly get the audacity to spew logic in this case, after all she has been through? It makes me wonder if it is Nelly, not Lockwood, who Brontë intended as the assumed reader/audience, one that can’t help but try to make logical sense of the events and other characters, impose same level of standard to them.

 

Sources:

Brontë Emily, and Alexandra Lewis. Wuthering Heights: the 1847 Text, Backgrounds and Contexts, Criticism. W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.

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